The Cross, The Church, and the Conflict
[In this day and age, this article - one of many - is one of the most important we will ever read and hopefully, heed. I pray that we read, understand, and follow through with the mighty suggestions in these forthcoming articles. Be alert, make the necessary changes, and end with the satisfaction that Christ is showing us how to be with Him forever!]
Reading: Ezra 3:1-4, 6, 8, 10-13; 4"1, 2; Matthew 16:18-21.
We have hopefully read those two portions of the Word of God, not because we are going to dwell upon them in particular, but because they bring very clearly and definitely into view the matter upon which the Scriptures as a whole come with very great weight and forcefulness. Both in the Old Testament type, and in the New Testament in reality, this thing is made very clear, namely, that the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is meant by God to lead immediately and directly to the Church, and that, when the Cross and the Church are really brought spiritually into view, then an intense state of conflict is set up. That is stating very briefly what, as I have said, the Scriptures throughout make very clear.
You will at once recognize that those three things are clearly seen in the passage of the Book of Ezra. They set the altar in its place. That is the Cross. They came to build the house of the Lord. That is the Church. And when the adversaries saw it, they drew near. That is the conflict.
In the passage in the Gospel by Matthew, chapter 16, you have it again. "Upon this rock I will build My church." "From that time Jesus began to show unto His disciples, how that He must go unto Jerusalem and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed,and the third day raised up." That is the Cross; and the Cross and the Church being in view, the conflict is begun. And so you will find it everywhere.
Go further back in the Old Testament to the twelfth chapter of the Book of Exodus, and you have the same thing, remembering that the Book of Exodus opens with a presentation of the sons of Israel, and you know that the sons of a prince with God are found in bondage and are about to be emancipated. Typically the Church is in view. Chapter 12 brings the Cross in as the ground of that emancipation, but it is surrounded by intense conflict. The battle is joined when the bringing out of those elect people is begun, and the ground upon which the battle is really fought out is the ground of the Cross. You come to the Book of the Acts, and it is just the same: the Cross, the Church, and the Conflict. It is the three C's all the way through the Scriptures. Well, then, we need to see God's mind about this matter.
In the thought of God, the Cross of the Lord Jesus is meant to lead immediately and directly to the Church. Any apprehension or teaching of the Cross which does not lead directly to the Church is either a misapprehension or only a partial apprehension, and it will inevitably result in a limited spiritual life and a limited spiritual service! The Cross, in God's intention, is never an end in itself. It is a way, it is a means, it is a basis, it is intended to lead to something else.
You go to another part of the Old Testament type of this. You remember when David, provoked by satan to number Israel, to take account of natural resources, brought that awful judgment upon the people, the angel with the drawn sword smote up and down the land and was about to strike at Jerusalem itself, when the Lord intervened and said: 'It is enough, stay now thy sword.' David was then by the threshing floor of Ornan, the Jebusite, and Ornan was threshing wheat, and David drew near and bought the threshing floor and built an altar unto the Lord, and altar by which this sin was dealt with, this iniquity was removed, by which the Lord was given His place, and that threshing floor of Ornan where David built the altar became the site of the temple in Jerusalem. It was the very foundation of the temple. If you dwell upon that a little more you will see how many elements of tremendous significance there are in that.
Yes, the Cross is a foundation, a basis, and it is the basis of the Church. They set the altar in its place and then they built the house of the Lord. I repeat, the Cross of the Lord Jesus in the mind of God is intended to lead directly to the Church, and unless it does that there will be progress only within certain very limited dimensions. There will be a straitened spiritual life and a service to the Lord which is lacking in those greater fullnesses of Divine meaning and intention.
I am most anxious that you should see more than I am saying, that you should really grasp the significance of this, and not just take it as something said. It can be put in many different ways.
We can put it like this, that the Lord Himself sees through the Cross a great heavenly object, and that object is His Church. "Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it" (Ephesians 5:25). There is your precise statement that, in the giving of Himself, which is the Cross of the Lord Jesus, there was an object in view, and that object was the Church. "Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it," and if you and I are going to come into God's meaning of the Cross, it will be something more than the forgiveness of sins, something more than justification by faith, something more than the possessing of eternal life, something more than deliverance from satan and hell, and entitlement to heaven. If we come into God's thought concerning the Cross, we shall very soon come into a heavenly revelation of the Church. The one must follow the other if we are right in oneness with the Lord's thought.
(continued with # 2 - "The Result of An Imperfect Apprehension of the Cross")
[this becomes more and more important and "heart opening" as we go along!]