The Christian's Hope: Growing Up Into Christ Jesus - From The Feast of Tabernacles
1 Jn. 3:9. "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God."
There is no argument against the direct, plain, indisputable truths here presented. The righteousness which God has in store for us is not merely a partial appropriation of God's righteousness, or a certain degree of attainment whereby we measure ourselves with others, and we conclude we are victorious because we have ceased from our bad habits, conquered over anger, and no longer harbor ill-feelings against another. As likely as not, such claims of holiness are a sure sign of pride rather than of meekness and contrition of spirit. This life of which we speak is a life far beyond anything the Church has yet seen in her most glorious saints. It is God's very own: "even as he is pure," "even as he is righteous," "he cannot sin, because he is born of God."
THE BIRTH OF THE SPIRIT
"He cannot sin..." This is the plain Word of God. However, as God's children we all can testify that we are born of God, and that we do sin. And therefore we present some very plausible arguments to prove that God does not mean exactly what He said. Let us forever cease trying to justify ourselves. "Let God be true and every man a liar." The only scriptural explanation of this verse is that we are not "born again" in the fullness of this regenerating experience. Our new birth, by the Spirit, genuine as it is, has not developed into maturity. We have been reproduced after God's likeness like the seed which is produced by the flower, or the egg that is produced by the bird. That seed or that egg is a genuine birth, containing all the potentialities of a new flower exactly like the flower that produced it, or a new bird exactly like its parent. But the full glory and the potentialities of that new life lie dormant within the seed or the egg--and are by no means manifest, or even apparent to our observation. Once can see no similarity whatsoever between the tiny seed with its black crusty covering, and the beautiful red poppy which waves its petals in the breeze; no similarity between the little blue egg in the nest, and the bird that flies aloft into the atmosphere on wings of liberty. In fact, if we did not understand the mysterious processes of nature, we would consider one a fool to suggest that the seed and the poppy are one and the same thing; or that the egg and the bird are one and the same thing. And yet they are--in kind, in nature, in possibility.
So it is with the birth of the Spirit. Thank God for the seed, the incorruptible seed, in virtue of which we have become "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Pet. 1:4), or "born again" (1 Pet. 1:23). But that seed in the hearts of God's people has scarcely developed beyond the germ state; it has not grown and developed to the place where we can testify, "his seed abideth" in us; and therefore we can and do sin.
A NEW MAN IS TO BE BORN
Let the saints of God who have eyes to see and ears to hear, rejoice in the plan and purpose of God which even now is unfolding before our very eyes. God is hastening the day and hour of Christian perfection. We do not have it, nor have we seen it in any person anywhere at any time. For we are not speaking merely of a life made free from this particular sin or that particular sin, from a bad temper, or a bitter spirit, or sinful habits. We are speaking, rather, of a life which is the very life of Jesus Christ reproduced in the fragile earthen vessels of this human clay. Our prayer, therefore, should be as Jesus commanded, "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, even as it is in Heaven." It is, first and foremost, the birth of the Kingdom of God in our own little earth, in the clay of our flesh; for the "Kingdom of God is within you..." It is the perfecting unto maturity of the Christ who came into our hearts as the Seed when we received Him as our Saviour. It is the springing forth of the water of life into glorious liberty and spontaneity--even the water that we drank when Christ came into our lives. Jesus promised it would become a "Fountain of water leaping up into everlasting life" (Jn. 4:14, Literal). It is "Christ in you, the hope of glory," rising up unto maturity, and being "formed within you" (Gal. 4:19).
HOW SHALL IT COME TO PASS?
This life shall not come by fleshly striving. Nor shall it come merely by prayer and repentance and seeking God's face. This, of course, is most essential, and God will hear that prayer of sincerity and reveal the channel and means by which perfection shall be attained. But prayer and repentance in themselves are not the means by which the saints are to be perfected. Neither is the rapture of the Church the plan of God for the perfecting of the saints, and their deliverance from sin and carnality. God has another plan--a far more glorious plan, and yet a very simple plan; and here it is:
"And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in (unto) the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:11-13). The Church may proclaim an imminent rapture as much as they will, and teach that any moment the saints will be snatched away from earth to escape the gathering clouds of Tribulation. But this is not the teaching of God's Word. True, we must always be waiting and watching for His Appearing--but this is not the "Appearing" of modern evangelical theology. This glorious Appearing must first of all be manifest in the saints.
How thankful we are, therefore, that God is revealing the pattern of perfection. The Ascension gifts, the ministries in the Body of Christ--these are the means of perfecting the saints,--and as we have read, they are to remain in the Church till we all come unto unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man! Notice too, that these ministries were given "when he ascended up on high," and not when He was here on earth. He gave twelve apostles when He was here on earth; but here we find that He gives apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers after His ascension.
The perfection of the saints unto maturity, then, us just as mysterious as the growth and development of the members of the human body from birth unto manhood--and just as real. Spiritual gifts in the saints, exercised by the recipient in the power of the Holy Ghost, develop into ministries of the Spirit. And these ministries are vital, living spiritual faculties in the Body of Christ. The Body of Christ, therefore, shall nurture and edify itself. Just as the human body has within itself the God-given and God-created ability to grow, to develop, to heal its own wounds, and to reproduce itself; so the Body of Christ, by means of these spiritual faculties, has the God-given and God-created power to grow into holiness, to develop into sonship, to heal its own sin-wounds, and to reproduce its kind. Says Paul, "But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body, unto the edifying of itself in love" (Eph. 4:15, 16). "Unto the edifying of itself in love!" That is God's pattern.