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The Assembly as Seen in Hebrews

A. J. Pollock

The very object for which this unique epistle was written would not lead us to expect very much to be said about the assembly, though it leads up to its threshold. Certainly nothing is said of the mystery—the church which is Christ's body, Himself the living Head in glory set in relation to it, and very little is said about the assembly. It is more hinted at than anything else. But the little that is hinted at is very beautiful and instructive.

A simple perusal of the epistle reveals the fact that it was addressed to believing Jews, who had begun well, who had “endured a great fight of afflictions,” who had taken “joyfully the spoiling of their goods,” but who were in danger of going back to Judaism and of casting away their confidence. The reason [1] for this was that they had not advanced in the things of God, they had remained spiritual dwarfs. When the time had come that they should have been teachers, they had need to be taught which were the first principles of the oracles of God, and had need of milk and not of strong meat. They were babes, when they should have been men and were unskilful in the Word of righteousness.

And this condition flowed from a feeble apprehension of Christ. Naturally in such circumstances truth as to the mystery or the assembly would not be expected. But that the assembly is mentioned is just because it is in relation to Christ; and His fulness is ever beyond our feeble apprehension, and our place and privilege in Him beyond our entering in upon and enjoyment.

The epistle begins, without any formal introduction, with the word God. No name of the writer is given as in every other epistle in the New Testament. This forms an arresting exception.

Adolf Saphir, himself a converted Jew, has beautifully pointed out that the great point in Hebrews being the glory of the Person and work of Christ as entirely superseding the shadows and bringing in the glorious substance, every name that can be suppressed is suppressed. For instance, if the object of the Holy Spirit is to present Christ as the Apostle of our confession the name of the writer is suppressed, even if he were the Apostle Paul, as seems likely, though we should respect the anonymity of the writer as chosen by the Holy Spirit. When the name of Moses is introduced necessarily as the apostle of the types and shadows it is to contrast his position with the far more glorious place the Son of God has as the apostle of our confession. Moses was a servant, faithful in all his house; Christ is a Son over His house. Who would give up the Son for the servant?

Again, Aaron is brought in as the High Priest of the types and shadows. Christ, the High Priest of our confession is brought in in contrast. Aaron and his successors were not “suffered to continue by reason of death.” They passed away. Their little day was soon run. But Christ “continueth ever because He hath an unchangeable priesthood.” He is made a priest after a superior order, even that of Melchisedec, “not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life.” Who would give up a permanent Priest for one of uncertain tenure?

Then again in quoting Scripture we are not given the names of the writers from whose books, etc., quotations are taken. The formula is given in one instance, “One in a certain place testified,” but generally speaking the quotation is given direct without any indication of its source, save that it is Scripture, coming with all its plenary authority.

When it is necessary for the sake of establishing a point in chronology as in chapter 4 after using the words, “He spake in a certain place” (v. 4); “And in this place again” (v. 5); we have the sentence, “Again, He limiteth a certain day saying in David ” (v. 7). Notice the writer carefully avoids saying that David said it, but that god spoke it— God spoke it in David .

This all helps us to see that we can have no right idea of the assembly, nor can we take up with power and intelligence our assembly position till Christ has His own place in our affections and spiritual intelligence. As Matthew 16 so beautifully points out there must be the revelation made by the Father of the Person of Christ, “the Son of the living God” in order that upon the confession of Him and upon the foundation of His own Person Christ should build His indestructible assembly.

Priesthood was the common privilege of the saints of God addressed in this epistle, yet such was their carnality and backwardness, that the unfolding of the truth was so ordered as to bring them to this point:—

Having therefore brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say His flesh; and having an High Priest over the house of God; let us draw near ” (Heb. 10:19-21).

They had not entered in as yet, but it was all the time their place and portion. To enter in in the Spirit's power would have been to have entered intelligently and practically into the assembly. The High Priest presupposes under priests—the very name, High Priest, presupposes a divine system.

The assembly was indeed a necessity for the Christian, for outside of it was only a Judaism which had rejected, and still rejected Christ, and heathendom the table of demons. Thus they were exhorted not to forsake the place where alone Christian blessings could be found.

The whole book furnishes the idea of a divine system of which Christ, as High Priest, is Head and Director. If we speak of Christianity as that divine system we have in mind that which the truth forms, and not the corrupt system which Satan has succeeded in introducing by the bringing in of bad materials in relation to persons, and doctrines in relation to teaching, and which is described by the coined word—Christendom.

The idea of the Tabernacle that God should dwell among His people is carried on, as it is designed to be, into the antitype. So, after the glories of the Person and work of Christ are described in chapters 1 and 2 we read that,

Both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren ” (chap. 2:11).

The sanctifier and sanctified are all of one. Just as Aaron and his sons were all of one, of one stock, of one sanctuary occupation, of identical interests, so, as antitype answers to type (as far as a meagre type can answer to a glorious antitype) Christ and His people are all of one. This is a new creation, a resurrection scene as far as we are concerned. What a message given by the Lord to devoted Mary on the very day of His resurrection,

Go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father, and your Father: and to My God, and your God” (John 20:17).

What a sudden and glorious outshining of what was hidden in the heart of God for His own, and now made possible by the death of the Lord Jesus on the one hand, and the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit on the other!

So we follow from Hebrews 2:11 just quoted:

Saying, I will declare Thy name unto My brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto Thee” (v. 12).

There we get the person, the Lord Jesus: the new circle, “my brethren,” the church the occupation, praise, and the object of it, God Himself.

Thus without the truth of the assembly being elaborated, we get it in this remarkable way. So great is Christ's thought towards His own, that immediately the glories of His person and work are set forth we get the wondrous truth of Christ in the midst of His assembly, singing praises to God, the Leader of the sanctuary service; then that being so the writer follows on with his theme, the superiority of the antitype over the type, of the substance over the shadow, of the source over the channel, of Christ over Moses and Aaron, leading up to the exhortation of the believer to draw near, even into the holiest of all.

How blessed to see all this! How affecting! How delivering from the system of men and from his earthly and worldly religious organizations.

“Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach” (Heb. 13:13).

A.J. Pollock

Extracted from “Christ and the Assembly”