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Righteousness and Fellowship

J. T. Mawson

Notes of a Bible Reading at Sydney on Exodus 22:1-28

In this chapter there are found in type two things that go together; the one is the righteous basis upon which God sets us before Himself, the other our fellowship together in that place. The antitype of the first is in the Epistle to the Romans, and the second in Corinthians. It is the first time in the Bible that we read of the congregation. In the 3rd verse you get “the congregation of Israel”; in the 6th verse, “the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel.” Up to this time God’s dealings in grace had been with individuals, and in Exodus with the elders of Israel, but now He sets Himself to gather a congregation about Himself, and that congregation was to be an assembly. The word “congregation” here carries the thought of unity, that which is corporate. Darby’s New Translation has at this point a footnote showing that the Word translated “assembly” in the A.V. has the thought of “the actual subsisting congregation composed of all its members,” while the word “congregation” is “more the congregation looked at as a moral whole, a corporate person before God.”

The purpose God had in view in redeeming His people was that He might gather them to Himself, an assembly having one mind and purpose. In this chapter the basis is laid for that. God could not have an assembly in which He could have His pleasure, so long as His people were under a yoke of bondage in Egypt, a type of the world. They could not be for God or for one another until they were set free. We see that in the 5th chapter, verses 10-12. Instead of the people being gathered there, they were scattered, and they were scattered as toiling and labouring for a hard taskmaster, the Pharaoh of Egypt. The assembly of God now, if true to its character, is set free from the world by redemption, and is maintained in that liberty by the Spirit’s power, but the sad thing is that the great majority of God’s people do not see that they are not of the world, and are toiling to build up the world, just as Israel toiled in Egypt.

Question. In what way?

Israel made bricks to build up the great cities of Egypt; in figure many Christians are doing that today, they are making bricks to build up the world system. Professedly Christian assemblies, conferences and synods come together, not to discuss how they may hasten the day of God by gathering souls out of the world for His Name or how they may build up in the truth the souls of those that are saved, but to take up social questions and discuss politics, and how to improve the world as it is; they are making bricks to build up the world system. The world has laid this heavy bondage upon them, that they should look after its morals, and help to straighten out its tangles, they are serving Pharaoh, and their labour is useless for the whole world lies in the wicked one, and is shortly to suffer the judgment of God. This world is in rebellion against God, and His way with it is to scatter it as at the tower of Babel, and His thought in regard to His assembly is gathering, that it may be one. The devil’s intention is to build up and unite the world and scatter the assembly of God. Let us take care that we are working with God and not with the devil.

Remarked. You look upon what we have in the 14th chapter then, the deliverance, as part of God’s thoughts for them, and we have here that which is the foundation of it.

Yes, it was God’s thought to bring them out of Egypt and gather them in one congregation. One of the first intimations in the New Testament of God’s thought for His people is given in the Spirit’s interpretation of the prophecy that came from the lips of Caiaphas, that Jesus should die to “gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.” But for this they needed to be delivered from the world as His “out-called” ones. God sent Moses with a message to Pharaoh, saying, “Let my people go.” He wanted them to worship Him, and over and over again it was clearly brought out they could not in Egypt be an assembly worshipping God. Egypt is the place of bondage, it is the world, and we have to be delivered from the world if we are to know our place in God’s assembly and be worshippers of Him.

Question. Where do you get the thought of fellowship in the 12th of Exodus?

In the fact that they are looked upon as one assembly, and that in the 16th verse the feast of the Passover was to be “an holy convocation.” A convocation was a gathering together of the people, and they were to eat in common the lamb roast with fire and the unleavened bread.

Remarked. It is essential that blood should be shed for God to lay the foundation of that.

The blood was the foundation, because of our sinfulness; it was necessary for our standing in righteousness before God, and it is upon that footing that we have fellowship one with another, as 1 John 1:7 says, “If we walk in the light at He is in the light we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” That statement is a very fine text to preach to the sinner, but it is given in that Scripture in connection with our being in the light and having fellowship one with another. It is the unfailing basis of our relationship with God and one another.

But before the blood was shed, the lamb had to be kept in the household, every household had that lamb before it for a certain period. The lamb that was going to bear the judgment, to die on their behalf, was to be before their eyes continually for this period.

Question. Does that refer to the Lord’s life? His service here on earth?

Yes, it sets forth the Lord’s life upon earth, and especially in John’s Gospel. The first public witness that is borne to Him there is, “Behold, the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” We trace His footsteps through the Gospel and learn the wonderful fact that the Lamb was without blemish, that He was the absolutely Holy One, perfect in His moral excellence. Every act and word of His would have an added significance to us if we consider them with the Cross in view. It is also interesting to see that the Gospel of John which begins with the Lamb of God, ends with fellowship. Take the last verse but one. The critics have tried all sorts of ways and means of getting round that verse. It has suffered in the hands of its friends too. Some who want to protect the Gospel have taught that the Elders at Ephesus, seeing that false doctrine as to Christ’s Person was coming in, induced the aged John to write his Gospel, and when he had written it they put their imprimatur to it, and said, “We know what he is saying is true.” But that is a very human interpretation of it. The Spirit of God had something much deeper than that before Him. The Gospel closes with the “we know” of the Epistle. The characteristic word of the 1st Epistle of John is, “we know,” it is the certitude of Christian knowledge and fellowship. The subject of our fellowship is this Blessed Person, the Word of Life, who has shed His blood and revealed the Father, and so the Gospel links on with the Epistle. In the Gospel there is the testimony to the Holy Spotless Lamb of God, whose blood was shed; “But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side and forthwith came there out blood and water. And he that saw it bear record and his record is true; and he knoweth that he saith true that ye might believe” (John 19:34-35). And his record has not been in vain, we have believed. So the Gospel ends with “we know.” We know in blessed fellowship the truth of this.

Question. Would it be correct to say the statement in John, “Behold, the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world,” would take in the sin offering, but what of the second “Behold the Lamb of God”?

In the first instance witness is borne to Him in connection with the great work that He was to do, and in the second instance witness is borne to the Person as the One who can wholly fill the heart. At once two disciples follow Him when He is presented to them in that way. Don’t you think it would greatly affect us as we read the Gospel, if the thought were in our minds continually that this One of whom we are reading, is to die as the Lamb, to die that we might be brought into righteous relationships with God and with one another?

Question. There is a verse in Peter which speaks of the Lamb foreordained before the foundation of the world. If we had that before us too, as we read the Old Testament, would not that help us?

Yes, it comes out in all the types of the Old Testament. It comes out here. The cross was the goal to which all the types pointed.

Question. Do you think that the keeping up of the lamb for four days here has reference to Christ being always before God as the One who was to accomplish His will and bring a people to Himself in righteousness?

Yes, it may be that not one of those Israelites entered at all into the meaning of the lamb being kept up until the fourteenth day, but certainly God’s eye was upon the lamb, and in that type He was setting forth the preciousness and the perfection of Christ to Him. Not many discerned the perfection of the Lord Jesus when He was here. Some did, as we read, “We beheld His glory.” But the Father always beheld it, it was before His eye. So He said, “This is My beloved Son,” and He was seen of angels also, though men saw no beauty in Him.

Question. It says in 1 Corinthians 5, “Even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” Is that what you mean to convey, that there must be the maintenance of what is due to God; absence of evil before there can be fellowship? You get fellowship in the 1st, 10th and 11th chapters. Were the Corinthians getting away from it by allowing evil?

They were losing the sense of the holiness of the place into which they had been brought. The judgment fell upon the Egyptians. The only way that the Israelites were sheltered from that judgment was by the blood of the lamb, which was the witness that God’s judgment had fallen upon their substitute. God could not judge the evil of Egypt and allow His people to go on with that evil. He did not deliver them from the judgment that rested upon Egypt that they might indulge themselves in the evil that He had judged. There must be separation from the world and its evil if there is to be true fellowship in the things of God, because this fellowship is holy, even as God who has called us to it is holy.

Question. Is there not a difference between the two? You have the enemy outside, but what has been mentioned is moral evil—what is inside?

The leaven is the evil of Egypt. It is that in which the flesh indulges, it was characteristic of Egypt, i.e., the world, but it ought not to be permitted in the Christian Assembly. There is the old leaven. I suppose that refers to what we were formerly in our unregenerate state, and then there is the leaven of malice and wickedness, things that characterize the world. It was working inside the assembly at Corinth and marring the fellowship there; we have to watch against it, and the thought of Christ as our passover helps us in this.

Question. Why is the eating of unleavened bread associated with the slaying of the lamb?

Leaven in Scripture is figurative of evil. Two things characterize leaven: one is, it corrupts, and the other is, it puffs up. Now both those things were most marked in the Corinthians, in which Epistle the Passover is introduced. It says they were “puffed up” (5:2). Later on it says that knowledge puffed them up, they were very proud. There was the pride of the flesh showing itself. Then it corrupts. “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (v. 6) and “Evil communications corrupt good manners” (ch. 15). That which spoke of evil had to be cast out from their houses. That sets forth the holiness of the fellowship to which we are called, and in order to maintain that holiness there must be self-judgment That comes out in the 11th chapter as well as in the 5th.

But let us have the truth clearly before our minds, we do not keep the feast of unleavened bread in order to become holy or to attain to the fellowship. “We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10). The measure of our sanctification is that Christ was slain for us. Consequent upon that we are brought into the fellowship, we have our place in “the assembly of God sanctified in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:2). Nothing can make that more definite, more absolute. We keep the feast of unleavened bread of sincerity and truth because only by so doing can we be consistent with the place in which God has set us; not to attain to the position, but because grace has given it to us.

Question. I suppose the positive side of fellowship is feeding on the roast lamb, is it not? Leaven is that which would spoil it if allowed.

Yes, there was to be the feeding on the lamb roast with fire inside the house and the eating of the unleavened bread, and that was not a fast, as some people might imagine, it was a feast, and it was not merely a feast, it was a feast of Jehovah.

Question. There was to be the eating of it with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs. What would the bitter herbs signify?

Would it not be repentance and self-judgment? Repentance continued in the Christian life simply means self-judgment. There is a very remarkable thing which we must not overlook in connection with it, and that is the judgment was upon the firstborn. The firstborn was the one in the family who was to carry on the family traditions, and in whom the hopes of the family were centred. The firstborn being under the sentence of death, all that they could boast in as to the past or hope for in the future was under judgment. It was the obliteration of the family record. Their hope now was life through the death of the lamb. It means that nothing of the past that we may have built upon, nothing that we could set our hopes upon as natural men and women for the future, can give us any footing before God, in the first instance, nor can it be any help at all to Christian fellowship; it will not help the Assembly of God. That brings us to the end of 1 Corinthians 1, “No flesh should glory in His presence”; “He that glorieth let him glory in the Lord.”

Remarked. The assembly of God is built on Him who is the Resurrection and the Life. He has passed through death.

Yes, it is a new beginning. All that men could boast in naturally has been brought to an end by death.

Remarked. It is interesting in this chapter, too, that the Lord always says, “Thou shalt kill it in the evening.” In God’s sight there was only one lamb, although it was necessary to have several lambs, one for each family.

The evening was the end of man’s day. He had been fully tested. The last test was the life of Christ. His death closed man’s day. God has now a new day. Christ is the beginning of it, and happy are we if we have seen the end of our sins and ourselves in His death and have begun God’s new day in Christ raised from the dead. There was no house too big for the lamb; that is, the Lamb of God is equal to every demand.

Question. Do you mind saying a word on the manner in which they had to eat, roast with fire and not sodden?

Roast with fire signifies the inflicted judgment of God, and the lamb roast with fire brings before us the Lord Jesus as the One who came under the Judgment of God on our behalf. More and more is this being denied. Many talk of the sacrifice of Christ, but they use the term in the sense of giving up something or denying oneself for the benefit of others. They won’t admit that the judgment of God was deserved by us, and that it was inflicted on Jesus when as our Substitute He suffered for us upon the cross. Now, naturally we would shrink from the thought of the judgment of God, and we should not find any food in that. Death is that which we shrink from, but here the lamb roast with fire, the death of Christ, in this special character under the judgment of God, becomes our food.

Question. How can that be?

Well, in the fact that He came under the judgment of God for us, all the love of God has been disclosed and also His own perfect personal love to us, and that becomes a feast to us, becomes the joy and delight of our hearts, and it is about that we can have fellowship, and our hearts together overflow with worship.

Question. In asking that, I was thinking of Christadelphians and such like, they could not have that at all, could they?

No, because they deny that the judgment of God was inflicted. They know neither His justice nor His love.

Question. Does the eating of the roast lamb in some way set forth what we have at the Lord’s Table, the bread and the cup?

Yes. The Lord’s Supper answers in Christianity to the Passover with Israel, and we are able to feed upon the death of Christ as that which has brought into evidence God’s infinite, wonderful love, and upon Christ as the One who went into death for us. They ate the lamb roast with fire with the bitter herbs and the unleavened bread, behind the blood-sprinkled doors. It is often said, the blood was only for God’s eye, and preachers often preach from the passage, “When I see the blood I will pass over you,” as though that was all that God had said, but the blood was not only for God’s eye, for God said first, “the blood shall be unto you for a token,” and then “when I see the blood I will pass over you.” It has something to say to you.

Remarked. The sprinkling of the blood was done by faith.

Yes, it was sprinkled by faith, but it spoke to the Israelites. The blood speaks in two directions. It spoke to the Israelites. And it spoke to God. When the Roman soldier pierced the side of Jesus and forthwith came out blood and water, there was a disciple standing there to bear record, and it says, “He that saw it bare record, and his record is true, that ye might believe.”

Thus the blood of Jesus speaks to us, it bears witness as the great token of God’s love. Yet God alone knows its value, for it is infinite. The Word of God speaks of it as “the precious blood.”

Question. What does the 10th verse mean? “Ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire.”

That which was consumed with fire went up to God as a sweet savour, so that really the thought is this; though you cannot fully and wholly appreciate the lamb roast with fire and assimilate it all, eat of it what you can. God appreciates it all; our limited thoughts of the preciousness of the Lamb do not limit Him. What we fail to appropriate goes up as a sweet savour to Him. There was no refuse, nothing left over.

Question. What is the thought expressed in the fact that only the circumcised were to eat?

Circumcision was the mark of the covenant God had made with Abraham, and it sets forth in type the cutting off of the flesh. God had no blessing for man in the flesh, because as the 8th of Romans tells us, “they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” Sin in the flesh, and, consequently, the flesh met its condemnation at the cross (Rom. 8:3). In Christ who was cut off in death for us we are circumcised; that is, the flesh was set aside and judged and condemned in His death, not only for God but for us, so that we have no longer any confidence in it (Phil. 3); in the teaching of baptism we get our answer to this. Christians are in the Spirit now, and God’s assembly is not formed of men and women “in the flesh,” but is formed of those who are “in the Spirit.” We are all baptized into one body by the Holy Ghost. If we forget our circumcision (Col. 2:11) we shall make a mess of fellowship as the Corinthians did.

Question. Would you say the 11th verse had any connection with the Lord’s Supper? Their loins were girded.

That would set forth that the people who ate the Passover were a people going out of Egypt, and not going to settle down in Egypt. Their redemption had Canaan in view. They were bound for another land, and so we partake of the Lord’s Supper, and show His death until He comes. We do not partake of it as those who are settling down in the world to make it better, or get as much out of it as we can, but as those who have turned our backs upon it. By it we have our absent Lord in view until His return.

Question. Do you think the 46th verse, the partaking of the one lamb in the one place, in type looks forward to the assembly, the one body?

Yes, it may. The Lord’s Supper is the one assembly feast, and the feast of the one assembly; it must not be separated from the fellowship of the assembly. Then “not a bone of it shall be broken” is applied to the Lord Jesus Christ; when the soldiers came to break the legs of the thieves, they found Him dead already. There is also His mystical body, and while outwardly the assembly seems to be broken up into innumerable fragments, yet “there is one body” remains true to this day, and will for ever. It cannot be broken, and all those who stand before God on the basis of the shed blood of the Lamb are part of it. The One Spirit dwells in all such and they form the one assembly of God.

Remarked. That would be what Paul meant when He said, “Feed the Church of God which He hath purchased with the blood of His own” (Acts 20:28, N.Tr.).

Yes, the Church of God is blood-purchased, purchased by the blood of His own Son. We can see the difference between Egypt and the congregation of Israel. Egypt was under condemnation, that is the world.

There was nothing in the Egyptians’ houses but death, and in this world there is really nothing but death and judgment, but the congregation of Israel were blood-sheltered and redeemed. God was their protector, and inside there was life. They were feeding upon the lamb roast with fire with bitter herbs and unleavened bread, and to feed upon the lamb means life.

Question. Is not the chief thought in the Supper His death, not His life?

Yes, it is the Lord in death that we remember, but we know Him as the One who is alive for evermore. He is the Head and Centre of His assembly in resurrection life.

Question. Has the 15th verse any voice for us today? Eating the unleavened bread seven days?

Seven days covers the whole week. We are to be an unleavened company not on Sunday only but all the week. That is what 1 Corinthians 5 says.

Remarked. When he said, “Purge out the old leaven that ye may be a new lump as ye are unleavened,” that would refer to their normal state before God, an unleavened company.

Yes, it means bringing your condition into correspondence with what you are before Him, and for that there had to be the purging out of the old leaven. They were to keep the feast of unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Remarked. That is the whole week.

It is a feast and not a fast. We must not be all the time saying to ourselves, now it must not do this,” and “don’t do that,” our fellowship is not one continual “don’t,” that would be a fast, but this is a feast, the feast of unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Where do we find sincerity and truth? In Christ. Well, that means that seven days of the week we are to be feeding on Christ as the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth, and as we feed upon Christ in that character, you may be sure of this, we shall not need the “don’ts” and “you mustn’ts.” And sincerity and truth will characterize us. When a man is feasting and satisfied with Christ, he is not tempted by anything the world or the flesh can offer, and he will help the volume of praise to the Lord when gathered to remember Him in death. It is when we are not feasting the seven days of the week on the bread of sincerity and truth that there is a lack of praise and worship in the assembly.

Question. Would that have anything to do with what we have in Deuteronomy 26 as to the basket filled with firstfruits?

Yes, the heart would be filled and there would be something to bring to the presence of the Lord. I think we must see in this chapter that there is set forth in type the position in which we stand as a result of the death of the Lamb. We need to have it impressed upon us that all that God has done in His grace towards us is to bring its to Himself as His assembly. It is not a question merely of individual blessing. We have that; but God had this great purpose in view. He would bring us to Himself as His assembly, and if we are brought to Himself in that way, then we are an holy assembly, sanctified in Christ Jesus, as the 1 Corinthians 1 tells us. Thence the necessity of our being in a condition corresponding to that in which God has set us, because we must feel that if we are not according to God’s own thoughts, we cannot be for His pleasure, and if we are not for His pleasure, what are we for?

Question. Would the place that the Lord chose to put His name in Old Testament times apply to the two or three gathered to His name today in a day of ruin?

Yes, I think that is the way the verse comes in in the 18th of Matthew. His name had always been there at Jerusalem; but in Matthew He was the King and rejected by Jerusalem, but He has a place on earth. Having come to earth He cannot abandon it, He must have a place on it, and that place is where two or three are gathered together unto His Name. That is the place He has appointed for His people to meet with Him. We are going through the wilderness, but we have our place in that which answers to the land in the assembly of God, but we are going through the wilderness all through the week where we contract defilement, and I think it is important to see that when they partook of the Passover in connection with the wilderness, separation from evil was a necessity.

Remarked. You refer to the 9th of Numbers. In the 6th verse there it says, “There were certain men who were defiled by the dead body of a man that they could not keep the Passover on that day,” but provision is made for them. Those that did not keep the Passover were not regarded as belonging to the congregation

Every one of the congregation and the stranger who was circumcised, all alike had to keep the passover. If they refused to do that they were cut off. Cutting off from the congregation of Israel would answer today to being outside this fellowship which is according to God. It was to be a holy convocation, that is, a coming together to this feast of the Lord. It was that which would draw them together, would draw them together in holy fellowship, for they had this in common they owed all their blessing to the lamb that had died.

Remarked. You mentioned that verse in John’s Epistle, 1st chapter, “We have fellowship.” I heard it expressed once that it was fellowship with the Father about the Son, and fellowship with the Son about the Father.

This 12th of Exodus does not carry us beyond the death of Christ, it typifies the communion of the Lord’s death (1 Cor. 10:11). But when we come to the 15th chapter, they sing the song of redemption, the thing they rejoiced most in there is that God had brought them to His holy habitation. What is there in God’s holy habitation? It is the place where He dwells, the place where the Son dwells. The thing that fills God’s holy habitation is divine life and love and we are brought to that, but the basis of it all is the precious blood, and the delivering power of God brings us there.

Remarked. So we have more to rejoice in than merely our deliverance?

Undoubtedly. That would be something to make us rejoice very greatly, deliverance from the power of Satan and the world, but then God wanted us for Himself, and that we might know Him and rejoice in Him as He is revealed to us by the Word of Life. We must be free from the world before we can enter into God’s thoughts for us. They could not sing in Egypt, they sang on the other side of the Red Sea. The things that belong to heaven are the things that belong to the assembly.

Question. Ought there to be hymn singing at the Lord’s Supper before the bread and wine are partaken of?

In looking back, Israel would partake of the Passover as a delivered people, and the assembly of God comes together to the Lord’s Supper in the triumph of the Lord. If we enter into what the assembly really is we will come together in triumph. We are associated with a risen glorified Christ, and we shall come together in the joy of His victory, and it is thus we are able to look back and call to mind where He went for us and how He went, so that it seems to me that we should come into the presence of the Lord with a song on our lips and joy in our hearts, and then remember Him in His death for us.

Remarked. At the institution of the Supper they sang at the finish. They sang a hymn and went out.

That was a wonderful thing. I don’t suppose the disciples entered into that singing. We sing on the victory side of the sea, the Lord sang on the other side. The Israelites did not sing with the sea rolling in front of them and the  Egyptians behind them and the mountains on both sides of them; they sang when they saw their enemies dead on the sea shore, so we sing as a delivered people. The blessed Lord as He went into the deep waters for us raised a song of praise to God. That was His perfection. God was ever first in His thoughts.