There are two ways in which we may look at our relationship to God; and rightly. There is, first, our coming to Him; secondly, our souls may look at the counsels and dealings of God toward us. Of Abel it is said, God had respect unto his gifts—he came with his needed offering. We are looked at in the flesh. As to my state before God, I could not draw near, unless I could bring Christ as an offering. We must have that sacrifice in order to bring us near. Consequently, in that case our relationship to God is measured by our need. We come near because we find we cannot do without it, and we accept that offering as needful to accomplish it. In another way, the measure of God’s blessing we never know, until we look on our relationships as measured by God’s thoughts of us— by all that which He loves to display when He satisfies His own heart in grace, and by His way of shewing it.
We never enjoy our true blessing unless we see how He feels and would act. I must thus rise above what I am to what God is; then my mind is formed by the thought of what God is. This is what we are called to. We’ must come in by our need, as the prodigal did. Man cannot by searching find out God. There cannot be any knowledge of God in grace by man being competent to know it. There would be no need of grace if he could know God otherwise. If I can claim His grace, I do not need grace at all. The way a sinner must come in must be by his need; in this way he learns what grace is, he learns love.
But when I have got to God, it is another thing. Then He would form our minds and hearts by what He is Himself. I came as a sinner because I needed it, just as a hungry man needs food; but when brought, I have fellowship and communion with the God who has brought me to Himself. The measure is given in this epistle: “growing up into Christ in all things.” It is a wonderful thing that God has called us to fellowship with Himself. It is wonderful to have the same thoughts, the same feelings, as God, and to have them together, all flowing from Him. And we are brought into it by grace, and we enjoy it just so far as we are emptied of self.
First, He makes us partakers of the divine nature, the same nature as Himself. This gives the capacity, I do not say power. The new nature is capacity, the Holy Ghost is power. The new nature is entirely dependent and obedient. The Holy Ghost being there gives me power. In the Epistle of John this capacity is brought out in a remarkable manner. “Every one that loveth is born of God.” He has this nature, and he that loves is born of God, and knows God. Then, being partakers of His nature and by virtue of the blood being sprinkled on us, we also receive the Holy Ghost which gives power.
In order to communion there must be perfect peace as regards the conscience. There is no communion in conscience. I am alone as to my conscience, and so are you. In order to communion, I must have far more than conscience, though a perfectly purged conscience is the basis of communion. We must know that God has settled the whole question of sin. The moment a child of God fails, communion fails; the Spirit then becomes a reprover to bring him back, but there is no communion. Communion is the full enjoyment of God and divine things, having nothing to think of as regards myself. God can now let flow, into the heart that has a conscience purged, all that He delights in. He loves to communicate what He Himself has joy in. All that Christ is is for us to enjoy. You are called into this place of Christ Himself, who is the Head of the body; so that the delight God has in Christ should flow down into your heart. How rich then the saint must be! But he is entirely dependent on the Spirit of God for power. There is no power to enjoy anything without Him. There must be an emptying from self to enjoy what He gives. The Spirit of God has no place to act where self and imagination are in exercise. It is not the glory, which is at the end, that is so much the object of the thoughts, as the source of it—God Himself.
There is more happiness in the fact of being in communication with Him than in the things He communicates; and I say again, because of its importance, that a soul cannot have the enjoyment of the things of God without having peace, which is connected with the conscience. The beginning of this chapter shews how we are presented to God. It is a test whether the judgment-seat brings any terror to your minds. Does it give you any uneasiness? How does the saint get there? Christ comes to fetch him. He said, “I will come again, and receive you unto myself.” Do you ever think of your going before the judgment-seat being the effect of His having come to fetch you? He sends not for you, but comes Himself for you, because of His desire to have you with Him where He is; to be fashioned into the same image. You are to bear the image of the heavenly as you have borne the image of the earthly. When you are there before the judgment-seat, you will be with Him and like Him. Every trace of God’s unwearied hand, all His patience here brought out—we shall be like the One who is the Judge. You will never (I speak, of course, to saints now) be before the judgment-seat of Christ without Christ coming to fetch you in the same glory in which you are to be.
It is the knowledge of grace, of redemption, that leaves me at perfect liberty; and all my life should be a witness of the enjoyment of this blessedness into which we are being brought. The whole of this is through looking at Christ. He is the first-born among many brethren in the Father’s house. We shall be with Christ and like Him in the Father’s house. There will be the blessedness of being with Christ in the presence of the Father, loved as He is loved.
That is what we have in this chapter. We are set in the presence of God. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We are blessed in Christ, and God is the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is “my God and your God,” Christ said. There is no measure of any relationship out of Christ: nothing but condemnation out of Christ. If I have known what it is to be condemned, if I have known what sin is, and how God hates sin, I know there can be no hope for me out of Christ. But God has put away sin. God does not look at my sin, but on Christ. Just as I know my condition in Adam, as ruined and condemned, so I know my place as accepted in Christ. How it throws us out of self-importance, self-dependence, self-glorying! We enter into the presence of God in Him who has perfectly glorified God. He is the God as well as Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is that wrought in Christ which was hidden from ages and generations, and He is gone back in virtue of what He has done to vindicate the character of God. We enter into the blessing in Him who has done all. We shall know God in virtue of what the Father bestows upon us. The Father brings many sons unto glory, and brings them back perfect through the efficacy of the work of Christ. “Blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ.” None can be wanting. Not an affection of God’s delight but is there. He brings us into His presence without one reserve of the affection that Christ has. We are brought back in Christ: therefore all that Christ has we have.
How He goes on to unfold it! “That we should be holy and without blame before him in love.” He is not content with a mere general account, but brings it out in detail, that we may know it. Suppose I saw a person with an excellent character, and I felt that I could never be like that person, I should not be happy. The fact of the excellency of the person, without the possibility of being like him, would make me miserable; and to have him always before me would be all the worse. But in heaven I shall be with Christ and see Him without the possibility of being unlike Him. What divine inventiveness of love to make us happy—infinitely happy! What God is and does is infinite; and it is so much the better that He will be always above us. We shall have perfect freedom of intercourse with Him. Moses and Elias were speaking with Him of His death, as we know, on the mount of transfiguration. So by-and-by there will be communion with Him of all that He has.
“Without blame.” Released from all that which would hinder my loving Him; therefore, we are made “holy and without blame.” There is the proper joy of the heart— “before him in love”—but no thought of equality. Then there is another fact. “Chosen in him before the foundation of the world.” Thus we have the fact of His heart having been set upon us in eternity. The soul knows there is a personal love from God towards himself, and the heart delights in that. So with Christ. In Revelation 2 there is the white stone He will give, proof of personal delight. There is this character of individually rejoicing in the love of Christ.
How the Spirit seeks to draw out our affections by all this! He tells us it, and would have us to know it and enjoy it. He would have us know we are going to heaven, and why? He would form our hearts by what He is doing, while bringing us in. “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children” (still in Christ and with Christ) “by Jesus Christ unto himself.” It is through Him, and by Him, and in Him I find it. It is as having my heart fixed on God the Father that my affections are drawn out to Him, and all because I am “accepted in the beloved.” God has not blessed angels like this. We are not servants only (we should be servants, to be sure), but we are brought into the confidence of children: ought not a child to have confidence? “We have received the Spirit of adoption whereby we cry Abba, Father.” Our heart should answer to God’s outgoings of heart in grace; we should reflect His grace: “to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved.” He has done it all.
But here is another thing to be remarked—there is not a word about the inheritance. I dwell on that as shewing how the affections of the saint are formed. If I speak of inheritance, it is something below me. All prophecy concerns the inheritance; but I am looking at what is above me, and my own blessedness is in what is above me. Subjects connected with the church, blessed as they are, prophecy, etc., are below. He will exercise us about these things; but let me first get my relationship with my Father known. Do not talk to me of what I have, but what Christ is and what Christ has. My soul must enjoy the love that has given it all. The love that has saved is more than the things given. It is of importance to the saints to feel this in the presence of God. It is not mental power, but the heart right—a single eye—that is the great thing; and unless the soul gets its intelligence directly from God, it never understands the ways and affections of God. His own affections must be known and valued. If I have not got my place in the affections of my Father, I am not in a position to have the communion of His thoughts and purposes.
When we were “dead” in sins, His heart was exercised for us. The sinner is here looked at as dead, not “living “in sins as in Colossians and Romans. In Ephesians, sinners are “dead” —not a movement of life; and God comes and creates the blessing according to His own will. When our souls have known the value of Christ’s sacrifice bringing us to God, we are seen not in ourselves at all, but only in Christ. Then there is perfect rest.
Afterwards He can tell us of the inheritance, and then the prayer is that we may know the hope of His calling. His calling is not the inheritance. He has called us to be “before him in love,” v. 2-6. Then in verse 11, He begins about the inheritance. Now He will shew us what Christ’s inheritance is, and we are to have it too. I must know I am a child, and have the thoughts and affections of the child, before I can have to do with the inheritance. The end of the matter is, that we are brought in to share the inheritance. The prayer embraces the calling and the inheritance, with the power that has wrought to give us both.
How far are your hearts confiding in God, not only for your wants, etc.; but how far is your confidence and delight in Him for Himself? The heart of a child will delight in the affections of the father. Do your thoughts about God flow from what God has revealed to you of Himself, or are you reasoning about God—Will He or will He not do it? When it is a settled thing with me that I am a sinner, what have I to reason about? We want to be brought to this simple conviction—I am a sinner; and if I am a sinner, what am I to do? Can I look for anything from God on the ground of righteousness? No, when brought to God, I am brought to grace. What He is, is the spring and source of the whole matter. In Christ it could not be otherwise. We stand there now, by virtue of the atonement, in that position which makes the sin the very necessity for God to bless. Christ died for my sins, and God “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.”
God is going to take us to heaven to be happy with Christ there; but He makes us happy out of heaven first. It is a difficult thing, but He does; and He would have the saints living up there where God is, and where we are going, as being delivered from this present evil world.