The Churches Vocation - To Express the Lordship of Christ
When we come into the New Testament we find ourselves in the presence of a double development. God is here present in the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ. His name is Emmanuel - 'God with us' - and all who have to do with Him have to do with God in a very personal and immediate way. He claims that His very physical body is the temple of God. Then, through His death, resurrection, and ascension, He returns in the Person of the Holy Spirit and takes up His residence in the Church, which is His Body. Thing then begin to happen quite spontaneously, out from the world of spiritual intelligences - not just because of certain doctrines being preached, but because of that Divine presence.
There are conscious intelligences all around, behind men and nations, and the conflict has started; not because of what God's people say, but because they are here. Let that be corporate, and you have God's idea of vocation. This is not the dispensation of the conversion of the nations. I wonder even if this is the dispensation of the full evangelization of the nations. We are hoping the Lord may come any day. Half of this world has never heard the name of Jesus yet, after two thousand years. If the Lord is coming tonight, something has to happen if the world is to be evangelized before He comes! That is not said to stay or weaken evangelization. Let us get on with it ad do all that is possible; but, remember,the Lord has given us His meaning for this dispensation. "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a testimony unto all the nations; and then shall the end come" (Matthew 24:14).
Look at your New Testament. It was said, "Their sound went out into all the earth" (Romans 10:18). It was said then that the whole world was touched. But the world has grown a good deal since then. What happened at that time? The Lord planted nuclei, corporate representations of His Church, first in one nation and then in another, and by their presence the fight broke out. The one thing that satan was bent upon was to eject that which inoculated his kingdom with the sovereignty of the Lord; to get it out, break it up, disintegrate it, somehow to nullify it; turning those concerned one against another, creating divisions - anything to get rid of this thing inside his kingdom. satan's kingdom has acted in this way, as if to say: 'While that thing is here, we can never be sure of ourselves; while that is here our kingdom is divided, it is not whole: let us get it out, in order to have our kingdom solid.'
God's object is to get into the nations a corporate expression of the Lordship of His Son - to have His place there. I am not saying we are not to preach; yes, we must preach, witness, testify; but the essential thing is that the Lord must be there. There are times - and this will be born out by many servants of God - when on where you are, being there, standing there, keeping in close touch with heaven there. You can do nothing else, and the waves break upon you. It has happened many times. Before ever there has been any advance or development there has been a long-drawn-out period in which the one question has been, 'Shall we be able to hold on, to stand our ground?' satan has said, 'Not if I can help it! You will go out if I can do anything about it!'
The whole question at issue is the foothold of the heavenly Lord in the nations. Israel was constituted for that; the Church is constituted for that. It cannot be done single-handed by unites; it requires the corporate - the two, the three; the more the better, provided there is the unifying factor, one oneness, of a single eye. If double motives and personal interests come in, they will undo it all. Are you fighting a lonely battle? You need cooperation, you need corporate help to fight that battle through and to hold your ground. Mark you, the enemy will drive you out if he can. Preach if you can; but if you cannot, that does not mean that you are to quit. Until the Lord says, 'I can do no more here,' you have to hold on. Do we not know the terrific efforts of the enemy to drive us out? Many of you have gone far enough to know what that means. If he could put you out, he would.
But that is the vision - what the Church is constituted for in relation to the Lord Jesus: so that, in the light of the coming day, you are standing as a testimony of the coming day; in the nations for a testimony, "until He come whose right it is" to reign, and "the kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ' (Revelation 11:15); a foothold unto that time; an altar built, which testifies: 'This belongs to the Lord: the Lord's rights are here: He has purchased this.' But you will find every kind of assault from the enemy to try to prove that the Lord has not anything there, that He has no footing, and that you had better get out.
Do you see how necessary it is to have the vision? You cannot do that on enthusiasm - it will not last; nor someone else's vision - it will not support you to the end. You must be like this Paul and those who "endured, as seeing Him Who is invisible"; not as having seem Him long ago, but living continually in the light of what you have seen and are seeing - a light which is ever growing.
Vision Is The Measure of Vocation
Now, if all this is simple and elementary, it is nevertheless basic. Do you see that vision of God's full purpose concerning His Son, revealed in your own heart in its beginnings, but then growing clearer and fuller, is the basis of vocation? I do trust that nothing I have said will have the effect of making you less earnest and devoted in all simple ways of witnessing, or testifying concerning salvation; but do remember that, for fullness, you need to see very much more than that. You will go just as far as your vision takes you; therefore, we all have need of Paul's prayer that God "may give unto you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him; having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe" (Ephesians 1:17-19).
That is the vision. And then, as is written in Isaiah 25:7: "He will destroy (swallow up) in this mountain the face of the covering that covereth all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations." What does that mean - 'this mountain'? What mountain? Well, it is Zion. But has that literal mountain, Mount Zion, that rocky eminence in Jerusalem, ever been the instrument of taking the covering veil from off all faces? Of course it has not! What is Zion? Zion, in spiritual interpretation, is that people who are living in the good of the Lord's complete sovereignty. It says in the immediate context, "He hath swallowed up death for ever" (verse 8). It is through His triumph, the triumph of His Cross and resurrection, that He comes to us. "Ye are come unto mount Zion" (Hebrews 12:22). Zion is the realm of His absolute Lordship, and a people living in the good of His Lordship. Then the veil is taken away. What the Lord wants here and there and there are these nuclei, these little companies of people living in the good of His victory, living in the good of His having swallowed up death victoriously; and where they are, people will see; they will be the instruments for taking the veil from other people's faces. Where such a company is found, there you will see the Lord. When you come into touch with those people, you come into touch with reality.
So the final appeal is that everything must be adjusted and brought into line with the vision, and the one question for us is this: Are people seeing the Lord? It is not a matter of whether they are hearing what he have to talk about - our preaching, doctrine, interpretation - but: Are they seeing the Lord, are they feeling the Lord, are they meeting the Lord? Oh, I do not ask you in your different locations to gather two or three together to study certain kinds of Bible teaching; but I do ask you to ask the Lord to constitute you corporately that which will have a spiritual impact, that in which the Lord can be seen, the Lord can be found; of which it can be said, 'The Lord is there!' May that be true of us, wherever we are. Amen
(continued with # 1 - "Why the Prophets Message is Not Apprehended")