The epistle to the Colossians was written more expressly to Gentiles; that to the Ephesians was, too, but Colossians exclusively so.
The saint is here viewed as risen, but still on earth, and his hope is laid up for him in heaven; that gives a character to the epistle. And inasmuch as he is on earth, he is still in the desert, and so there is an “if.” You get no “ifs” in Ephesians, because you are there sitting in the heavenly places in Christ. But whenever you get the desert, you get “if.” It is well to keep the two clear and distinct.
Ques. In the first epistle of John there are many “ifs”?
It is just another kind of way of speaking, in many cases. I might say to you, if you are an Englishman, I hope you will not dishonour your country; that is the way in i John as well as in Colossians 3. It has no reference to progress; but “if we say,” “if we confess,” is merely putting the case; it is not, “you will be in glory if you are faithful to the end.”
God’s chastening forms no part of His purpose, but it is part of His way.
Ques. Is it in God’s ways, then, that we get priesthood?
Yes; priesthood, and “ifs,” and all that. Only remember that along with the desert “if,” you get God’s, certain faithfulness to bring us through. That is not simply salvation, but God’s keeping. “No man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” Then there is somebody who wants to pluck me, I suppose.
Ques. But at the end of Exodus 4 you get Aaron brought to Moses?
Yes, but that is more apostolic than priesthood.
Ques. As to what does “if” imply a doubt?
No doubt as to anything else but dependence, so that I may not doubt. God has delivered me out of Egypt, and I am not in the flesh; but now, how do I know that I am going to get into glory? God will keep me, and that is dependence.
Ques. But there cannot be real dependence, if there is a doubt?
Precisely so. Then I have every-day cares, and God chastens me and proves me. He puts us through a process which both exercises us and shews us His own constant love and care. In Colossians i you get the fullest statement of not only our redemption, but also of our fitness for glory and of our being reconciled, and then we find an “if.”
Ques. Is there any thought of communion in Colossians?
Yes; but that is not its subject. There is of the one body. The epistle to the Colossians treats of life; union is by the Holy Ghost, and He is not spoken of in Colossians save in the verse, “love in the Spirit,” and that is only to shew the general character of the affection.
The presence of the Holy Ghost in us makes our bodies His temples; and if that was the same thing in itself as life, I should be an incarnation of the Holy Ghost.
If I am starting across the wilderness to reach Canaan for the blessing, I must get there before I can obtain the blessing.
Ques. Our place and title are in heaven, and we are not living in the world?
Yes, but we are living in the world.
Ques. Then why does he says, “Why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances”?
Because he is blaming them for acting in the world as if of it; but then that shews they are still here.
In Romans, the Christian is looked at as an actual living man in the world.
In Ephesians, it is as a man in Christ in heaven;
In Colossians, he is risen, but not yet in heaven;
In Philippians, you get the full character of faithfulness in the race, and the like. Even justification is put before Christ there: “That I may … be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law,” etc. Not that he doubted for himself a moment, for he says, “I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.”
Philippians is not so much the certainty of the place I am in but that God’s way, when He has redeemed me, is to bring me into a place of experiences through which I must go; only I have the certainty that He will keep me in it. Where people bring in this question of certainty, and connect it with their acceptance, all becomes uncertainty. And that is what systems do.
Ques. Would a servant be accepted in his work, if he has not the purpose of God?
Well, yes, he might be.
Ques. Would he not be deficient?
Yes, to that extent.
Ques. Why, “if by any means I might attain”?
If it cost him his life. He did not mean to say that he had attained.
Ques. What is “walking worthy”?
Well, it is just having the same motives and principles as Christ. There are three such passages:
“Walk worthy of God who calls you to his own kingdom and glory,” 1 Thess. 2:12;
“Walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing,” Col. 1;
“Walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,” Eph. 4:1.
They are all substantially the same thing, but different characters of it.
When you come to full Christianity, you see the Lord Jesus always walked and spake in this world as the Son of man who is in heaven; and though they made a great outcry about it, He was a heavenly Man. He was a true, real and heavenly Man down here.
Ques. But, “Who is in heaven,” could not now be applied to a believer?
No, only as in Christ.
Ques. Would not, “in heaven,” involve His omnipresence?
Of course it would.
Ques. But in John is it not the existing thing on earth?
Yes, it is the divine presence. It proves the unity of the two natures. That verse is strongly quoted against those who deny the Deity of Christ.
You cannot separate the glory in which Christ is from the actual holiness in which we ought to walk down here. The character of holiness is always the reflection of Christ in the glory. So, “We all looking on the glory of the Lord with unveiled face are transformed according to the same image from glory to glory.”
The end of the 1 Thessalonians 3 is almost nonsense, as man looks at things; if we had been writing, we should say, “stablish you unblamable in holiness down here”; but it is all made out, and manifested there. In John, I know I am going to be perfectly like Him in the glory, and so I purify myself according to that standard.
Ques. Is there any distinction between being in heaven and “in heavenly places”?
No; “heavenly places “is more general, that is all.
In Exodus 15:13, you find a difference which shews the thing, typically speaking: “Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation,” i.e., to Himself. But in verse 17, it is, “Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance,” and there you get typified the heavenly places.
God is sovereign in love, and it is nowhere said in Scripture that we are love. I cannot be love, nor can I say that I am it; but as to light, it is said, “Now are ye light in the Lord.” Light is a pure nature. It shews the sovereign character of love.
Ques. “Preserved blameless.” How do you understand that? Is it perfection?
It is a different thing from perfection. I am to be a babe in Christ, and I shall walk as a babe, but without tripping, as I lean on Him. Perfection is really being like Christ in glory. I have no standard but Christ in glory; and that is to be realized in my path down here, in thoughts, and motives, and feelings.
Ques. Then Christ’s life down here is not the standard?
Yes, it is. Down here, He was the expression of what is divine and heavenly in heaven.
Suppose you have a motive that you could not enjoy in heaven, are you walking worthy of Christ? No.
There are, as to bodily necessities, a great many things I do here that I shall not do there.
But if I only eat because I am hungry, I eat in the same way a pig eats. Christ would not eat when hungry, because He had no word from God to do so. He walked down here as having motives and affections up in heaven. And we can never go rightly except so far as our mind and conversation are up in heaven.
Ques. Is that word ‘conversation’ a correct one?
It is not quite exact; it means the moral and the political life.
Ques. This makes a vast difference between the walk of a saint in the old dispensation, and the walk of a saint now?
Of course it does. Old Testament saints were not, as regards their actual faith, dead and risen at all, though of course they had life. And they soon found out that this world did not do for them.
But now, we have the Christian viewed as risen, with a hope which is of great importance as regards this practical life: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
Ques. Peter does not go so far as this?
No. Redemption, and born of the incorruptible seed of the word of God; that is the basis in Peter.
Ques. It is the moral effects of Christ’s death, in Peter, rather than the death and resurrection?
Yes: Christ has suffered, and he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin. It is the same thing, but more the practical side of it.
Ques. He says, “being dead to sins”?
He does, but it is rather as “having done with sins.”
Paul goes to the root of the whole thing.
It is not only in the fact of having life, but also in the associations of life, that we belong to there where Christ is.
Those who have not the hope of the Lord’s return cannot apprehend what is the true path of a Christian; they may have life, of course, in one sense, but they have not the proper stamp of heavenly life in their dally practice down here.
I never would myself put forth the Lord’s coming as a thing to be proved, but rather as being a substantive part of Christianity itself. You might have to prove it to an infidel.
Ques. Could a person walk “as he walked,” who did not know it?
No. But it ought to give tone to every-day life in a Christian. The Lord’s coming is an integral part of the gospel; it is put so here: “Whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel.”
Ques. Might not people have it in their hearts?
Yes; but, for that, it must be a fact before them. “Love his appearing” is the affections of the heart.
Ques. Does not the general idea that people have about the Lord’s coming give a certain character to them?
Well, it is more as taking place at the end of the world, in people’s ideas; but that is not waiting for somebody.
If I am waiting for someone to come and take me up out of it, what then is the world to me? What comes of its plans, and its running after money, and all that kind of thing? A man may not know much about the rapture of the church, and yet be waiting for someone to come and take him out of this scene.
Before ever I knew about the Lord’s coming, I think I loved His appearing. I knew nothing about the doctrine, but the principle of loving His appearing was in my mind, though I could not define it. I do not talk now of the rapture, though it is most blessed to get that, too. What I delight in, is Christ’s coming and setting aside the whole thing I am in.
Ques. Would that be more John 14?
Yes. But that brings in the full element of our place in heaven. John 13 and 14 are, that the Lord cannot stay with His disciples here, but as He is not going to give them up, He must take them there.
Ques. Is there any thought of the rapture in the parable of the ten virgins?
No. Matthew was to Israel, so you get no ascension there at all.
Ques. What is, “they … went in with him”?
They have a part with Him down here; and the marriage is with Jerusalem on earth, not the Jerusalem above.
Ques. How does that apply to saints now?
Exactly; they went out to meet the Bridegroom. It is not the heavenly side and the rapture, though when the Bridegroom comes and they meet Him, that would be practically the rapture to us.
Ques. Is it connected with responsibility more than with grace?
Well, it is more a history of what will happen. The difficulty is as to the virgins. They were converted, you may say, to wait for God’s Son, and they go out to meet Him. And while the Bridegroom tarried, they turned in to some place to rest; and then they went to sleep. They are heavenly saints, but not the bride, i.e., not viewed in that aspect. So they go in to the marriage.
Ques. But at the end of the chapter we have His coming in?
No; He sits on the throne of His glory, but it is not quite His coming in glory.
The kingdom of heaven, as we have it now, is without a king. When Christ comes it will not be so. The heavens rule in that general way after He comes, but then it will be the kingdom of the Father and of the Son of man.
Ques. Then the kingdom of heaven exists in three forms: first, in principles; next, in mystery; and lastly, in actual power at the end?
Quite so; but the mystery character is over when He comes in power.
Ques. What is the difference between the two terms “coming” and “appearing”?
“Coming” is a general word; you get the “appearing of his coming” in 2 Thessalonians 2. First He comes, and does not appear, and takes us up to be with Himself. But “when he shall appear,” we shall appear with Him in glory.
Ques. What are the “saints of the most high places” in the seventh chapter of Daniel?
Those who are linked with God in heaven, during the time that earthly power is in the hands of His enemies. They are killed for their testimony, or by the beast when he is in power, and, being so killed, they would lose earthly blessing, so God takes them up to heaven, though it will be too late for them to be in the body of Christ.
Ques. What is the kingdom of the Father?
The heavenly part of the kingdom of heaven which will be our portion. That of the Son of man is the earthly part of it.
In Ephesians, we are seen sitting in the heavenly places in Christ, and therefore the inheritance is the inheritance of all things that Christ created. Creation is the inheritance. But in 1 Peter or in Colossians, the thing is in heaven, and you are down here; it is incorruptible and undefiled, reserved in heaven for you, or a hope that is laid up for you in heaven.
Ques. Then what is “the kingdom of the Son of his love”?
It is an expression only used here; we were under the power of darkness, i.e., of Satan; but now we have been brought not merely out of darkness into His marvellous light, but also into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in the oneness of the love.
In verses 9 and 10, our walk is connected with our spiritual state; God does not intend that these should be separated. To have simply the knowledge of God’s will, in fact, without walking worthy, would be mischief to me, because I should then be without exercise as to being a spiritual saint. But the being “filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding,” is in order “that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work.” I must get divine wisdom and spiritual understanding; but then this acquaintance with His will is here connected with the state of soul. There might be something in the state of my soul that hinders the full following of Christ. It is, “that ye might walk worthy of the Lord.” How can I do that if I do not know what Christ is?
It should read, I think, “increasing by the knowledge of God”; that is its meaning.
Ques. You connect it all with knowing Christ in glory?
Yes; but I get also the knowledge of what God is in His nature. Christ as a man had perfect knowledge of God; and so perfect obedience and love to His Father flowed out in Him. He says: “If I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you.”
Ques. “Saints in light,” what is that?
The absolute purity of God’s presence, and that is what I am made meet for.
Ques. Whose “power” is it in verse 11?
It is God’s power. It is walk worthy of the Lord; but you get, “walk worthy of God” in 1 Thessalonians. If I am walking about in my Father’s name, I ought at least to walk worthy of Him.
The revelation of the name of the Father brings eternal life with it; “the Father sent the Son that we might live through him.” What brings eternal life is Christ Himself, who was with the Father and was manifested unto us; and if I get Christ, I get life. But if the Son is my life, I cry Abba, Father, through the Spirit.
Ques. Do you mean to imply that the millennial revelation (Most High) does not give eternal life?
Certainly I do. Christ can quicken whom He will, but life and incorruptibility were brought to light by the gospel, not by the Most High as such.
Ques. Can you speak of that life as existing in the believer?
Certainly I can. It is not in me in an independent way, but He says, “ye in me and I in you”; and the life of Jesus should be manifested in our mortal bodies. If you talk of it existing in the believer, it is not communicated to him without his having the Son in him.
Ques. Had Old Testament saints eternal life?
It was not revealed to them; it is the same thing essentially. It says “brought … to light,” it does not say that they then only began to exist by it.
The intelligent Jew had a hope; but Peter says, “Unto whom it was revealed that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister.”
People tell you that Christianity is the accomplishment of the promises. It is no such thing. They have yet to be accomplished. We are living between the sufferings and the glory.
Ques. Would not a converted Jew see Christ in the types?
Partly so. They had prophets, too.
Ques. Then we have eternal life in us?
We have eternal life in us, because Christ is in us, its source; He is it. Scripture is very accurate. This is becoming to be of immense moment. If I say it is not me, as me, then it is my own state, and not Christ my life. Some are urging, ‘How can you have a new me,’ but that is simply fighting Scripture.
The new me is Christ. “Nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” This is most important, because now-a-days the setting human nature right is what they are all at.
When the prodigal son was converted and was going to meet his father, he says, “Make me as one of thy hired servants,” which just shows he had not yet met his father.
Don’t you say “Father” if you do not know that you are a child.
Where a man is still in the flesh, as regards the state of his soul, he always mixes up his state with his acceptance.
Ques. Where would you place, as to the body, those quickened souls which have not the Holy Ghost?
They are not in the body.
The moment redemption was accomplished and everything was finished, so that Christ went back to God, then the Holy Ghost came down on all them that believed. He had previously wrought in the prophets, and in creation, too, but He had not come till then.
Ques. “They that are in the flesh,” does that contemplate a quickened soul?
It is an abstract statement.