Called Into the Fellowship of the Beloved
Then Paul passes from the eternal choice of love and speaks about our being called into the fellowship of God's Son. Chosen, now called. I wonder what weight you give to your salvation, your conversion, your coming to the Lord, however you may put it? Is it no more than just that one day you met the Lord Jesus, one day you were saved, one day you came to the Lord? Have you recognized that was the day of a call, concerning something related to you and to which you were related, which goes right back before time? It is as though God in eternity past chose you in love, and then called you according to His purpose. He had to wait until you were here to actually call you; and the call came; but that call was wrapped up in something vast, and the vast thing was union with God Himself in His Son in the terms of eternal love.
What is God after? And when He gets what He is after, what will things be like? We talk about the testimony of Jesus. We have a lot to say about the fullness of Christ, of the Church which is His Body, of identification with Christ. All these are great truths, great conceptions. But what I find is this, that we have not come to an end of God's thoughts yet. I am very glad of this; but it is the most painful thing we can know, that we never come to an end here, and in order to go on a further stage something has to happen to us that knocks the bottom clean out of all that has gone before. That is to say, we go through a new experience of death and desolation and emptiness, of hopelessness, in order to come to something further on in the Divine revelation. We thought, "Oh, now we have come into the fullness of God's thought! Now at length we are seeing what God is after!" We get on with that for a time and it fills our whole vision; and then everything is as though it were nothing, and we go through a terrible time. Oh, yes, it was right, it was true, but it was not God's end. My experience is that it is through just such a history with God, of repeated desolations and emptyings and despairings after wonderful unveilings and times when you feel there cannot be anything more, that you are brought up again into something further on, with your vision enlarged. I do not know whether we have come to the last point of God's movements, but what I am saying now is this, that when God gets His end, everything will be only, but absolutely, a manifestation of His love.
I think that is what Paul means here in the Letter to the Ephesians, for this is a wonderful revelation. But look at the place of grace in this letter, look at the place of love. "...the breadth and length and depth and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge," (Ephesians 3:18-19). That is the object. Paul holds it up into view, that we may come to that in the end.
Well then, if you and I are going on to God's end, what will characterize us? This one thing - abounding more and more in love. I state that and leave it for the time being.
All-Sufficient Provision in the Beloved
He called us, but, blessed be God, His calling of us is on to and into a perfectly prepared ground, to an all-sufficient provision. It is in Christ. What a terrible thing it would be if He called us with so great a calling, and we had somehow to attain to it of ourselves and to find all that is required for attaining. Why, it were better that we had never been called! We know how utterly impossible it is for us to provide the smallest degree of anything that can attain to God's end. Can you find in your self this love of God, this kind of love? Why, we have only to read one section of this whole revelation to find ourselves defeated at every point. I refer to 1 Corinthians 13. There is not a fragment of a sentence there that does not knock us to the ground. "Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love unseemly, seeketh not its own, is not provoked, taketh not account of evil." And to sum up all - "Love never faileth"; that is, love never gives up. Where are we? Can you stand up to that? No! But He called us in the Beloved, and in Christ is a perfectly prepared ground. "In Whom I am well pleased" - an all-sufficient provision.
That causes Paul to go out along one wonderful line, and he says, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself up for me" (Galatians 2:20). (Paul is not saying that when we died in Christ we lost our individuality. We ought to have lost our individualism, but not our individuality.) There is some difficulty in translating the verse just quoted. "I live by the faith of the Son of God," or "which is in the Son of God." It seems to me that, in keeping with so much more that Paul says, it means this - "It is Christ Who is providing what is necessary for this new life [on] the other side of the Cross. I live by Him, I live by the provision that He makes." Yes, and God, in calling us into His Son, has called us into an all-sufficient provision. You say, "I cannot love, especially in certain directions." But Christ can, and He has proved it in your case. Do you think everybody loves you? There are some people who do not love you, but Christ loves you whatever you are. You might be unloved for very good reasons by everybody else; He loves you, God loves you now with that love that can and does love the unlovely. He can provide us with a love to love.
Is not this the wonder of the whole evangel? Have we not many times heard missionaries who have come home saying, "When I was called of God to go to such and such a country and people, they were the very people I felt I could never love; everything about them stirred up in me only bad feelings; but I have come to love them, they are my people." Well, that is simple enough. My point is that to be called into Christ is to be called into provision for what that very word "beloved" means. You have the great example of Paul and the Corinthians. If ever a people deserved the opposite of love from a man, those Corinthians deserved it from Paul. They owed everything to him, and they treated him, to say the least of it, most shabbily, so that he could say that the more he loved them, the less they loved him (2 Corinthians 12:15). When you read about them your uppermost feeling is that it requires a great deal to love these people. Yet what is Paul's attitude? His heart is going out in brokenness over them. This is love that is not natural; it is in Christ, it is the provision in the Beloved. Do you catch the thought? I need not labor it. In Christ is an all-sufficient provision.
Well, Paul has many aspects to this great reality of "in Christ." As you know, he says that God put us all into Christ in the Cross. When Christ died and was judged of God, in Him we, too, were judged and death passed upon us all. We are in Him also risen; and not only so, for we are not just left here on this earth as risen: we are in Him seated in the heavenlies. How many aspects of this "in Christ' matter there are! What does it amount to? It amounts to this, that only Christ is he sphere of the believer, and in Christ that great heart intention of God in the creation is realized - a people in the Beloved, beloved of God, the objects of that love, and who should be filled (the Lord forgive us for our failure!) with that same love of God. It is in that sphere of Christ that God proceeds with His love purpose.
(continued with # 4 - "Conformity to the Beloved")