The Lord Jesus Christ In The Midst
Twelve Letters To Young Believers
My Dear ______,
It is very important for you to have a clear conception of the presence of the Lord in the midst of the assembly; but the condition on which His presence is promised ought never to be forgotten. He has never said that He is wherever saints are assembled; that all alike who professedly meet for worship can reckon upon His promise. His words are: "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." Thus the essential condition is that saints should be "gathered together in His name"; and unless this is fulfilled the promise clearly is not binding.
Our first aim then must be to explain what this condition means. I may say that the more correct translation would be "unto my name"; for the preposition which is rendered "in," is one that invariably has the significance of "into" or "unto." Here therefore "unto" will be its sense. Again, it may be needful to point out that that name is not used merely as an appellation, but, as is usual in Scripture, is expressive of all that Christ is in this connection. Thus when the Lord, speaking before the Father of His disciples, says, "I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it" (John 17: 26), He does not mean that He had merely revealed to them that God also bore the name of Father; but that He had been teaching them all that God was to them in that relationship. Hence He adds, that He had done and would do this, "that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them." What He desired therefore was that they should both know what God was to them as the Father, and that they should be brought into the enjoyment of all the love which He had for them as such. In like manner, "name" in the passage before us expresses all that Christ is as the glorified man and Lord in the relationship which He now sustains towards His people. I say "which He now sustains"; for it is very evident that these words look on to the time when He should be absent. Thus in Matt. 16 He says, "I will build my church" (v. 18), pointing on to a future time; and the passage in which the word "name" occurs is in connection with church action (v. 17). Indeed, while He was upon the earth the disciples could not be gathered to His name; for they were with Him as their Master and Lord.
We may then take the "name" to be expressive of the person of Christ--Himself, indeed, in all the truth of His person, as the risen and glorified One at the right hand of God. It is clear therefore that Christ is the only object that draws us together, and our centre when gathered; for the Holy Ghost will never gather believers to anything but Christ. If anything is added-whether it be a particular doctrine, or a particular form of church government it is not simply the name of Christ, and the gathering is not according to His mind. If, for example, I agreed to meet with certain other believers of like views, we could not be gathered alone to the name of Christ, for something has been added or excluded; but if I am gathered with those who acknowledge that. Christ Himself is the only attraction, with those who own His authority as Lord, who bow to His word, and regulate everything by it when assembled, then the gathering would be to His name. And only then; for where man's authority, man's traditions, or man's regulations are recognized, whatever the individual piety of those who recognize them, the meeting cannot be of this character.
Now it is in the midst of His people so gathered that the Lord has promised to be. "There am I in the midst of them." This very fact shows the extreme importance of being gathered unto His name; for, as we have said, if the condition be disregarded, we have no ground for reckoning upon His presence. Nor is it enough to say that we fulfil the condition. The essential point is, Does the Lord recognize it as fulfilled? He is the Judge; and therefore it were presumption indeed to expect Him in our midst if. assembled according to our own thoughts--without respect to His word. But "where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."
We know therefore that He is in the midst of such on the authority of His own word. Not only so; but, as if to meet us in our weakness, He has given us a sample of the manner in which He comes into the midst of His own. Thus on the evening of that first day of the week, when He arose from the dead, the Disciples were found assembled together (John 20: 19). He had sent Mary to His "brethren" with this message: "I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God" (v. 17). According to Psalm 22, He thus declared God's name unto His brethren, and in so doing revealed that He brought them through His death and resurrection into His own place before God. Henceforward His God and Father was their God and Father. They were thus associated with Him on resurrection ground in these relationships. This message gathers them together unto His name; and when thus assembled, "He came and stood in the midst, and said unto them, Peace be unto you." Thereby He has given us an example of the manner in which He comes into the midst of His people, so that we might have the certainty of His word verified to our souls.
Should any one therefore be tempted to say, Is it possible that the Lord should be in the midst of His people when gathered now unto His name? the doubt is anticipated by this striking record of His presence in the midst of His disciples on the first day of the week. It meets, indeed, a greater difficulty and a more subtle danger. One might be inclined in unbelief to object, If now we could see Him with our eyes as they did, then we could receive it. The Lord knew the weakness and the subtlety of our poor feeble hearts, and thus in tender love has provided for this snare. One of the disciples, Thomas, "was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe" (v. 25). Eight days after, all, including Thomas, were once more assembled, and, as on the former occasion, 49 came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith He to Thomas" (for He had heard every word which Thomas had uttered), "Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing." Thomas, overwhelmed by His tender grace, and the sense of his own sinfulness, could only exclaim, "My Lord and my God." Thereupon "Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and [yet] have believed" (vv. 24-29). Thus the Lord had those in view (without entering now into the application of this scene to the conversion of the Jewish remnant, when they shall by-and-by look on Him whom they have pierced) who should believe through the word of His disciples, and pronounces their greater blessedness. And this blessedness is ours; for though we see Him not, we believe that, according to His own word, He is in our midst when gathered unto His name.
It should be remembered, moreover, that it is He Himself who is in the midst-not "in spirit," as is often said, but He Himself; for the words are, "There am I," and the term "I" expresses all that He is. Christ then--not the Holy Ghost, but Christ is in the midst of His gathered saints. The Holy Ghost acts through the individual members of the body of Christ, ministering for the edification of the saints by whom He will, and dwells in the house of God; but it is Christ, I repeat, who comes into our midst. His presence is only apprehended by the Spirit; that is another thing. But He is in the midst, whether apprehended or not, where two or three are gathered unto His name. How wondrous His condescension and grace!
Never forget therefore that it is around the Lord Himself that we are gathered. If there be only two--for His words are, "Where two or three are gathered together in my name" there He is in the midst of them. As soon as two are thus met, they can rejoice in the knowledge that the Lord is there. Our faith may be weak, and our apprehension feeble, but the fact of His presence remains; for it is not dependent upon our feelings or experiences, but solely upon our being gathered unto His name. How could we forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is (Heb. 10: 25), if we remembered that the Lord is the centre of the assembly; that He is as truly in our midst as with the disciples on the first resurrection day? For why was Thomas absent on that first occasion? Because he did not believe in the resurrection of his Lord, and therefore did not expect His presence. So now, if any absent themselves (I do not speak of those whom the Lord detains by affliction, duty, or other circumstances) from the assembly, it can only be because they do not really believe in the fact of the Lord's presence in the midst. And when assembled, what reverence, what affection, what worship would be begotten in our hearts, if through the power of the Spirit of God we more fully apprehended that He who went down into death under our sins, and has thereby redeemed us to God by His blood, has come back out of death, and now, as the risen and glorified One, delights to come and to lead the praise of His people in the midst of the congregation. (Ps. 22: 22).
Believe me, dear ______,Yours affectionately in Christ,
|« Previous chapter||Next chapter »|