Ministry by F. E. Raven
– Part One
Those who are not familiar with Mr. F. E. Raven may wish to view Biography: F. E. Raven, where all the known published ministry of Mr. Raven is noted.
- Full details of his published ministry are listed in "Ministry of F. E. Raven – A Catalogue", No. 5 in The Memorabilia Series – which is not included here.
- A summary of his ministry is in his biography.
|"It is felt that the service of our beloved brother was not only for his own generation, but that his presentaion of the truth has a permanent place in the testimony of our Lord and a very definite bearing on our own day.|
"Since the departure of Mr. Raven to be with Christ, in 1903, many have profited from the volumes already issued; and it is hoped that many more may avail themselves of a ministry so calculated to strengthen and edify our souls in the knowledge of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ".
– the Preface to the Ministry by F. E. Raven – New Series, originally published by Stow Hill Bible and Tract Depot.
Mr. Raven appears to be the least known of those used in an outstanding way in the recovery of the truth –
- and without doubt he is the most misunderstood, unfairly represented and unjustly maligned of any of the teachers amongst those known as brethren.
- It is hoped that the presentation of his ministry will be used by the Blessed Spirit to exercise brethren – who have long been prejudiced against this valued servant – to re-examine their position.
|RESPONSIBILITY AS TO
THE MAINTENANCE OF THE TRUTH
F. E. Raven
|The following address first appeared in the booklet A Review of Certain Contentions for the Faith, by Mr. George W. Ware.
Mr. Ware's comments following – written in 1928 – are still appropriate and provide an insightful introduction:
- See Ministry by F. E. Raven, 2: 268.
- It is just as applicable, if not more so, in the present broken state as it was over 100 years ago when given at the 1896 Quemerford meeting.
Comments of G. W. Ware
Immediately upon the reading of A Review of Truth: Mr. Stoney's message, Mr. Raven rose and, with much feeling, delivered the following address.
One would desire to emphasize the importance of that to which he so repeatedly refers as being of special moment for us at the present time, viz.,
We must, too, be on our guard lest the enemy should succeed in inducing a condition with us in which feeding on Christ as 'the old corn of the land' would be impossible,
- the reproach of Christ and the power of the Spirit. They are indissolubly connected together and we cannot have the one without the other.
- as this must infallibly result, as Mr. Raven points out, in failure in our corporate responsibilities as members of Christ's assembly, and hence in any united testimony to the world, such as that for which the Lord Jesus prayed. John 17.
- We should not delegate the answer to that prayer entirely to the time when the New Jerusalem shall come down from God out of heaven – Revelation 21 – though that will indeed be an answer to it –
- but should bear in mind that in the epistle to Philadelphia we have the answer produced to it by the Spirit in the souls of the saints at the present time –
- a moral condition which can only be reached by us as we have affection for Christ, and pay attention to the voice of the Spirit in 2 Timothy.
- Do not let us allow any place in our souls to the suggestion that the corporate idea has now wholly lapsed, because of the failure of the assembly as a whole to maintain corporate unity and testimony and that, therefore, everything is now on individual lines.
The failure is no longer only in Christendom generally but – as must be shamefully owned – among those who have received the greatest light from the Scriptures –
- not only through JND, but also through JBS, FER, CAC and JT.
The importance of being true to what has been delivered to us –
and the responsibility for the maintenance of the truth – is
now even greater and more urgent than in the days of Mr. Stoney and
Mr. Raven, or when Mr. Ware wrote.
- Let us then hearken to the Lord, "I come quickly: hold fast what thou hast, that no one take thy crown", Revelation 3: 11.
Compare Our Responsibility in the Present State of the Church.
|RESPONSIBILITY AS TO
THE MAINTENANCE OF THE TRUTH
Ministry by F. E. Raven, 2: 268
I would not venture to say anything at all, after what has been before us, did I not in some sense feel conscious of having a word from the Lord.
- And what I first wish to press upon each one is our individual responsibility in regard to the maintenance of the truth.
- It is very easy to put the responsibility of maintaining the truth on those who minister the truth.
- It is certainly not given to everyone to minister the truth. Ministry is in the power of gifts from Christ, and He claims to be sovereign in that matter; and it is a privilege to minister in the truth.
- But I say without any hesitation that it is the responsibility of every one of us to maintain the truth.
- We do not maintain the truth by clinging tenaciously to the terms of the truth, but by being, ourselves, exponents of the truth.
- You may think what I say is hard, but I judge that we ought to be prepared to surrender everything whatever we have been in this life, the dearest ties and associations, whatever honour or glory or position we may have in order to be exponents of the truth, which the Lord has given us to maintain.
- It is very easy to justify having things agreeable here and God may allow us to enjoy many things here but they may readily be too prominent
with us, and when they are, the truth has a second place; and which, I ask, should have the first place – the things of this life, or the truth?
- Every right-minded person would allow that the truth is to be the first thing, and we are at all costs to maintain it, and the divine way to maintain it, is by ourselves being the expression of it, and everything has to be subordinate to that.
- So I say that, in a sense, the less a man has in this world the better. If we have confidence in God, God can care for His people, and He is not limited to human methods.
- People make provision for their families in their way, and think that God is bound to that way. God has His own way, and can make provision in His own way; He is not bound to any particular way.
I think we often lack in piety. Faith is, that we have the light of God's things; piety is, that we bring God into our own things.
- If you make the truth the first concern and are here entirely for the Lord, the Lord will own you, and He will provide for your things; we
have no need to be anxious on that score.
- For myself, I can say, that it is the line which I would seek to follow. I only say that, by way of preface, for what I want to come to is this –
We have heard of what the Lord has been pleased to give back to us in these last days – the truth that Christ, the glorified Man, is the Head in heaven, and that His body is here.
- There are thousands of Christians who would allow the body in glory. What I saw long since, was that the practical difficulty with saints lay in inability to realize the truth that the body was here in completeness.
- I imagine that it is accepted by everyone here to-day, that the body is
here, and that Christ is Head to the body.
- That is the prominent truth, as I should understand, which the Lord has given back to us in this century, and in which we have to stand.
There is another cognate truth, and that is, that the body is derived from Christ. Eve was taken from Adam, that she might be united to Adam. No other was fit to be a helpmeet for him.
- So the body has been taken from Christ in the time of His death to Israel, in order to be fit to be His companion in glory – His bride;
that is, that she might be for His pleasure and share His honour. I just refer to it, because that is what God has been pleased to bring us to.
I want to say another word in regard to our responsibility to maintain the truth. There are two things here to which we have to return; two things which marked saints at the beginning.
- Where there has been departure, you are bound to go back to first principles, and you have to go to the outset to find them. If the Spirit of God has opened your eyes in any measure to the true state of things, that is
what you have to do.
- Now the two things to which I refer, are great safeguards; and you must keep within them if you want to be in the truth, and in liberty from what is about.
- They are the reproach of Christ and the power of the Spirit.
- If I may speak of them as principles – though they are not exactly principles, for the Spirit of God is not a principle – these are what you must hold to, if you want to be maintained in liberty from all that is about us – that is, from Babylon.
I want to show the working of these principles at the beginning and now. You must remember that at the time Christ came the people of God were under the power of Babylon.
- Of course, it was the Roman power at the moment, but it was the continuation of Babylon; it was the lower part of the same great image.
- That is where the people of God were at the moment – captive to Babylon; they had been under captivity in Babylon, now they were not captive
in Babylon, but to it.
- The course of things is prophetically told by the prophet, Isaiah. God brought a remnant of the people back into the land under Gentile protection, in order that Christ might be presented to them.
- That was the external state of things, and Christ was presented to the responsibility of the people; but, as to ecclesiastical form and order, everything was under the protection of the Gentile power.
- The Gentile power was dominant, and, if it saw fit to set aside the Jewish form and order, it had power to do it. If it saw fit to maintain it, they could have it.
- They were dependent on the Gentile power. Christ was presented to the responsibility of the people under these conditions, but rejected.
The point is this: the Babylonish power was not set aside. Christ was crucified at the hand of that power. The Gentile was guilty in this.
- The Jew cast Him out of the vineyard, and put him into the hand of the Roman power, and that power was immediately responsible for crucifying the Lord of glory. The apostle holds that the princes of this world crucified the Lord of glory.
- God did not come in at the moment to destroy the Romish power; on the contrary, He allowed it to remain, and to completely set aside the Jewish polity and ecclesiastical order.
- The whole thing was broken up, Jerusalem became a heap of stones, and it was done by the hand of the beast – the Roman power; and the ecclesiastical order – the camp – was completely set aside.
Now I would ask, how were the saints – the remnant of that day – who did not surrender the truth, for the mass had turned apostate, how were they to escape from the Babylonish power? For Rome was not publicly judged at that time; on the contrary, it got more complete power.
- I will tell you how they were set free from it. It was by the acceptance of the two principles to which I have referred, the reproach of Christ and the power of the Spirit.
- It was thus that Christians were saved in that day from the Babylonish power.
- In accepting the reproach of Christ they were delivered from ecclesiastical form and order, from dependence on the camp, as we read in the last chapter of Hebrews:
- "Let us go forth, therefore, unto Him, without the camp, bearing His reproach",
- and had no longer occasion to look for countenance from the Gentile power.
- They might, in leaving the camp, have to come under the reproach of impiety, for that matter, but they did not concern themselves about that. Their language was, Christ suffered without the gate; we go to Him and bear His reproach.
- In thus leaving outward form and order, they became independent of man, and dependent on a power which man cannot understand at all – on the power of the Spirit of God.
Some may perhaps say: Did not the apostles set up an ecclesiastical form and order?
- I believe the apostles set up nothing but what was in the power of the Spirit of God. Jew and Gentile were builded together, to be the habitation of God through the Spirit; but that is not form or ecclesiastical order, that is spiritual.
- The idea of it is that the saints are "a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices". The whole thing was pervaded by the Spirit.
- That is my idea of what was set up by the apostles; nothing outside the vital power of the Holy Spirit in the soul, and that was the work of the apostles.
- The point, to me, is this – that Christians were practically set free from the Romish power because they were not dependent on it. They were prepared to suffer, as Christ had suffered, if need be; they had nothing but the Spirit of God.
- The two things that guarded them, were the reproach of Christ and the power of the Spirit.
Now I want to come to the present time, which is much more difficult. Things are in such confusion. Babylon is now within; not the Romish power, but the popish power, and I want to tell you the character of that power. It is a worldly power.
- I do not believe in the inherent power of the Pope a bit. He is ruled by the world. How did he get his power? By trimming his sails to the powers that were, and playing off one against another.
- It was diplomacy, by which he maintained and does maintain his power; but he is not the power, the world is the power.
- The form of Babylon is ecclesiastical, and there the saints were in bondage; but in being in bondage to popery they were in bondage to the world.
And how have we got free? On just the same principles as at the beginning, namely, by being apart from ecclesiastical form and organization and order in the acceptance of the reproach of Christ, and by the power of the Spirit.
- I want everyone to weigh these things, to see the immense importance of them. It is only thus that we can be maintained free from the tyranny of the world-power which has come into the professing church.
I do not believe that the Lord intended that the prominent thing with us should be ecclesiastical form and order.
- The assumption of this was the first great declension at Plymouth, the evil which sought to isolate the meeting there, and to give to it a certain distinct form. We do not want to fall into the same error.
- We are in the scene of Christ's reproach, in the place in which He has been rejected, and we should be distrustful of everything which is not the immediate fruit of the power of the Spirit of God.
- If we look at the things about us, as, for instance, the State Churches, we see that, while they have escaped, in a certain sense, from Rome, they have halted half way, and have set up in some degree, the same thing in themselves. They are not in liberty.
- Then the various dissenting systems have set up for themselves, a form and order – not exactly on the lines of Babylon, but they have not escaped the bondage of the world, and are fast going back under it. Why? Because they have not accepted the reproach of Christ and the power of the Spirit.
We have professedly accepted both, and they are our safeguards. The moment you surrender either, you will get back into bondage to the great world-power.
- You may get back into it in a greater or less degree, but you will surely end there if you travel away from these two great principles.
What we find in this chapter – Joshua 5 – connects itself very intimately with what I have sought to put before you, and I may remark first, that
- what we come to here is typical of assembly privilege and blessing, that is, of what is not individual, but collective.
- Where it is a question of the wilderness, everything is individual. The wilderness regards the saints as individuals; we enter into that path in
which we prove God individually.
- My exercises in the wilderness are not the exercises of another, and the exercises of another saint are not my exercises. The experience of God, which I gain in the wilderness is my own, and the experience which another gains is not mine.
- As has often been said, the wilderness formed no part of the purpose
of God, but of His ways. It is where we learn His ways, where we learn practically what God is to us; and there it is that the manna is the food of our souls.
- We are supported here by the grace of Christ. Manna is daily grace for daily need. It was Christ's path as a Man here. The wilderness is where I learn what Christ was in His lonely pathway down here;
- the lowly grace of the heavenly Man, the perfect setting forth of what is according to God "in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is", as we get it in Psalm 16, and again in Psalm 23.
But here in Joshua 5 we come in type to church associations, to that which is collective and corporate.
The first point to which I want to call your attention is in verse 1. When all the kings on the other side of the Jordan "heard that the Lord had dried up the waters of Jordan … their heart melted, neither was there any spirit in them any more, because of the children of Israel".
- Mark the connection with this of the next verse, "at that time the Lord said unto Joshua, Make thee sharp knives and circumcise again the children of Israel".
- You would have thought that if there was no more spirit left in the kings because of what God had done for Israel, that the way was clear for the children of Israel, and that it merely remained for them to go up and take possession. But a great deal of preparation was needful on their part.
- The first thing you get is circumcision. Circumcision has to be realised in the saints. Why so? That they may "keep the unity of the Spirit in the uniting bond of peace". We could not go further without circumcision. That
is what we have come to.
- What is it that brings in divergence of feeling and judgment among saints? Not the Spirit, but the flesh.
- Before we can get on collectively, you must have "the putting off the
body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ". Without that you
cannot keep in the unity of the Spirit. Everyone is responsible to keep
the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
- What is the unity of the Spirit: It is a unity of judgment and spiritual affection, and there is no real unity apart from spiritual affections. I cannot understand it without.
- How the Spirit produces it, I judge, is that He keeps the saints under the influence of God's love and that is the way in which we are bound together.
When I look around at a company of saints it is not unity of doctrine I look for, I should not care for our bond to be unity of doctrine, but I look for unity of affection.
- Doctrine is not the bond of perfectness but love. We may be lacking as to affection though orthodox as to doctrine.
- I cannot understand the unity of the Spirit apart from spiritual affection, and it is to be kept in the uniting bond of peace. Peace is there, on God's part there is no disturbing element. God has removed every cause of disturbance.
- The only thing likely to intrude is the flesh, and it is to be kept out by the power of the Spirit; we are to be maintained in this unity, and to be diligent to keep it in the bond of peace.
- To that end there is circumcision: "the putting off of the body of the flesh through the circumcision of Christ".
- The body of the flesh I understand to be the weight, the incubus of the flesh; the whole thing goes. That breaks the link with Egypt.
- If flesh goes, Egypt is gone. Flesh subsists in the things of Egypt, not of the wilderness or of the land. Flesh must have its food, and the food of flesh is in Egypt. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life.
- If the body of the flesh is put off the link with Egypt is for ever
- Thus, the flesh is not to intrude at all. The moment it intrudes it brings in a bit of grit, and so disturbs the peace.
- God has been pleased in divine goodness to remove everything that had any title or pretension to disturb.
- Now we are at liberty, and privileged to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; let us look to it then, that we do not fail in this!
- Let us see that our hearts are kept under the influence of divine love, and that thus we love one another, and not watch one another to see if there be evil.
- It ought to be pain to see evil in one another; we need to be enlarged in the knowledge of divine love and in love to one another. How can I prove that I love God? By loving the brethren.
- "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?"
- "Every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him".
That is the first great principle, and so far we have only come to human weakness.
- If the body of the flesh is put off man has come to the extremity of human weakness, he is no longer supported by natural power.
- Natural power is connected with the flesh, but I do not accept that support. "This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you", verse 9.
- I cannot attempt to carry out the things of God in the energy of the flesh; there is no resource left now but the Spirit of God, and, in that, man is as to himself weak.
- As sure as you are in the power of the Spirit of God, you will know that you are weak, "When I am weak, then am I strong". Where the Spirit of God
is, there is bound to be the sense of weakness.
- In Israel, it may be remarked, the males only were circumcised, because they were the strength of Israel. But it is not so now. The males are not the strength of the church.
- "By one Spirit we are all baptised into one body". "As many of you as have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek … there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus", Galatians 3: 27-28.
- Everyone now is to have put off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ.
- It is a principle of universal application: and on it hangs the truth of our being one body in Christ.
- We read in verses 10,11, "And the children of Israel encamped in Gilgal, and kept the passover … and they did eat of the old corn of the land on the morrow after the passover, unleavened cakes, and parched corn in the selfsame day".
- Two things go together here, following on the morrow of the passover; there is unleavened bread, which maintained circumcision, and, at the same
time, the old corn of the land.
- The first is what the apostle put before the Corinthians,
- "Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast … ; with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth".
- Here you get the two things combined, and if you know anything about the old corn of the land you will be certain to keep the feast with unleavened bread.
You may ask, What do you understand by the "old corn of the land?" I will tell you –
- "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things that are above".
- If you can tell me what is proper to and characteristic of Christ in the scene where He is, I will tell you what the old corn of the land is.
- It is not the manna; the manna is the grace of Christ in a scene where all is contrary.
- By the old corn of the land I understand all that is characteristic of Christ in a scene where everything is congruous.
- Christ is gone back into that scene from which He came, where all is suitable.
- There is no change in that sense morally, and Christ is the centre there, and commands and controls all spiritual affections. That is to me the thought of the old corn of the land.
- If we know what it is to have to say to that scene, we shall not fail to eat the unleavened bread; you may be sure we shall realize that sincerity and truth are suitable if we know anything of the "things above" where Christ is sitting.
One word more; I understand the eating of the old corn of the land to be not individual but collective privilege.
- Here you are come, I think, on to assembly ground. It is like the new man, the two – Jew and Gentile – made in Christ into one.
- I think the old corn of the land has been looked at too much as food individually.
- It appears to me that it refers to the affections and joys of the holiest, what we feed on in communion. It is spiritual privilege, the appropriation of Christ in what He is before the Father in heavenly affection and order.
- If you accept that you will understand why the manna ceases. The moment I enter into that scene in which Christ is Head I have done with the wilderness and the individual path, and for the moment I have done with the manna. I have to go back to it; but I enter in spirit on a scene where Christ is all, and for the moment the manna ceases.
- Of course, you get it presented only typically in Joshua 5, for when Israel were actually come into the land the manna ceased completely.
- And, for the Christian, when we truly reach assembly ground, when we enter into the scene of heavenly affections, the manna ceases, and you eat the old corn of the land.
The old corn of the land connects itself as we have seen with unleavened bread; and so in Hebrews 10 it says: "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith". "They did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year", verse 12. The fruit of the land of Canaan is what is proper to heaven.
One point more. All that we have seen is paving the way for conflict. See verses 13-15. And in speaking of conflict I may refer to a mistake into which I think we have fallen.
- We have been accustomed to say that Christ is Head to the assembly, and that He is not Lord to the assembly.
- I quite admit He is Head to the assembly, but the working of that is that we think when we come to the assembly we have done with the Lord.
- I admit Christ is not Lord to the assembly as such, but the assembly is privileged to be with the Lord in the conflict. I see in Ephesians we are to be "strong in the Lord and in the power of his might"; I do not think that is individual.
- It is a question of conflict and testimony. The privilege of the assembly is to be with the Lord in the conflict against the power of evil.
The mistake Joshua made was in thinking that the Lord was to be with them, as if the captain of the Lord's host was to fight their battles.
- He asks: "Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?" The angel says directly: "Nay; but as captain of the host of the Lord am I now come". It is not a question of My being with you, but of your being with Me. That is the great point.
- If we understand anything about collective privilege – that is, if we know Christ as the Head of the assembly, then there is another privilege conferred, and that is, to be with Him in conflict against His adversaries – to be associated with Him against the power of evil.
- I do not think that is much understood by the saints. I think we know what it is to love the Lord individually, to confess Him as Lord, to love Him, and to look for His appearing, and we rejoice to have the Lord with us in our pathway through the wilderness;
- but that is all connected with our individual path, and there is another thing, which is the proper privilege of the church, namely, to be with the Lord in conflict with the wickedness in the heavenly places.
- "Our conflict is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against wicked spirits in heavenly places".
One word more in connection with verse 15. "Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy". The ground is holy.
- When you are with the Lord in spiritual conflict, you will not do much if you do not follow holiness, You must put off your shoes from off your feet, for it is holy ground you are upon. You are with the Lord.
- You have known Him in the assembly declaring the Father's name to His brethren, leading the praises there; you have tasted that. But now there is the being with Him in the spiritual conflict; and the ground on which you stand is holy.
I only took up this chapter just to indicate these things; and what we have come back to are the two principles that we spoke of the reproach of Christ and the power of the Spirit.
- We have escaped in measure from Babylonish captivity, but the liberty can only be maintained on the principles on which we began; we cannot surrender them for a moment; we must accept the reproach of Christ in the power of the Spirit.
- The Spirit is here; the Spirit has come down, and convicts the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. He is the power to maintain for Christ; and if we accept the reproach of Christ we know no power but that of the Spirit.
You have come to spiritual circumcision that every difficulty between one and another may be removed, that we may be able to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace;
- and in eating the old corn of the land you have come to heavenly association; and the manna, the food of the wilderness, ceases; and you have come to the Captain of the Lord's host;
- you are occupied with His interests; you are led by Him into conflict with the power of evil – and the place is holy.
Do not make the fatal mistake of supposing that this refers only to those who minister – that no one is responsible for maintaining and guarding the truth but those who minister it.
- The spiritual circumcision refers to all. We all have to stand to the truth of it. It is not the "males" now, we have all as a company to stand in the truth which we have professed to accept. "We being many are one
body". "All one in Christ".
- Though it may only be given to a few to minister, it is the responsibility and privilege of each one to stand to, and seek to maintain, the truth, and that, not by dogmatism, but by being exponents of it.
F. E. Raven
|READING ON 1 CORINTHIANS
F. E. Raven
|This item is not in Ministry By. F. E. Raven – New Series.
It is taken from the old Notes of Lectures Vol. 20: 199-208
published by G. Morrish, 20 Paternoster Square, London.
F.E.R. The first two chapters are introductory. In them we have the great principles of Christianity – Christ crucified, and the bestowal and actings of the Holy Ghost.
In the third chapter we have the "temple of God", with the privilege of saints as forming that temple;
- and in connection with that the apostle shews the necessity of purity within, and then separation from the world and idolatrous associations without.
- A true idea of the temple is that it is not only the place where God dwells, but where He speaks also. His voice is heard and His mind is made known there.
- Hence we find – chap. 14: 24-25 – great stress is laid upon "prophecy", and this was of the greatest moment when as yet the New Testament scriptures hardly existed.
- It is more difficult to realise the truth of the temple in the present divided and corrupt state of Christendom;
- but we have the scriptures in their completeness, and the Spirit of truth is still here in the assembly, the habitation of God by the Spirit. Prophecy shewed that God was indeed amongst them.
- Another important thing to bear in mind is that the temple of God is holy:
- whatever may come in, the normal character remains, it cannot be altered, and if corrupted will be vindicated by the judgment of the corrupter.
In chapter 12 the truth of "the body" is brought in, but this can never be rightly understood unless the truth of the assembly as "the temple" has been apprehended.
- This latter is more the outward aspect of the assembly, but "the body" that which is within.
The fifteenth chapter presents the truth of the resurrection, and it closes by shewing that we must undergo a change to inherit the kingdom of God.
As to the statement in verse 2: "All that call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord" – it clearly intimates that they are brought within the scope of his salutation, though the epistle itself is more immediately addressed to the assembly at Corinth;
- but undoubtedly all who are addressed are responsible to listen to what the apostle says.
It is sometimes useful to notice the absence of certain truths in the different parts of scripture.
- In this epistle the truth of "union" is not brought forward, nor is "the rapture" alluded to in connection with the resurrection.
- The order of the great truth of resurrection is unfolded, and the change of the living. Death is swallowed up in victory, and this introduces what is millenial;
- but the rapture, or being taken up, is not mentioned. A distinct feature of the epistle is its relation to the ordering of things upon earth.
In saying that we have not "union" in Corinthians, the fact of it is recognised but not the import of it,
- because the great feature of union is, that you are united to Christ where He is, and therefore it must take you to where He is,
- while, as we have seen, the line of truth in this epistle is the ordering of things in the assembly upon earth.
- The nearest to it, and what flows from it, is "unity", and that is what we have in Corinthians.
In Romans the Spirit of God is presented in connection with our individuality; but in Corinthians with what is collective and corporate.
- For the Christian everything is involved in his having the Spirit. Every believer has the Spirit, but there is a great difference between what is true as a fact and our entering into the import of it.
- Scripture is given to us that we may enter into what is already true.
- The Spirit has come down from the glory, and to speak reverently, He is enamoured with the blessed Man who is in the glory, so that He is never content until He has brought believers to where Christ is.
- Where the Head is we should be in spirit now; that is the import necessarily of "union".
If we had power we might take in at once all that is unfolded to us in scripture;
- but the scope is so great that we might ask where can one be found with capacity for it.
The epistle speaks of the ordering of our ways collectively, and we have to recognise that the assembly is set up locally in a way suited to earth.
- Each assembly in those days had what was needed for its edification, they were fully furnished. If God set up an assembly, He took care to supply it.
In chapter 12 we have the organism of the assembly, baptised by one Spirit into one body.
- In chapter 13, the vitality – "pursue love", which is really the vitality – and when once you bring in love you must edify. Chapter 14.
- It is well to notice that chapters 11 to 14 all run together, the division into chapters spoils the sequence.
To return to chapter 1 – it is exceedingly important that we should understand how these two great truths of Christ crucified, and the gift of the Spirit, are brought in, for evidently the first man had been allowed a place at Corinth.
- The same truths are pressed on the Galatians. The cross brings in the revelation of God, whilst it puts man out: the Spirit makes this revelation good in us.
- Christ is both the wisdom and power of God, thus God is brought in. So in John 3, it was necessary for us that the Son of man should be lifted up; but herein was the revelation of God in love. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son".
- God has put man out by the cross to open a way for Himself, and the great point of His power is the cross. The Jew sought a sign, and the cross was the most wonderful sign He could give of His intervention.
In John 6 Christ speaks of Himself as the sign. A sign is the evidence of divine intervention, and the greatest miracle of all was that He was here – the living bread come down from heaven.
- The insensiblity of man could not alter the value of the sign. If they did not see who He was, it did not alter the value of His presence.
- Although the Jew might stumble at the cross, and the Greek count it foolishness, its eternal value remained unchanging.
- Wonderful indeed was the sign which set man aside, to bring God in, and that for the object of saving man.
- It was marvellous wisdom, and when once a man accepts the testimony of the cross, he will delight in that which is revealed in it.
- We little think of what it was to God to come in thus by the cross. We may say reverently that not only did man suffer by the fall and its consequences, but that God did. The evil into which man got "grieved him at his heart".
An assembly can never be right if those who compose it are not right individually.
- The meetings are often a great witness of our weakness. People often look for the Spirit to come upon them in some special way to enable them to take part.
- What is wanted is liberty, that is, to be disentangled from all that is without and from what is connected with my own individuality so as to be there sensibly as a vessel for the Lord.
- If we are there in liberty we have nothing before us but the Lord Himself, and as we apprehend that He is there we apprehend that we have everything in Himself.
We should also bear in mind that we are all at "the table" on the same ground – the Lord's death.
- It is the sole ground for each and all, therefore individual feelings should not be brought in.
- Often people are occupied with their own feelings as to the Lord's death instead of with the death itself.
- The assembly is the sphere where Christ is all and in all.
- It is the sense of each one being at the Lord's table on this one ground, and where consequently individuality must be dropped, that shews the wickedness of divisions.
- It is to be feared that we have been too ready for division in the spirit of our minds. Separation is a last resource when evil is irremediable.
- In regard to fellowship we maintain that the Lord is with us; if evil arises, the question arises, is it such that we are assured the Lord has left, for until this is the case we have no ground for leaving.
- Evil coming in does not drive the Lord out; it is when it is sanctioned that His presence is withdrawn. This is seen in the case of Achan: His presence discovered the evil, and if they did not judge it He would not be with them any more.
We have seen that in the cross is brought in both the wisdom and the power of God.
- In preaching the cross, righteousness is often left out, and Christ is presented merely as a substitute: that is, that He was punished and on that ground we go free;
- but that is not enough, the truth of righteousness is seen in that He not only endured the punishment but that He, the Substitute, goes free.
- He has not been left under the penalty that we might go free, but He was the first to go free. He has, so to speak, been justified.
- It is the force of the word in Romans 5: 18, "one righteousness", an accomplished act of righteousness and justification made good in Him. He was raised for our justifying.
- Besides, it is not the mere payment of a penalty, for God has been glorified as to the whole moral turpitude of sin, and this declared in raising Christ from the dead.
The scapegoat sets forth the forgiveness of sins in connection with this earth. If we had it in that way we should not die, but death has to do with us here.
- It has often been remarked, that for Aaron and his sons – in figure the heavenly saints – there was no scape bullock.
- The grace of God takes a different course with us, we have forgiveness in connection with the Holy Ghost and life in the Spirit.
- The Christian enters on life in a completely new order and connection.
- He is of the priestly family – as Aaron's sons – indwelt by the Holy Ghost and belonging to heaven, though still here in his responsible life on earth.
Besides the two great points that Christ is the wisdom and the power of God, we have further that He is made to us wisdom from God, and righteouness and sanctification and redemption.
- It is a wonderful thing to contemplate the wisdom of God. He has never been baffled. Whatever crisis has occurred in the moral history of man, God has never been defeated; on the contrary, it has been the avenue for His resources.
- If we take Babel, for instance, what could be worse on the part of man? His thought was to shut God out, but what does God do?
- He scatters man, and calls Abraham out to be the heir and depositary of His promises. We have the wisdom of God in forming all His purposes, and it is displayed in the working out of His counsels.
- At the death of Christ we should naturally have thought that all the purposes and promises of God were gone, but on the contrary
- it is in that event the illimitable resources of God's wisdom are brought out.
- He cannot bring out anything that is new to Himself, for He is God; all has been in His thoughts from eternity.
In verse 30 wisdom is marked off from righteousness, sanctification and redemption: it is brought in first because the Corinthians were allowing human philosophy, and that has to go.
- Christ is made unto us wisdom from God – then righteousness, sanctification and redemption. We have these alone in Him.
- If I want to prove my righteousness, it is declared in Him, and it becomes ours on the principle of faith.
- It is in Christ that I have all, and as the soul enters into what is true of it in Him, it is made practically good in us.
- We never reach what belongs to us as saints by merely taking things as facts, but we are called to enter by the Spirit of God into the practical power of them.
- We see what is ours in Christ that we may be morally conformed to it.
AS DETERMINING OUR POSITION HERE
1 Timothy 2, and 2 Timothy 1
|The following address is from Ministry by F. E. Raven 2: 3-11, Greenwich, 1902. It is the first address of the first of two series of addresses on "The Testimony of 'The Christ' ". FER said of them,
"The subject of the second series is the testimony of 'the Christ', as pervading all the word of God."The first seeks to set forth that which in Christians is appropriate to their part in the testimony, for it must be remembered that the testimony is living, and bound up with the power of the Spirit of God in believers."In view of the coming of the Lord, may God be pleased to awaken in all a deeper interest in the testimony, as being the witness of that which He will shortly display".
Everybody should be prepared to admit that it is extremely important that we should understand where we are, and why we are there. These are two
- It is a poor thing to be in any position religiously and not to know why you are there.
- Every one ought to be concerned to know where he is, and further, why he is there.
I want to touch a little on these two points. and to give you an idea of
the position which I individually occupy, and a great many more also, and
to make it plain to you why I am there.
Everything in such matters depends on what is according to God; and the
question is whether Christendom all round is, or is not, according to the
mind of God.
- If I look round at the religious bodies in the world, they all maintain that their existence is of God.
- They might not defend every detail, but they would maintain that, in the main, things in the world are according to what God intended.
- But things in the world are not what God intended.
- If they were, we might very well be content to be identified with these great bodies; but they are not.
- Thus, everything depends on whether Christendom, as it exists, answers to the mind of God.
- There is one thing we must remember, that when the church was set up God had not given the New Testament scriptures; but now He has been pleased to give us these, and the scriptures are the law and testimony.
- Every one of us is justified in testing things around us by the scriptures; and not only so, but
- we are under the obligation of testing all that maintains any kind of profession by the scriptures, and to refuse it if it speaks not according
to the law and the testimony.
All that we see around us, the great religious bodies, maintain, as I have said, more or less, that the institutions which exist are according to
- Popery may be generally condemned, but people imagine that other
institutions are right, and that Christianity has had developments which
- It is the common idea, and in that point of view, the divisions in Christendom are not abnormal but normal.
- Such have not in their thoughts any idea that ruin has come in. They do not look upon Christndom as being a ruin,* that is, something which God's mind never intended.
Now, when we subject things to the test of scripture, we find that the
inspired writers, without exception, contemplate what we may call the ruin
of the professing church.
- The Apostle Paul, in the epistle which we have read, uses the figure of a great house in which were all sorts of vessels, some to honour and some to dishonour,
- and presses upon Timothy the obligation to purge himself from vessels to dishonour.
- He foresaw the ruin of the professing body, and that a moment would come of which it could be said,
- "The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of the Lord depart from iniquity", 2 Timothy 2: 19.
- Peter also foresees ruin; he speaks of false teachers coming in, but never contemplates any amendment.
- All the writers contemplate the ruin which would come in, but never give the idea of any possibility of restoration or amendment.
- John speaks of the "last times", and of there being already many antichrists.
- He gives us a striking picture in the Revelation, a kind of account of the church from the beginning to the end, from Ephesus to Laodicea.
- He shows what would come in, with regard to the professing body, but never holds out any idea of amendment.
All this is striking, but it is not accepted in Christendom. If it were,
and the real condition of things were acknowledged,
- the great bodies around us which justify their existence, and consider it to be according to the mind of God, would melt away.
- Thus, when all that is around is tested by Scripture, we find that the apostles contemplated the ruin of the great professing body,
- through the working of influences and principles which they saw would come in, and which would bring in confusion on every hand.
- And we see that in the midst of all this the Spirit of God has been pleased to mark out a path for us;
- and one can, as an individual, take a place outside of things which falsify Scripture and are not according to God.
Now that is the reason why I am where I am. I stand as an individual, and
- a great many of us have taken up that position, outside of these great systems which exist.
- The reason that I stand apart from them is that it is evident to me that they do not answer to what the Spirit of God has been pleased to present to us with regard to the church.
We will come now closer home, and speak of that which is the special bond
in the present state of things. I draw your attention to a passage in 1 Timothy 3: 14-15,
- "These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how though oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God".
- Now read 2 Timothy 1: 8. There is a great difference in the
language of the two epistles.
- In the first epistle the point is that a man should know how to behave himself in the house of God, and in the second that he might
- "not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord".
It is extremely important to get an idea of the house of God in order that you may be able to measure the general departure from the truth of it.
- If you have not the standard you cannot measure the departure.
If you refer to the second chapter of the first epistle – verses 1-11 – you will find some details of the order of the house.
- I want to dwell on these details for a moment, for they give us an idea of the character of the house of God. It was not a material building, but a building composed of living stones.
- We see in verse 1 that it was a place of thanksgiving and prayer, where there was intercession for all men, then for kings and for all in authority. That is a first principle.
- Then in verse 8 the men prayed everywhere, for the house was composed of people. What marked the house was that the men prayed everywhere,
- not ministers and clergy, but men universally were marked by prayer; wherever they were, the men were to pray.
- Then, on the other hand, the women were not to be conspicuous, but
were to adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and
- But there were other marks; all in the house were cared for in
soul and body. There were overseers for looking after their souls, and
deacons for looking after bodily wants; and
- whether soul or body, everything was carried out in the early days in the power of the Holy Ghost.
- These things were brought under Timothy's notice, that he might know how one ought to behave himself in the house of God.
I believe it to be of great importance to have some definite understanding of the true character of the house of God, in order that we may judge of all that is around us at the present time.
- I do not see anything around that answers to what is presented to us in this epistle.
- I do not see men praying everywhere, nor women generally adorned with shamefacedness.
- I do not see overseers looking after people's souls and deacons looking after their bodies.
- The systems around do not answer to the test, hence I judge myself to be right in standing apart from them.
- They do not leave room for the application of Scripture injunctions.
- Men could not pray everywhere, for it would cause disturbance; the systems leave no room for the Spirit of God;
- every Christian ought to feel under the obligation of bringing these things to the test of the law and the testimony.
Now supposing some of us through grace have separated from these things,
are we to form another system?
- Do you think that would be according to God? I think that is the thing which we have to avoid most strenuously.
- If the Spirit of God has given us any true perception of the character of what is around, that it does not answer to the test of Scripture, and
- if we have been enabled in faith to stand apart, we must most carefully maintain the sense of individuality.
- We may have the privilege of walking together, if we are agreed in mind, but we have diligently to avoid the formation of any system whatever:
- if we do not, we simply drop back again into the error of all that is around.
Supposing a few are agreed in that way, it is a wonderful thing to stand in obedience to the Lord.
- We have all known what it is to be dependent on props, but we ought not to want the support of others.
- We ought to look to the Lord to be supported, and if we are supported by the Lord we shall be a support to one another.
Now is there between such any special bond? I have not a doubt that there is, and
- I want that bond to be much more real to us, and that we should have a more definite idea of it than we have had.
- If it please the Lord to give us any intelligence in regard to the bond, we shall see that it is one which really holds us together.
- I believe the testimony to be the bond, and I want to give you an idea of what the testimony is.
- I think the Spirit of God desired that the mind of Timothy should be imbued with the principles of the house of God, and the same Spirit shows what would be the bond in the time of departure.
The "testimony" is an expression which we very commonly use, but I doubt if many have a very definite idea of it. I will tell you the idea which it
conveys to my mind.
- Testimony is that which God gives of what He is going to establish before He establishes it publicly.
- God does not give testimony of anything that He is not going to make public.
- The Spirit of God has come down to testify of Christ, but the point is that God is going to make Christ manifest.
I refer to two passages. Look at 1 Timothy 2: 6 and 6: 14-15.
- The one shows that a time is appointed for the preaching, and the other that a time is appointed for the appearing.
- I want to make plain that testimony refers to something which is going to appear.
- Testimony loses its force and character if you do not connect it with that which God is going to display.
- What God is going to display is comprehended in one word, and that is Christ, His purpose in Christ.
The Lord Jesus Christ is going to put down every evil power, that is, to
subdue all things that are contrary to God, and to bring to light His
grace and His righteousness.
- God intends to have a universe which will be under the power and influence of His grace.
- It is His purpose to display Christ, and there will be a universe controlled in every part by the grace of God.
Now before Christ is displayed God gives testimony, so that we may be now
in the light of that which is to be displayed.
- The effect of this upon us will be to deliver us from the influence of all that is existing. What is existing is not according to God.
- Sin reigns by death; but God is going to make evident His purpose and grace in Christ Jesus before the world began. God will fill the universe with blessing.
Now there is another point in connection with this: we get the annulling
of death and the bringing to light of life and incorruptibility.
- If God is to have a universe according to His purpose, the power of death must be annulled.
- Death has to be swallowed up in victory, and when the Lord appears life and incorruptibility will be evident.
- Christ will be the fountain and source of life. As the sun is the fountain and source of light and life to this earth, so Christ will be as the Sun of righteousness.
- Creation will be delivered from the bondage of corruption, life and incorruptibility will come to pass, and death will be annulled.
Now I want to carry you back for a moment to what came to light in Christ
when the Lord came into the presence of death on earth; death lost its
- The Lord called Lazarus out of the grave; so too in other cases He
- Thus we get the beginning of the annulling of death when Christ was here, and at the same time life and incorruptibility came to light in Him; speaking of Himself He says,
- "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it again".
- "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thy holy one to see corruption".
- Instead of being subject to death He dispossessed death, while He went into it, bearing the judgment that lay on man.
- Life and incorruptibility were found in Him; but it was necessary that death should be annulled, on behalf of us, in Christ.
- All this will come out in result when Christ is displayed. It will
be manifest then that death is annulled.
- Death could not have been annulled unless redemption had been accomplished. It was by entering into death that Christ acquired the right to abolish it.
It is a great thing to be here in the testimony; and for this you must
have an understanding by the Spirit of God of that which God is going to
display in Christ, His purpose and grace in Christ Jesus.
- That forms a special bond at the present time.
It is a mercy to have been delivered from the entanglements around, to
have had grace to stand apart from them. May God preserve us from other
- If we want to be kept clear from these, I am sure that we must have an interest of surpassing importance to keep us walking together.
- I believe the interest which will hold us together is the testimony of the Christ.
- The testimony does not belong to any particular class, not merely to teachers and preachers, it is common property, and a bond which holds us together in the present state of things.
- If you want any clear or definite idea of the testimony you must apprehend that which God is going to display according to His purpose.
Looking at the world at the present time in its lawlessness and in the
corruption which is the effect of lust,
- I see around moral confusion, and that continually increasing, but God is going to make manifest another order of things in Christ.
- He will have a scene where lust will not prevail, but grace will reign and Christ will be the centre.
The great witness and expression of Christ will be found in the church, as she will be seen in perfection by-and-by; and
- every family in the universe, according to God's purpose in Christ Jesus, will be affected by it.
- Israel will have their light through the church, and the nations will
walk in the light of the heavenly city.
- In that day death will be swallowed up in victory, life and incorruptibility will be brought into effect.
Well, it is a great thing to be in the light of Christ, and what we want
is to be faithful to Christ.
- It is the moment when we are being put to the test.
- The test of the moment is to maintain fidelity to Christ, and not to
run in the course of the world, nor to be influenced by the lawless
- Now is the moment of testimony. Is it your supreme interest? Depend upon it, if it is, it will tend to bind us together.
May God give us intelligence as to the testimony, that we may see its
reference to what is going to be displayed.
Now the question is, How far are we at this moment in fidelity to the
- We are left here in the moment of testimony, and the word for us is "Occupy till I come",
- and our desire ought to be, to be found faithful till He comes. God grant it may be so.