IT has already been said that the foundation of the supernatural was laid in the Resurrection of the Lord. Before this, humanity existed in two conditions, the natural, or created; the unnatural, or fallen. In the risen Christ, we see a new condition, the supernatural. This is the condition to which humanity, in the purpose of God, looked from the beginning, the highest possible to which it could attain. The Lord first attained to it. He was the First-born from the dead, the first Immortal Man, and as risen He could be glorified with the glory for which He prayed: "And now, O Father, glorify thou Me with Thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was" (John 17: 5). The ideal glory became real. Ascending to Heaven, He was seated at the Father's right hand, and made Lord over all.
Let us note the two stages of the Lord's life, the earthly and the heavenly, and the point of transition. He came in mortal flesh, died upon the cross, was buried, and arose again, and ascended into Heaven. In His Resurrection, His body and soul were so reunited that no separation was possible. The mortal life gave place to the immortal: "Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him" (Romans 6: 9). And He Himself says, "I was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore" (Rev. 1: 18).1
As risen, Christ is the Living One, the Immortal Man, and so able to act as the Representative of the Living God in all His future work during the ages. Now can He receive the anointing of the Spirit whereby He can fulfil all the redemptive offices to which the Father has called Him (Heb1:9).
1 It is a misfortune that the words "mortal" and "immortal" should be currently used in such discrepant, and, indeed, contradictory senses. We say, "Man is mortal," meaning that body and soul may be separated, and we say, "Man is immortal," meaning that the soul has a conscious existence after its separation from the body. In like manner, the term "immortality" is used to indicate that condition of being which follows the reunion of body and soul, or that after the resurrection; and, also, of that condition which begins at death,—that of the separated soul—to which we assign no known end. We cannot rightly speak of immortality except as following upon the resurrection, after the reunion of soul and body. We may speak of separated souls as continuing to exist, but they are under the law of death. Of Himself the Lord says: "I was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore." He was as a separated soul, dead, as reunited to the body, alive for evermore. As risen, the Lord is immortal, there is no more the possibility of death; and His faithful ones will at their resurrection or translation enter into the same immortality.
He can be made "Head over all things to the Church" (Eph. 1: 22), the High Priest "after the power of an endless life" (Heb. 7: 16, 24), the King of the Kingdom of which there shall be no end (Luke 1: 33). Each of these offices demands our attention.
First, His office as Head of the Church. Headship is a new relation, established after His ascension, and involves a body (Eph. 1: 22, 23). Having perfected His Son in resurrection—the Heavenly Man—He can be the giver of the new resurrection life to others. This is more than to make Him Lord, for headship demands community of life. A king rules his subjects, but they are not one in him. It is as "the quickening Spirit," the second Adam, that Christ is the Head, and the Church becomes His body. He is the Vine, and His members are the branches; and as no branch can be n the literal vine except it have the life of the vine, so is it with His members. His life is their life. As Adam was the sole source of the natural life, so is Christ of the supernatural. St. Paul says: "I live; and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me" (Gal. 2: 20).
As all in Christ have one Head and one life, this unity has in it all other unities. If it is perfect, if the body is in entire accord with the Head, and the members in accord with one another, there will be unity in its teachings, in its works, and in all its activities. But it can do nothing independent of Him. As man's body is the instrument by which he acts on things external to himself, so is it with Christ's body. Responsive to His will, He in Heaven can act through it on the earth, and carry on His redemptive work.
It is therefore to the constitution of His body, the Church, and its functions, that our attention must now be turned. As absent in Heaven and invisible to men, the Head must be made known to the world through His body. It must, therefore, be visible, having known ministries, and ordinances, and rites of worship, and thus plainly distinguishable from all other religious communities. Its teachings, also, will give it a distinctive character, and not permit the Lord to be confused with other religious teachers, or its creed with other creeds. Its unity—many scattered over all the earth, and yet visibly one, both in belief and in action—will be to all nations a proof that there is one Living Head over all. It is this heavenly unity among His disciples to which the Lord refers as a proof of His Divine mission: "I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be perfected into one; that the world may know that. Thou didst send Me" (John 17: 23, R. V.).
United to its Head, and abiding in the grace of its calling, the Church fulfils under Christ two chief functions—first, to preach the Gospel to all nations; secondly, to join in the intercession offered by Christ in Heaven. We will first consider the Church, in relation to its Head, as His instrument to preach the Gospel to all nations. The work of preaching the Gospel to the heathen was given to the evangelist ministry. The work of the evangelists, who came to the nations as messengers of Jesus, of whom the nations knew nothing, was to make Him known. This point was of first importance. They must declare who Jesus was, His place and authority, and show that they were commissioned by Him. We cannot here enter into details. Jesus, having been presented to the Gentiles as bearing the sins of men on the Cross and as rising from the dead, and now seated at God's right hand, to come again as their Judge, they would ask the proofs of so strange a story. The Evangelists could not refer them to the Scriptures or to prophecy, as when addressing the Jews; what proof, then, could they give of His existence and authority? Putting aside the proof from the ethical character of their words, and unable to appeal to spiritual discernment, they must prove their commission by their works. The work must illustrate and confirm the word. That they did this, we see many illustrations in the Acts of the Apostles. We are told that when the Evangelist Philip preached at Samaria, the people gave heed with one accord unto his words "when they saw the signs which he did,"—the casting out of unclean spirits, and the healing of the palsied and the lame (Acts 8:6). We are told, also, that when St. Peter healed ;£neas "all that dwelt at Lydda and in Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord" (Acts 9: 35). The infliction of blindness upon Elymas by St. Paul led the Proconsul Paulus to believe (Acts 13: 12); and the healing of Publius awakened the faith of others. After the healing of Dorcas, it is said, "many believed on the Lord" (Acts 9: 42). At the Council in Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas rehearsed "what signs and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them" (Acts 15: 12).
But without citing more instances of the place of the work, in confirmation of the word, we are to note that in no other way could the risen Lord make His place and power known. Unknown to the Gentiles, He was to be made known as their Redeemer through the redemptive work done in His name. It was the prayer of the disciples that "signs and wonders may be done by the name of Thy holy child, Jesus" (Acts 4: 30). Absent and invisible, He would manifest Himself to men by His word and His work, for the word and the work though spoken and done by the Church are His. His words in relation to the Father, "I can of myself do nothing" (John 5: 30), have their place also in the mouth of the Church. It is His instrument co-working with Him; all done in it, all its missionary activities are in His hands, both as to place and time, He making known His will through the Spirit (Acts 16: 6). And according as it is in unity with Him, can the Gospel have power in the world.
We may now see how the Evangelists proved their Divine commission. It was through the confirmation of their word by the Lord's working with them (Mark 16: 20). They were to speak the word with all boldness, and He would stretch forth His hand to heal. Wrought in His name their works were His signs and wonders and thus proved both His existence and power, and their own commission. Thus the work, though in itself of much less value than the word of truth, must have had great influence upon those who knew nothing of the past actings of God as recorded in the Scriptures, or of the truths which He had revealed. We thus see why, in commanding the Gospel to be preached to all men, He promised that the work should confirm the word: "These signs shall follow them that believe"; they shall cast out devils, speak with new tongues, take up serpents, overcome all vegetable poison, and heal the sick. In fine, evil in all its many sensible forms should be under their power, but this power must be put forth in the Lord's name and by His co-operation—"the Lord working with them [His Evangelists] and confirming the word by the signs that followed." The place of the work within the Church will be spoken of later.
It is to be noted here, that the preaching of the Gospel was for the gathering of that election that constitutes the body of Christ. Membership in this body is more than salvation, it is the highest blessing that can be conferred upon man, involving the highest communion with God, and joint heirship with Christ. There is salvation without the Church, but those who hear the Gospel of the Kingdom and consciously and deliberately reject it, show not only a spirit of disobedience, but such spiritual blindness and hardness of heart that communion with God is made impossible without humble repentance.
Having spoken of the Incarnate Son as the Head of the Church, and of the work of the Church in preaching the Gospel, we now turn to His office as the great High Priest, and the function of the Church in Intercession.
It was through His Resurrection in the power of the immortal life that the Lord was prepared to enter upon His priestly work. This work had been clearly prefigured in the Mosaic ritual. First, upon the brazen altar in the outer court, in view of all, had He offered Himself, the Lamb without blemish, as a sacrifice for the sins of the world; now ascending into Heaven, and entering into the Holy Place, He must burn the sweet incense upon the golden altar before the Father. The first stage He had already fulfilled, the second He is now fulfilling (Heb. 9: 1). He suffered upon the Cross, a spectacle to all the world; but now no human eye beholds Him, within the veil, and His intercessions are addressed only to the Father's ear. And He is alone. No man or angel can stand beside Him at that altar, no disembodied spirit, no martyr or saint, no one still under the law of death. But He is "a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek," made "after the power of an endless life" (Heb. 7: 16-).
As in the work of preaching the Gospel, the Church takes part with her Head, so is it in His work of Intercession. What He in Heaven asks of the Father, the Church on the earth is also to ask. This demands a perfect unity of will between the Head and the body, a unity based upon community of life. Through the Holy Spirit sent by Him, and dwelling in His members, He awakens in them the same desires that are in His own heart, and their petitions He presents to the Father as His own, and they are accepted. But prayers of the Church that He does not make His own can find no acceptance with the Father, and they remain unanswered. It is in this sense that we understand His promises to His disciples: "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." "Whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, He may give it you" (John 15: 7, 16). In full unity with her Head, the Church cannot ask amiss.
It is in this work of prayer and intercession in unity with her Head that the Church fulfils that function to which all her previous training is preparatory. Its fulfilment demands the fullest development of the spiritual life, the deepest sense of sin, the highest measure of faith, the largest sympathy with all. The golden plate upon the forehead of the Jewish High Priest bore the inscription, "Holy to the Lord," now first perfectly fulfilled in the High Priest who intercedes for us—the Holy One, Holy, harmless, undefiled, and separated from sinners (Heb. 7: 26). As He was holy, so must the Church be, in order to take part with Him in His intercessory work. As the sacrifice upon the brazen altar was always in the order of worship before the burning of incense upon the golden altar, so in all rightly constructed liturgies the prayers are the end to which all the earlier services point, and to which they are preparatory. Through confession, absolution, dedication, and pastoral instruction based upon the Scriptures, the worshippers are made spiritually ready for the last and highest duty, to join with the High Priest in His intercessions.1
This brief consideration of the two great functions of the Church, the preaching of the Gospel to the nations, and joint intercession with her Head, shows that neither can be rightly fulfilled, unless there is unity with the Head, and among her members. A Church divided against itself cannot fulfil its evangelistic or priestly work.
1 We see that while the greater part of the written prayers of the Church are permanent, as having reference to the past acts of God in our salvation, and to our fixed relations to the Head through His ordinances, yet there will be frequent occasion as the redemptive work goes on for new petitions, both for ourselves and others. A liturgy, therefore, can never be regarded as finished. The Church under new conditions must often lift up new prayers, asking the Son to intercede with the Father for her deliverance from evils, and giving thanks for His interpositions on her behalf.
Hidden from the world, His words addressed to the Father and unheard by men, the importance of the Lord's ministry of intercession as an essential element in redemption has been more and more forgotten. Few seem to recognise that it is this ministry, the petitions from the Saviour's loving heart for His unfaithful and disobedient children, and for all men, that have often turned away the righteous judgments of God. How often in the Holy Place may have been repeated the prayer offered upon the Cross, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do"! Abraham, looking down from the mount upon the cities of the plain, was persistent in his prayers for mercy (Gen. 18: 23-32). How much more will the Son continue to offer His intercessions even to the end!
As the Lord was prepared through His Resurrection to be the Head of the Church and the High Priest, so also was He prepared to be the Ruler of the nations, "the Prince of the kings of the earth." When He was on the earth, He gave the example of submission to all worldly authority. He submitted to the ordinances of civil rulers. He counselled no rebellion against the Roman yoke, nor Herodian usurpations. He saw in the civil rulers those permitted by His Father to have authority, whether for blessing or for judgment, and was obedient to them. But rising from the dead in the power of the Resurrection life, all is reversed; now He could say: "All authority hath been given unto Me in Heaven and on earth." Now could He be seated at the right hand of the Father, and crowned with glory and honour. But He was absent from the earth, no one saw Him as the reigning Lord and sitting on His throne. The nations did not know Him as their King. His rule was like that of the invisible Father, the sceptre in His hand was not seen. There were no visible proofs that He guided the order of events, and ruled over the world; and there are none such to this day.
But we must note the distinction between this rule over the nations as their King, and that in the Church as its Head. In the former, it is providential; in the latter, direct. He does not appoint visibly or audibly the princes and rulers of the nations, but determines by His providential actings who they shall be. In this sense, "the powers that be are ordained of God" (Rom. 13:1), and, therefore, are to be obeyed as His representatives. But in the Church, His rule is direct and personal, though the expression of His will is put forth through the Holy Spirit. Speaking through men, it is His to appoint who shall fill the offices of His Church, and through them His authority is declared and administered. No one can fill any office except according to His will; and this will is expressed by the Holy Spirit speaking through men, and chiefly through the ministry of the prophet.
Whilst we see the distinction between the actings of Christ as the Head of His Church, and as the King of the nations, we know that He is to be equally obeyed and honoured in both. But the two spheres are not to be confounded. A priest may not assume authority in the civil sphere, nor the secular ruler in the ecclesiastical. As Head of the Church, He calls it into His service to preach His Gospel; as High Priest, it joins in His intercession; but as King, He gives it no place in the government of the nations. As He fulfils both offices, is King and Priest, those that act under Him in each sphere can act harmoniously together, and thus order and peace be preserved (Rom. 13: 1). But the intrusion of prince or priest into the sphere of the other brings confusion and strife. The intermingling of the spiritual and the secular is called in figurative language, "fornication," and .the resulting condition of things is presented under the symbol "Babylon" (Rev. 14:8; 17: 5).
Thus as the body of Christ, constituted by the Father in infinite wisdom, and indwelt of the Holy Ghost, the Church was set to be the perfect instrument through which the Head, though in Heaven and invisible to man, could carry on His work in the world and be manifested to the world in the full power of His resurrection life. But the question will arise as to the internal constitution of the Church. If absent in Heaven and invisible to all, how can His will be made known to His children, that all may act together with Him? This necessarily leads to some consideration of the Church in its internal relations to its Head as presented to us in the Scriptures.
All Christians agree that the Lord makes known His will through the Holy Spirit sent by Him. As He said: "He shall guide you into all the truth; for He shall not speak from Himself, but what things soever He shall hear, these shall He speak. . . . He shall take of Mine and declare it unto you" (John 16: 13-). But how should He speak? How make known to the Church the mind of the Lord? It was by utterances through men. So were Saul and Barnabas separated (Acts 13: 2). We know from the Gospels how it was done. We know that the Holy Spirit spake at the first through men inspired by Him, for all might prophesy, or through ordained prophets, speaking in the various churches (1 Cor. 14: 5). But as prophets may speak out of their own hearts, these many prophetic utterances must be judged, as declared by St. John: "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits whether they are of God" (1 John 4: 1). This could not be done by every individual member according to his measure of spiritual discernment. There must, therefore, be another and higher ministry to prove the spirits, and determine what utterances were of the Holy Spirit, and deliver these only to the churches. This higher ministry was the apostolic. To it, the gift of spiritual discernment was given in largest measure, and, therefore, the Apostle Paul could give direction as to the right use of prophecy, and generally of spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 14).
Thus, through these two ministries of apostles and prophets, the mind of the Lord, both as regards the doctrine and the order and work of the Church, was to be made known. But there is a distinction between apostolic and prophetic inspiration that is to be carefully noted. Through the prophet, the Holy Spirit speaks from time to time in audible and intelligible words. He is conscious of a power not his own coming upon him, and impelling him to utterance; and when the power ceases, he is silent. He has, for the time, fulfilled his ministry. It is not for him to interpret his own words. In the apostolic ministry, another form of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is seen. The apostle speaks and acts in the administration of his office in the conscious use of all his powers; but in all his apostolic work, he is so illumined and guided by the Spirit, that he can at all times speak the true word, and fulfil the work given him to do. In the prophetic ministry, the Holy Spirit speaks by the man; in the apostolic, the man speaks and acts in the light and power of the Spirit. He does not, like the prophet, wait for a special spiritual impulse, but so has the mind of Christ, through the indwelling Spirit, as at all times to know His will and what He would have him to do. It will be noted that we are here speaking of these ministries as perfectly fulfilled. Thus the inspiration of the apostle is larger and higher than that of the prophet. This presents no difficulty to those who recognise several orders of ministry, and that the Spirit is given to each according to its measure. As Jesus knew the mind of the Father through the Spirit given Him without measure, so the apostle through the Spirit knows the mind of Christ. His inspiration is in kind like that of the Lord when on earth. And yet this ministry is not of itself sufficient. It is closely connected with that of the prophet. The light given to the latter is to be made use of by the former. The prophet speaks the word of knowledge; the apostle, the word of wisdom, and wisdom is the right application of knowledge, and therefore, of higher importance (1 Cor. 12: 8). The Church has need of immediate and constant guidance, and this is the guidance of the Head through the apostolic ministry, as aided by the prophetic. To the former, it belongs to interpret the prophetic utterances and to apply them practically to the needs of the Church.
Under the old covenant, the will of God was made known through men inspired of Him, and through visible symbols, as the Urim and Thummim. But there is this great point of difference between the knowledge given under the old covenant and under the new. The prophets of the old dispensation constituted no ministry, or permanent order, but in the Christian Church the ordained prophet is, next to the apostle, the highest minister. The Holy Spirit can now speak through ordained prophets, and in all the churches, and His words serve for edification, exhortation, and comfort (1 Cor. 14:3). The Head being Himself man can now take men chosen by Him unto such near and permanent fellowship with Himself as was not possible before. An apostolic ministry could not be set until Christ was made the Head of the Church. Apostles can be taken into His secret counsels, and as He was sent by the Father into the world to make Him known, so can He send them to declare Him to men.
It is through these two ministries, one chosen directly by the Head, and representing His authority; the other speaking under the immediate inspiration of the Spirit, that the mind of the Lord is made known to the members of His body. As has been said by another, "The two witnesses, whereby God testifies in His Church concerning the truth to men, are (1) The Holy Ghost employing the faculties of the redeemed and regenerated man; and (2) The redeemed and regenerate man, speaking in the exercise of his understanding, but with the inspiration of the Holy Ghost."
This work of the Lord by the Church, Himself abiding in the Heavens, continues till the number of those who shall be its members is completed. Then follows their change into His own likeness by resurrection or translation, and the marriage of the Lamb, when He, with them, enters upon the last stage of His redemptive work, the glorified Church co-working with Him.
Having spoken of the manner in which the mind of the Head is made known to the Church, through its ministers, we turn to the point of authority. It is said of the Lord when on earth, "He taught them as one having authority" (Matt. 7: 29), and it is so to-day. Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, is its ruler, not the Holy Spirit. The Head appoints His ministers, the Spirit endows them, and prepares them for those offices to which the Lord through Him calls them. No man can take office in the Church to himself in his own right (Heb. 5:4). The Lord must both choose him and give him His authority. Ordinarily He makes known His choice through the Holy Spirit speaking by the prophet; He ordains and gives authority through the apostle. Thus the apostleship is the centre of authority; His will is declared by it, and His rule of action for all. This relation of apostles to prophets is set forth by St. Peter calling upon those to whom he writes to "remember the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and the commandment of the Lord and Saviour through your apostles" (2 Peter 3: 2; 1 Cor. 14: 37). The Church has no inherent authority either to teach or to rule. The wife is to be subject to her husband in everything, as the Church is subject to her Head (Eph. 5: 24).
From the relation of these two ministries to the Head and to one another, we see the ground of their importance as declared by St. Paul in his Epistles: "God hath set some in the Church, first apostles, secondly prophets" (1 Cor. 12: 28), "He gave some to be apostles, and some prophets" (Eph. 4: 11). Again He speaks of the household of God as "built upon the foundations of the apostles and prophets" (Eph. 2: 20).
The question arises, "How does the Head convey His resurrection or supernatural life?" It is by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in the appointed ordinances—born of water and the Spirit. He is the Vine, and those made partakers of His life are the branches. The nourishment of this life, and its full development, are through the operations of the Spirit in other ordinances, especially in that of the Lord's Supper. "He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life. . . . [He] abideth in me, and I in him" (John 6: 54-56). The supernatural life demands supernatural food. There are other appointments by which this life is developed and strengthened, and there are spiritual gifts and endowments of powers, which enable His children to do His works. The Church in its whole constitution is supernatural, because of its relation to the supernatural Head.
But into details we need not here enter. Material elements, bread and wine, water, oil, are through the operation of the Holy Spirit made means of spiritual blessing.'
We may here ask, What is the relation of this
new resurrection life to death? The Head raised
from the dead cannot die any more, death hath
no more dominion over Him. But those made
partakers of His life during His absence do die.
The ground of this is that by Divine appointment
the new life which embraces the body cannot be perfected in any till the hour of translation or resurrection.
1 The relation of the ordinances for the giving and nourishing of the supernatural life, to those appointed for the natural life, will not escape notice. In creating, God said: "Let the waters bring forth . . . the moving creature that hath life." In like way, the new life begins in the waters of baptism. And as bread and wine nourish the natural life in its highest form, so bread and wine are the appointed food for those called by the Lord to eat at His table.
We must see Him as He is, to be made like Him. It is said by St. Paul, "The Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death" (Rom. 8: 2, R. V.). The law of the new life in Christ is a life over which death has no authority, but all the regenerate, having now the first-fruits of the Spirit, are waiting for the redemption of the body (Rom. 8: 23). Not till the Lord returns can "mortality be swallowed up of life" (2 Cor. 5:4). All power in Heaven and in earth is His, "but now we see not yet all things put under Him" (Heb. 2: 8). The hour of His kingdom is not yet come.
It is to be noted that though death, as a reality, is not yet set aside in the Church, there is an ordinance appointed for the healing of the sick, to be administered by the elders of every local church. There was nothing of this kind among the Jewish ordinances, for the life of the Risen One had not then been given to any. This new life in us now struggles against the law of sin and death. The Apostle says, "We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened; not for that we would be unclothed, but that we would be clothed upon, that what is mortal may be swallowed up of life" (2 Cor. 5: 4, R. V.).
Every form of life seeks its consummation, so most of all the new life given us in regeneration.