Matthew 14:26 – 29; Colossians 2:10, 11; Colossians 3:1 – 11
When one has learned what Christ has effected for us on this earth, and is living in the enjoyment of what He has accomplished, enjoying the fulness of it now, and can say, “As he is, so are we in this world”, having learned what it is to be on resurrection ground; the first great question is, ‘Where is He?’ Having learned the greatness of His love, that question must arise. I would be very glad if that little word ‘where’ was written on every one of your hearts here tonight. That was the word on Mary Magdalene’s heart – “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him”. I do not doubt that all of you, being well taught in the Scriptures, could answer as to where He is, but have you gone through it in your heart, being first settled in that peace that you – can “joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the reconciliation”? Romans does not go further, except where it speaks of counsel (chapter 8), where it says, “Whom he justified, them he also glorified”; but having peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, that question comes, ‘Where is He?’ – because I have to do with a Person now, and I want to know where He is. Someone will answer, ‘Oh! He is in heaven’. Yes; and now I have another question to ask you:
‘Would you like to join Him?’ That is question number 2; that is the difficulty; that is where we are all more or less at a standstill. One feels how little one has the affection that would make us long to join Him. Then question number 3: ‘Have you the power to join Him?’ I do not think anyone finds out that they have the power until they have the longing desire to go. What I desire to see is the doctrine wrought by the Spirit of God in the soul; many a one knows the doctrine that he is united to Christ who does not know in his soul what union with Christ is. You must have the desire to join Him before you find out that you have the power. But how can you join Him? He is in heaven – you are on earth; it is not like Rebekah going from one place to another, you cannot join Christ unless you have crossed Jordan. Many a one thinks that Jordan is his death-bed. It is not; it is that I have died with Christ, I have left what belongs to material life, to enter upon a new order of life. As another has expressed it, ‘I am in an out-of-the-world condition of things’. If I have real affection for Him, I am ready to join Him.
In the gospel of John you get that the Father’s house is your home, and you rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. In one sense you could not get higher than being a son in the Father’s house; in the church you are united to Christ, but would you like to join Him where He is? If you are attached to Him you would. Few understand what love is; there is a great deal of talk about it. What do you call love? Is it when one seeks to please you in everything, anticipating your wants and wishes? God’s love has one thought about me – to make me suited to Himself. I have a way of testing love; love takes an interest in me; it is not what one gives me – that might be mere benevolence – but what I find very rare is one taking a divine interest in me. Are you looking for the affection of christians? You will not get it, because you are going the wrong way for it; you are seeking to make yourself an object of consideration. I say to a parent, Seek the interests of that child, and you are sure to win his heart. If you take an interest in a person you are sure to pray for that person (that is the proof of it); it is easy to do what you could for him, but the point is, you take an interest in him. Christ loved the church. His love has one thought or purpose about me – that I should be like Him, suitable to Him, morally conformed to His image now. He would like me to be with Him and suitable to Him. Peter left all to have His company, and so the hymn says:
‘Whose love is as great as His power,
And knows neither measure nor end’.
If you are really attached to the Lord you will want to join Him. I do not think you get the power in Colossians that you get in Ephesians. The first sense of union you get in Colossians 1:18: “And he is the head of the body, the church”.
Turn now to Matthew 14:28 for an illustration of one who wanted to join Him. Peter saw the Lord walking on the water. The Lord here is educating the disciples for the assembly – He is taking the place of supremacy. When I come into the assembly I come into a place where the Lord is supreme, not occupied with this or that gifted brother, but into the presence of the Lord of glory. The thing that marks me is, I am going to meet the Lord, to listen to Him – the greater than Moses, the greater than Aaron. He is supreme; see Him in the storm, in the most trying circumstances, superior to it all in divine tranquillity. He is above it all, above the winds and waves (Satan’s power), and the vessel is tossed on the sea; He is not in the ship, and Peter would like to join Him. Have you considered the circumstances? Peter was in the ship, and outside were the raging elements, the winds and waves, and he said, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water”. Some of the old commentators say that the water was solidified; if so, how could Peter sink? It illustrates an out-of-the-world condition of things. Have you that affection for Him which would join Him outside everything here? He next finds that to join Him he must leave the ship – that which suits the natural man – and he takes his place on the water, which is detrimental to man; man had no place there. One was Jordan, the other was Gilgal. Leaving the ship was Jordan; leaving everything that would suit natural life to pass into another order of things, that was Gilgal.
Now the apostle is trying to get the Colossians to know the mystery; they were a nice company of saints, but they had not learned the mystery. Some tell us that we must go back to what the assembly was in Acts 2. I need not tell you that is wrong. Many a pious man is in the dispensation of the Lord’s prayer; he may love God truly and yet not take resurrection ground. No doubt Jacob wanted to get back to the times of Noah. The lack is, you are not in the dispensation God has set up. His interests, all the resources of God, are there; it is like being in the trade winds. Now I come back again to this interesting company, the Colossians. The apostle was afraid they would be carried away by ritualism or rationalism, that is, as though mind and body could contribute to Christ. He says, “I would have you know what combat I have for you … that their hearts may be encouraged, being united together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the full knowledge of the mystery of God; in which are hid all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge”. They had received the gospel, and the apostle could speak of their faith in Christ Jesus and love which they had to all the saints, but they had not got the mystery. It is not what you get in Ephesians; there it is union of Jew and gentile, of twain making one new man; but in Colossians 1:18, “He is the head of the body, the assembly; who is the beginning, firstborn from among the dead, that he might have the first place in all things”. That is the first sense I get of union. I am united to Him, but what is the good of being anything if I do not know it? You cannot be descriptive of it until you are it; then it comes out as a part of your being. It was not that the apostle had this conflict because they had fallen into the snare, but to prevent them doing so: “lest any man should beguile you with enticing words”, and “lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit”.
Two things are necessary to be known to understand the mystery: the first is in Colossians 2:10, and the second in Colossians 2:11; and then “risen with Christ” in chapter 3. “And ye are complete in him; who is the head of all principality and authority” (Colossians 2:10). If you really understand this, if your affections are true to Him, you would not tolerate any addition to Christ; everything you want is there, and you are complete in Him. It is not that He has removed everything, but you are complete in Him. That is a wonderful thing. And the apostle says, “Meditate upon these things”. People listen and read, and I know not what else, and do not meditate on these things.
Then verse 11: “In whom also ye have been circumcised with circumcision not done by hand, in the putting off of the body of the flesh, in the circumcision of the Christ”. The whole thing of the old order is swept away; it is not merely as Paul puts it in Romans 6, “Knowing this, that our old man has been crucified with him”. Here you are cut off; it is no longer a part of yourself. In our version it is “putting off the body of the sins of the flesh”. You can understand a pious copyist putting in the word ‘sins’, not being able to take in the whole idea, “putting off of the body of the flesh”. ‘If that is true’, he might say, ‘all my religiousness is not worth a farthing, all my abstinence and my devotedness are no use’. It is the whole thing gone in the cross.
In verse 10 I am complete in Christ; in verse 11 the body of the flesh is gone, gone in the circumcision of Christ, that is Gilgal. I would press upon you these two things: one is that you are complete in Christ; the other is that everything is cut off in the circumcision of Christ. If you really are complete in Christ, you do not go outside of Christ for anything; it is not only that He is chief, but He is everything: that is the doctrine, and if you are cut off in the cross, then you are a dead man. If you do not get these two points you cannot understand the mystery. Now comes out the question, Are you risen? If you tell me that you have a true desire to join the Lord you will rejoice that you are risen with Him. How could I be dead with Him and not risen with Him? If I have real affection for Him I shall want to have made true in me what is true of me. I shall want to join Him in spirit now, I would like to join Him now. In the gospel you get to Him when you die, but in the church you are now brought to the place where He is, because you are united to Him.
‘And see! the Spirit’s power
Has ope’d the heavenly door,
Has brought me to that favoured hour
When toil shall all be o’er’.
I can join Him now and enter into the fact that He is my Head.
“If therefore ye have been raised with the Christ, seek the things which are above”. You are in His life, you are outside yourself. You have now come on to new ground, you get to the Person, you enter on His life; you must learn the great reality of being outside all else with Him. Anyone who has heard of ascents in a balloon will understand how one loses the senses of hearing, feeling, etc. – that is an illustration of it; but the failure in that illustration is that you have lost the old ones and have not got the new. In the life of Christ I am outside all the old senses, but I have got the new. Many a christian I know has the desire to be over Jordan, but has not really accepted it. I ask the devoted soul, Do you want anything but the Lord? and he may reply truly that he does not; but that same person the next day may lose some earthly thing – a canary, or a little dog – and make a great to-do about it. He has not accepted Jordan. If he had he would not be surprised at anything here. I want to know where He is. The disciples in John 1 said, “Master, where dwellest thou?” and He said, “Come and see”. “They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day”. Once you get the word ‘where‘ in your heart you have a great thing. You then seek the things that are above; you set your minds on things above, not on things on the earth.
Now I find the contrast between heaven and earth. I cannot put them together. James is very severe and says, “earthly, sensual, devilish”. “When the Christ is manifested who is our life, then shall ye also be manifested with him in glory”. We have life in the One who is on the new ground. “Put to death therefore your members which are upon the earth”. I come now to Gilgal. That is what I call practice, it is difficult to explain; nothing is so difficult as to explain a road to a man who has never been on it. Here the road is Gilgal – that is, there is no quarter given to the flesh. I can compare it to nothing better than to Elisha rending his clothes when he saw Elijah taken up. In Romans we get, “Make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof”; that is Marah. But what we get here is, put it off, both lusts and habits; all is to go in one sweep; it is done for me – gone in the circumcision of Christ. I am now carrying out in myself what has been practically effected for me in the cross. I am not trying to do it myself. I have known some pious people make a great failure, measuring everything by their own moral death. The actual measure is Christ’s death; it is not, ‘How far have I advanced?’ – it is all done for you; but the point is, how far are you carrying it out? It is not merely being saved here, but I want to join the One who has saved me – my heart is set upon joining Him. I have to get to the One in whom I am complete, and I am glad to be clear of everything else.
Now I must turn to chapter 3: 10. You are outside it all, where there is no place at all for men. You have put on the new man; you are on new ground; and now when you come to verse 11, “there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman; but Christ is everything, and in all”. There is no man of any kind at all – no man here but Jesus. I learn that He is my source and my Head. I derive everything from Him. He is the One to direct, legislate, counsel and dictate to me.He is the Head to the individual – it is not collective, it is singular number – He is my Head as well as yours. What He leads me to do is in correspondence to what He leads you to do – there is no clashing. It is a wonderful thing. The great favour to us is, it is like telling us the road we must travel. The question is, where are our hearts? Are you so attached to the Lord that you would like Him to be in that wonderful place to you as Head? “In which are hid all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge”. If I knew Him as my Head I would turn to Him for everything. What do you say? Christ is my Head? Then that necessarily implies I have lost my own. It is a very difficult thing to explain to one who does not know it. I know what an amazing thing it would be for one to say, ‘I got that from the Head; it is not credit to myself; I got it from having His direction’. If you are led by Him to give out a hymn, every spiritual person present would know that it came from the Head. I do trust every one here will understand it; some are well-informed, but I do not think they have the slightest taste of the blessedness of it.
The great lack amongst us is attachment of heart to Christ. There are three questions for our hearts:
(1) Where is He?
(2) Would you like to join Him?
(3) Have you the power to join Him?
Peter had not the power. The great advantage Peter had over us was his affection for Christ; that is the great lack with us. It is a beautiful fact that when parent birds want to teach the young ones to fly, they cannot tell them they have wings, but they go about a foot above them, and the young birds, having the affection, find out they have the power, and they come. There is not a christian here tonight who, if he but had the affection, would not find that he has the power to join Christ where He is.