Nothing changes the love of Christ to the assembly. We have failed, but He cannot fail. His gracious love continues to the end. And, as a consequence of this, He still nourishes and cherishes the assembly, as it is said “No one has ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, even as also the Christ the assembly” (Ephesians 5:29). There is, therefore, never a time when His people cannot count upon Him for a present ministry, suited to the special need of the moment.
The other side of the truth connected with a present ministry is given to us in the Lord’s words in Luke 12:42, “Who then is the faithful and prudent steward, whom his lord will set over his household, to give the measure of corn in season?” Unfailing love is the spring of a present ministry; those who are used in it are described as faithful and wise. One such said, It is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. It is the Lord Himself who is before such, not their own importance; and because He is before them His household is precious to them. The servant who sought to be faithful to his Master said of His household, “I shall most gladly spend and be utterly spent for your souls, if even in abundantly loving you I should be less loved” (2 Corinthians 12:15). We may be sure that such will be entrusted by the Lord with a portion of meat in due season for His own.
There is, however, a further point to be considered. A present ministry will ever be the object of Satan’s bitterest attacks. His aim is always to frustrate the purpose of God, and with this in view he opposes any setting forth of the present mind of God concerning His people. In doing this he may most successfully use that which is past. He constantly sought to seduce Israel to idolatry, out of which Abram had been called; he now draws away christians to judaism, not to idolatry. The same principle is seen in regard to ministry. No one can read the history of Israel under the direction of Moses without seeing how persistently he was opposed. When we reach the days of the Lord we find His opposers saying, “We know that God spoke to Moses; but as to this man, we know not whence he is” (John 9:29). The ministry of Moses, which was rejected in its own time, is held as orthodoxy and constantly brought forward in opposition to that of the Lord. Yet the close of John 5 shows that these zealous supporters of Moses missed the whole point of his ministry, for, as the Lord said, “he wrote of me” (verse 46).
The same principle remains true. It is easy to adopt as orthodoxy a past ministry which in its own time was persistently rejected, for the bitter opposition of Satan is against a present ministry. But however greatly prized may be a past ministry to those who are in the enjoyment of Christ’s love to the assembly, they will count on Him to speak in present power, presenting that which is peculiarly applicable to the condition and need of His people. May we have grace to discern that which is from the Lord, and to receive it humbly and thankfully!
Joseph Revell (d. 1900)