John 10:2-5, 14-16
Colossians 1:16-19; 2:16-19
PJW You may wonder what the connections between these Scriptures are. I have been thinking about the attributes of the Lord Jesus. And we often think of it in a personal way – what He is to me: Saviour, Friend; He is a King, too. All those are very blessed things. But I have been thinking lately of what He means to the Church, the assembly. He is not said in Scripture to be Saviour to the Church, or Friend, or King either. We own Him as the rejected King. One day He will have His rights. We are subjects of His kingdom, but He is not King to the Church. But I have read of four different attributes that I thought we could just speak over together and get some help.
The first one is the Lord Jesus as the Shepherd of the flock. The second one is the blessed Bridegroom. The third one is our great High Priest. And the fourth one is the Head of the Church. These are all things we can enjoy collectively. I thought it might just be useful to contemplate these attributes of the Lord Jesus as He is to us collectively, as the Church, as the bride.
They are not exactly in ascending order, but I suppose there is a sense of elevation as we go on. And the first aspect is the Shepherd. He is the Shepherd of the flock. Maybe we do not often think of ourselves as part of the little flock. The hymn book we have just sung from is ‘Hymns for the little flock.’ But sometimes we may forget that character, that we are part of that ‘little flock’ which often needs care and attention from the Shepherd. There is a sense of responsibility, too, in these statements of the Lord, because He is the Chief Shepherd, but we have responsibility as shepherds, too, as Peter makes it plain that we are accountable to Him as the Chief Shepherd (1 Pet 5:1‑4).
And then in Genesis there is a wonderful picture of the Bridegroom. Again, that is something which is well known, but I think we must never forget the attractiveness of that. It is something which was lost sight of for many centuries, but was recovered in a wonderful way. And it is a wonderful picture to us in Genesis 24, possibly more than in the New Testament, of the attractiveness of the bride to the Bridegroom and vice versa!
And then I thought we might just think about the Lord Jesus as High Priest. We cannot do anything assembly-wise – as together – without His service as High Priest. He is High Priest to us individually: He sympathises with us. But I trust that we would like to know more as to how He acts on our behalf as we come together.
And then He is Head – we have been reading Colossians recently locally. Again, it is a great truth which has been misapplied. So the queen is the head of the Church of England. What does that mean? Christ is Head of the Church.
These are just a few things we can speak about.
APDR It is very interesting in John 10 that the Lord says, “I have other sheep which are not of this fold: those also I must bring …; and there shall be one flock, one Shepherd.” It is a great thought that the Lord was going to amalgamate all into one. We know it has its application to the Jews and Gentiles, but nevertheless in the Lord’s mind there was to be one flock. I think that is what you are saying: He has indispensable value to the Church as Shepherd of the Church, if I can put it that way.
PJW That is what appealed to me. He was talking to His disciples here, as we know, and He was looking down the ages to us. The one flock is possible only because He went into death. I thought it was important to read that, that the good Shepherd gave His life for the flock. It is almost the starting point, is it not? And He gave His life not only for the flock, but in order that the Jew and Gentile might be brought into one. The middle wall of partition has been broken down (Eph 2:14). The Authorised Version reads, “There shall be one fold, and one Shepherd.” But Mr Darby makes it clear that the Greek distinguishes the fold from the flock. The Jewish fold has been replaced: the idea now is that the flock has come into view. It is still a wonderful company, but it is how we are here on earth. It is not a heavenly scene – it is the starting point; that is why I read it first, really. We come to Christ individually, and we find that there are others that have been brought to Him likewise, and we are part of this company, which is the little flock, which tends to wander, and has done throughout the ages, but the Shepherd is still there.
APDR I think it was Mr Raven, if my memory serves correctly, who spoke about going out of the fold into the flock (FER vol 1 p36-45). I think it is a very consoling thought, even in the day in which we are, when there are so many believers who are maltreated and suffering, that still the Lord is the Shepherd to the whole flock. It is very comforting, that: He will look after every sheep.
PJW I think that is very interesting. He knows each sheep by name. We live in very difficult days. The Church has been scattered. To bring it right home to where we are, we have known such devastation in our own circles. But the Lord knows each sheep, and each sheep, each believer, must still realise, whatever circumstances he is in, that he is still part of that flock, and the Shepherd is still there to look after them and guide them home.
APDR To “gather together into one the children of God who were scattered abroad” (John 11:52).
PJW What an amazing prophecy from such a man such as Caiaphas!
AWGS So it says, “One flock:” a Shepherd will bring them together, as it says in Ephesians (2:15), “form the two in Himself into one new man.”
PJW There is no difference between Jew and Gentile.
AWGS The Cross is the basis for it (Eph 2:16). Is that an important thing to see?
PJW Yes. I thought that is why He said, “I am the good Shepherd … and I lay down My life for the sheep” – all of them. In Ephesians that is made very clear, that that precious death of Christ is the basis for every person coming into blessing.
AWGS Not only do the individuals know His voice, but also the flock knows the voice.
PJW That was my point, really – the collective side. “My sheep hear My voice” (v27). I wonder about that, because sometimes they do not. We did not read it all, but it says, “They follow Me.” Well, we look through Church history and we think, ‘Is that really right?’ But this is characteristic of the sheep.
AWGS Nature teaches you: the flock knows the shepherd’s voice, naturally speaking. My father saw it and practised it as a shepherd. The flock came when he called, not when anybody else called.
PJW So we need to know the Shepherd’s voice.
SJB He is the good Shepherd; He is also the perfect Shepherd, is He not? In John 18 He says, “As to those whom Thou hast given Me, I have not lost one of them” (v9). Sometimes we feel lost in a crowd, we think that we are perhaps not of any value. But every sheep is precious. The Lord actually did not lose any of the disciples when He was here, did He? They went in their place. We should encourage ourselves that every member of the flock is precious to Him.
PJW There were the ninety-nine, but He went after the one (Luke 15:3‑7).
APDR It is Jeremiah who speaks about the flocks passing again “under the hands of him that counteth them” (Jer 33:13). It is a very striking Scripture, that each individual sheep will be counted into the flock, and not one of them missed.
PJW So it is a good thing to know the Shepherd personally. But then it is good just to have a sense – even if you are in isolation, or maybe you have got sidetracked or into a byway – that the flock is still here. The hymn says that – ‘Thy flock is still here, Shepherd Lover’ (Hymn 131). Maybe, if we have got off-beam a bit, we just need to hear the Shepherd’s voice.
SJB It says He “leads them out.” In Western society, or Western customs, the shepherd drives the sheep, but in the East he leads them.
PJW Well, I am very challenged about following the Lord. It is something that is sometimes said rather lightly. Sheep, as we know, very often do the opposite to what they are told.
AWGS Have you ever tried to drive sheep?
SJB No, I have no experience at all! It is a difficult job, really!
PJW The key is the Lord’s attractiveness. The hymn we started with says,
Lord, Thou hast drawn us after Thee,
So let us run and never tire
There is something about the Lord which attracts us together. Sheep naturally go their own way (Isaiah 53:6), but something about the attractiveness of the Lord would draw us together.
KH In the Song of Songs the lover says, “Tell me, thou whom my soul loveth, Where thou feedest thy flock, Where thou makest it to rest at noon” (ch 1:7). Would that be a right desire with every believer, that we might know where He feeds His flock, where He makes them settled and at peace?
PJW I think that is very good. We can get very restive, and He would make us “to lie down in green pastures” (Ps 23:2). Again, Psalm 23 is more of an individual matter, but the Lord made the people sit down in companies on the green grass (Mark 6:39), and we need that sustenance and refreshment in an arid and weary world. The Shepherd is still able to give, not only to us individually, but also to us collectively as we come together.
APDR The answer to the question in the Song just alluded to is, “If thou know not, thou fairest among women, Go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock” (v8). What do you say about following the footsteps of the flock to find the Shepherd?
PJW I would be glad to hear what you have to say on that. There is a sense in which the characteristic of the flock is to follow the Shepherd. Sometimes, if I go off on my own way, I just need the comfort and support of other brethren. People have found that they have wandered off, but brethren have been praying for them and leading them back, in a sense. If I am going off on a tangent from the way that God’s people are going, then I am not really going in the footsteps of the flock. That is answering it negatively, but do you agree with that?
APDR I think that is very right. I think that it could be said in a general way that the body of the brethren would know which direction the Lord is going in. I do not say that in any proud way. I think there is just that instinctive feeling; listen to the body of the brethren. I do not know whether you agree with that?
PJW I think that is right. If I am heading off in a completely different direction, then really I am detaching myself from the flock. I am returning back to Isaiah 53: “We have turned every one to his own way.”
SML Do you think that one of the features that unites the flock is a common experience of Christ? The disciples had that, and it comes out in the way that the Lord gathered the flock in His resurrection: speaking to Thomas, speaking to those two on the way to Emmaus, and so forth. The practical effect was that they were drawn together by a common experience with the Lord. Is that something we should experience?
PJW That is very helpful. I was thinking of Peter in that connection. After his very bitter experiences, he was given a command, “Feed My sheep,” “Feed My lambs.” You might have thought that was the last person that the Lord would give that instruction to, bearing in mind his unreliability in the past. But the Lord knew that after the Spirit had come, Peter would be one who valued Christ as the Shepherd, and would be able to learn from Him, and therefore to shepherd the others.
JGS If you want sheep to follow you, you have to have a bucket and rattle it. You are emphasising the thought of food. Do you have more in your mind about food?
PJW I think, especially in this day and age, we need to keep the food supply going. We were reading recently in the Gospels, and the Lord was very concerned that the people had been with Him three days, and they might faint on the way (Matt 15:32). The Lord is concerned that we should be fed, and that is part of His Shepherd care, is it not? I would like to know more about food though, how we get it. Perhaps you can help.
JGS There is another illustration that the Lord uses. It says, “He came to His own, and His own received Him not,” and He says, “How often would I have gathered thy children as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings” (John 1:11; Matt 23:37). We understand sheep, but that is another very simple illustration.
PJW The Lord does not want a disparate company of believers – He wants to draw us to Himself. It just appeals to me that as the Shepherd, He wants to do that, to draw us together to Himself.
JGS And there is protection as well, under His wing, do you think?
PJW That is true. I did not want to read too much, but John 10 is also concerned with what is against the Lord’s people and would try to rob. And that is what Satan does, he tries to rob from the Lord. The comfort is that, as has been said already, He will not lose one of them.
FAC Is there a link with this thought of food that has come up, where He says, “Shall go out and shall find pasture” (v9)? If we follow the Shepherd, He leads us to where there is what is necessary for sustaining us.
PJW He is the food supply. He is the door. I was thinking of that when I was looking at it. Verse 9 says, “If any one enter in by Me,” so that we must go to Christ. We will not be fed together by natural means. If we invent something else, we will not be fed.
DJB Shepherd care, according to Ephesians, is a very dignified service. It is “for the perfecting of the saints … with a view to the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph 4:11‑12). Also, shepherd care among the saints is very vital for their growth.
PJW We will not grow without food. That is an obvious statement, but people sometimes miss that spiritually. The Shepherd does know where the green pastures are. We need to follow Him. I would like to know more about it, but I think as we come together – and this was my thought, it is more what is collective – as we come together, we can be fed. That is part of the purpose of believers coming together.
SJB We get the picture at the end of Luke’s Gospel. In Jerusalem He showed the company there His hands and His feet, and then He ate the fish with them, and unfolded the Scriptures, so that they could see that it was the Lord personally. His hands and His feet, His service and His walk – it was the same Jesus, without a doubt.
AJB And He will be the same to the end. Peter says, “And when the Chief Shepherd is manifested ye shall receive the unfading crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:4). He goes right through to the time when He is manifested, still the Shepherd.
PJW I was thinking of that. It occurred to me, there is a sense of responsibility there for us too, as a commission was given to Peter. So if we are talking about all believers being part of the one flock, the Lord in His wisdom has made some more responsible than others, and they are to feed the sheep, feed the lambs as well – the lambs and the sheep. And then we are responsible, not to our own charges, but to the chief Shepherd. We are accountable. That is probably a word that believers do not like too much sometimes, but we are accountable to the Lord. This is not an official thing. In Christendom they have official positions, but what the Lord has set on is from Himself, to help the flock of God, to feed it, to look after it, to care for it. It says in the Scripture, “Not many fathers” (1 Cor 4:15), but it is very often not many shepherds either!
SML Do you think there is any significance in the choice of imagery that the Lord uses here? We know that sheep cannot look after themselves. If you leave them on their own, they get into trouble. The Lord’s shepherding is something that is absolutely essential to us, and if we see it that way it will bind our hearts to Him and to one another.
PJW And as we learn from Him, we learn to care for one another, too. The Lord cares for us exquisitely, but as we learn from Him, we have a responsibility, in fact, to care for one another. That is all part of being in the flock, as I understand it.
SJB In shepherding we are going to have to remember Whom the flock belongs to. The Ephesian elders were told to “shepherd the assembly of God, which He has purchased with the blood of His own” (Acts 20:28).
PJW Perhaps we ought to move on. I did not want to get into too much detail in Genesis; it was just the different aspects of the Bridegroom that appealed to me. Again, the idea of the Bridegroom is something that we know – and many believers know somewhat theoretically – but this passage just appeals to me. It is something along the lines of what we were singing at the beginning about being drawn after Christ (Hymn 361). Certainly, in my Christian experience, I have learned more to appreciate what it means to know the Lord as the Bridegroom of the Church. As we know, this passage presents things not so much from the Lord’s side, but in terms of what the Father desired for the Son. But it is in view of the bridegroom’s attractiveness here that Rebecca is willing to go. And then, at the end, we have the comment which is well known, “Isaac was comforted after the death of his mother.” So part of the Church’s responsibility – if I can put it that way – is to give comfort to the Lord.
APDR It is very interesting that the Lord actually referred to Himself as the Bridegroom. “The sons of the bride-chamber” do not fast when the bridegroom is with them (Mark 2:19). He was going to be taken away; He went on to say that. I have always found it a very interesting thing that He did allude to “the Bridegroom.” I would like you to open up that thought a little bit for us – the thought of the Lord as Bridegroom to the Church. It is very precious, I think.
PJW Well, it is a truth that has always been there. I think it was lost, though not entirely, over the centuries. But in God’s ways, in the Spirit, there was a recovery to that wonderful truth, if you can put it that way – “Behold, the Bridegroom” (Matt 25:6). It really takes us off the earth, because the Bridegroom is waiting in glory at the moment. And He is coming from that place. “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come” (Rev 22:17). But it is just an image of a precious truth that I think we neglect at our peril, really – to understand that the Lord has something which is suitable for Himself. I think, when we break bread, we initially remember Him as individuals, but afterwards we really come into a sphere where we recognise that it is one pearl, of great price, for which He has given His life. And He has secured something which is going to give Him satisfaction and pleasure. And I think that sometimes, again, we can overlook that thought. The Lord as Bridegroom is a wonderful title.
APDR It is indeed.
KH Rebecca had never seen Isaac until she was brought to him. But she had heard a lot about him. Obviously, we have bits in Genesis 24 of what the servant said, telling about Abraham and Isaac. No doubt there was also a conversation on the long journey across the desert. I am just thinking that we have not literally seen our Bridegroom yet, but we have that wonderful service of the Holy Spirit, to take of His things and to show them to us, and make Him attractive to us, so that we can have part in that cry along with the Spirit, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev 22:20).
PJW And that is where the service of the Spirit is so important. I think that when I was a young believer, I did not appreciate the services of the Spirit, but we ignore Him at our peril, because He knows so much about the Lord. The servant here knew everything about Isaac. He is able to make us come into the knowledge of these things. Again, the truth of the Person of the Holy Spirit is something that was lost for quite a few centuries, but in God’s ways we have been recovered to that truth. We should not overlook the wonderful knowledge we have of the truth of the gift of the Spirit, and how He is able to make Christ attractive as the Bridegroom, the One Who is going to claim His bride. The Lord is coming back soon to do that, to claim His bride.
AWGS So the bride says in the Song, “The Chiefest among ten thousand” (Song of Songs 5:10). That is what the Beloved is: that is what Isaac would be to Rebecca. Is that your thought as far as the bride is concerned, that He is the chiefest among ten thousand, with the description that continues to the end of that chapter?
PJW Again, we are all part of that wonderful company. We may be individuals, we may be walking in our different Christian pathways, but the bride is one whole, and as we come together we are really transported, in a sense, to think of the bride and the Bridegroom, and what we can do to give Him satisfaction and pleasure. Hymn 179 says,
How can we give Thee comfort for what Thou hast sustained?
Isaac had obviously been in great distress about the death of his mother, but it says he was comforted. And he took her into his mother’s tent – he claimed her. And that is what the Lord has done to us; He has claimed us for His own.
DJB What does the figure of the Bridegroom and the bride really convey to you?
PJW Well, that is a very simple question, but may be a very difficult one to answer! There are many different pictures of the Church in the Scriptures, and that is one of them. There is something about the bride which is pure – that is one thing that appeals to me. Now, you may look at a group of believers and say, ‘Well, I know all their faults and failings.’ But from the divine side the bride is suitable. We have been made “fit for sharing the portion of the saints in light” (Col 1:12). I know it is one of our old sayings, but the Church has no past history in that sense. What is the saying? It was conceived in glory and it will end in glory, is that it?
JGS It is heavenly in origin, and heavenly in destiny (CAC vol 13 p216).
PJW That is the one! I am not sure who came up with that, but it is very true. It is something that is outside of the earth altogether, outside of man’s design. I suppose we have to go back to Adam and Eve in the beginning. If you want to know the truth of something, it is said that you should go back to the very first hint of it in Scripture. The very first hint of Christ and the Church is Adam and Eve. Adam said, “This time it is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Gen 2:23).
APDR It is connected with suffering, is it not? Jehovah caused a deep sleep to fall upon man, and we know that is a reference to Christ’s death. We often quote from Isaiah 53 that “He shall see of the fruit of the travail of His soul” (v11). Do you think there is something about the sufferings of the bride that is peculiarly attractive to the Lord, and vice versa? That hymn you quoted from, of Daniel Otsing – Hymn 131 – is a remarkable hymn if you think about it. A man who was being taken to Siberia on a train to be incarcerated was thinking about the beauty of the bride to the Lord Jesus, at that point. The hymn is full of it – ‘Thy flock is still here,’ ‘The Spirit and bride are united.’ It is an interesting thing – the bride in suffering seems to have a peculiar attraction to the heart of the Lord Jesus. It is the fruit of His own suffering.
PJW The pearl, as we know, is the result of suffering.
APDR It is the same thing, yes.
PJW But the result is that the bride is pure, “having no spot, or wrinkle, or any of such things” (Eph 5:27). I think that will be a wonderful time, when the Lord will come and claim His bride.
AJB Paul could labour to that end, to present the Corinthians “a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Cor 11:2). You were speaking about purity – the Church viewed in that way.
PJW Well, that is right. I just think that is a more elevated thought. I think the flock is a very wonderful idea, but this is really something for Christ Himself. It answers to His love. It is a result of His suffering.
SJB It is an answer, too, to the loneliness of the Cross. He was forsaken, entirely left alone. He could speak of a companion: it is a wonderful thing that the Lord is surrounded – never to be alone again.
PJW The bride is something very attractive. At a wedding, everyone focuses on the bride, and sometimes the bridegroom is sidelined. Here, it is something that is suitable for the Bridegroom.
KH It is a striking thing in this very passage that when the servant said, “That is my master,” then she did something – she took the veil and covered herself. She was really saying, ‘I am going to be exclusively for him, and for him alone.’ I think it links with our brother’s reference, that Paul laboured that the Church should be a chaste virgin for Christ – to be for Him, and Him alone.
PJW I think it elevates the result of Christ’s work, and elevates the saints too. And I like to think of all true believers as part of this, being the bride; it would elevate our thoughts, because sometimes when we meet together, we just carry on in our normal way, and we can have lower thoughts. But I think sometimes we need to be elevated in our thoughts as to what the Church is.
Perhaps we should go on. It just appealed to me that not only is He a Shepherd to the flock, and a Bridegroom to the bride, but He is also a wonderful High Priest. I was looking at the note on the word “minister,” in verse 2. It refers to another note in Romans, which talks about what is official, someone who has been appointed. I was just thinking that it is a wonderful thing that Christ, really, acts on our behalf, as we come together, in an official capacity. Maybe when we come together to praise and pray, it can seem a bit ‘random,’ if I can use that word. But we need to be under the guiding of the Spirit and the Lord. It is wonderful to know He is in control, and His service is there to make things acceptable to God. And I think this would encourage young believers, too, that Christ is still there to guide us collectively and to act on our behalf when offering praise to God.
APDR Essentially the Priest is the Representative of man to God. The Apostle is the other way as we know – the Representative of God to us; what Christ would say to us is on the line of apostleship. But He is touched with the feelings of our infirmities (Heb 4:15). The opening up of the matter of priesthood in Hebrews is very precious indeed. He ever lives to make intercession for us (Heb 7:25). The collective aspect is very precious, that the Lord is there on behalf of His people.
PJW Yes, when I started, I referred to the individual side, and there is the individual side that He sympathises with. He is touched with the feelings of our infirmities – He is priestly in that way. But in relation to my thought, concerning us as together, it says He is “Minister of the holy places.” So as we come together to worship God and minister to Him, the Lord is there on our behalf, and makes it good and right.
AWGS It adds, “And of the true tabernacle.” It does not just say “tabernacle,” it says “true tabernacle.” It is what is complete. The true tabernacle is something that is complete, is it not?
PJW And it is that which the Lord has pitched. So it is His work; that elevates it.
AWGS It does. And I was thinking, too, He “has sat down:” this High Priest, this Minister, has set Himself down (Heb 1:3). That is in that area, that situation, where the true tabernacle is pitched.
DJB At this point, is the apostle moving beyond our need and the place that the High Priest has in that relation, and moving on to the service of God which he has touched on in the second chapter? It is a place where things are under divine control for divine pleasure, do you think?
PJW That was my thought, really. It is getting beyond what is individual. All of these things are really getting beyond what we are individually in our own pathways – though that aspect of the Lord’s service is very precious – to go on to the next level, if you like – to get raised from the earth. And as Priest in this context He is facilitating on behalf of the whole Church. For we know our feebleness, and until we are in glory we shall always be feeble, in God’s praise. I certainly feel my incapacity, but “the Spirit joins also its help to our weakness” (Rom 8:26). We find touches of this sometimes – I trust you do – of the Lord helping us.
SJB Yes, I was just reflecting, how the Lord and the disciples went out, having sung a hymn (Matt 26:30) – something that everyone can join together in: singing. Christians have Someone to sing about, have they not? Some things to sing about, too.
PJW In the world, they talk about a priest and we think of a man in long robes. Even Christians sometimes can get confused about this. But this makes it clear that we are talking about a Man in glory, and, yes, He acts on our behalf individually, but He is there to help us as believers together.
SJB Yes. I am always concerned for myself, that I might not ever despise someone else’s liberty. Michal despised David and his liberty (2 Sam 6:16). If it is done in the right spirit towards God, we must not despise it.
PJW I think that is right. He is Minister of the holy places. We are talking here about the very presence of God. That should not put us off, or distract us – because sometimes we do feel our insufficiency – but the Lord is there to help us and He would make it right, make it good, if we have the right desire.
APDR I was just thinking of chapter 2 where the writer says, “Both He that sanctifies and those sanctified are all of one,” and, “In the midst of the assembly will I sing Thy praises” (vv 11-12). It is something I would like unfolded, because that is a profound thing, what is being said there, that in that beautiful setting of the Church, of the bride, the Lord is singing the praises of the Father. What can you say about that to help us?
PJW He ever was here on earth for the Father’s pleasure. In a sense, I think that carries on. Ultimately all things are put in subjection that God may be all in all (1 Cor 15:28). Christ ever has that position: He will not recede from that position of being Mediator.
DJB He is the Minister of the holy places, and, according to chapter 3, is Son over God’s house (v6). We should be looking to Him for guidance in serving God, should we? How would we gain that?
PJW That is a very challenging question. I think we need to be in His presence.
KH We also can think about Him when He was on earth. It says, “In the same hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit and said, I praise Thee, Father, Lord of the heaven and of the earth” (Luke 10:21). He really sets it on, and through His death He has secured others who can praise with Him, and will do so eternally.
PJW It is a wonderful thing that we can join together as believers and join with the Lord; and He is the One Who is the Minister, and is able to strengthen us. And sometimes you may feel your weakness when you come to the morning meeting, but you get lifted up.
KH That is the force of Hebrews 10, where the writer is encouraging brethren to have boldness to go into the holy of holies, and he says, among other things, “Having a great Priest over the house of God, let us approach” (vv 19-22).
PJW That is just so. It shows us that God wishes us to go there; He wants us to do that. And we are made fit for doing it, we are equipped.
SJB Remember His teaching to the woman in John 4 about worshipping in spirit and in truth (vv 23-24) – I think that is a simple thing to remember, is it not? It is what comes from your heart.
Ques Is this why we proffer our response to God ‘in the name of the Lord Jesus?’ Perhaps what we utter in our weakness may reach the throne in a different version.
PJW That is helpful, yes. We cannot approach God without the Lord, can we? “No one comes to the Father unless by Me” (John 14:6). We cannot dare to approach the presence of God, or, as it says here, the holy places, without the Lord. He is the Lord, and that is why it has to be through Him. “Glory in the assembly in Christ Jesus” (Eph 3:21).
SML Do you think, when it comes to getting something of practical guidance from the Lord in this, we find it in what we learn from one another? You referred earlier to the way that the opening hymn was an encouragement to you. Tell me if I am being imaginative, but I just wondered whether what people say in prayer, and the hymns they give out, and what comes into other people’s thanksgiving, in fact becomes a guidance to me as to the way the Lord might be leading at any particular time. What do you say?
PJW I think that must be right, because we are human, and we are here physically. I speak carefully, but it is not often that we get a direct voice from the Lord in that sense – although I would not rule it out by any means. But practically speaking we learn from what is said. The Lord is behind that: He is the great High Priest. The point is that the Lord is in control.
DJB That is what would be meant by a prophetic word, is it not? Maybe without realising, one or another comes forward with something which conveys something of the Lord’s mind.
PJW I said to someone recently that I have sometimes had a hymn that has just come to me, and somebody else opens his hymn book before me. And then all of a sudden I find that he has shut the hymn book because it was not the right hymn, and I feel free to go ahead. Well, the Spirit may well be just guiding – the Spirit is in control, and the Lord is in control.
Perhaps we ought to just finish with the verses in Colossians. I did not like to say these Scriptures were in an order, but this is almost the top note. We were reading this recently, and it just struck me that Christ is the Head of the body. Before that, we read how Christ is supreme in everything (ch 1:16-17). This is superlative language, and it seems all the more incredible to me that such a One is Head. It says, “And He is before all,” and then it says, “He is the Head of the body.” Such a One as this, Who is supreme in everything, is also the Head of the body – and that is us.
APDR It is indeed. It has been pointed out that the woman in John 4 was really being brought by the Lord into an understanding of headship. She had had five husbands, and he whom she now had was not her husband. But the Lord’s great intention was to bring her to the seventh husband – Himself, the Head of all things. I have often wondered whether that was not the reason why the Lord went on to the question of worshipping the Father in spirit and truth. It was a very remarkable way that the Lord opened up the truth to her, when we think about it. It has often been commented on: she was taken from the depths to the heights.
PJW She was a very fast learner. She came with some preconceived ideas, which we tend to do, but the Lord graciously swept them all aside – very skilfully, I should say. But we just get a glimpse of Who this glorious Person is. When we come together, He is the Head. Everything flows from Him. I nearly read from Ephesians too; it says there that Christ is head of the assembly (Eph 5:23). And the same sort of language is there, about it all flowing from Him, and back to Him (vv 25‑27, as in Col 2:19). We hear a lot about organic growth these days, but this is organic growth. In other words it is natural, it is not man-made. It is what is natural as we allow the Lord to have His rightful place. He should grow in our appreciation, and we should learn from Him.
APDR We were reading this quite recently, and were impressed by the fact that every joint and band of supply is under the control of the Lord Jesus. The whole body is under the direction of the Head.
PJW Whether they realise it or not. That is why I read the last bit about not holding fast the head. That is a bit negative, but these Colossians, though they had the truth, were in danger of getting caught up in philosophy and vain deceit (ch 2:8). I think that is probably something that is very pressing today – philosophy and vain deceit.
FAC Does that show the importance of what it goes on to say in chapter 1, “That He might have the first place in all things”? We might easily accept that He is Head when we come together, but He is to have the first place when we are together.
PJW How does that come about?
FAC Well, I think we need to make way for Him, do we not, as we are together? We are not to have our own preconceived ideas.
PJW Indeed, I think that is right. We were saying locally that the thought of headship is really that He controls and directs and influences. It is more of a gentle thing. Sometimes the Lord has to speak to us strongly in discipline. But the Head really controls and influences everything in the body. It would be wonderful if we knew more about this – He leading and directing, and we recognising Who He is. It would make our meetings fuller if we had a sense of Him as the Head. I am sure we do, but I am speaking practically.
GKM You mentioned the negative side just now, in Colossians. It seems to be just one person not holding fast the Head, that is causing the trouble. It comes full circle, because we started off with the Shepherd’s service being both individual and collective.
PJW So we have to take it onto ourselves.
GKM I was thinking that, yes. These things should all be tracked back to an individual’s relationship with the Head. He is the Priest. He is the Shepherd.
PJW So we have to learn these things as individuals, and then as we have learnt individually, we can learn together.
SJB This Epistle was supposed to be read to the Laodiceans as well (ch 4:16). A sobering view of Laodicea is that the Lord is outside (Rev 3:20). And so the warning is there for our adjustment, not to go on without the Lord being present and being the Centre. Christian gatherings are not social events.
PJW I think that is very sobering, very telling, because we can all be guilty of that. But when we think of Who the Lord is, it would help us to get things into perspective, and to ensure that He is in control, and that we come under His direction for everything, both individually, and as believers together. And then, as a local company, we would be enjoying this in a better way.
SJB He goes on in chapter 3 to say, “And let the peace of Christ preside in your hearts” (v15). That comes from knowing the Head.
PJW And it says there, “Ye have been called in one body.” That is the thing, that we may have a sense of that. Well, that is what I had on my heart, that we should just mull over these characteristics of the Lord, as relating to God’s people when together.
21 March 2015
Key to Initials
James Bryan, Leamington Spa
David J. Burr, Birmingham
Simon J. Burr, Birmingham
Arthur Coldrick, Wolverhampton
Ken Hollands, Preston
Mark Lemon, Sevenoaks
Ken Melville, Walsall
Philip D. Robinson, Birmingham
Andrew W. G. Spiers, Defford
John G. Spiers, Defford
Philip J. White, Worthing