A Representation of Christ in Every Place
Matthew 16:16-18; Matthew 18:17; Matthew 18:20; 1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 2:20-22; 1 John 4:17
In continuing our meditation in connection with the spiritual house, I have an emphasis now in my heart which I feel peculiarly to be of the Lord. For quite a few, it will be no new word, or truth, but even for such the fresh emphasis may be of the Lord. In any case, they must seek to cooperate in the word of the Lord for those for whom He may especially mean it. Let us, nevertheless, all seek to enter into the word in a new way.
We are looking at some of the major features and purposes of God's spiritual house to which we belong, and the one which is to occupy us now is this, that this spiritual house is here as being a representation of Christ in every place. We have seen that the Church is Christ. He is the Church, He is God's temple, God's dwelling place. It is in Him that we find God. He serves the purpose of all that the Church is intended to mean. The Church is Christ. But now, so far as this world is concerned, the Church is Christ is distributed, though not divided; that is, Christ as in all His members by His Spirit; yet not so many Christs, but remaining one Christ. The apostle raised the question among the Corinthians, as you know - Is Christ divided? - and there is almost a tone of scandal at the very idea that Christ should be divided. He remains one, and He is one, though in so many, and in that oneness of Christ in all His members we have the Church. Men will only find the Lord, where we are concerned, so far as Christ is in us. That is the purpose of the Church.
The Vital Character of the Local Assembly
But now we come to consider the special importance of local corporate expressions of Christ, Christ as represented corporately in every place. It is a well-known and understood thing among us that what the Lord Jesus said as recorded in the Gospels was but the truth in germ form. Because the Spirit was not yet given, He could only speak as in an objective way, putting things in a figurative form or in an undeveloped way. All that is in the gospels is like that, awaiting the day of the Spirit's dwelling within believers so that the much larger meaning contained in His utterances might be imparted. And, among all the rest, there is this fragment which we have read in Matthew 18:20 - "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." We shall lose a very great deal if we take that simply as it stands in the Gospel. It was never intended to be taken just in that form.
In the later revelation of the Holy Spirit, that passage, with all others, is taken up and its earlier meaning is made clear, and what we have as the fuller revelation is this, that Christ is peculiarly present when two or three are gathered together, because He has committed Himself to His Body. To put that around the other way, it is the Body of Christ which is necessary for the bringing in of the fullness of Christ. "The Body," says the Apostle, "is not one member, but many" (1 Corinthians 12:14). But then the same Apostle says, "Ye are the body of Christ" (1 Corinthians 12:27); and he is speaking of a local company. Christ is peculiarly present when it is a corporate expression. The Lord has bound Himself up with His Church for manifestation. It may be true that the Lord is in us individually; it is true; and it may equally be true that the Lord, as in us individually, will express Himself in us and through us as individuals, but the Lord is limited, and very severely limited, when it is only an individual matter. His thought is otherwise, and so He makes this statement. He might have left a thing like this unsaid. It would seem to have been quite unnecessary, quite beside the mark. But no, He said it, and when He has said a thing, it means something. Indeed, it bears all the significance of such a One as He is having said it. That means it carries tremendous weight if He says it; and He has said this thing in these precise words - "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." He might have said, Wherever there is one in My Name, there am I! Well, that is true, but the Lord did not put it in that way; and you notice that He is dealing with practical matters. He has used the word "Church". Certain people have to be dealt with by the Church, and when the Church deals with them, it is the Lord. That is what He is saying.
(continued with # 15)