The Provision of Christ for His People During His Absence
(Notes of an address given in Edinburgh in April, 1921)
“If ye love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth Me no more, but ye see Me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you. He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him. Judas saith unto Him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that Thou wilt manifest Thyself unto us, and not unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him. He that loveth Me not keepeth not My sayings: and the word which ye hear is not Mine, but the Father’s which sent Me. These things have I spoken unto you, being present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved Me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father, for My Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe” (John 14:15-29).
It has often been remarked, and that with the utmost truth, that there are two great facts that give character to this present dispensation. They are, first, that Christ—the Man Christ Jesus—sits on the throne of God in heaven. I need not say that He could not sit on that throne at all were He not God, but He is there as the Man Christ Jesus. Second, the Holy Spirit of God, very God, is on the earth—Man in heaven, and God upon earth—and we find that these two great facts have their very special bearing upon the gathering out of this world a people for the name of Christ; and apart from these two great facts, this special work of God in this present day could not be accomplished.
In this passage of Scripture that I have read to you, the Lord Jesus Christ was instructing His disciples in the fact that He was going away, and telling them of the provision that He was to make for them during His absence—of His going to His Father in heaven, and of the coming of the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, from the Father to earth.
We can understand in a measure what it must have meant to those disciples to hear that their Lord and Master was to leave them. He had been everything to them; He had taken possession of their hearts; He had filled them with a sense of His love; He had brought them to His feet in adoration; He was all the world to them, and now He tells them, “I am going away,” and their hearts were filled with sadness—we can understand that—but He gives to them this most blessed promise, “I will come again.” He tells them that in His Father’s house, His own blessed abode, He would find room for them, so that where He was, they should also be; His eternal companions. It must have given them comfort in the midst of their sorrow; it gives us comfort today, does it not? The great and blessed truth of the coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ to rapture His blood-bought saints to the glory is surely a most comforting hope, truly called in Scripture “that blessed hope.” To be for ever with Him, loved with the same love wherewith He is loved there in the Father’s house, His abode and our abode for ever and ever—this is our prospect! And His coming must be very near; we are surely not far off from that longed-for event—
“Our hearts beat high, the dawn is nigh
That ends our pilgrim story
In His eternal glory.”
But in the meantime, what provision has He made for us? He begins to tell us in these wonderful chapters. He says, “If ye love Me keep My commandments, and I will pray the Father, and He will send you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever.” That was the provision.
THE CHARACTER OF THOSE TO WHOM THE COMFORTER WAS SENT
I want you to notice what was the character of this company of disciples to whom the Father would send the Comforter. They loved Him, and were to prove their love to Him by keeping His commandments. They stand out in this special characteristic in contrast to the Israelities at Mount Sinai. Moses went away from the Israelites into the mountain, and they were left behind to keep God’s commandments, and to prove that they loved Him by so doing, and they declared their willingness to be obedient. But when Moses was lost to sight in that mountain, they at once forgot their vow, and they set about to break the very first commandment that God had given to them, and proved thereby that they did not love Him at all. And naturally these disciples were no different to those Israelites, nor are we; for the whole natural bent of the unregenerated heart is to hate God and His will, and do its own pleasure. Then if these disciples were such as loved the Lord, and proved their love by keeping His commandments as they did, a great work must have taken place in their souls. Yes, a great work had taken place in their souls. They were distinguished right from the beginning of this Gospel from the world. In the first chapter we read of the Lord’s coming into the world: He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world didn’t know Him. The foxes had their holes, and the birds of the air had their nests whither they could repair when the night storms uplifted their voices; but He, the Maker of the world, had no place to lay His head. He came to His own, whom He loved with a great love, but His own received Him not. But there in the midst of them were a few who received Him, and to them was given the title to become the children of God. But then we learn this fact about them, they were not born of nature, nor of the will of man; but of God. Later in the Gospel when the false disciples turned their backs upon Him, these men who were born of God would not leave Ham; they said, “To whom shall we go, Thou hast the words of eternal life.” They found Him to be the source of their life; the words that He spoke were spirit and life to them, and they had no true life apart from Him.
In the 10th chapter of the same Gospel we find that they were His sheep who heard His voice—His voice was sweet to them; it had found a place in their hearts, and they followed Him. He had been graciously at work amongst them, so that He could say to them, “Now are ye clean through the words that I have spoken unto you.” There had been a moral cleansing within them, and they had been separated from the world to which they once belonged, but to which they belonged no more, and they had been attached to Him to whom they belonged now for ever.
Their Lord says to them, “If ye love Me, keep My commandments,” and they obeyed His voice. He had given them two commands, “Love one another” and “Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” Fallen nature cannot wait, it is impatient, for it distrusts God. The Israelites could not wait for the coming down of Moses from the mount; King Saul couldn’t wait for the coming of Samuel. These disciples were tested at this very point; the Lord said “Wait,” and they gathered together in Jerusalem in subjection to Him, bound together in the bonds of Divine love, and waited according to His word. “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren” (Acts 1:14). They proved their love to Him by their patience, love, unity and dependent expectancy. And He, in His place in the glory, could point them out to the Father as a band of men and women who loved Him, and proved their love to Him by keeping His commandments, the fruit of His own work; and He prayed the Father to send them the Comforter. The Spirit of God came down, sent by the Father, in answer to the prayer of the Lord on the day of Pentecost, to indwell and empower those men and women who loved the Lord and kept His commandments, and to be with them for ever.
THE COMFORTER SENT BECAUSE OF THE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST
Now I want to carefully guard what I am saying at this point. The Holy Spirit could not have been sent by the Father to indwell the disciples of the Lord apart from the absolutely perfect and all-availing sacrifice of Christ We have that plainly and clearly taught to us in that beautiful type, the cleansing of the leper—the blood, type of the blood of Christ, was first of all to be put upon the ear and the thumb and the toe of the leper who was cleansed, and then upon the blood the oil was to be put, the oil speaking of the Spirit of God. This is emphasized in that it was in response to the prayer of the great Redeemer that the Father sent the Comforter; and if we receive the Spirit of God, and everyone who has believed the Gospel has received the Spirit of God, it is because we are redeemed by the Lord; we have been purchased by a great price, that price is the precious blood of Jesus, and the Spirit of God has come and taken possession of that which God has purchased. But there is our side also, a work in us corresponding to the work that has been done for us, so that what is characteristic of the redeemed of the Lord is this—they love the Lord, and they keep His commandments. Indeed you cannot separate faith in the Lord from obedience to Him, as many a Scripture proves—to believe is to obey.
These disciples were pattern men, and the Spirit of God was sent to them from the Father, in response to the prayer of their Saviour. Think of the wonderful tender consideration, the love that is in this. The Lord Jesus in the glory looked down upon His beloved disciples upon earth, and speaks to His Father specially about them. He would not leave them to their own resources; they must have another Comforter, a Comforter as great and wise and able and tender and true as Himself. Those men and women were representative of all throughout this dispensation who believe, and the Lord’s feelings for them were not any different to His feelings for us, and what He prayed for them abides for us. The Spirit of God sent by the Father on the day of Pentecost is here still, and what the Spirit of God brought those disciples into He has brought us into; our portion is exactly the same portion as their’s was. The Holy Spirit was given to them to be in and with them; He was their Comforter, their Advocate, their Intercessor on earth, as Christ was their Advocate and Intercessor in. heaven. He is also the Spirit of Truth, to bear witness to them of the truth, to bear witness to them of Christ and His glory.
The popular doctrine is that the Spirit of God dwells in every man—plainly that is not the truth, for the Lord definitely tells us that the world cannot receive Him. It is the believer that receives Him, and those that have salvation have no need to pray for the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God has been given to such, for Jesus prayed that it should be so. There are Christians who do not know this; there are Christians who have forgotten the fact, as the apostle had to say to the Corinthians, “What, know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, which is God’s.”
Then the Lord Jesus adds, “I will come to you.” He comes by the Spirit, the Spirit makes His presence a reality, fulfilling His own precious words spoken in the 18th chapter of Matthew, “Where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst.” But He goes further than this, and tells them that any man who has His commandments and keeps them, will be loved by His Father, and that the Lord Himself would show His love to such an one by manifesting Himself to him. The company of other Christians is not necessary for this. John in Patmos, and you in your chamber may have these manifestations., The one condition is obedience to His commands; it is the owning of His Lordship, which every Christian professes to do, but it must be more than profession, not those who say, “Lord, Lord,” but those who have His commands and do them, such have these manifestations; to them the Lord will reveal Himself as all-sufficient for their every need, as their true Lover, their adorable Lord.
THE PATTERN OF THE LORD’S MANIFESTATIONS
We have patterns of the way in which He would manifest Himself to us in John’s writings. He showed Himself to the woman of Sychar as the One who had come into the world to save. He showed Himself to Mary of Bethany as the One who was going into death. He showed Himself to Mary Magdalene as the One who had overthrown the power of the grave, having accomplished all the will of God, and was now going back to the Father. There are other manifestations, which shine with the brightness of His love, but consider these three great steps from the glory into death and from death to the glory again, and may He manifest Himself to our souls in them.
The woman of Sychar was a friendless, degraded outcast, but the Lord knew all about her, and He was going to bless her by manifesting Himself to her; but He was in Judea and she was in Samaria, and He was not a rich man—no camel or ass bore Him over those sun-parched miles; He had to take the journey—every step of it—on foot; and at last, hungry, thirsty and tired, He sank for rest upon the well stone. The One that upholds all things by the word of His power waited there for a poor world-sick sinner that He might speak to her words from the Father, words in season to a weary heart. He manifested Himself to her as greater than all her degradation and sin, so that she forgot the great necessity of life, she left her waterpot and the water that filled it; and went her way to the men of the city and said, “Come,” “Come and see,” “Come and see a Man which told me all things that ever I did, is not this the Christ?” In manifesting Himself, He had manifested herself to herself, but the grace in which He manifested Himself had made her without fear in His presence, and she could go and bear witness of Him.
The testimony of this woman was, He has come whose grace is greater than all my sin. What a manifestation of Himself is this! Have we taken it in? Do we realize that He came from Godhead’s fullest glory in such lowly grace as we see Him here, to lift burdens from hearts that are sorely oppressed, and to satisfy with living waters such as this Sychar sinner, and you and me?
Mary of Bethany loved her Lord and kept His word, but the storms had beaten vehemently against her soul, and dumb and broken she brings her sorrow to His feet. To whom could she go but to Him. Then He laid bare His heart to her, for, lo, He weeps. Looking up into His face through her tears she sees His sacred cheeks washed with tears also; and Mary’s heart found solace in that blessed sympathy, which is ever greater than the greatest sorrow that a human heart can know. It seemed as though He said to her, “I know your sorrow; these Jews who are come to weep with you are but spectators of it; even Martha cannot enter into the inner chamber of your unspeakable grief; but I can; I know it, Mary, the pangs that rend your heart I feel. And I am going into death, I will meet it in all its horror and strength; it shall expend its utmost power on Me, and I will take the sting out of it, and dispel the gloom from the grave, and make Mine own henceforward triumphant over it.” No wonder that Mary brought her alabaster box of ointment, and poured its precious contents on His feet! No wonder that she poured out her heart’s full adoration before Him. He had manifested Himself in a wonderful way, His love had taken on a new aspect to her, HE WAS GOING TO DIE, and she anointed Him to His burial. Do we understand this? This revelation of Himself to Mary shone forth in all its glory at the cross, and if we love the Lord and keep His commands the Holy Spirit will not be slow to make the deep meaning of it a living, bright reality to our souls.
“If sinners ever were to know
The depth of love divine,
All Calvary’s suffering and its woe
Blest Saviour must be Thine!”
Mary Magdalene got a wonderful manifestation of Him. She had lost Him, even His dead body was gone, and all was gone for her, and no light pierced the gloom as she wept and sorrowed, until He called her by name; then her sorrow turned to joy, and she learned that He was to ascend to His Father, to receive from Him His full approbation for all He had done on earth, and she and His disciples, and we who love Him here tonight have all our place in that same relationship in which He lives, and shall have our place in the glory where He has gone with Him. These are the manifestations that He makes of Himself, and at every crisis in our lives, if we love Him and are obedient to Him, He will reveal Himself to us in such ways. He will lift our poor hearts this weary world above, and give us rest in Himself. It will not be a question of recalling something we have read or heard, or experienced in the past, but He will make Himself to us “A living bright reality.”
THE ABIDING PRESENCE OF THE FATHER AND OF THE LORD
The Lord speaks in this chapter again of those who love Him and keep His word. The “word,” as it should be, I take to be the whole revelation that He has made. It isn’t His commandments now, it is not simply subjection to His Lordship, but it is the revelation that He came into the world to make. His word, which He says “is not My word but the Father’s word”; it is the revelation of the Father and of the Son; and, said the Lord, “He that keeps My word, My Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our abode with him.” When the Lord Jesus spoke those wonderful words revealing the Father’s Name, they were not mere words such as we might speak; and the truth of the Father and the Son are not mere doctrines to be learned mentally, and to be talked about, as we might talk about some science, these words revealed living Persons, and when you have got the words, you have got the Persons, and the Persons are the Father and the Son. Isn’t this what the apostle says in the first chapter of the first epistle of John, when he said, “Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son, Jesus Christ”? If you have the revelation you have the Persons revealed.
Behold, my friends, the wonderful thing that is held out to us—If we love the Lord; if we keep His word—and if we love Him shall we not keep His word? If we love Him shall we not want to know why it was He came into the world, and what it was He did when He was here? If we learn that He came to reveal the Father, shall we not want to know who the Father is, and what He is? Shall we not read the Gospels that we may see Him and know Him? And as we see Him in the perfect grace of the life of Jesus that was lived in absolute subjection to the will of God, for the blessing of men, and are attracted to the Father revealed to us thus in perfect grace, shall we not treasure in our hearts this revelation of the Father and the Son? Will not the words that Jesus spoke, His Father’s words, be spirit and life to us as we muse on them and are taught their meaning by the Holy Ghost? If so, then the Father and the Son will come and make their abode with us. This is the same word as that translated ‘mansions’ in the second verse of the chapter, as Christ has gone to prepare an abode for you in the Father’s house, so do you prepare an abode in your house for the Father and the Son, as you love the Lord and treasure His word. In your garret up the stairs, with perhaps but a few sticks for your furnishings, with not many comforts in this world—but there your Father and your Saviour will abide with you.
Then He says, “My peace I leave with you”—peace made by the blood of His Cross; peace won on the battlefield of Golgotha; peace, the result of His own glorious victory; “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you,” MY PEACE, the peace of Christ, the peace that kept Him in the midst of the contradiction of sinners, and all the malice of Satan; the peace that enabled Him to sleep in the storm—the peace that was the result of His Father’s presence with Him—He says, “MY PEACE I GIVE UNTO YOU” you have to be here in My name, and I give you My peace, MY PEACE; “Not as the world gives, give I unto you.” The world is oftentimes very benevolent, very generous; the rich man stands at the door of his mansion and gives freely to the poor who gather about him; but that is not the way the Lord gives—He throws open His doors, and says, “Come in and share all that I have got; there is nothing I have got I will not share with you; I want you inside My home; I want you to share with Me everything that the Father has given Me.”
“He gives not as the world, but shares
All He possesses with His loved co-heirs.”
Oh! wonderful Giver, and that He might be this wonderful Giver, He had to give His life first of all. Yes,
“All Calvary’s sufferings, all its woe,
Blessed Saviour must be Thine”
if we were to share with Thee this great and wondrous portion!
Then He speaks of His going to the Father, and He says, Your hearts ought to be glad because of this. And our hearts are glad, are they not? We rejoice at His exaltation, His glory; to know the Father has put Him there in the highest place in that glory; that the Father has manifested His full approval of His beloved Son has made our hearts glad. We rejoice in His glory there and in the provision that He has made for us here while we wait to join Him there, to share His home and see His glory for ever.