KH I am thinking about the importance of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ being established. Paul speaks in this lovely doxology at the end of the Epistle to the Romans about God as the One Who “is able to establish you.”
I think the establishment of believers is a very important part of the ministry of the apostle Paul. You read, for example, in the Acts that he went on his missionary journeys to new territory to secure believers for the Lord Jesus. When he came back again to see these believers, one of the things he did was to establish them (Acts 14:22). In other words, it was important for them not just to hear the message and believe the message, but to be established in the great things of God. I think there is a need today for myself, and others who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, to become established Christians.
Establishment conveys the idea of solidity and stability. Elsewhere, Paul speaks about the danger of being tossed about by every wind of doctrine (Eph 4:14), the opposite of being established. When Paul writes this Epistle, he mentions at the start that he desired to come and see them and to establish them (Rom 1:11‑12).
I wondered if we might look at three ways in which believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are established. The first is the gospel – Paul’s gospel. And he refers to that here, “According to my glad tidings and the preaching of Jesus Christ.” We could have read many verses in Romans, and I am sure we might be free to allude to a number of them, but the gospel, as preached by Paul, would establish people in the truth of redemption as it is in Christ Jesus. By way of illustration, I would like us to remember the boards of the tabernacle. Each board was made of acacia wood, and each board had two tenons which were fixed in sockets of silver. The passage in Romans 5 speaks about the love of God – “God commends His love to us.” This Epistle also emphasises the righteousness of God. There is a righteous basis on which God can set us up here for His pleasure now and eternally.
Paul also mentions here, “According to the revelation of the mystery.” Now, the revelation of the mystery is not developed in the Epistle to the Romans, but it is elsewhere. Paul was entrusted with this important doctrine – the mystery. We might enquire into what the mystery is. Ephesians 3 speaks about the mystery – the mystery how Jew and Gentile would become joint heirs and a joint body and joint partakers of God’s promise in Christ Jesus. It also speaks about “the purpose of the ages” (v11). God’s thought for believers is not only that individually we are to be established in the finished work of Christ, but that there are right relationships formed with other believers, whether Jew or Gentile, for the pleasure of God, in which Christ can be reflected in this world in which we are. I think the truth of the mystery, the truth of the assembly, and the truth of the purpose of God, have a great stabilising effect on believers. And I think this truth helps to anchor us and solidify us in our Christian walk and ways.
And finally, in Luke 24, there is a reference to the prophetic Scriptures. When Jesus rose from the dead, and spoke to the two that were on the way to Emmaus, He began “from Moses and from all the prophets,” and “He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (v27). Later, when speaking to a number of the disciples, He refers to “the law of Moses and prophets and psalms” (v44). The Old Testament Scriptures are important for establishing believers in the Lord Jesus in the precious things of God. As a young man I found it helpful to learn about the types in the Old Testament, to see how the whole Scripture fits together. We should all gain an understanding of how the Scriptures fit together so that what is set out in the Old Testament in type is fulfilled in the New Testament (some is still to be fulfilled). The understanding of this helps us to become established.
Paul ends the Epistle to the Romans with a note of praise to God. If God’s praise is to be continued, it should be from people who are established in Christ and in the things of God. I wondered if we might be able to help one another this afternoon to consider these ways in which we might become more established.
DWB Yes, I think that is most essential. Romans has been likened to the boards of the tabernacle being set up together, as you said, in sockets of silver. But then they were all joined together, too.
KH That is right. The apostle Peter emphasised the importance of each individual person having a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus, knowing Him as Saviour, when he said on that day of Pentecost, “Repent, and be baptised, each one of you” (Acts 2:38). But then they were set together, were they not? “The heart and soul of the multitude … were one” (Acts 4:32).
DWB So Romans is essential instruction for every believer. Paul tells us how God comes out to us, and how we are to be here for God.
KH Yes. There are many ways in which people have come to know the Lord. But once we do come to know the Lord, we have to be instructed, to understand how God has come out to us in Christ; how He has cleared the ground of all the rubbish that was there that was of no use to God; how He started anew in Christ; and how He has secured an answer in believers that will be for His pleasure now and for ever.
DWB That is Romans 3 through to 8!
KH We could have the whole reading on the Epistle to the Romans! God has come out to us in Christ, cleared the ground, and through Christ He has secured a righteous basis to bless men everywhere. On our side we have to repent of our sins – and then go through things experimentally to come into the good of the teaching of Romans.
JMW Do you think it is striking that Paul in this section in Romans 16 says, “Now to Him that is able to establish you?” The servant can go so far and enlighten, perhaps, and help, but it is God Who does the establishment – not a man, in that sense.
KH I think that is very important. The gospel comes to us in different ways – through reading the Bible, through ministry, through someone speaking about Jesus. But it is God that calls us, and it is only God that can establish us. Obviously we need to imbibe the word, because there is the reference to the truth being “made known for obedience of faith” (v26) – there is our side: we have got to respond, God is not going to do everything for us! But it is God that establishes us. There is also a lovely passage in Corinthians, when Paul says, “He that establishes us with you in Christ … is God” (2 Cor 1:21). It is God that does it, just as you say, and not only to establish a person as an individual, but it is “us with you,” the saints and the apostles, all together.
JMW I thought it might just help us to recognise that the Lord might use a servant, or the Scriptures, or ministry – but God is the One Who enables these things to come about. It would help us, would it not, to get our eyes off men as men, and rather have our eyes on Christ, and God in His wonderful operations toward us?
KH That is a striking feature in a number of Paul’s letters. For example, in Ephesians, he goes so far in his ministry, and then he bows his knees (ch 3:14) to pray that the saints may be in the good of his teaching, does he not?
MSB Can you say something as to what Paul says here, “My glad tidings?” Can you say something about what he means there? It seems to be something peculiar to Paul himself.
KH I think that is right. In one sense it was not a different gospel he preached from what the other apostles preached. But they had been three years with the Lord personally, they had seen all the mighty things He did, they had heard His instruction, they had seen Him being taken captive, they knew He had died and they had seen Him during the forty days after His resurrection – they thus had wonderful experiences with the Lord. And that was their gospel. And so Peter, on that day of Pentecost, could tell the crowd how Jesus had been among them, and then that God had made Him both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:22,36).
Paul received his ministry from Christ, in that he did not get it from man, or through any man. He obtained it directly from Jesus. His gospel is the gospel of the glory of the blessed God – God’s outshining to men to secure men for God. I do not want to make too much difference between Paul’s gospel and what the other apostles preached, because all centre round Jesus and His work on the cross. But Paul approached things from his own standpoint, how he had come to know Christ Himself, and Christ in glory.
MJC Does what the apostle says at the beginning of 1 Corinthians 15 confirm that – “which also ye received” (1 Cor 15:1)?
KH That is very good. He goes over salient points, does he not? That “Christ died for our sins,” “He was buried.” Paul talks about His death, His burial, His resurrection and about the way He was seen by so many at these appearings.
MJC It is important that, from our side, we seek to preach a faithful gospel.
KH Yes. Many Christians I meet speak about a lack of scriptural gospel preaching. These aspects that you mention in 1 Corinthians 15 are so important. A faithful gospel preaching would bring in these things as the basis, the right basis, on which saints can be here, because in 1 Corinthians 15 Paul eventually goes on to speak of being “firm, immovable, abounding always in the work of the Lord” (v58). But to be like that you have got to be established, have you not?
JB So in Acts 15 Paul suggests going back to see how the saints are getting on (v36). He had already ministered, but was he going back for their establishment?
KH He was indeed. Helping them to become established was a very key point of his ministry. There are two verses in Acts where it actually speaks about him establishing (Acts 14:22 and Acts 18:23).
Other servants were involved too. For example, Scripture says, “Judas and Silas, being themselves also prophets, exhorted the brethren with much discourse, and strengthened them” (Acts 15:32). These saints had gone through a rough time, because of an attempt to pull them back into Judaism, but they exhorted them, they strengthened them. Paul goes back to the places he had visited to make sure the saints were established in the truth as it is in Jesus, in view of persecution, and difficulty, and wrong teaching.
DWB How does the kingdom bear on this?
KH Well, I think the kingdom gives you a thought about stability, does it not? Sometimes kingdoms of men are very shaky and collapse. There are plenty of empires that have collapsed. But there is a kingdom established here in mystery that will never collapse. I think of the hymn you gave out  – one day there is going to be a stone made without hands that will break down the image, but it itself will become a great mountain and fill the earth (Dan 2:34‑35, 44‑45). The kingdom one day will be established publicly, but you and I need to know kingdom truth now, and the Epistle to the Romans would help us greatly in kingdom truth. “The kingdom of God,” it says in Romans 14:17, “is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
MJC Is this where the matter of the boards of the tabernacle standing in sockets of silver comes in? The sockets of silver speak of redemption, do they not? So we stand in redemption – that is Christian ground, and the ground for all believers. But there is the question of then being joined together. Can you say something about that?
KH There is the need of the individual side. If you think of the tabernacle actually, each board was ten cubits – about eighteen feet – high, standing on these sockets. Each would be quite solid, would it not? The tabernacle was a moveable building, but it was firm in construction. We have to go through things in soul experience – that is what our brother said about different aspects of the truth of Romans. We go through things in soul experience, we feel the awfulness of sin. Strong words are used – “ungodly,” “without strength.” We feel our hopelessness apart from Christ and the work He has wrought on the Cross at Calvary. But we become established in the greatness of what He has done on the Cross, and the demonstration and the kindness of God’s love to man. But it is all on a right basis. And I think taking that on helps us to be solid people, as it were, and therefore if we are linked with others we are not going to pull them down. In a building a badly constructed part damages the rest.
MJC That is what happened in Bangladesh this week. [A factory collapsed, killing 1000.]
KH Yes – there were buildings with bad foundations and bad construction. The Epistle to the Romans gets rid of the bad construction to start with. Every other person is put out of court – whether it is a profane Gentile, or a moralist, or a religious person – “All have sinned.” God intervenes, through Jesus. Wonderful! Paul’s gospel is a tremendous gospel!
CPB Is it good for our stability to see that the gospel is what God has done? He has made the righteous basis.
KH Yes, that is right. We were without strength, we were ungodly, but God has intervened. It is what God has done. It is Christ Who has done it. So, Christ died for our sins. He was buried, and He rose the third day, and He appeared. So we get our eye away from ourselves, we have our eye on Jesus, and the greatness of what He has achieved for God, and for our blessing as well.
SML Paul understood this for himself, did he not? There was a great stability that had come into his soul through appreciating Christ, and through remembering what he had been, too – mercy had been shown him (1 Tim 1:13). I just wondered whether that would help us all in terms of stability, following your own exercise as to how this comes about. But Paul was just talking as he had found Christ himself, and passing it on.
KH That is right. For example, in Romans 7, Paul describes his own experiences, and the struggle that he went through to arrive at what our brother says. He looked outside of himself, did he not? “Who shall deliver me out of this body of death? I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord” (vv24‑25). Paul never forgot it, right through his life. In his letters later on in his life, he looked back appreciatively to the work of Christ and what He had done for him in taking him up in His grace (e.g. 1 Timothy 1:13).
KHW When Paul writes to Timothy, he says, “I know Whom I have believed” (2 Tim 1:12), and he had something that was established in his own soul that he was able to pass on. What do you say as to that?
KH That is helpful, because when he writes that letter, he speaks about all in Asia having forsaken him (v15). Paul felt that. He did not say that lightly – he felt their departure. He said too, after his first defence before Nero, “At my first defence no man stood with me … May it not be imputed to them” (2 Tim 4:16) – he felt it. But he wrote that the Lord stood with him. He knew his Lord, he knew his Saviour. He was rock solid in his own link with God. He did appreciate, though, others who were practically helping him and supporting him, did he not?
PJC Can you say something about our responsibility in being established? I was thinking of the side you have been speaking about, that God establishes us, but in the parable of the man who built upon the rock it is the man who “hears … and does” the word of the Lord Jesus (Luke 6:47). Is there something we have to do?
KH Yes. To me it links with that question in verse 26, “According to commandment of the eternal God, made known for obedience of faith to all the nations.” When we come to faith in Christ, we come through obedience of faith. That is what we have to do – we hear the words and we put them into practice. And initially that is repenting of our sins towards God and putting our trust in Jesus. If we do that genuinely, we come under the rule of Christ. Our brother referred to the kingdom, the kingdom of God – we now have Someone to rule over us. Paul refers to himself as “bondman” (Titus 1:1); other translations say “slave.” Paul was a slave of Jesus Christ. You have to be a slave of Jesus Christ; so have I. That means we have no will of our own, but we are under the authority of Christ. I think that would link with what you are saying about hearing the words and doing them.
DWB And what is light to us becomes law.
KH Yes, that is right. In this wonderful book called the Bible, we have God’s instructions – the instructions of Jesus, the instructions of the apostles; and we see how the apostles made extensive use of the Old Testament to support what they had to say in ministry. As we come under Bible teaching, it becomes, as you say, law to us. It is not a man-made rule, it is God’s instruction for us. But we need to learn – we learn bit by bit. Some of us have had a lot to un-learn in our lives, but the important thing is that we learn from Christ, and I think it comes back to what was said earlier: I have to get things from the Lord Himself, and know that that is the mind of the Lord for me.
BED You referred to the “commandment of the eternal God.” What is involved in that? What is your impression as to that?
KH God is not presenting things on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. God is a holy, righteous, sin-hating God; He is love, but He has approached men in Jesus, and God has commanded all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30). And the side of commandment enters into Christianity. Paul says, “The things that I write to you, … it is the Lord’s commandment” (1 Cor 14:37). And Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that ye love one another” (John 13:34). There is a side of commandment connected with Christianity. It is not a democracy where everybody has got his own opinions, it is a question of what the Lord has to say. What is His mind? What is His standard? What is His authority?
We were talking about the boards linked together. I think it links with this thought of the mystery. The “mystery” does not mean there is a black hole or black magic or anything like that. It is something that had to be revealed. Jew and Gentile being brought together in one body could not have been revealed in the Old Testament. That would have nullified Judaism. But now, of course, it is joint heirs, a joint body, joint partakers of God’s promise in Christ Jesus. And God wants us to be linked together in right relationships, do you think?
MJC I was thinking that as to the boards, there was the longitudinal bar that joined the upright boards together, and the strength of the house was really in that, was it not?
KH Well, that is right. You have the upright strength, and then you have the horizontal strength. I am not an architect, but I can see that if you join things together horizontally as well as having good upright supports it holds. I tried to put up some fences for peas, and found if I used horizontal as well as vertical supports, there was a more solid structure. The tabernacle must have been a strong structure. Each time the camp moved it was set up in the wilderness. God intends that believers from all different backgrounds are baptised in the power of the Holy Spirit into one body, and all made to drink of the one Spirit (1 Cor 12:13) – we are all enjoying the same things, partakers of the promises in Christ Jesus. It is very wonderful, you know, that people from completely diverse backgrounds can be brought together to enjoy the same precious things that centre in Jesus.
JB So the tabernacle was to form a dwelling place for God.
KH That is very important. It was the dwelling place for God where the service of God took place, where incense was offered up. God’s house now is not a building, God’s house is His saints, and it formed a dwelling place where the Spirit of God came at Pentecost, and He then indwelt that house.
DWB Is that why the Epistle closes here with this doxology, suggesting that Paul keeps the two things together?
KH He keeps the preaching and the revelation of the mystery together, as we read in Ephesians 3, where he speaks about “the glad tidings of the unsearchable riches of the Christ” (v8). What an immense sense he had of the wonderful, rich gospel that was available to the whole of humanity in Jesus! But then he adds, “To enlighten all with the knowledge of what is the administration of the mystery.” Paul, in his ministry, spent time among believers wherever he went, and told them about God’s approach in grace, and, in addition, about how Jew and Gentile would be brought together to enjoy these precious things, and to be a vessel for the praise of God.
MSB The mystery was something peculiarly revealed to Paul, though, was it not?
KH It was. I think the mystery was there before Paul gave the teaching of it. For example, in Acts 10, Peter, although initially reluctant, went to Cornelius after having his vision. During his preaching the same gift of the Holy Spirit was poured on the Gentiles as had been poured out on him and others at the beginning. You also have the mystery working in Acts 11. There was a famine in Jerusalem, and the Gentile believers put their hands in their pockets and they sent a gift to the Jews. There was love in circulation! That was the mystery working, was it not? “Joint partakers.” But the teaching of it comes through the apostle Paul. So if you want to know about the mystery, you go to Paul’s letters, particularly Colossians and Ephesians.
MJC Does it help us to see that the gospel has never been a mystery? When sin came in, God made coats of skin to clothe Adam and Eve.
KH Yes. I am sure Jesus must have gone through that reference when He began from Moses, do you not think? We do not know exactly what He said, but He began from Moses and He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.
MJC That is a very interesting matter, because starting with Moses is really Genesis. We tend to think of Moses, of course, as the children of Israel coming out of Egypt, but it is the five Books of Moses.
KH That is right.
JMW It seems to me that if we review the history of ‘brethren,’ we find that an imbalance between the truth of the gospel and the truth of the assembly often crops up, and divisions and problems have arisen. But do you not think these Scriptures we are referring to today show how those things are in perfect harmony with each other, and we have been greatly helped to hold them in that way, and not to stress one against the other, but rather seek to work them both out?
KH I think so. Some years ago a brother said to me that he thought the early ‘brethren’ had emphasised three important things. One was the gospel, and clarity about the gospel that was lacking. I have been in touch with some people from a Methodist background in recent times, who appeared unclear about their certainty of salvation. It is impossible to be saved today and lost tomorrow. The early ‘brethren’ had a very clear view of the certainty connected with the gospel. And they also, as you rightly say, held the truth about Christ our Head in heaven and the one body here on earth – that one body consisting of Jew and Gentile brought together, one body in Christ. They also had developed a clear view as to what belongs to Israel, and what belongs to the Church – you might say, the truth of prophecy. And I think there has at times been an imbalance among believers regarding these things. And we do need to hold them together. But we do want to hold them. We want to make sure the gospel is being spread, the wonderful news of the unsearchable riches of the Christ, but remember too what God has formed in bringing Jew and Gentile together – for our enjoyment, for our blessing, for our happiness, but also, as our brother says, to be a vessel for the praise of God; and have some understanding about the place the Church has in relation to God’s ordering of things in the history of time.
JMW So it says in chapter 4 of Ephesians, “holding the truth in love, we may grow up to Him in all things, Who is the Head, the Christ” (v15).
KH Yes. You are thinking about “all things” – not just in some things, but in all things. Well, whether it be gospel truth, Church truth or prophetic truth – let us grow up to Christ in all things.
CPB Is it important to see that the object of preaching the gospel is to bring persons into the assembly?
KH That is right. First of all, souls need to be saved from eternal loss – that is our side. But then God’s praise is to be secured. Paul says that he went out to the nations “that the offering up of the nations might be acceptable” (Rom 15:16). So, instead of the nations serving the gods of sun, and moon, and stones and so on, their lives might be devoted to the one true God as made known in Jesus, and their offering up to God might be acceptable.
DJB It has always seemed to me that the ministry of the gospel and the ministry of the assembly are the revelation of the mind of God, to be taken up and appropriated. When we speak of the boards of the tabernacle, is it God’s view of them that we need to appropriate to ourselves? We never hear of the boards of the tabernacle falling down, do we?
KH No, I think that is right. It is a pattern, is it not? There was a pattern given to Moses on the mount, and everything had to be constructed in that way. It is a type with no failure in it. I think a picture helps us to understand things. And, as you know, in Exodus 26, when the directions for these boards were given, they were not initially covered with gold – the boards were all set up in sockets of silver, the bars connecting them were there, and then the directions were given for the boards and bars to be covered with gold. The whole structure was secure for God. I think what you say is helpful – there is no failure in that. You get failure later on, of course, in the priesthood, but there is no failure in this side of things.
DJB Does the same apply in regard of the spiritual house that is made up of living stones (1 Pet 2:5)? Peter does not present that as liable to failure, though he very soon gives counsel as to how those who make up the house ought to conduct themselves.
KH Yes, I think that is right. So there is one side – there is what has happened in man’s hands, and you get plenty of warnings in Paul’s teaching about what would happen in man’s hands – grievous wolves would come, not sparing the flock (Acts 20:29), and that kind of thing. But, on the other hand, you see things set out in perfection – God’s work that is going on and proceeding without any aspect of failure. And we need to see both these things.
DWB The instruction was, “According to all that I shall shew thee … even so shall ye make it” (Ex 25:9).
KH Yes. And that is repeated a number of times, is it not? So it is not as if Moses was to make some parts according to the instructions, and other parts where he could just do what he liked. It was all things that were to be done according to God’s instructions.
DWB And that is the same for us today.
KH Yes – we need to adhere to God’s instructions.
JB The boards were never seen publicly, were they? They were within. The pillars holding the curtains were on bases of copper, or brass, were they not? That was more the public side.
KH That is right. The world does not see your link with God, your link with Jesus. But what the world can see is whether you and I are righteous in our lives, whether we live according to the Bible, whether we pay our way in society. The world often can detect flaws in Christians which, alas, mar the testimony of the Lord. But I think it is important to see that what we are talking about is, we might say, the hidden side, but it is a necessary side, in order that the stability might be there. In Thessalonians it speaks about the word of the Lord sounding out from them (1 Thess 1:8). People could see that. But the inward side was their link with Christ.
So how can we help one another in understanding this expression “joint heirs, and a joint body, and joint partakers of His promise in Christ Jesus?” These are very wonderful things! The Christian inheritance is not just for one nation, it is for believers who are saved from every nation.
PJC In that regard, Paul makes a lot of the gift of the grace of God. Is that needed if we are to be able to understand something of being joint heirs one with another?
KH Yes, I think so. The grace of God is something that initially we know individually, but we can know it as together – His blessing in our gatherings, and in our links together. And we need that supply of grace all the time – “Be strong in the grace which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 2:1). It requires grace to keep things going, does it not? It is one thing to begin well, to have a good start in our personal relationship with Jesus, but we need His ongoing grace.
SML In practice, in Ephesus, some of the Ephesians might have felt they were better than the Jews, and some of the Jews might have felt they were very much better than the Ephesians, and we can be prone to that kind of thing, can we not? Is that not one of the reasons that we so much need grace, so much need that sense of the gospel, that we have all come out of the same pit (Isaiah 51:1), and that the grace of God is equally disposed towards every one that forms that body? Are not those things absolutely necessary if we are going to practically express something of this that is envisaged in Ephesians 3?
KH I think that is right. In the tabernacle there were extra boards in the corners (Ex 36:28‑29). In any building, there are potentially vulnerable parts, and they need to be strengthened. And you see in the letters of Paul how he sought to strengthen where there was any danger of weakness, in view of things working harmoniously. For example in Philippi, which seemed to be a pretty good gathering of the Lord’s people, there was a problem with two sisters. Paul was anxious to ensure that the issue was resolved in grace (Phil 4:2).
MSB So he could speak of himself as “the least of all saints,” and yet he can “enlighten all with the knowledge of what is the administration of the mystery.”
KH Paul did not get inflated, as you point out; he was given the light from the Lord as to the truth of the mystery, but it did not inflate him, it did not puff him up, did it? It just gave him a greater sense of God’s sovereignty in giving him the light and the knowledge of these things. And so he speaks of himself, as you remark, as “less than the least of all saints.” I think believers known as ‘brethren,’ myself included, have been somewhat arrogant in times past. We should not be arrogant. We should appreciate the wonderful light that has come to us in Jesus, but recognise our nothingness in the light of these precious things.
DJB Features like arrogance do not belong to the “one new man” (Eph 2:15), do they? If we saw that the work of God is entirely new, and that there is one man now before God, that would restrain us, would it not?
KH It would indeed. The “one new man” is not Christ personally, but it is Christ characteristically displayed in His people. Our brother was alluding to God’s house and what we should be for God’s pleasure. What is to come out in expression in the one body is what is of Christ, is it not? In our physical bodies, what is in our heads comes out in our bodies, and likewise in the body of Christ, believers should reflect the wonderful Man Who came in such lowly grace here.
DJB The next chapter soon brings out that some of those who belong to the one new man needed help about stealing, and lying – very practical things.
KH Yes. That is right. So when we come to work out Bible truth in practice, we do have to take into account our actual conditions, our background, our culture, and seek to overcome features of the flesh that can so easily mark us.
MJC Would it help us to see that it is one inheritance? The inheritance that we have, a spiritual inheritance, is one matter. And we are joint heirs. I was just thinking that it is not a bit for you and a bit for me, it is one inheritance for us all, is it not?
KH If I understand what you are saying, Christians should not be specialists in some aspect of the Bible teaching – you being the Romans specialist and I the Colossians specialist, and so on. But the full inheritance is for us all to work out jointly.
MJC Yes. I think there is a danger of just thinking of a little bit of it, but it is one whole inheritance, is it not? The land was one land for them all to enjoy together.
KH That is right.
KHW When you come to Ephesians 4:16, you get “fitted together,” and working together. Is that what happens when Christ is appreciated as Head?
KH Yes, but we find these things in practice difficult, because you and I are different personalities. That is why we are required to use “diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the uniting bond of peace” (Eph 4:3). But God’s intention is that, as fitted together, there is practical unity. We are to keep the unity of the Spirit. Then we are also to arrive at the unity of the faith (Eph 4:13). That means that we need instruction to help us – to deliver us from some things and help us to come into the good of other things.
DWB Do you think we need help on the mystery of the assembly?
KH It is for now. I was looking into what others have said about the mystery (especially J. B. Stoney), and I was quite struck that the mystery is for now, it is “now to the principalities and authorities.” We certainly need help on it, right now, to work it out with all that might be available. But the mystery belongs to the whole Church, and our desire should be to help one another on to a greater understanding of these precious things that centre in Jesus.
DWB That was how the early days of the revival began, was it not?
KH It was indeed.
AND I was wondering if you could say some more about the “unsearchable riches of the Christ.” In Philippians 3:8, we have what Paul says, “I count also all things to be loss on account of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, on account of Whom I have suffered the loss of all, and count them to be filth, that I may gain Christ.” The riches in Christ are far beyond anything that this world knows or understands, are they not?
KH Yes. We must enjoy this wonderful wealth that is available in Jesus for ourselves. We should then be able to give people a sense of the tremendous wealth that is available in Jesus, because He wants us to come into the good of it. Our brother here was referring to the mystery – how much do we know about it? Let us look into some of these things – delve into them. There are precious things contained in the word that we want to get into and enjoy, and Paul was obviously in the good of it. These are superlative words he is using – “unsearchable riches of the Christ.”
MSB So it is a mystery to the uninitiated, is it not? For those that have come into the truth of the gospel it should not remain a mystery.
KH No, that is right. We want to get the good of the mystery and enjoy it together.
DTH I am thinking that this is all an educational process, is it not? We have to learn. It is not something that just comes to us automatically. But we have to learn and to understand these things.
KH We do, that is right. The Epistle to the Romans is a great teaching epistle. It is not so much the preaching of the gospel – you can preach the gospel in a very few words, and God then may work. Someone may come to faith in Christ by just hearing a quotation of the Scripture – but then there is the teaching of it, and how it applies to every aspect of life. And the same applies to these unsearchable riches that centre in Jesus and the mystery. We have to come into the good of it and it is gradual.
DTH You could almost write that over the whole of the Book of the Acts, because that was the early days of the Church when things were being formed.
KH Yes. It is very interesting to see the process, how things spread out from Jerusalem, and also the process in people’s souls. When souls were secured, they stood up to the persecution, but they then had to be helped and established and grounded in these precious things that we are talking about.
MJC How do we come into the good of the assembly?
KH Well, I think each of us comes into the good of it by coming to know Christ, and then you find someone else who knows the Lord. I had experience of coming to know the Lord, and I met with others who knew a lot more about the Bible than I did, and I appreciated the warmth and the care that I received among God’s people. So, to some extent, as in the early days of the Acts, you can experience something of the assembly before you necessarily know the doctrine.
MJC I would like to encourage the younger brethren with what encouraged Mr Cowell as a young man when he came amongst the brethren in Thaxted in Essex, which was a country meeting with simple believing brethren – he saw there the assembly working.
KH I have read what you are talking about – he saw something of these “joint heirs, and a joint body, and joint partakers of His promise in Christ Jesus.” He saw it worked out in a place, did he not?
MJC I think that should be the concern in our local meetings – that we see something, and display something there, of the assembly working.
KH And also that we have some good teaching about it. And I think we should not just go to the New Testament – the Old Testament is extremely valuable. In the time when Paul wrote the Epistle to the Romans, there might have been one or two other New Testament letters written, but most of the Epistles still remained to be written. What they did have was the Old Testament, and they gained tremendous wealth out of the Old Testament. And there is tremendous wealth in the Old Testament – the things concerning Jesus. The key to the Scriptures in the Old Testament is Jesus.
JB So in Luke 24 all they had was the Old Testament. The Lord explained from it everything about Himself.
KH It must have been a wonderful experience to walk along there with the Lord when He told them about the things concerning Himself – in Moses and all the Prophets. And then, later on, He refers to the Psalms as well. What wealth there is in the Psalms about Jesus! We need to dig it out, do we not? Extract it, and be in the good of it. And I think an understanding of that helps to establish souls. I have met quite a few believers recently who have told me that, when they came to faith in Christ, they learned how the Old Testament Scriptures were fulfilled in the New. This teaching helped to stabilise them in their own souls. I would encourage all here, young particularly, as well as older ones, to gain understanding as to how these Scriptures were fulfilled in the New Testament. This fulfilment helps us to see that the Bible is one – written by many people under the power of the Holy Spirit, but the Bible is one.
SGP Is the assembly the product of the work of God?
KH Yes. The Holy Spirit works initially, through new birth, in one person, and then in another person, and that is how people come to faith in Christ, that is how God’s work starts in souls. And then the Holy Spirit would build up what is of Christ in you, and me, and other believers, and link it together. As our brother mentioned, we are built up. “To Whom coming, a living Stone” – you come to Christ as a living stone, I come to Christ as a living stone, and He makes something of us and builds us up, living stones to form God’s house for His praise and for His pleasure and for a witness to others.
DJB The Scripture uses various expressions regarding what we call the assembly. It speaks of the body, and the bride of Christ, the wife of Christ. Is any of these to be preferred above another, or are they all references to the same matter?
KH Well, I think they give different viewpoints of the same matter. One is the figure of a building, which you can visualise; another is like a field that you can visualise; you can think too about a bride and a wife, relationships we know in real life, and they help us to understand. That is the way I look at it – I would not like to say one is of more value than another! Have you got some thought yourself?
DJB No, I think they are all references that bear reflection. But there is one thing in Ephesians – there is to be glory to God in the assembly (ch 3:21), which suggests something final, does it not?
KH Yes, it does. And that is for ever, is it not? And that is what God has got in mind. Even the Epistle to the Romans, in that beautiful doxology we began with, results in worship for God. And I think the more established we are in Christian things, the more there will be in sustained praise and worship now while we await the Lord, and it will continue eternally.
27 April 2013