The Heavenly Calling
"Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain." James 5:7
The nature of the heavenly calling can be simply described as being called to leave this world in order to enter the heavenly realms. This is the hope of all the Lord’s consecrated followers: that at the close of their earthly walk they will find themselves in the presence of their beloved Lord and loving Heavenly Father.
However, the reality of this calling is that the treasure of the new mind is held in an "earthen vessel," our fleshly bodies, and our difficulty is to move from our natural mind to our spiritual mind, learning to walk in the spirit. Now the Word abounds with instructions to this end and faithful pastors and teachers of past times have diligently opened up their meaning to the faithful followers of the Lord. Here we hope to simply "stir up our pure minds" by way of remembrance to the principles that underpin the Word.
It is clear from the foregoing scriptures that the commencement of this walk is initiated entirely by the holy Spirit for the purpose of leading us to repentance and the first step of this walk. As we respond, we find ourselves ready for the next leading of the Spirit. What is not always clear is that, although this work is spiritual, we are still as yet responding by way of our natural mind.
The Apostle Paul clearly explained the nature of this problem in some detail from his own experience. "For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not…" (Romans 7:14‑18).
Nevertheless, as the Apostle assures us, having this initial quickening of the Spirit, it is now possible for us to learn how to walk, not after the natural mind, but by the power of the holy Spirit. Quickened and forgiven, we walk in grace, and with prayerful supplication for all the overruling of our daily experiences, we endeavour to "work out our own salvation". "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." (Romans 8:1) The Apostle Paul knew only too well that the fledgling Churches under his care were failing to apprehend that this quickening of the Spirit which they had all received was simply an "earnest" of what would actually be needed to bring into being a fully developed New Creation. Through the spirit we might "all come in 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" (Ephesians 4:13).
Early Church Examples
The Church at Corinth is an example of this progress. Paul’s description of their standing in Christ makes this plain. "And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat...For ye are yet carnal..." (1 Corinthians 3:1‑3). They had received all that they required for their development in Christ, very richly so: the quickening of the Spirit; instruction into baptism and in many cases the actual baptism by the apostles themselves—Paul, Apollos and Peter. It seemed natural to them to follow men and not see Christ in their daily lives. Paul had to ask. "Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?" He knew only too well that until they learned to use that first measure of the Spirit and integrate it with the "first principles of the oracles of God" at that point, they could be given the strong meat of the Word. To understand the deeper things of the Word would require a much greater measure of the holy Spirit and they were not ready for such responsibility.
This very same situation comes before us in the Epistle to the Hebrews.
"Of whom (Melchisedec) we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame" (Heb.5:11‑Heb.6:6).
It is important to remember here that the "earnest" of the Spirit is only a small part of the powers of the world to come; a foretaste with which to prepare us, and then, only "if God permits" in His own wisdom, for His child to go forward. The response of the brethren at Corinth in this same situation, as described here, is very instructive and is recorded in Paul’s second Epistle to them.
In the first Epistle we find that there were many problems indeed in this young Church stemming from the fact that they were not making the proper use of their spiritual gifts; not "exercising their spiritual senses by reason of use." However, we break into the epistle at Chapter five to detail here the most grievous example, to place the lesson in view. And next on to Chapter ten where the fundamental nature of their problem under the heading of baptism is illustrated in type in Exodus.
"It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed". (1 Corinthians 5:1‑7)
With this example Paul puts his finger firmly on the problem. To be a new Unleavened Lump we need to have a much deeper appreciation and understanding of Christ as our Passover sacrifice. Not just to be doctrinally sound on the matter but to "show forth His death" by being dead with Him in His Baptism. So then to Chapter ten.
"Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was (represented—present verb) Christ. But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come." (1 Corinthians 10:1‑11)
Even if Paul had not particularly stated that this was a type, a modest assessment of the state of the Church at Corinth reveals how perfectly their situation parallels Israel in the wilderness.
Now Paul continues, for these dear brethren had not fully entered into the reality of their spiritual gifts; they knew that they had been brought out of the darkness of idolatry to worship the true God and brought with spiritual gifts into the Kingdom of light and truth. With so much done for them it was perhaps little wonder that they thought that the work was complete. Paul had of course dealt with this earlier in his letter. "Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you," (1 Cor.4:8) and with this illustration of the nature of their misunderstanding now set before them he gives then a timely warning.
"Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." Then an even more timely illustration of the way forward, still of course, from this perfect scriptural "ensample". "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry" (1 Cor.10:12‑14).
Now in that fatherly yet masterly way in which he strove to bring his infant churches into the deeper working of the Spirit, Paul lays aside the word of ignorance and lifts their spiritual eyes.
Let us also look into the depth of the Apostle’s words here. Yes, they had all drunk of their Saviour as of a living stream. But now they must learn how to partake of His blood poured out for their new life.
As their manna He would more than suffice them till, with all the overcoming saints, they would, as they progressed in their walk, pass over Jordan and begin to partake of the "powers of the world to come" (Heb.6:5), that is the "old corn of the land". (Joshua 5:10‑12) Yes, the bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?
But that "one"ness, that "communion," of course, was sadly lacking and Paul dare not spare them. His beloved church had to see that a deeper commitment and fuller measure of the Spirit had to come.
2 Corinthians 2:1‑11
In this passage, we have recorded that this church did indeed judge itself. First, we have the deep repentance of the individual, brought back with a deeper understanding and renewed standing in Christ and his true place amongst His spiritually begotten people. Paul later comments on this.
"For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you. But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all. Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him. For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things" (2 Corinthians 2:4‑9).
And indeed. What obedience!
2 Corinthians 7
"For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season. Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter. Wherefore, though I wrote unto you, I did it not for his cause that had done the wrong, nor for his cause that suffered wrong, but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear unto you" (verses 8‑12).
Surely now, before our eyes, is set forth a church fitted for the filling of the Spirit. This twofold creative work of the Spirit is revealed to us in many ways and under many heads. The great examples come before us throughout the scriptures. The greatest and foremost must suffice here.
The Logos, the firstborn of every Creature, having created all things by the mighty power of His Creator must lay all aside, be made perfect in the things He suffered, and being made the firstborn from the dead, raised by the mighty power of the Spirit, becomes the head of a New Creation. And it does not surprise us that at the commencement of His earthly ministry the same principle meets our eye.
"And Jesus being full of the Holy Spirit returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being forty days tempted of the devil…" (Luke 4:1,2).
Luke then recounts the success of the Lord in overcoming the Devil, concluding the account in verse 14, "And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about."
Here then lies the principle behind our Heavenly Calling: first, Spirit‑quickened and led; with the specific intention of being tested, yet "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation" (1 Peter 1:5), finally, to be made "more than conquerors through him that loved us" (Romans 8:37).
Our Walk in the Lord
We can now return to our departure point in the Epistle to the Hebrews and perhaps, from here on, mark our own personal walk in the Lord.
"For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: but that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: that ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises" (Hebrews 6:7‑12).
To the extent that our hearts "have drunk" in the refreshing blessing of our "earnest of the Spirit" coming "oft upon us" and we have begun to enjoy some of the "fruit of the Spirit" that is the "herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed," let us "shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end" "for God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which we have shewed toward his name" and will surely bless us with that full sealing of the Spirit that we "through faith and patience may inherit the promise" of our Heavenly Calling.
"Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming (presence) of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the Early and Latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming (presence) of the Lord draweth nigh" (James 5:7,8).