We have already seen that Jonah's dilemma - purely a mental
one - was the result of an innovation on the part of the Lord. Jehovah is here
breaking into the life of Israel and sending Jonah out to minister to the
heathen, the Gentiles. For this Jonah had no precedent, nothing like it had
happened before. There had been many references made to the Gentiles, but
nothing as to a direct saving ministry to them. The Gentiles were at this time
locked up in a reign of death. Israel was locked up in tradition, formalism,
declension, exclusiveness, and religious pride.
Nineveh was the most renowned city of heathendom then on
the earth. There would be no meaning in preaching a coming judgment to the
people of Nineveh if repentance and thereby salvation was not possible.
This all being so contrary to all that Jonah knew, would
make him very careful for his reputation; to say nothing of the peril to
Israel's interests that the saving of Nineveh would mean. He does not seem to
have revolted from preaching the judgment, but from the mercy of God if they
repented (Jonah 4:2). But what did this signify in the mind of God? Was God
doing really a new thing? Was this something in the nature of a
vagary or new idea with the Lord? No, surely not!
There is Nothing New with the Lord
He is always working backward to a plan fully outlined before the world
was. Everything that is a new phase or aspect with us is only a step backward
with Him to that "purpose which He purposed in Christ before the world was."
Jonah, like all others of those ages, moved in the dark. According to the
purity of their spirit, the measure of their faith, the completeness of their
obedience, they sensed or had revealed to them that some great future
development would complete and vindicate their life and work; they knew that
they were not living for their own age only, but in those "other ages" the
mystery was not made known, although so constantly intimated, suggested and
If Jonah was the sign in the matter of death, burial, and
resurrection, the issue is clearly seen to be "that the Gentiles should be
fellow heirs" (Eph. 3:6).
Surely it is not difficult to see that with the
resurrection of Christ of which Jonah was a type, the Church comes into view
(John 12:24, etc).
Thus we see -
1. The Church's Constitution
"Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the
circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto
the fathers: and that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as
it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and
sing unto thy name. And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people.
And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people. And
again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to
reign over the Gentles, in him shall the Gentiles trust." - Romans 15:8-12.
"How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery;
(as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my
knowledge in the mystery of Christ) which in other ages was not made known
unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and
prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the
same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel; whereof I was
made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by
the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all
saints, in this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the
unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship
of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God,
who created all things by Jesus Christ." - Ephes. 3:3-9.
"Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and
from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: to whom God would
make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles;
which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." - Col. 1:26,27.
The words of scripture speak for themselves, and little
need be added. A glance at their context will make quite clear that the Church
is constituted by resurrection union with the Lord Jesus.
What is of immediate concern to us here is that God must
and will have His people and the full range of His testimony and
glory. When Paul was in Corinth the whole situation was intensely difficult.
The conditions set forth in Romans 3 are the actual local colourings of
Corinth from where the letter to the Romans was written. The word of the Lord
to Paul in the midst of such a setting was "I have much people in this
city." It reminds us of the Master's words earlier. "Other sheep I have."
The Lord had them before ever the Gospel was preached to them,
before they had known anything about His salvation: He had them. In that
"foreknowledge of God the Father". They were His, and "all that the Father
hath given me shall come unto me"; even in Corinth, Rome, and so on. Thus we
see that "Ephesian" truth, (if that is a right way of putting it) is implied
in Jonah's commission outside of the limits of the Jewish covenant. This was
the principle which so greatly provoked the Jews of Nazareth when the Lord
told them that, while there were many widows in Israel in the days of
Elijah the Prophet, it was to an outsider, a Sidonian widow alone that the
prophet was sent; and while there were many lepers in Israel in the
days of Elisha it was only Naaman, a Syrian - an outsider - who was healed.
The sign of the Prophet Jonah then reaches on to embrace the nature of God's
eternal purpose realised in resurrection, and the Church is the abiding shrine
of that sign and testimony.
2. The Church's Power
The Lord Jesus within such as have become united with Him in the likeness
of His death and resurrection, joining them into one spiritual body causes
that body to persist in the power of a deathless life. This testimony must of
necessity be a practical one, and therefore all the forces of death gather
round to quench that life or submerge it, and "wheresoever the body is thither
are the vultures gathered together" to devour. Many many times both
corporately and individually it has seemed that there was "the sentence of
death," and the Lord's people have "despaired of life," but although "cast
down" they have not been "destroyed" for that which has been destroyed (Heb.
2:14) cannot destroy that which has destroyed it.
As a corporate whole, represented on earth by one united people, the
world does not see the full meaning and measure of this testimony. It sees
divisions, schisms, and internal conflicts and disagreements, but the miracle
of the child of God persists, and in another realm of higher intelligences the
testimony is recognised to the full (Eph. 3:10). There is little doubt but
that - given spirituality - (that is, a fellowship in life with the Holy
Spirit) the powers of death will exhaust themselves without success in the
matter of the testimony of the Resurrection of Christ in His people. Viewed
superficially there may often appear to be a triumph on their part. The
merely human factors may entirely come to an end. The man or woman may
"despair of life" in more ways than one. Understanding and sentient assurance
may be totally eclipsed.
The individual's own victory may go, and on every count be termed defeat.
But it is God's victory not ours, and it is not that He "causeth us to
triumph" (this is an inaccurate translation) but He "leads us in the train of
His triumph." Paul said this (2 Cor. 2:14) immediately after he had
touched upon one of the periods of most questionable success in his life -
from man's standpoint, of course. The Lord had the victory even while Paul
seemed almost under.
The Lord already has His end, and it cannot be taken from Him, but the
working out or working back to it is a tremendous business in which man is
involved in a practical, active, co-operating way. The truth of the
representative and inclusive resurrection of the Lord Jesus has to be wrought
into the very being and life of the Church and its members.
3. The Ministry of the Church
Ministry comes by enlightenment, and doctrine only comes vitally through
experience. Before Jonah could preach effectively to Nineveh he must be made
the thing which he would preach.
The disciples had every fact concerning Christ which they were intended to
preach from the moment of His ascension. But they did not have the
inner spiritual meaning of those facts. Hence they had to spend the interval
in prayer rather than preaching. Vital ministry is not just as to the great
doctrinal facts of Christ, but the inner revelation of their meaning; and this
comes by being "baptised into His death," and "raised together with Him."
While there is an initial and crisic aspect of this, it is a thing which in
principle operates continuously. The more this is entered into in experience
the more effective does ministry become. The Church does not exist to be just
a notification or expostulation of the great facts of the Person and work of
Jesus Christ; but it is intended to be a representation and embodiment of the
power and spiritual nature of those facts. It is not what is said but the
influence emanating, and the irresistible force, not only over the minds and
wills of men, but over the power of the devil.
It is the power of the Church, and the power of the Church is
"the power of His resurrection."
The Nature of the Strength of the Church
Eph. 1:17-22; 3:16-19; Heb. 2:14.
"Since then the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also
Himself in like manner partook of the same, that through death He might
bring to nought (nullify, destroy) him that had the power (marg. might)
of death, that is the devil."
Here we have clearly stated the very object and reason of the incarnation,
that His partaking - sharing - of flesh and blood was to destroy him that had
the power of death, that is, the devil. It means that, God was not going to
destroy the devil apart from flesh and blood; God would not as God
destroy the devil, but He would as man destroy him.
This is the key and way into the Ephesian letter, and sums up the whole
truth of the letter, and lets you into the deep truth: the building up of the
Church which is His Body. This letter is filled with the building of the
There are two main characteristics of the Church in its
1. "that God... the Father may give unto you the Spirit of
wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him... that ye may know."
The Holy Spirit's strength is needed for knowing Him - the
Lord Jesus; the Holy Spirit's strength is needed for knowing the Hope of His
Calling and the glory of His inheritance in His saints.
2. "That He would grant you according to the riches of His
glory that ye may be strengthened with power through His Spirit into the inner
man... to the end that ye... may be filled into all the fullness of God."
The Holy Spirit is needed for energising, on the ground of
spiritual revelation, unto all the fullness of God. The Holy Spirit and the
strength of His Might is needed for illumination and for energising into that
Do we see that the building of the Church is going on by
the super-surpassing power of God by His Spirit? The full force of the words
here is tremendous, literally it is: "the all else excelling power of God's
almightiness"; this is the energy, the force by which this building is
going on; the Church, His Body as a whole is in view all through this letter,
yet this which is spoken of the whole has got to be true of every
member of that Body: and it will really only be fully true in the whole
completed Church, for the fullness is to be and can only be realised by
the Church - the Body of Christ.
When it is budded, then the all-excelling power of God's
almightiness is brought into fullness of manifestation.
Note here, deeper than the letter of the word, but deep in
the language of the Apostle is made manifest, that it is the same Power of God
which increated faith in you. Faith is not only a grace it is a
miracle; a miracle of God. Faith in us is the miracle of the resurrection, and
our possessing faith, that faith which was wrought in Christ in the power of
His resurrection; this is more than just "saving faith" as we say. But even
simple faith unto salvation is not our own, of ourselves, it is the gift of
God, and saving faith is a mighty thing, it has in it all the potentialities
of that faith by which He raised the Lord Jesus from the dead.
Faith is the gift of God, and being the gift of God has in
it the germ of the exceeding "greatness of His power... the strength of His
might which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead" - raised
Him from the abyss to the Throne by "the all else excelling power of God's
And there is the tremendous emphasis on what the Lord
must do in the Church; it is that the Church may receive from the Lord by
the Holy Spirit a revelation of the calling, a revelation of Him, and then
receive by the same Spirit a strengthening in all might into the inner man
according to that working (inward energising) of the strength of His
Might, which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead. In both
cases it is to be an expression of the same exceeding greatness of His power,
that was seen in the raising of the Lord Jesus from the dead; the all else
excelling power of God's almightiness.
We must remember the Lord Jesus was not the first one to be
raised from the dead; there was Lazarus; the widow's son, Jairus's daughter;
and in the Old Testament times the Shunamite's son, and the man thrown
into Elisha's sepulchre; these all rose from the dead, but had to go back
again to the grave, it was only a temporary thing, and at length they had to
surrender to death. But the raising from the dead of the Lord Jesus was other
than that, when He rose something happened that made it impossible for death
to have any more claim upon Him, and that something was the all excelling
power of God's almightiness to destroy, bring to nought him that had the power
Death and the Disintegration of the Creation
Right away at the beginning, when death entered through
sin, everything broke up, chaos everywhere, disintegration, nay, more,
decomposition: the very component character of creation was lost, fallen apart
in death. Then came upon that a moving of God and out of it an ordered
creation arose, the cosmos; then when sin again entered and death by sin, a
further disruption, disintegration; all relationships break up by death.
Here is a body: while there is life it is held together by and under a
controlling living head, all the separate members are brought into order and
co-ordinate functioning in subjection to a government of life from the Head,
making it one whole body: life passes out of that body, there is now no
central controlling force, all organs cease to function, and there is
disintegration - it has lost its life-controlling power. That's death in a
body or a whole creation. There is one responsible for that; Satan achieved
his object, which was to break creation away from its Headship, and get in
between the government of life of the Head, and the Members. Death is
separation of anything from its base of government and life. The cosmos
demanded a head to hold it into ordered creation, by sin came severance from
its government of life, and it fell into unrelated parts, into disintegration
and decomposition. Man himself became a chaos, the earth ran riot and became
Christ Unifies a Disintegrated Creation in Himself as
It may have been in upsetting the order of the universe
this earth as a planet fell out of the ordering of God and chaos was brought
about through him who had the power of death.
The Lord Jesus comes into the chaos and takes the nature of
flesh and blood and through death destroys him who had the power of death.
And God hath made this same Jesus Head over the Body, His
new creation; and you have the new creation under its divinely appointed Head,
and so a bringing about of spiritual order in the fullness of His power (Eph.
1:22-23). The Church is not just a congregation of units, the Church is a body
with all its members and organs brought into a functioning relationship of
co-ordination under the controlling life of its Head, partaking in that life
and governed by that life. This new creation, this Church which is His Body is
God's answer to what happened back in Genesis.
Now we begin to see what the Church really is, and what the
Church is a product of and what the resource of the Church is.
At the beginning of the letter to the Ephesians you have
manifested the nature of the Church, and at the end of the letter, the nature
of the Church's warfare, it is the same conflict as away back in Genesis,
but we are not up against it in the old creation, but against it in the
strength of the New Adam, in the exceeding greatness of His might.
In the first part of the letter we get the first great
statement by revelation of the Holy Spirit, of the Eternal Purpose and then
the mighty energising by the same Spirit into that Purpose: and then shown the
spiritual forces against that Purpose, seeking to bring about chaos and then
in between, you have the Holy Spirit trying to tell you, that your daily
affairs, relationships, daily duties, business concerns and all that touches
your life from the kitchen to the study, in private life and public life are
to be brought up into the heavenlies; for if the enemy can get into the common
intimacies of daily living he will bring in disorder, chaos; he is out to
bring about a break of relationship between the Sovereign Head and the Members
and also seeks to create strain, and provocation between member and member.
Lift everything into the light of the Eternal Purpose, and
there is nothing private, personal or isolated, it is in detail and as a whole
related to the whole Body, and it is the one battle with the enemy. Don't
regard the happenings in home or business on the level of the ordinary world
system; bring all up into the light of the Eternal Purpose and when brought
there, into all these things can be brought the operation of the greatness of
His Power by which He raised Christ from the dead.
If we live our life down here on the ordinary system, the
enemy will make an awful mess and there will be defeat. As the Lord's people
we cannot live our life on the world's line of things even in the most
ordinary connections, because of the strange forces of antagonism against us;
we cannot meet with the ordinary resources, we need extraordinary resource
with which to meet them.
Get a vision of the Holy Spirit to know the hope of His
calling, and the riches of the glory of His inheritance and what the exceeding
greatness of His power, and then get an energising accordingly by the same
Spirit and bring that into the daily meeting of enemy's provocations, and
creating strains, etc., meet all his activities and subtleties in that "all
else exceeding power of God's almightiness."
It is not necessary for us to be down on the level of others in
meeting things; or in resources; for the exceptional circumstances of our life
there is the exceptional might of God.
We meet something those who are not the Lord's do not meet,
but we need not be cast down or brought under by that, for to meet it we have
the "all else exceeding power of God's almightiness."
Oh! we need to grasp this, for we are not yet
there in our daily experience, sometimes we have a touch of it, but we need to
live in it, and walk up and down in the strength, peace and victory of
it; we need to bring it right alongside our daily life, and realise it for
ourselves in our daily walk and experience.
We are part of the Church His Body, and so need to see by
revelation of the Holy Spirit the hope of His calling and then be
strengthened, energised by the all might of His Spirit in the inner man and
so meet these forces in the might of His strength that hath already
Heb. 2:14: "Since then the children are partakers of
flesh and blood He also Himself in like manner partook of the same that
through death, He might bring to naught, nullify, him that had the power of
death, that is the devil."
We have not grasped the tremendous truth of these words and
laid hold of them and brought them down into our experience and related them
He did it, it was an act, He has done it,
He will never again be flesh and blood; He took flesh and blood to bring to
naught the devil, and through death destroyed him that had the power of death.
There is an inheritance to enter into, a victory over him
that had the power of death. Eph. 6:10-12: "our wrestling is against
Principalities and Powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against
the spiritual hosts of wickedness in high places," but we are not wrestling
with a doubtful issue, it is a wrestling energised by this increated faith
which raised Christ from the dead that makes the Lord's won victory ours in
experience; it is not fighting for a victory but fighting in a
victory, appropriating His victory as we go along.
The Holy Spirit by this increated faith is bringing us back
to a position, back to that Cross, when He shook off from Himself the hostile
princes and rulers and boldly displayed them as His conquests when by the
Cross He triumphed over them (Weymouth, Col. 2:15).
There is a point of faith in the child of God which brings
him into a position of immunity as to whatever the devil can do; he can
torture him, tear him asunder, persecute him, bring about his death; and bring
about such darkness of seeming forsaking of God, yet there is a point of faith
in the child of God, that he is not moved by all these things. This increated
faith of the Holy Spirit is the strength of the might that raised Christ from
See all the workings of the enemy since the cross, as they
really are; it is all camouflage, and the devil can only get an
advantage in so far as we are faithless; when faith gets to a certain point
the devil is powerless and impotent; this is the victory that overcomes
him, this increated faith of the Holy Spirit.
The old dispensation was ever looking towards Calvary and in the new
dispensation it is an ever looking back to the accomplished work at Calvary of
the Lord Jesus, Son of God, Son of Man.