God's Ultimate Standard
This is set before the Church, the churches, and individual believers ("He that overcometh." "Unto him will I give ..." etc.) in the full stature and characterization of Christ. John says, inclusively, "One like unto the Son of Man" (verse 13). The title, used some eighty-two times of Christ in the New Testament, has a double significance. (a) It means representation; and (b) it means identification. Not to be too detailed and ponderous, we do not include a study of these two aspects, but those who are following closely will at once see how true they are in this final presentation. Here, "Jesus Christ" represents Man as God intends him to be, and as he will be through grace, in Christ. And here "Son of Man" means the most intimate organic identification with His redeemed, so that He stands to lose something of Himself if they fail.
When the Ultimate Standard has been presented, we are very soon led on to see that the Lord is not willing to accept comparative standards. In the majority of the messages to the churches the comparative is noted. Good things are tabulated, such as "works," "labors," "sincerity," "zeal," "hatred of falsehood and hypocrisy, orthodoxy, etc., but when all this is allowed for, warning, rebuke, severity, and entreaty are administered. The "garment down to the foot" (1:13), is not sleeveless, half-length, or even three-quarter length. It is full length, and all-covering. It is the "seamless robe" of John 19:23. It is of one piece and complete. Garments in the Bible speak of the measure and the character of the wearer. But here it is the garment of authority, the Judge. By it standards are judged, and criteria are fixed.
With God in Christ there are no substitutes for Divine fullness and no alternatives to the Person. This comes so clear in the confrontation of the churches. When all is taken int account the judgment is gathered into one word: "But."
This could be very disconcerting, discouraging, disheartening, but we must remember that the Lord puts His finger upon causes and reasons, and shows what can be done to make good the defects. Among the multitude of 'overcomers" doubtless there are many who were in the poorest state described in these Messages.
Let us go on, for about this "seamless robe," the perfect wholeness, there is a girdle of gold about the breasts. It is oriental symbolism, but it is eloquent. The breasts speak of the affections; here, the affections of Christ. Gold is ever the Divine nature. And the girdle, the symbol of strength and action. To His Church, His people, in their weakness, their decline, their failure, even in their apostasy, He comes in the energy, the strength, the activity of Divine love and affection to recover, to restore, to be faithful, to lift up.d It is in love that He rebukes: "As many as I love, I rebuke" (3:19). This Divine love is not mere sentimentalism. It is very faithful love. It is parental love which for the child's good may slap, but in so doing feels the regret as much as the child. "Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it."
I think that perhaps we have something here to learn and to which to adjust. We criticize and harshly judge the Church. We take a very adverse attitude to what we deem to be the faults, weakness, deflections, and even evils in the Church. We must search our hearts to see why we do so. It is really our suffering love and sorrow for the Lord that motivates our spirit and demeanor? Is it redeeming love?
(continued with # 9)