For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each individual among you also love his own wife even as himself; and let the wife see to it that she respect her husband (Eph. 5:31-33).
The mysteries of God are dear to Him, and are concealed until it pleases Him to reveal them. He does not allow them to be understood on the basis of intellectual ability or to satisfy human curiosity. We cannot deduce them by the operation of our minds. They have got to be revealed, and God looks and waits for an attitude of heart and spirit in which there is a reverence and appreciation for mystery. When the revelation comes, we are brought into a high responsibility in God. The promulgation of mystery is not merely for our edification and knowledge. God desires His mysteries to be fulfilled. That is why they are given. God is jealous over His mysteries, and He will not allow them to be mishandled, trifled with, or rudely examined by those who do not have a right disposition for them.
With that in mind, the mystery of two disparate beings becoming one new entity is a sublime mystery. It is a mystery of which we, as believers, seem to be largely ignorant, but it is one that God would have fulfilled in His Body. God has established and intended that the union of man and woman should reflect the union that He enjoys with His Church, which is an eternal and unchangeable union, and our marriages should be a reflection of that.
If our Christianity is lackluster and mediocre, it is likely more of a reflection of our marriages than we know. The corollary is not an accident because the mystery of the Church is the mystery of marriage and the mystery of marriage is the mystery of the Church. It is the same mystery. It is a mystical union between man and woman and between the Body and its Head. If we are content with a marriage that is somehow free from problems, and we are enjoying a kind of easy accommodation of one another, a natural compatibility by which we do not experience much strain, we may well have missed the deeper issue, that has to do with ultimate purposes in God! There is a strange paradox here. God desires and calls us to be at peace with one another as far as it is possible. But let us not become satisfied with a marriage that has success and happiness as its chief goal. To what degree are our marriages reflecting and showing forth the mystery and glory of God? A marriage that has for its purpose the glory of God, and that seeks to come into that quality of relationship and union, can never be based on the whims of temperament and compatibility. It has got to be a work of God’s grace for those who seek it, desire it, and who understand that God has called us to such a mystery as this.
The world needs to see something in our marriages that reflects the unity of the Godhead. They are not impressed by our shadowy and unresolved issues and discord. There is a glory that has got to be revealed, but it will not come at the expense of truth.
There is a bride being prepared for the Bridegroom bearing the glory of God. She is not prepared in heaven, but in earth, right here where we are, in the ordinary places that we occupy, in the daily grind that makes up our life. These are the raw materials and ingredients, if they are properly understood, received and responded to, by which God is preparing a bride for the Bridegroom. She will be a bride suitable for the Bridegroom in the same way that Eve was intended to be a suitable helpmeet for Adam.
CHAPTER 1 – IN THE BEGINNING
In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Adam in the day when they were created (Genesis 5:1b-2).
In God’s original intention, He had one name, Adam, for both the husband and the wife. He has never veered from that intention, namely, that the two should become one flesh. The name of the man was to suffice for the woman as well. It is one identity, one union, and one coming together in such a profound kind of connection that there was to be no such thing as a dual existence.
In many societies, couples do not even bother to get married. The woman retains her own name and shares housekeeping facilities with another man. This has the affect of subverting and undoing God’s profound intention in creating us male and female. The unisex movement, with its feminizing of men and masculinizing of women, is a blurring of the distinctiveness between man and woman. The loud, contentious, striving wife who is found, not accidentally, with the emasculated, feeble echo of a husband, is a perfect picture of the success that Satan is obtaining in this generation. Why is Satan so intent on destroying male and female, and in blurring the distinctions between them? We know he is vengeful and opposed to everything that is made in God’s image, but he also recognizes better than us that the ultimate issue for which God created all things is the preparing of a phenomenon by which the Church will have its eternal identification as the bride of Christ. And until a bride is prepared and adorned for the Bridegroom, having come down from God, there is no consummation of the age, but rather a delay. How shall the Body of Christ become a bride in its final and eternal configuration if the whole meaning of what a bride is, and what a woman truly is, is lost to us in our own generation? We need to contend for this or it will be lost.
God could have made Eve out of the dust of the earth as He had made Adam, but He made Eve out of the side of Adam. He took her out of man and that is what the word “woman” means. He took the woman out of the man while Adam was sleeping. It says that “there was not found a helper suitable for him” (Gen. 2:20b). Of all the things that God created, He could not find in the animal kingdom a helpmeet appropriate and suitable for the man. How many women would experience indignation at that very simple, preliminary statement, namely, that the whole purpose of God in creating woman was to make something suitable for the man? That does not mean, in any way, that the woman is somehow demeaned, or limited, or that she does not have an identity unto herself or for herself, but that the whole purpose of her being is for the man. For most women, that will likely sound too narrow and restrictive to have such a confining definition. However, it was God’s intention from the first, and remains His intention still.
The ultimate intention of God, two becoming one flesh, is a glorious thing beyond anything that we have characteristically seen in most of our church life. The reason this is so difficult to conceive of is that we are separate entities; we are seeing each other as opposite and separate; we are male and female; we are different in so many respects, so how can the two be one flesh? It is certainly not going to be automatic, convenient or easy. In fact, it is altogether impossible with man, but possible with God. He has structured and established something and called us to something that cannot be attained independent of His grace and His life.
So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh at that place. And the LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. And the man said,
“This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:21-24).
That is not a metaphor or a fanciful play on words, but the very mystery of the Godhead Himself in three persons who are yet One. It is the same cry of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, “that they may be one, just as We are one” (John 17:22b). It is the most profound kind of union by which the persons are distinct, and yet, are submitted and yielded one to another, for the glory of the other.
Jesus said that both the words that He spoke and the things that He did were not His but the Father’s. He was so yielded to the Father as the Spirit was yielded to Him, that the Three might be one. This is not the kind of unity that is promulgated today in the ecumenical movements of denominations meeting together, which is just as much a lie and every bit as much a false accommodation as are the conditions of most of our marriages. When God is talking about two becoming one flesh, He is not talking about a shallow compatibility and accommodation by which we “get by”; He means exactly the same phenomenon of the Godhead actually being expressed through the Church in order that the world might know that the Father has sent the Son. He rests everything on the revelation that shall come to the world when we shall be one as He is one. If we are not one in our marriages, then what shall we be in the Body? It is the same mystery.
And He (Jesus) answered and said, “Have you not read, that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh’? Consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matt. 19:4-6).
I want to say that man is vigorously putting asunder what God has joined. One of the first ways we do it is by disputing whether God Himself has joined us. We see our marriage as some circumstantial accident, or a convenience; we see it as youthful error, or that we are suddenly incompatible and have every reason to break it off and try again. Divorce and remarriage are increasingly such a commonplace, even in the Church, that it is becoming a normative and accepted thing. Many have not divorced in fact, but have divorced in a hidden way. We are married, but we are not married. We are sharing mutual quarters, but we are not relating or related. We are ships passing in the night and phantom figures that have a glib little word for each other, but no more. We are already divorced because our minds, hearts and spirits are elsewhere, and we are looking for other sources of gratification and fulfillment that should be found in the husband, and the husband should find in the wife, but we turn our backs on the very thing that God Himself has provided for His glory, which would also be for our true fulfillment and joy.
CHAPTER 2 – UNION WITH GOD
What, then, is existential union with God? How is it demonstrated in a marriage union? What would you rather be: someone who receives help from the Lord so that you can do for the Lord; or someone who has come to such a place of union with the Lord that He can do His will through you to the point that you cannot tell where you end and God begins? It is a place where your speaking is His speaking, your thought is His thought, your will is His will. You have no independent existence outside of Him.
Which would you rather have: an independent Christian existence speaking your thoughts and your desires, which may seem nice, and Bible-based, or a dependent Christian life where the Lord Himself is the source of your life and your speaking? This is a radical crossover, from one reality to another, and how many of us would prefer not to cross over? Yes, we would like the help that God would give us, so that we could do for God, but we do not want to cross over to that side where we live by the Spirit of God.
How many wives would be willing to cross over to the side where she and her husband have become one flesh to the degree that she no longer desires her own independent life and ministry, to where she is equally gratified to hear her husband speak, as if she herself spoke, because she has died to self to that extent? Where is the wife who can come to such a place of submission, of willingness to defer to her husband, as the Lord calls the Church to defer to Him, because the two are one new man? Where the husband’s glory is her glory, and she forfeits her own desire for independent spiritual life and ministry, which many Christian wives today are pursuing? We see husbands and wives with independent, parallel ministries, which give them individual fulfillment, but misses the glory of God. Can she be just as gratified to see God express through her husband things that God has given her in revelation and insight? Is her delight in the scriptures of the kind that it is all the same to her whether that word comes out of her mouth or her husband’s?
In fact, would she be even more delighted to see her otherwise passive and maybe even spiritually indifferent husband come forth and blossom, than to see him stay in the back seat that he has taken? Would she decrease that her husband might increase? That might well be the reason why we see so many pseudo-spiritual women whose husbands are diminished, and who languish before television sets watching football games, wholly indifferent to the faith. The wives have taken over, so to speak, and the men do not feel that there is a place for them. Something has been misappropriated when the wife has taken a certain exaltation and delight in the performance of a ministry that would have more rightly honored the Lord were it expressed through her husband, the head of her body.
The most profound ministry of women to the Church is the demonstration of the essence of femininity in truth, because that is the eternal designation of the whole Church as the Bride of Christ. We are the militant company of Christ now on earth, but our eternal designation is as a bride. Therefore, we need to see that bridal quality depicted before us by women who are believers. It is interesting that women who are aggressive in their own ministries become invariably hard and masculine. There is a note and a ring in their voices that is brassy and metallic. The greater ministry would be to demonstrate to the entire Body what a wife is as a submitted bride in the spirit of humility, a bride adorned for the Bridegroom. The whole Church needs to see the model of it, and to emulate it.
That does not mean that the wife will be a blank, a robot and a puppet, with no distinction or originality in herself. And, that is not to say wives cannot contribute in meetings with insight, prophecies, and other expressions inspired by the Spirit of God. Paul wanted that women should not exercise authority in the churches, because we, as believers, do not exercise authority over the Lord.
Two become one when they have come to one mind, one heart, one understanding and one speaking. When Paul says for us to speak the same thing, it is not an invitation to become automatons that come in lifeless submission to speak the same thing. We are to be a people who are richly individualistic and formidable in ourselves, and alive to the possibility of having our own opinions and views. But, by the maturing processes of God through suffering and trial, we come into such agreement with God that when He requires it, we can speak a creative and life-giving word. Do we desire this quality of integration, unity of life, and agreement? “Great grace was upon them all” means the end of our secret reservations, subtle rebellions, self-will, and egotism.
The Role of Women in the Church
Let the women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but let them subject themselves, just as the Law also says. And if they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church. If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment. But if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized (1 Corinthians. 14:34-38).
How is it that these words of Paul have somehow been disavowed? Modern theologians have determined that in the above case, Paul was speaking only culturally, and voicing a kind of Jewish prejudice against women, and not speaking by the Spirit, universally, throughout all generations. That kind of thinking leaves us with the unenviable task of scrutinizing, not just this statement, but every scripture in order to distinguish whether God intends it for the Church in all generations, or only to that particular generation and culture.
I believe Paul was speaking for all generations, and the Word of God is eternal and unchanging in speaking to the condition of mankind everywhere and at all times. In that very context, Paul says that Eve was deceived first, staking his arguments on the grounds that a woman is more susceptible to deception; that God never intended, by the very structure of what a woman is, that she should be employed in things which would be expressed through authority.
When Paul states that a woman who prays and prophesies should have her head covered, he is indicating that there is a role for women in prayer and prophecy, but these are very different from teaching, which is an expression of another kind of authority. There are discerning women, and those who bring a word of prophecy, and I appreciate them very greatly, but it must be a man that God uses in an oracular way, and that the revelations of God, the purposes of God and the statements of God for the Church in the hour must be brought forth by a man in the authority that God gives men in that calling.
There is a precious place for women to be supportive to the Body, so we need to be careful in that regard. There are clear functions for women, and to shut them out, as if Paul’s statement above is the full statement in regard to their function in our fellowships, robs the Body, and we lose a vital source of input. We need to distinguish between teaching as a systematic presentation of the word, and the prophetic function for women in bringing things that the Lord quickens and makes alive for them.
We have the situation today where women feel themselves shunned to the side, only allowed to teach Sunday school to the children. Every member should have a sense of their vital significance and importance in the Body. Everyone should be fully prepared when they come together for the meetings, each joint supplying what the other parts need. We prepare ourselves because it is a holy coming together of the Body, and in expectation of the Lord’s use of us.
We cannot come into a true union with each other outside of a vital and authentic union with God. Without that authentic union, we condemn ourselves to functioning out of a sense of obligation, lifelessly obeying the biblical commands. Unless we have been inducted into the mystery of the indwelling Christ, we will find ourselves living and moving from the mere level of mental assent, which falls hopelessly short of the glory of God, and in fact leaves us outside the Kingdom itself. God has given us His Son that we might live through Him, but most of us stubbornly insist upon living through ourselves, with an outward veneer of respect for the truths of the gospel and the teachings of Christ.
How many of us have come to that place of such utter self-disgust, such loathing, such final revelation of the degradation of our souls that we see all our most sincere religious intentions as mere dung? How many of us would allow God to bring us to such a crisis of humiliation, and of failing God wretchedly, until we realize that there is no way that we can live this Christian life out of our own resolutions? Our whole religious lifestyle, for which no one would fault us, needs to be brought down, that the breaking through into another dimension of glory and reality may be found. We need to be brought to the place where we realize that Christianity is impossible, and that God has not called us to a patsy religion, but to a radical Kingdom. It is the entry into another quality of life and relationship that is utterly different from that which is in the world. The only way to enter that life and to live from it is to join Him first at the Cross, which is the place of burial, and to be raised into newness of life. We have not understood baptism as the apostolic generation understood it. When they went into those waters, they were leaving the world. It was a ruthless, utter, and radical separation from this present world.
Chapter 3 – Intimate Union
The Hebrew word for “know,” when it is used in the sense of knowing God, is the same word that is used to describe the sexual union between man and woman; Adam knew Eve. It does not mean that they had a casual kind of relationship where they learned facts about each other; rather, they came into one another in such a way as to receive from that intimate inter-relationship a knowledge of each other that went beyond words and into an experiential knowledge.
God intends marriage and the sacred relationship of sexual union as a most beautiful fulfilling experience and expression of intimacy. Like everything else that God has purposed, Satan seeks to corrupt, destroy and to ravage it, and to make of it a merely lustful and obsessive thing. Sex is not merely for procreation; it is central, and at the heart of this completely glorious mystery. It is no wonder that it is taking such a battering in this generation. One might ask to what degree the increasing sexual disturbances and freaky aberrations in society express the revulsion of men and women to the mystery of God because there is so much perversion and distortion: child molestation, homosexuality, lesbianism, all representing the unwillingness or inability to submit to, or find consummation in, the Divine order and intention of God for male and female. It is a rebellion against God Himself, tangibly expressed. Men and woman who are unable join with one another are going off on other tangents to find expression of sexual need and energy, outside of the way that God intended.
There is something about the nature of sexual union that requires more than mechanical or biological accommodation. It is a supremely spiritual act, but how many of our wives are accommodating their husbands out of a sense of obligation, or other kinds of motives, but who are secretly chafing and pursing their lips? More often than not, they are being suffocated and extinguished in their own integrity and spirituality. They are not able to meet with their husbands in the union, harmony and love that God intends, for which this mystery is to be enacted, but it requires uttermost love. If love is tinted by resentment, anger, bitterness, disappointment and the things that must, of necessity, arise in the complex thing that is called marriage and relationship, and are not attended to, then we have a kind of chafing, grinding, physical accommodation by which we may find a moment’s release, but we will have missed the glory of the union by which we become one flesh.
Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a harlot is one body with her? For He says, “The two will become one flesh (1 Corinthians 6:16).
When marriage and sex are violated, when we treat them cheaply, when we allow another in where they ought not to be, there is a shock and a stunning trauma of such a kind that even when you think you have forgotten it, the pain and the wounds yet register deep. God intends that the relationship we have with Him is akin to the relationship that He intends for us to have with each other. The quality, depth, character and honesty of the relationship that we have with each other is no greater, no more honest, no deeper than the relationship that we have with Him.
Jesus was never married, but He knew relationships. Marriage is the name given to one set of relationships. It is the deepest relationship, and as every one of us knows who has entered into it, more is required of us in this than any other relationship in our lives. Every relationship has exactly the same basic constituent elements, whether it is the relationship between a husband and wife, pastor and his flock, between races or between parents and children. Therefore, we need to know what the basic ingredients of relationships are, that we might understand what it means to know God.
True marriage requires a holding ourselves in reserve for the one God has ordained. It is a sacred union in which you allow everything that you are to be interpenetrated by another, and you allow it because you trust the other, because you come lovingly, because you come with expectation, and because you know that you are not going to be violated, exploited, or abused. You confidently open yourself in trust and abandonment to the interpenetration of the other whom you know is your lover. Gritting the teeth, or coming into sexual union with a distaste, are a caricature for the joy that God intended for those who come in love, one to another. For how many of us is this a reflection of the way we come to God? We feel obligated to give him an hour or two on Sundays, but there is no loving abandonment out of which comes true knowing.
By necessity, intimate union requires that you come nakedly. There is no other way. You have got to come without concealment, you have got to come trembling, and you have got to come hearing the call of deep unto deep. If we come with so much as a covering, then what kind of a relationship and what kind of intimate union is that going to be? We must come not just once, but continually. It should never become a drudge. We are coming for a renewing and a re-enactment of a loving union. It should never the same, never mechanical, never dull, but always unique. There is no limit to the knowledge of God. There is no limit to the penetration of the depths of His infinity. Every time you come to Him in that loving abandonment, you touch and sense new depths in that relationship with Him and in yourself. There is never a falling back to where you were; you are raised from height to height in that loving relationship with Him who bids us come. It is something alive and creative and new every time. It begins in hopeful expectancy, and it goes on in deepened confidence to new expectancies again and again.
God has so ordained the intimacy for mankind to be face-to-face. We are required to behold the face of our lover. Jacob said: “I have seen God face to face, yet I live.” To look into the face is the symbol and expression of the uniqueness of that personality with whom you are coming into intimate union. Have we seen God face to face? Have we turned our faces up to Him? If we do, we will never again return to any previous aloofness or detachment. It is a losing of oneself in the other, a coming together in a mystical merging that is deep, intense, personal and total.
This can be seen on the face of one who is a lover. It is a rare thing, but every once in a while you find that pair who are real lovers, so caught up in each other, so fulfilling each others hearts and lives, that their faces beam with light; there is simply no room in their hearts for anyone else.
This is very different from the married “bachelors” and “spinsters” in the workplace and elsewhere, who are married and wear a ring and have some kind of technical certificate, but they are “single” in their spirits. Their eyes are continually roving and scanning the room, hearts filled with lust, because their hearts are empty and unfulfilled, and seeking for gratification outside their own marriage relationship. There is a God who wants us to know Him in a deep, intimate union that will so fill our hearts and souls that there will be no room in our hearts for any of the blandishments of a world that is seeking to put its hooks into us.
Our faces will tell the story of whether we are lovers of the living God. What are the enduring results of a relationship such as this? When we come back time and time again for that renewing and for that re-enactment, we begin to take on the coloration, the aspect, the character, the personality and even the appearance of the loved one.
God has called us to real relationship and real intimacy. It is the same profound experience to which He calls us, to know Him in intimate union. God is not calling us to a religion, but to a union with Him who is holy, righteous, just and loving. Every time we come to Him in abandonment, naked, stripped bare, delighting to see His face and opening ourselves to the penetration of His love, we are never again the same. He bids us come time and time again, and to rest in the arms of Him who is coming for His bride, without spot and without blemish.
There is only one place to be married to the bridegroom, and few are willing to come. Why do we not want to come to such a knowing as this, and such an intimate union as this? Perhaps it is because the cross of Christ Jesus is the necessary circumstance of being united with Christ, and it is the cross that offends our taste. The dung hill of Calvary, a rude, blood-spattered cross, a battered and despised Bridegroom with a visage marred more than any man, will hardly attract many away from the seductive world to a union with Him in His crucifixion, His death, His burial and His resurrection life. There is little wonder that we see so little evidence of His life in believers, for there are so few who are willing to die with Him. However, when we come to that cross, then every plastic, rigid, encrusted thing of our heart and life snaps and breaks, and out comes that flow of love and life that God wants to pour forth into the world to bring healing and salvation. The world needs to see in our faces the signs of our Lover, because we have joined Him in that one place alone where we are to meet and to merge with Him, namely, in His cross and in His suffering, in His shame and reproach, in His pain and in His death.
The hour is late and the stakes are too high to mistake our natural sociability, our natural gregariousness and our accidents of personality to be somehow the expression of Christ in us. We need the love of Him who is love, and who will transmit that love into us and through us if we are willing to come and be wedded to the Son of the Living God.
Paul knew this union better than most: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).
He was a man so caught up in the Bridegroom that he had no life unto himself. He had no impulses unto himself; he had no concern unto himself; he doted, meditated and contemplated upon the Lord, and had a heart sensitive to wait, to hear and to receive the leading of the Spirit of Him to whom he was wedded on the cross. Therefore, it was the Son’s life that was poured forth to establish the churches. It was that life that came through his personality.
More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him (Philippians 3:8-9a).
Paul wanted nothing more than to be found in Him—in union with Him.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me (Revelation 3:20).
This is not just the sharing of a meal, but a continual presence and merging of lives in the interpenetration of one with the other.
That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death (Philippians 3:10).
It was Paul’s cry, and it needs to be ours.
Chapter 4 – Daughters of Sarah
In recent times, there was a popular teaching going around in Christian circles that had to do with “submission and authority.” As is usual with any new fad, it became merchandised, and did more harm to the cause of Christ than can be presently imagined. Men cheapened a true reality, and made a crummy system of principles out of it. Those parts of the body of Christ that were affected became bruised, and were ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater, not having seen or understood the real thing.
In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands…(1 Peter 3:1a).
Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything (Ephesians 5:22-24).
This does not mean most things, nor just the things to which we give approval that we think we can trust him for; it is in everything. If we do not trust the Lord for everything, how then is He still Lord? If we retain the right to exercise veto power, and say that we are willing to trust the Lord and give this and this, but not that and that, we reveal that He is not Lord of all. Wives, reverence your husbands, not because they deserve it, and not because they are strapping and compelling figures or spiritual giants, but because he is a husband with whom you are joined as one flesh as unto the Lord.
For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands. Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord…(1 Peter 3:5-6a).
True submission of a wife to a husband as unto the Lord is the most demanding, radical, ultimate and total kind of consecration that God could ever ask of any human being. Naturally speaking, our tendency would be to prefer an ethereal and abstract submission to the Lord, but to come to the same state and condition with your own husband, with his foul breath, his inconsistencies and contradictions, and call him “lord” as Sarah called Abraham “lord,” is another kind of submission altogether. For her, it was not just an outward thing, but something deep and heartfelt, a submission to him as unto the Lord in everything.
This is the same Abraham who twice told foreign men that she was his sister in order to save his own skin, allowing them to take her into their harems to be used, had the Lord not intervened on her behalf. [See Genesis 12 & 20]. And yet, this is father Abraham, the father of faith! But praise God that Abraham is our father, and he is our father because there is not one of us who would not have done the same. We are all cowards and put our own skin first. We all would let our wives be subjected to abuse and humiliation if somehow it would ease us of our predicament. However, God spared her, not because she railed at Abraham, or knotted her fist in his face, but because she had a quiet and meek spirit, which in God’s sight is of a great price. She trusted and hoped in the Lord as one of the holy women of former times, to which Peter refers. You will never be a submitted wife with a quiet and a meek spirit, living with us Abrahams—we men who are prone to error, carnality and failure at your expense—except that you can trust also in God. If you trust in men, you will not make it. Your faith will fail you. You will say, “How can I? This guy is going to take me for a ride! He is going to fail me and abuse me. He is not even saved!” However, we are encouraged to read that he shall be won by the example of the wife’s chaste behavior and conversation—without even a word.
Sarah is the model, and God calls you women to be daughters of Sarah. This sublime calling eclipses any ministry that a man could ever contemplate, namely, to exhibit and to demonstrate to the entire body of Christ what God is calling us to be in our eternal identification as a bride adorned for the Bridegroom. We are the body of Christ now, and God speaks to us in male metaphors while we are in the earth, but our eternal and unchanging configuration will be as a bride adorned for the Bridegroom, having the glory of God. We shall never attain to it except that we see now some statement and disclosure, some living embodiment of what that bride is to be with her quiet and meek spirit. A meek person is patient under provocation and has become so by the disciplines of suffering. The opposite of meek is tempestuous, severe, harsh, fierce, strident and violent. That meekness is the unique calling of women. The Lord is waiting for a meek church, that He might be married to it.
To “submit” means to leave or commit to the discretion or judgment of another, to freely yield one’s person to the power of another, as Sarah did, trusting and hoping in the Lord. The opposite of submit is to resist, rebel and to revolt. When you can yield to your husband’s discretion, trusting in the Lord, even though he is a fool and not spiritual, you shall see that to the degree that you have yielded in true submission, discretion is going to come down to him from heaven. “What if he takes advantage of me? What if he exploits me?” You have every reason to fear, and that is why Peter says, “Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear” (1 Peter 3:6).
Yes, you do run the risk of being exploited, yet you are willing to run the risk of misunderstanding because you realize that the principle is so enormous that it is worth every risk. If your motivation is only successful marriage or your satisfaction, then you will never be willing for this kind of submission; you will never yield yourselves in the submission for which God is waiting. There is only one motivation that will enjoin a woman to yield herself to the authority of another, especially if his spirituality is questionable, and that is the motivation of God’s glory. If your motivation in marriage or getting married is “Will this work?” or “Will this gratify me?” you are already outside of the ground of glory. One can only have the requisite spirit of meekness out of a union and trust in God. God calls women to a high quality of spirituality and holiness, but His grace will meet you if you are earnest to obtain it.
In the same way, you wives be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior (1 Peter 3:1-2).
Only one thing will arrest the attention of your husbands, and in fact, their salvation rests upon it, that they sense and see through you something so stunning and awesome, something of the reality of another kingdom, that they are compelled to give it attention. We need to bring into the lives of our spouses the reality of the Word made flesh in us, in our whole demeanor and countenance, mindset and spirit, since they will be won without a word. Your husband knows you and the kinds of things for which you quiver and tremble. He knows how to seduce you and placate you; but to see something of another kingdom in you that can neither be bought nor compromised, that has come out of an encounter with the resurrected Christ—this will catch his attention. You are still his spouse, yet your mindset is something else. You will bring to him the knowledge of the awesome God through your own behavior and life. This is much more than just being a sweet-spirited, charismatic churchgoer; that will not affect him at all.
And let not your adornment be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses (v. 3).
We could even add “the superficial outward chatter of spiritual innuendoes, clichés and other such adornments.”
…but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle [or meek] and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God (v. 4).
Meekness belongs to Lamb of God Himself. Not one of us has this character of ourselves independently of His. The world will applaud us in our humanly false meekness, so long as our false outward appearance accommodates men and the world. However, God is the God of truth; He wants the true thing. There is no way that we can show forth the meekness of the Lamb except by entering into the life of the Lamb. This cannot be made a system; it can only be found at the cross where your life is ended and His life is begun. Having come into that reality, it will show in our homes. We cannot do this out of our own resources, our own determination or our own well-meaning abilities; there is nothing more ineffective than that.
The revealing truth of our submission is found in the most intimate place of the marriage, in sexual union. However sweet and well-meaning you are, and however determined you were that morning to be a real witness to your husband, when it comes to the final hour of the night and the creaking weight of his body comes upon yours, something wells up in that moment of every justification for resentment and irritation: “He failed to do this, he hurt me here.” Your mind will be in turmoil. Only Christ in that moment can show forth His glory. There is a reality and a glory here that God wants to make manifest in the most critical places where we are compelled to face the issue of the cross. And until we come to this place of meekness of spirit, we shall never come to any place of true unity.
Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” (Psalms 133:1).
Dwelling together is that daily relationship that is more than just surface; it is an integration of life. It is knowing that you are not there yet, that you are imperfect, that you are struggling in your faith, and yet you do not give up, you do not run out, and you do not turn your back. There God has commanded the blessing, even life forevermore. I would run to this place where God has commanded His blessing, knowing that it is not some easy or cheap thing to obtain. There is a suffering that precedes the dwelling and makes the dwelling possible, which is called the cross. Dwelling or abiding is the issue of suffering. Obedience is a suffering, particularly when it is contrary to your will. What is obedience if you want and like to do what you are called to do? Obedience is a real issue of faith only when it is contrary to what you desire; when your flesh does not want to; when it shrinks from it. To be obedient then is to dwell, and what is a submission of a wife to a husband if she is agreed? It is when she is disagreed that the issue of submission becomes the issue.
Is the husband really head of the house, or does he have a wife that is accommodating him only so long as the children are kept happy? How many of us men are living with rebels and do not even know it, because our income and our lifestyle accommodate our wives? Take that away and see how submitted our wives are to the authority of the head of the house. So long as the wives are placated and their desires are met, they are most accommodating, but remove it, and see what you get, and the Lord wants to remove the veil in order to reveal what would otherwise remain hidden.
Chapter 5 – Husbands love your Wives
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself (Ephesians 5:25-28).
These scripture suggests that husbands should see their wives, though different in gender, as being their own body, and to love them as themselves. That is the mystery. The natural or carnal mind only sees things separately; it will see husband and wife as separate entities, and therefore it will not see the spiritual mystery. Without that seeing, spouses will not be able to relate to each other on the basis of what the Word of God says; they will see themselves as separate entities; there will be contention, striving, and chafing, rather than loving the other as ourselves, because she is our self. This is either uttermost foolishness and insane, or it is sublime. Even within the mystery, there will still be differences over real issues. The issue of truth and righteousness is the important thing here, but the power of continually finding fault with one another, or continually wanting to win an argument, will be broken.
Loving one’s wife here is not referring to a sexual desire or a sentimental thing. Rather, it is loving as Christ loves the church, and gave Himself for it by the washing of the water of the word, that it might be pure, holy, and without spot or blemish. Otherwise, the man’s word, even though it may be correct and scriptural, will not cleanse her; it will not remove blemishes, except that it comes out of the mouth of a man who has laid down his life for his wife. Without that being attended to, any concern for ministry would be superfluous, ineffectual and an affront to God; it would condemn that ministry to being merely shallow. How will we be able to speak from the pulpit and proclaim the gospel, which is the ministry of reconciliation, when we are unable, by the power of the gospel, to be reconciled with our wives and save our own marriages? How can we commend that gospel to others if it has not had the power to reconcile? What is our message, and what is our authority, and what are we preaching? We have a serious mandate before us, and it begins with the one with whom we have been joined.
For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh (Ephesians 5:29-31).
The parental relationship is the deepest attachment of a man prior to marriage; the man needs to turn from any distractive thing that keeps him from cleaving to his wife.
This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each individual among you also love his own wife even as himself…(verses 32-33a).
She is yourself, and that means we do not abuse our wives and exploit them in bed. They are not just an outlet for our satisfaction. That means there is a requirement on the husband’s part, an investment of patience, of forbearance, of speaking the truth in love, the asking of forgiveness and the granting of it. How many of us have regarded our wives as mere supplements to our lives, as if we are doing them a favor, and that they are privileged to have such a one as ourselves for a husband? How many of us men are destroying our wives and we do not even know it? If we cannot invest in the lives of our wives, then how are we going to help others in the body of Christ? We can give them teachings, but they need friends who stick closer than a brother, and who love them at all times.
We cannot do these things mechanically. It is the issue of our own maturity, and whether the Lord has had His full work in us. Are we acting out of an indignation of guilt because we sense our own failure, and then react by coming down harshly upon wives? Have we won them over to a respect for our authority, or are we imposing it? These are great questions of life and character that are not decided in a day, but I will say this much: There is not one of us who can come to this by himself. We come to that very maturity by daily interaction with brothers, in relationship, in our own receiving of correction and counsel, and all of the kinds of things that God has provided to bring us to that place, and once there, to maintain it.
Chapter 6 – Gates of Pearl
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband (Revelation 21:2).
And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God (Revelation 21:10.11a).
The holy city itself, this new Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven, is prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I am fond of reminding men that the final, ultimate, enduring and eternal condition in which the body of Christ shall be eternally related to God is feminine. It is an honor that is unspeakable. Words cannot begin to approach the glory of it.
And He [Jesus] said to them [His disciples], “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” (Luke 24:25-26).
We ought to understand that suffering is intrinsic to the faith, and that it is a central, profound, and unchanging principle for all who follow Him. Suffering precedes the glory, and this holy city has the glory of God, something acquired through the preparation of suffering. There is a suffering that is needful, and a suffering that is needless. The needless dimension is our consternation, our fretfulness and wringing of fingers over why God does not change our circumstances while we ask, “Where is He?” He sees and understands every detail of what we are required to bear. We are not to add to it by doubting God.
The husband or wife, who has been the cause of our sorrow and affliction, seeing the joy that we are presently experiencing (because by faith we have appropriated what is future), will have the greatest opportunity to be brought to his or her knees in repentance at the reality of God that we display in the midst of our suffering and sorrow. If there is any class of people which needs to appropriate the future in the present, by the anticipation of that which is to come, it is a believer. If we are going to be something out of heaven, we need to begin it now with a heavenly mindset and attitude that transfigures the very sorrow in our suffering, and makes it redemptive even while we are moving through it. How many spouses are there whose salvation is being delayed because they see our fretfulness, rather than the peace and joy which is ours if we will appropriate it?
We need to understand the mystery of what we are about, rather than to go out looking for happiness in this life. The pursuit of happiness must be eclipsed by the pursuit of glory. Joy will be ours in eternal bliss, though now, for a season, we are required to find joy in spite of sorrow and suffering, because God is preparing something for eternity. God wants eternity to come into our understanding in such a way that it governs and affects our daily practical conduct and life. Our spouses need to see the God of eternity in us. They need to see our imperviousness to time and its passing, and that we reckon on the things that are to come, enjoying the anticipation even now, and that we even hasten His coming by what we exude and display by our believing faces in the midst of our sorrow.
We should not continue to look at things in an earthly way. God was there when we “had to” get married out of an inadvertent circumstance, or because of our mindlessness. He is the Alpha and the Omega and the sovereign ruler in the universe. Knowing the end very much affects our present course. It will save us from the seduction of fashions and fads. It will save us from gluttony and all of the other kinds of things that keep us from the holiness of God because we have not been sufficiently occupied and believing about what the end of all things is, namely, a holy city that is a glory.
That spouse who has so little regard for potential in God, and who seems so obdurate, unfeeling and insensitive, and disdains every spiritual thing, and even mocks it, can one day be as a jewel in the hand of God. Their present indifference now might yet be transformed into future glory, because we brought eternity into our present consideration.
Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal clear jasper (Revelation 21:11b).
The adornment of the bride is not an outward thing, but inward, through and through: utter transparency without guile, selfless, pure, not a tincture of flirtation, no self-consciousness about our appearance or what our affect is on the opposite sex. Crystal clear is the basis of that holy city that comes down from God out of heaven.
How many of us have had kinky sex lives, and the other things that are corruptive, vile and unclean in thought, mind and practice? How many of us have brought into the marriage the things that were cultivated in the world, and thought somehow that it was permissible because “the marriage bed is undefiled”? We are going to find ourselves in a process whereby God is sifting and purging that marriage bed. He is going to have a city that is crystal clear, without spot or blemish.
And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl (Revelation 21:21a).
The gates of the city are the point of entry, and they are made out of pearl. Pearl is different from stones which need to be ground and polished. Pearl is something that is formed in continual and unremitting provocation and stress, so that something grows up around the grain of sand. The shell is closed and we are not seeking to extricate ourselves from the situation, or get ourselves out of it to spare ourselves, but we are receiving the grain of sand as an impediment and ingredient that God has added to our lives. The frustration of not being able to communicate the simplest spiritual concept to an unbelieving and obdurate spouse is an unspeakable irritation that forms the pearl. It is the pearl of suffering. As we just hold and stay with it, in trust and faith in God, He forms something that is eternal and precious, and out of it, God makes the very gates of the city of heaven.
Chapter 7 – Joy and Eternity
We are living in an hour when the word joy stands for something that God never intended. Its meaning has been reduced to an emotional experience, rather than a life-giving provision of God to keep us from the deceptions and perils of the last days.
These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full (John 15:11).
What was the joy that Jesus had? Do we know that there is a difference between joy and happiness? Happiness is circumstantial, for example, you won the sweepstakes, or you inherited something. However, joy is a condition of being, not only independent of circumstances, but all the more profound despite circumstances of an adverse kind. Therefore, joy is not only independent of circumstances, but it cannot be affected by circumstances. That means we can experience joy inside a damp prison cell, with its scurrying rats and the moaning of hopeless and destitute prisoners. Our joy can yet abound all the more if we have a complete confidence in the sovereignty of God, and know that our imprisonment is not a circumstantial accident, but the very explicit outworking of God’s sovereign will for us.
Oswald Chambers writes in his book, My Utmost for His Highest,
The joy of Jesus was the absolute self-surrender and self-sacrifice of Himself to His Father, the joy of doing that which the Father sent Him to do.
This sounds like a formula not for joy, but for misery. In other words, we are to have joy in doing the will of another, and it requires an absolute self-surrender. This is a complete reversal of all to which men subscribe as wisdom, but where does their wisdom bring them? Is it not to mental institutions, divorces, premature deaths, wasted living, anguished lives, corrupted children and the host of other things that plague our lives. For Jesus, self-surrender was a freely given self-abandonment to His Father, not a grim obligation
The psalmist could say, “I delight to do Thy will.” Delight is a synonym for joy, and there is a delight in doing His will, even when you might not see the fruit of it until eternity, but nevertheless, there is delight in it. There needs to be a restoration of delight, and not the least of the delights is the delight of the saints in true fellowship, enjoying one another, not because they are clever or bright, but just because they are. This is going to be one of our last days’ consolations. When every last thing goes, and there is no television or any other diversion, the saints themselves will be our delight, and the enjoyment of them will be life-giving.
The key to joy, and the thing that really unlocks and releases it, is absolute self-surrender, absolute submission to the will of God—absolute. There is little or no joy in the world, or even in the saints, because we shrink from the condition for it, namely, the absoluteness of God. The opposite of “absolute” is halfhearted, conditional, and lukewarm, all of which describe this present world. We need to restore delight and joy, but the condition is the restoration of the word absolute. We will know when we have come to an utterness of spirit toward God because our joy will be full. It does not have to be revved up, and it does not have to be conditional on circumstances; our joy will be full.
An absoluteness towards God is of a certain qualitative kind. While water is heating up on the stove, it is still water; it has not changed its character. A certain heat is required, a certain totality of condition, before it changes from water to steam. In us, something happens at a qualitative point when things become absolute. It is then that the bon vivant kind of euphoria we can feel becomes the joy of the Lord, which is our strength. If we are not in that place, then we need to ask what one thing we lack and what one thing is being withheld, for that one thing is sufficient to keep the water somewhat warm, but it will never become steam, something qualitatively different.
Almost without exception, joy has a future implication. Jesus, “for the joy set before Him endured the cross.” If we are robbed of that future and the absolute conviction of its coming, then we are robbed of the joy. “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy,” (Jude 24). Joy is always set in the context of some future thing not yet attained. Only then will our joy be full, because our blameless condition is also our eternal condition, and it entitles us to eternal reward and eternal distinction.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled [free from earthly taint and corruption; it is the kingdom to come; it is heavenly] and will not fade away, [it is eternal] reserved in heaven for you (1 Peter 1:3-4).
…and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:8-9).
Peter’s letters are saturated with eschatological references and steeped in apocalyptic expectancy. Everything is future including the salvation that is to be revealed and the end that is to come. For many, if not most of us, this whole eschatological character of the faith has been lost. We are more caught up in the things that are immediate, because we have lost the sense of the things that are future, ultimate, eternal, and the whole eschatological and apocalyptic note that makes the apostolic faith authentic. Perhaps our conversion was not of the absolute kind that brings us into the existential reality of a union with Him through baptism unto death.
There is a sense in which we can have joy now, in the absolute surrender of doing the will of God, but the underpinning of that joy is set profoundly in the things that are future. The death and resurrection of Jesus set in motion the realization of all these things. The same power that raised Him from the dead brought the completion and fullness of our salvation and faith, with joy inexpressible and full of glory. His resurrection is a foretaste of something yet future. Having ascended, He sent the Holy Spirit as the foretaste of the eschatological reality of the coming kingdom and of the power of the age to come. The resurrection is the key, and there would not have been a resurrection except for the absolute surrender of Jesus to His excruciating death and descent into hell. The absolute exaltation came because of the absolute humiliation, and the same principle works for us.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you [some circumstantial thing]; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing [or, ‘have joy’] so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation [exceeding joy] (1 Peter 4:12-13).
The joy is exceeding at the revealing of His glory, in the eschatological future. Things may seem outwardly hopeless and despairing, but joy lies precisely on the basis of hope and a faith that already apprehends the future and brings it into our present consideration. We have a living hope. It is the blessed hope of the church and it saves us from disillusionment, from despair, from defeat and from giving up in what are seemingly the most hopeless conditions.
The joy of the Lord is not just an onset of sanguine personality type or soulish disposition; it is the evidence of to what degree we are living consistently in absolute reality. Only a joy that comes out of a true union manifests at a time when every condition contradicts it, and for that reason, it is the more impressive and undeniable. We are not to allow ourselves the luxury of depression; it is not our right. We are not to allow ourselves pouting; it is not our due. Self-pity? Do not feed that thing in the soul that wants to enjoy disappointment and momentary unhappiness.
In Acts chapter 16, Paul and Silas are brought to the marketplace before the rulers and magistrates, beaten to within an inch of their lives and thrown into the inner dungeon. It was a place of death and hopelessness. There was no internet hook-up to email a prayer request back to Antioch. They were cut off in a stinking dark cell with their backs hanging in shreds and exposed to all the things that would set in motion a slow and painful death.
But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s chains were unfastened. And when the jailer had been roused out of sleep and had seen the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried out with a loud voice saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here!” (Acts 16:25-27).
In other words, “Do not get excited. We are not going anywhere! We were not prisoners before and we are not prisoners now!” Bars do not a prison make. To be free in Christ is to be free indeed. We are not prisoners of circumstances. The chains fell off and the doors burst open because the joy of the Lord was not only their strength, as evidenced in their singing hymns of praise to God, it was also their deliverance from conditions that would seem otherwise hopeless.
The basis of their ability to sing in the midst of their adversity was their eschatological hope and expectancy. They knew that for every wound and affliction, they would receive an eternal reward, a corresponding reward that would not fade away. The joy of the Lord will set us free from the cell of depression, self-pity, fear, and all the things that cripple and bind us more effectively than a literal prison. Our praise is an anticipation of the end. To bring that anticipation into the present is authentic faith. That is the apostolic mindset. The worst thing that can happen opens the most joyous eternal prospect. How can we lose? Whether we are imprisoned, beheaded, tortured or persecuted, we receive a greater eternal glory, and therefore, the greater joy.
We have been robbed of the greatest foundation of our faith by being rooted in the things that pertain only to this present life, and we have lost that great dimension that made the church the overcoming church of its early history. We need again to lay hold of eternal hope. We must fight for the eschatological future, the joy that shall be revealed, and the glory. This is why Jude says, “Contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” This is that faith. If we do not contend for it, it will just be an abstraction and an obsolete term. To fight for this and to maintain this will make doing the will of the Lord a delight, that our joy will be full in this life. Our joy is full because we will know that however grotesque and painful these last days’ conditions will be, our redemption draws near. Our salvation, the finality and the fullness of it, is near.
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance (James 1:2-3).
The things that afflict us work our redemption. Fiery trials will come, but we are to endure them for the joy that is set before us. “Count it all joy”, but not by human determination, by gritting our teeth or biting our lips. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead will raise us out of every temptation. He is able to keep us and to present us blameless before the throne in the day of the Lord’s appearing. That means we can live eternally without shame and embarrassment and without having to think throughout eternity of how we blew it and how we fell short of the glory that we could have enjoyed had we been found blameless. Our eternal reward is proportionate to our conduct, our walk and our labors in this life.
Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2).
The joy set before us is tied in with His appearing, as we have seen from the scriptures in 1 Peter and elsewhere. When we shall see the glory of the Lord, we will share in that glory to the same degree as we have shared in His sufferings. It is the same both for Jesus and for us, but not for us in the sense of some egotistical gratification. His joy is our joy. His glory is our glory. His coming is our delight. There is no longer a separate entity between ourselves and Him. He is our life, and His coming and vindication are ours.
We cannot obtain this joy independent of the brethren. Between us and the Lord, there is authority in the body of Christ, there is submission to elders, submission of wives to husbands, children to parents, members of the body one to another. True spirituality is not some kind of idealistic, ethereal or invisible thing. There is a screen through which it must pass that really tests that absoluteness, and that is the submitting to the authority of God through men. What a beautiful “spirituality” we would have if only this earthly requirement was not there! That is why a false spirituality that avoids men and lives privatistically and separately may have a seeming joy, but it is not authentic joy. To submit to authority that is imperfect, maybe even ungodly, and maybe even unregenerate, is nearer to true submission than we think.
We cannot obtain this walk, this quality, this consistency and this faith independent of each other. We need each other, each other’s faith, and each other’s encouragement and prayers. One can obtain this only within an authentic fellowship of saints who have a like mind, heart and spirit. This is what they also seek to obtain, and we will encourage one another in that walk. It will not happen in a fellowship where slackness is fostered. We will encourage one another to be the sons and daughters of the living God and strive to be found blameless. We will be willing to bear correction for even what we see as the minutest things. We will acknowledge, repent, and receive correction so that in that day, and that day is near, we will be found blameless. I do not believe that we can be found blameless independent of the sanctifying work available to us in the authentic working of God through what we provide for each other in the body of Christ. The sanctifying work is performed in the abrasive friction and the things that our flesh wants to run from. It is a pain and a suffering, but it is a glory. The body of Christ is the very provision of God that we might be found blameless and virgins undefiled.