The Grace That Is In Christ Jesus
read 2 Timothy 2: 1 - 10
The assembly of God, - the company of people called out between the day of Pentecost and the moment when Christ will call us home - has been gathered out for the express purpose that, during the season of Christ's rejection, we should be here in exact correspondence with all that Christ is, not merely individually as saved sinners, but as an assembly in which can be set forth certain glories and functions which no individual could possibly set forth.
Now as to Christ in glory, it is not that He is a different Person from what He was on earth, but that all that He was on earth has passed through death and resurrection and so into glory, and is seen there in Him. In connection with this I would like to refer to the gospels of which we have four, each one representing the Lord Jesus Christ in certain graces. Just as this epistle begins with the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus, I would take the gospel of John first. In this gospel we have certain things set out in the Lord Jesus Christ as a man on the earth that are of great importance. We get first of all life seen in the Lord Jesus Christ; life that is entirely according to God. Secondly, I think we get relationship; we get the Son down here as a man but in relationship with His Father. Thirdly we get communion: uninterrupted, holy, blessed, intimate, wondrous communion.
In this gospel He is presented down here as that Eternal Life which was with the Father. It is a life of a distinct kind from that which the ordinary natural man lives, born of Adam. The Lord Jesus truly came down in the condition of flesh and blood, but He lived here after a new manner of life that had its home with the Father; as it says, that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested unto us. Then relationship. Although when people looked at the Lord Jesus Christ they spoke of Him as Jesus of Nazareth, and were somewhat contemptuous of His lowly birth, apparent lineage, relations, and trade as a carpenter, yet nevertheless, that lowly, gracious, perfect, blessed Man was found here as Son in relationship with the Father. He could look up into His Father's presence and commune with Him in all the joy and blessedness of that known relationship. T, o sum up briefly, we have these three things presented in the gospel of John, life, relationship, and the deepest communion with the Father.
Now remember that same Person has gone on high and all these things are found in Him there. As He says at the end of the gospel, 'I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.' Then He breathed upon them and communicated His life to them here, saying, 'As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.'
We are left here then to represent Christ in these three things. In the Christian assembly there should be seen this grace which was in Christ Jesus; there should be seen in us a character of life different from the character of life that is seen in men in the world; there should be seen in us all the blessedness of our relationship with God as Father, and there should be with us all the depth of communion that nothing can disturb. I think that when we begin to consider for a moment something of the grace that is set forth in Christ Jesus we can see that it opens out tremendous possibilities for us.
Now we come to the third gospel, the gospel of Luke. In this gospel we have set forth all that God is in grace, in a man here on earth. As we watch the footsteps of the Lord Jesus and His ways, and listen to His ministry we are brought into contact with the resources of God in grace for every condition of man; even if the earth closes up for then heaven opens to us. There is a second thing connected with the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and this is one of the things that has to be worked out in the assembly of God on the earth: the assembly should be enabled through grace to represent the thoughts, and the love and the grace of God, though down here in a world such as this. While it is most wonderful and has the most precious truths connected with it, the assembly is yet to be down here as the great exponent of the heart of God. We cannot therefore dissociate the thought of it from the gospel. This cannot be.
Then we have the second gospel, the gospel of Mark. I think the thought brought out here in wondrous detail is of the Lord Jesus as the servant of God. He is the servant not only in terms of doing the works of God and meeting the necessities of men, but also in terms of speaking the Word of God, so that the words that He spoke were God's testimony to men. We find that all His works commanded the appreciation of God, and at the same time He was tireless and swift in His meeting of every need that came across His path. The assembly of God is formed also to be the transcript of Christ with regard to this love of service. We might say it is summed up in Peter's address in Acts 10, when He says of the Lord Jesus, 'He went about doing good, healing all that were oppressed of the devil, for God was with him.' Now we who are Christians are united by the Holy Spirit to Christ, and we are so formed and constituted that we should be down here in this world reproducing what Christ is, as He was presented in the gospel of Mark. I once heard a dear sister complain that the Christians she knew seemed to think of nothing more than going to meetings and never seemed to have any time to do any good works. I wonder if we are like that? How many poor people do you visit and care for? In what way do you exhibit this activity of the love and grace of Christ in the presence of all the needs around you? So while we value meetings and opportunities for getting together, and need to abide by the truth and learn it and be in the power and good of it, let us see that it is found in our hearts. As it works in us it will produce in us likeness to Christ so that we shall be representatives of Him here, and there will be with all our learning the doing also of those good works that are in correspondence with it. We should love to be connected with the testimony of God, the truth of God's word, and the ministry that God has to send whether to those who profess to love Him or people of the world.
And then, lastly in the gospel of Matthew, we find the Lord Jesus Christ coming down as the great Administrator of the will of God. He carries out the promises and purposes of God with regard to the earth, and administers that which God has put under His control. The assembly is intended to be down here, a company of people in the world under the rule of Christ, in which all the functions and all the administration should be ordered according to His will, and where the will of man is ruled out.
I have only given a little summary, but brief as it is, I think it will suit these words: 'The grace which is in Christ Jesus?' It shows that when we speak of the assembly of God, we often know very little about it. As long as we break bread we say, we are in fellowship. We seem to be quite content with going to the meeting, and attending the breaking of bread and gospel. Perhaps one in ten at any rate attend the prayer meetings, and perhaps two in ten attend the Bible reading, and we think we are getting along very well. As long as we do not fall out among ourselves it is all right. O! but is that Christianity? Remember that we are left here so that although the world cannot see Christ it should be able to look at us and understand what kind of Person He is. Is there not a whole field of acquisition before us? Is there not everything to learn? And it is not only a question of information and getting our minds instructed, but of the Holy Spirit working into our souls every line of the truth, and bringing it out in power.
We have been looking at that word, `The grace that is in Christ Jesus' as it is presented in the four gospels. Now the apostle says to Timothy, 'Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.' These things should not be mere theories, but every line of the truth ought to be wrought in living power in our souls. What is the secret of having the truth of God in real power in our souls? An honoured brother once said, 'I think the secret of having the truth in power may be said to be this, That every line, every bit of the truth that we learn should be accompanied by a corresponding 379
self-judgment in our own souls ... Paul, the moment he got the light of Christ's glory shining in upon his soul, was broken down and bowed himself in the dust in self-judgment before Him; for three days and three nights he neither ate nor drank. And the result was that the truth of the glory of Christ acquired such a place in his soul that when he got on to his feet he straightway preached in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.'
Now it seems to me that being strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus involves this, that with regard to every part of the truth which we learn from God there must be the getting into the presence of God in connection with it and judging ourselves as deeply as we know how. Otherwise we are likely to lose its force. It is not that the thing becomes untrue. but so far as we are concerned, we, who might be the vessel and exponent of it, lose the force of it because we never learned it with the corresponding self-judgment. Now what does that mean? If I see that God has Christ before Him and His intention is to reproduce Christ in me down here, I should set aside all that 1 am, and all that man is, and all that the world can bring in, the Holy Spirit displacing everything by Christ. So if you see anything in connection with Christ and you desire to have its real power in your soul, get before the Lord with that truth that you have learned and judge yourself in the light of it. Make room for Christ, for you will find the opposite in yourself, and in your associations, or in other things connected with you. Allow the light of that truth to shine in upon your soul and judge yourself in the light of it, so that the truth may become a living power and force in your life. I do not know anything that discourages me more, humanly speaking, than to see people coming fifty-two Sundays in the year, and as many weekday nights to hear addresses, and never making any progress in their souls. You come year after year and find them just where they were. And why? Just for that very reason they have fallen into the habit of listening to the truth and never allowing the spirit of self-judgment to enter to accompany the hearing of it.
Then the apostle says, 'The things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men who shall he able to teach others also.' Now it seems to me that the apostle recognises that the mass of Christians were giving up the truth but that he recalls Timothy to what he had heard from himself. We have these things in the epistles, but, he says to Timothy, 'These things you have heard of me.'
Now if Timothy, through exercise of soul, became strong in the grace that was in Christ Jesus, and in his own life and way was brought under the power of the truth, he was to commit these same things to faithful men. That means, 1 suppose, that the apostle expected these faithful men would be distinguishable despite the general unfaithfulness. But Timothy was to seek them out, and getting into their company and into exercise with them, was to speak of these things together with them so that they might become suited vessels to carry it on. How often we find that the very things we ought to he most familiar with we can hardly speak about. It is very happy to speak of elementary things, when we meet a child or young person and try to help him at the point where we find him. If he is not clear about the forgiveness of sins or peace with God, we try to help him. If he has not yet learned the truth of the seventh chapter of Romans, we should go over it patiently with him, and get it deeper into our own soul while helping him. But how seldom we find saints of God who are eager to learn the deeper truths of Christ, and God's purpose in connection with Him. Many often do not even have the time to speak about them.
'The things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.' If we are exercised about the truths of the gospel and the assembly of God, we should make sure the things we are learning are what Paul taught among many witnesses. Then as we find an open ear and a heart that appreciates these things, we should share these truths together. They are what we have recorded here in the Word, and by sharing them with, we help to prepare someone else who in their turn will be able to teach others also. We cannot rely upon the continuation of gift in the way in which we have known it in past years. We are all conscious that there were outstanding men in past years who had got a distinct impression from the Lord They were in the exercise and power of the truth, and when they brought it before us they did so in such a way that we recognised it was a message from the Lord. But they have passed on, and their places have not been filled, and as a result we have the truth but are weak. Does this mean that we can no longer practise the truth that is in Christ Jesus or pass it on? Certainly not. We have it hire in the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit has been given to us to help us understand it, practise it and pass it on.
Now there are three things in the following verses that I would like to refer to. In the fourth verse we have the warrior; in the fifth verse what we might call the wrestler; and in the sixth verse, the worker. The warrior. the wrestler. and the worker; these arc the three ways in which the Christian is called to stand in these days.
With regard to the warrior, we read, 'No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.' It seems as though there must be an undivided heart for Christ if we are going to stand in these difficult days. The warrior the soldier - is a man who is called at the bidding of his king and country to put those things first that relate to the king's honour. As a result the affairs of life have to be relegated to the rear. He is a man chosen to be a soldier, and in this capacity his one business is to please him who hath called him to be a soldier. Now we are in that position as regards the Lord Jesus Christ. He sees the battlefield, knows all the power of the enemy and the difficulties among His own people, but has called us to be His soldiers nonetheless. One of the first things we have to watch is the way in which the affairs of life absorb our attention to the exclusion of the Lord's interests. Whatever shape His interest may take in our lives, whatever service we are to render to Him, let us be on our guard and make sure the affairs of life do not occupy such a place in our minds that they shut out the claims of Christ. It is very difficult. The state of things in the world be they social or political, the uncertainties of employment, the difficulties of trade and business, are all things that tend to distract us. They drift into the mind like a sand-drift blown by the wind, and can extinguish all devotedness to Christ. May this not be the secret cause of a great deal of indifference to the Lord's interests? Is it not that such a crowding of duties, such a pressure has come in that we can hardly find time to discover the Lord's will for us. As a result when difficulties arise we are non-plussed, not having the habit of referring to the Lord? This means that we are liable to be carried about by this influence or that influence instead of following the will of the Lord.
The second thing is the wrestler. It says, 'If a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.' That is, there are certain rules of the ring, and if we are going to strive for masteries, if we are going to go in for special games, we must acquaint ourselves with the rules, otherwise we may be disqualified. If we apply
this to the prize we are looking for we see it is of the greatest importance that we should make ourselves familiar with every desire of the Lord's heart, and with all the instruction He has given us for our walk down here. Do we read the Word systematically, do we only read certain portions that we are rather fond of and fancy?
Our first verse read, 'Be strong in the grace which is in Christ Jesus.' As far as 1 can understand, in this epistle there are seven things that are said to be 'in Christ Jesus', beginning with the promise of life in the first chapter. Seven things seem to suggest the idea of a circumference within which it is safe for the Christian to walk in the midst of corruption. 'In Christ Jesus' involves our knowing all that is included and all that is shut out. 'In Christ Jesus' means that we cannot bring in anything which is of Adam, of our own will, of man's organisation, or of man's resources. 'In Christ Jesus' shuts it all out. And what we are to be strong in is 'the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 'That is the circumference within which it is safe for us to walk. Well, if we do not know what it includes we shall obviously be at fault; a difficulty will come in and we will be distracted and not know where to look. We may strive unlawfully in our earnestness, and when putting forth our strength act in some way the Word of God condemns.
Well, may God give us to strive lawfully for the masteries. Supposing we were to say, 'I want to see everybody converted,' set out to preach the gospel with the aim that the whole world should be converted. Oh, how we would set about it with tremendous energy! But have we studied 'the rules of the game'? Is this what is set forth in the mind of God for the present time? Supposing we say, 'Well now I want to win souls and see them saved', and you adopt some of the expedients which are very popular today. Would this be consistent with that word 'in Christ Jesus'? A great many methods of outreach are done with the best of intentions but they are not according to 'the rules of the game'. Is this striving lawfully or unlawfully? God give us to test ourselves.
Then, the third thing is in the sixth verse, which we need to alter a little, for the true translation is: 'The husbandman must labour before partaking of the fruits' (N.Tr.). The idea is that there must be labour or toil before we partake of the fruit. And I think that any amount of toil is worthwhile in connection with the interests of Christ, because: 'Ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.' If we strive according to the rules, doing our service according to the mind of the Lord, shutting out our own thoughts and will, and man's ways and methods, and doing it all in the power of the Holy Spirit, the work will not be in vain in the Lord. There will be an answer. Turn to that passage in 1 Corinthians 15. We may apparently be defeated and our work may seem to disappear; scholars we have loved and prayed for may be scattered, and we may think, 'Well it has all been labour in vain', but look at verse 58, for in that resurrection chapter God shows that everything that goes into the grave will come up out of it. The apostle says, 'Therefore my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.' This makes it as plain as possible to me that I have only to see that my labour is in the Lord. I have only to study what His will is, and do my work, of whatever kind it is, in the Lord, and as sure as God's work is true, it will reappear; nothing will be lost.
Our labour is not in vain in the Lord. We visit a sick saint. Before we go, we get in touch with the Lord and then visit, just to be in His hand, be able to say what He gives and commend it to Him. Do you think that the Lord is ever going to forget that visit? Perhaps there did not seem much result. Perhaps we were not well received. Perhaps it all seemed to be in vain. But in so far as our visit was in the Lord, we will see that visit again in glory. I do not know in what shape the answer will be, but we will have our Lord's approval. We go to our Sunday School class, and have the boys or girls, as the case may be, and we pray and seek in every way to shut out all that is merely superficial and sentimental or emotional, so that we may bring Christ before their souls, praying that God will teach the young Christians and save the unconverted. Do we think that our service falls to the ground? Do we think that it is simply done and forgotten, and that there is no more of it? In so far as Our labour is in the Lord we will see it again. There is not a word spoken in the Lord, not a thing done in the Lord at home or abroad, but we will find God's answer to it in resurrection. And so it says here, the labourer will be 'partaker of the fruits'. We will get the fruit, but we should be content in the meantime, if God so will it, to go labouring. Only let us make sure that it is in the Lord.
In connection with our labour, let us read verse 8: 'Remember Jesus Christ raised from among the dead, of the seed of David, according to my glad tidings' (N.Tr.). The very Master whom we wish to serve and whose graces we wish to display on earth, was One who toiled and laboured and wept. And oh! how He pleaded with Israel again and again! Was it not He that said, 'O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not.' Did He not say, 'I have laboured in vain; I have spent my strength for nought and in vain.' How He felt it? Yet He says, 'My judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God' (Isa. 49: 4). That work, which in His lifetime, seemed to have all been in vain was found in resurrection to be of such a character that it will fill the whole universe with blessing. Remember that though you may labour in your lifetime, and say, 'Well, somehow or another, I have not been allowed to see much result of my labour', if your labour has been in the Lord, you will, as sure as God's Word is true, see the fruit in the resurrection day. God is faithful to His word: 'He that goeth forth and weeping, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.' (Ps. 126: 6). And so with regard to all that we may think to be breaking up on every side, study what the Lord's will is, and see to it that your life's testimony and service and everything in it are 'in the Lord', and we will certainly be partakers of the fruits.
The apostle adds, 'Consider what I say; and the Lord give you understanding in all things.' May God give us to learn more of the grace which is in Christ Jesus, and seek to be consistent with it. 'Thou therefore, my child, be strong in the grace which is in Christ Jesus.' Let us find faithful men if we can and communicate these things one to the other, going on with everything we can learn of Christ Jesus, keeping within the circumference. And we should be assured of this, that nothing that is wrought here by the Holy Spirit for the Lord will ever disappear. Let us set the Lord before us, get into exercise as to His will, and do it in all humility; but with this confidence that as sure as God's Word stands for ever, and is settled in heaven, we will see the results in resurrection. AMEN.