THE LORD’S SUPPER — A Reading with Charles A. Coates

Hebrews 2:11, 12

C.A.C. I might say what was in mind was that we might consider the headship of Christ in its Godward aspect. We had it before us last week in its aspect towards the saints, the ministry of the Head to His saints, the body, as illustrated in the spirit of it in John 13 – 16. My thought was it would be profitable to look at the converse of this; that is, the Lord in His great service Godward as singing praise in the midst of the assembly.

Rem. In Psalm 22 it is the great result of His death.

C.A.C. Yes, quite so, it is the result of the death of Christ in sin-offering character. Psalm 22 gives us more definitely than any other scripture the suffering of Christ in sin-offering character, as a consequence of which He is heard “from the horns of the buffaloes”, from the direct point of suffering. He is heard from the extremity to which He went as being made sin. What is brought out then is that He has brethren. It is there that this scripture is quoted from. “I will declare thy name unto my brethren”; it is His brethren, as I understand it, on the footing of holiness.

Ques. What do you mean by that?

C.A.C. He is the great Sanctifier; the sin-offering was necessitated by the holiness of God. He says, “And thou art holy, thou that dwellest amid the praises of Israel”; it is God in holiness that is the subject of praise. Therefore it is in that connection that the assembly must of necessity be a sanctified company, sanctification having to do with holiness rather than righteousness. God’s thought is to be praised in His holiness. I think that is the great point of praises. The offering of Christ results in there being a sanctified company. The sin-offering is Godward, but there is not only a result Godward; God is glorified in the Son of man, there is a result manward; that is, a certain company of persons, as sanctified by that work, are set in holiness before God.

Rem. You said that here in Hebrews it is rather more positional.

C.A.C. Yes, I think this is a scripture that the Hebrews did not enter into much, but you have to go to John to get the completeness of it. It is a great matter, it seems to me, that the sanctification of the saints is entirely the result of what Christ has effected — it is nothing whatever to do with any work done in us, it is entirely the work of the Sanctifier. Christ has this great honour from God that He is the Sanctifier, and the way the sanctified company is set before God is entirely the result of what Christ does as the Sanctifier. It is a work done entirely outside of them.

Rem. “By one offering he has perfected in perpetuity the sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14).

C.A.C. The understanding of this is most important. The general idea of sanctification held is that it is a sort of process going on in souls and being added to continually, and it never reaches a point of completion. Those who hold that as the position in which they are with God are never at liberty, but in bondage. They are in no sense suitable to be in the place where Christ sings to God, because they are not clear as to the footing Christ has put them on with God. Galatians and Romans show how we can be with God in righteousness, but Hebrews shows how we can be with God in holiness.

Ques. In 1 Corinthians 1:2 it says, “To those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints”. Is that in spite of their condition? He could address them further on as “carnal”.

C.A.C. Yes, it is by the calling of God and as in Christ Jesus. But this scripture supposes a work of God in men, because the saints are in view in their character as the children of Abraham, the subjects of divine calling and divine work. The Spirit of God brings out that they are not sanctified by divine calling nor by a work of God in them, but entirely by what the Sanctifier does for them.

Rem. “By which will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all”.

C.A.C. God is most concerned that we should honour Christ and the work of Christ. The sanctifying work of Christ is so complete that there is not a flaw in it. The saints as a sanctified company are placed before God in Christ in holiness. If we do not know that, we are not in the position of Christ’s brethren. Sanctification is the way we are set in the presence of the holiness of God. We are set there on a perfectly holy footing; so that there is no disparity between Christ as the Sanctifier and those who are sanctified, they are “all of one”.

Ques. The importance of this matter hangs on the understanding of being “all of one”, would you say?

C.A.C. Yes, and it is how Christ regards us, not how we regard ourselves. So it says, “For which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren”. It is how He regards us; He regards the sanctified company as being as clear of sins and sin as He is Himself. Is that not a wonderful thing? God has provided in sanctification a holy way through the work of Christ for the saints to be before Him as being suitable in holiness. He is not ashamed to call us His brethren, otherwise He would be ashamed of His own work; they are the fruit of His own work.

Rem. They are called “holy brethren” (Hebrews 3:1).

C.A.C. That is how we regard one another. The writer addresses them as “holy brethren”, they are not viewed in any other way. If we were writing to any company of saints, we should have them in mind in that way; it sets us in happy relations.

It seems to me it is this that sets us perfectly free to listen to the Lord declaring the Father’s name to us.

Rem. Here the brethren are a necessity to Christ in the service, if one might so say.

C.A.C. Yes. He must have a company to whom He can declare the name of God, and the company must be sanctified apart from the question of sin and unsuitability. He effects that by His death so that all can be at liberty to listen to His declaring God’s name, the Father’s name particularly. There is nothing to hinder His speaking to them of God as He knows Him. God’s name is Himself as having come into revelation — all that God is as known to Christ. Think of the assembly as a company at perfect liberty to take it on! J.B.S. used to speak of the assembly as the most august company in the world. I think all this is to prepare the way for the Lord’s singing.

Rem. This would seem to be an amplified quotation, for singing is added here.

C.A.C. Yes, that is very interesting, and this matter of singing is one of which we have no example in Scripture, except as suggested in the hymn they sang after supper. If we want to understand it, we must enter into it ourselves.

I think, perhaps, the most important matter in the service of God is to understand how He sings. He says, “Will I sing”; the great point to understand is how He sings, because that will affect us profoundly. It will put us off the ground of what we are, and on the ground of what He is and what He does.

The declaration of God’s name, or the Father’s name, which is included in it, is usward, but His singing is Godward. The understanding of this new position that He takes up “in the midst of the assembly” is most important.

Ques. “By one offering he has perfected in perpetuity the sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14). What character of sanctification is taken up there?

C.A.C. I think it goes beyond the thought of that scripture. The service manward is brought out in the first three gospels in connection with Christ risen and His service during the forty days; the result is the going out of the glad tidings — the presentation to man. But in John it is the other side; He sends this message, “I ascend to my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God”. It is the movement Godward. That is what we are occupied with this afternoon, we want to understand how He moves that way.

Ques. As “minister of the holy places” (Hebrews 8:2), is it more that thought?

C.A.C. No doubt it comes in at the same time in the service Godward. “Minister of the holy places” undoubtedly suggests the thought of singing. There was no singing in the tabernacle service.

Rem. In Chronicles we read of Asaph giving direction as to the singing in the service of God. Does Christ not give direction as Head as to what is voiced in the assembly? In Romans 15:9, we get, “I will confess to thee among the nations, and will sing to thy name”.

C.A.C. I think He gives us apprehension as to how He sings. There is a quality and excellence about His singing “in the midst of the assembly” because He is there as Head, He is the pre-eminent One. He is not on a level with His brethren. He is amongst them as the Firstborn. He has a unique place. And this thought of singing is going to be extended. The nations in the world to come will praise after the pattern of His praise. Singing in that scripture means singing to a musical instrument. It suggests that the notes are yet to be attuned to the praises of Christ. At the present time He sings in the midst of the assembly in a unique way. He is all-glorious, there is none in the company on a level with Him, but yet it is a company that can give expression to His singing; they are a sanctified company. I think we should all be affected profoundly if we got a sense of it. It belongs to the realm of mystery — the Lord coming into the midst. In John He comes to serve us by ministering what is in His own heart and mind, set forth in a pattern in chapters 13 – 17, but now He also comes to sing, He comes also to serve God. The Lord’s praising in the midst would give us a sense of how He sings to God His Father. He would keep His Person distinct. I am anxious we should not lose any conception we have of His greatness. He does not say, ‘I ascend to our Father and to our God’, but “to my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God”. He distinguishes Himself, He carefully preserves His own exclusive glory, so He is alone in His glory. I think the whole thing depends on Christ having His distinctive place. We do not understand the place of “many brethren” if we do not understand the Firstborn.

Rem. “I sanctify myself for them, that they also may be sanctified by truth” (John 17:19).

C.A.C. The “myself” is distinct from the “they”. All this is much for the pleasure of God, that we should realise that there is this divine Person who has come into manhood, that He might take this place before God, and no one can sing as He does. With the Lord you have the full measure of the thing, the completeness of the thing. “My Father”, it is what His Father was to Him, it is immeasurable in His case. “My God”! We see the completeness in Him, One who could compass what His Father was to Him, and what His God was to Him. That gives a complete value to His singing, you have the full measure of things in Christ; and His body, the assembly, has to be equal to expressing it. We come into it now according to the measure of our spiritual stature; it is according to our measure, and that with most of us is small.

What we are speaking of now is what He is as the glorious ascended Man; that is, the One who now sings to God. He is in that position, the glorified Man, the heavenly Man. He moves Godward in ascension and He links us up in that way. “My God and your God”. All that His God is to Him at this moment is the fulness of what God will be to the saints eternally. The epistle to the Hebrews labours to bring us to a sense of His personal distinctiveness, and that gives character to the singing in the assembly.

Rem. In Exodus 15 it says, “Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song”.

C.A.C. And I have no doubt Moses sang it in a much more excellent way than they did. We find on the side of response they did not go very far. “Jehovah, … he is highly exalted”, but they did not reach the sanctuary. I dare say Moses was more interested in that than in anything.

Ques. The unique place of Christ enters into sonship too, does it not? He is the unique One.

C.A.C. Yes, and that being understood, He should take the central place in the assembly, so that the assembly may gather in some sense how He sings to His God and Father. That will put our singing right. He can put what the blessed God is as known to Him in a hymn of praise. The thought is that the praises of the assembly might really take character from His praises. We cannot get any further than that; it is pretty well the climax of our subject, and that is what the Supper leads to. It is the highest privilege of the assembly, a company in the midst of whom Christ sings praises to His God and Father.

 

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