The Greatness of God's Christ
What is God's purpose? Well, it has to do with the first thing with which we were occupied in relation to this House of God, namely, the exaltation of God's Son to the throne of the universe. That is God's purpose comprehensively, inclusively; and the Church is called in, not only to share that exaltation; but to be instrumental in the working out of that purpose.
If that be true, then, we repeat, that involves the manifestation of this terrible power of satan; because the exaltation of the Lord Jesus to the supreme place is not a mechanical nor automatic thing. It is a spiritual thing, and it is accomplished by spiritual power. That is why we are designated "living stones." We are not just bricks being put together; we are part and parcel of the very life of Christ and of God's purpose concerning Christ, and it is that life of His in a final, full manifestation in the Church which will be the display of the glory of the Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus cannot be manifested in glory as supreme Lord in God's universe until the elect come through to that place of absolute triumph over all the power of death, and thus it is by the Church's triumph that the glory of Christ is displayed. It becomes therefore a living matter, a spiritual matter, and not just a cold, lifeless, mechanical thing. We are in something very real. We are going to know that, to reach God's end, the instrument by which that purpose is worked out to its completion has to come up against the last fragment and ounce of satanic power. It involves the drawing out of satan's power to the full in order that God may display how great His Christ is.
That is the principle which has run right through the Word of God. You can see it standing our again and again in conspicuous instances, one of which is contained in the word addressed to Pharaoh: For this purpose have I raised you up, that I might display in you my power. Pharaoh therefor was allowed very much liberty. When Pharaoh in the very first test refused God, God could have come in and crushed him and destroyed him out of hand, and that would have been the end of Pharaoh. But God drew him on, drew him out, once, twice, thrice, on to ten times, the full measure of Pharaoh's resource; drew him out and all that was instigating him, in order that, showing how much power that was against God, God could come in at last and show much greater He was than the greatest that was against Him. It is only a foreshadowing, a type.
But,you see, it is not with mere Pharaohs or dictators that we have to do. We are up against the full power of satan himself. I say the Church is up against that, and the Church, as being the instrument of reaching God's end and fulfilling or working out God's purpose, has therefore to be proved absolutely superior to satan. Where the Lord gets His life into His people, the one certain thing which will happen to that people is that they will be instrumental in drawing out death against themselves. It is true. It is remarkable, is it not? You wonder why it is that, the more closely you walk with the Lord and the more you are set upon God's full thought, the more you seem to be drawing death upon yourself. One thing with which you are always in conflict is this death-working activity of satan. That is a part of our vocation. We do not like the idea, we inwardly shrink, and all that is natural about us feels very bad at the thought; but we just have to put all that on one side and trust the Lord in facing facts. We have to face spiritual facts. Therefore we take note of this, that, if it is true that this spiritual House, this Church, this Body of Christ is in existence as the instrument by which God is going to fulfill His purpose concerning His Son, then that can only be as all satan's power is drawn out and exhausted, to the end that, in that Church, the life whereby Jesus conquered death should be manifested as greater than all the power of death itself. You see, then, the steps. The first is that the presence of a spiritual House here is the signal for satanic action. The second is that the whole effort of satan is set against Christ's life in that House, that Church, that Body. The third is that the very working out of God's purpose through the Church, the House, necessitates the drawing out of satan's power and the Church's experience of something very terrible, in respect of what satan's power is, all to one end, namely the bringing out, not of the greatness of satan's power, but the greatness of God's Christ. That is the goal.
The Course of the Conflict
It is quite clear that, through history, satan has had a satanic succession of instruments on the earth. He started with Cain. "Cain was of the evil one", the Scripture says, "and slew his brother" (1 John 3:12). Right down through history as disclosed in the Old Testament, you have satan's unholy succession of instruments. Again and again you come upon them. There they are lying in wait right to his hand for death purposes. There is Doeg the Edomite to hand, subtly to hand, watching for his advantage, with his eye upon God's king. There is Haman, the Agagite, scheming and planning for the death of all the Jews. So satan has had his succession of instruments for the death of God's people right up to today. They are at work today and we know their names. But God has had His line of succession all the way through from Abel onward. Now these, every one of them,drew out the power of the adversary. Abel drew out the power of death through Cain. It seems as though he went down under it, but it is not so. In the long run we know otherwise, and he, being dead, yet speaketh. His testimony remains. Thus every one of these links in the chain of God's successors has drawn out the adversary to display his power, and then, eventually, although in their lives here on the earth they may have gone down under that power, the triumph is with that life which was in them, with the Lord whom they served. That is how it is now.
(continued with # 12)