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Addresses on the Seven Churches: 6: Philadelphia Lecture 1

By G.V. Wigram


      REVELATION 3: 7-12.

      THE titles under which the Lord presents Himself to this Church are these: "He that is holy, He that is true, He that hath the key of David, He that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth." There is something very remarkable in the address to Philadelphia. The very name is full of blessing -- brotherly love. Thus the Lord's condescension in calling us "brethren" down here in the wilderness is called to remembrance. The characteristic traits of the Lord Jesus brought out here, too, are very precious. The divine fulness in Christ is always the same, but the flowing out of it depends very much on the state of the people to whom it flows. We find the truth ministered to the church of Galatia is very different to that given to Ephesus. The apostle would have been straitened in himself if he had attempted to speak for God to the Galatians as he spoke to the Ephesians. The Ephesians were in a very blessed state, and ready for the highest truth connected with the Lord Jesus. It is the same difference in Philadelphia and Laodicea. He addresses the people of His love under a different title to those who are in a lukewarm state.

      It is important to rest a little on the first title and insignia. Title is connected with what He is in Himself; insignia relate to office. There are some permanent offices, and some which pass away with the occasion for which they are used. "He that hath the sword with two edges" is an office implying something to be put down, some evil which can only be here. The eyes like unto a flame of fire are connected with His eternal office to the Church in glory; divine intelligence belonging to the Lord Jesus. "He that is holy." Let us rest on this, perfect holiness is connected with the Lord Jesus. We are accounted holy, as being in Him. Our abstract ideas of holiness are very imperfect, but there is another thing; viz., the word holiness conveys a different thought to different persons, according to what they are themselves. If I speak to a sinner by the wayside, and say, "God is holy," "Yes;" but he will say, "He is merciful too." He has no thought connected with holiness but severity. To a young Christian, if I speak of holiness, he will say, "How difficult it is to be holy!" An older and established saint will say, "Aye, but I have been separated to God by the truth, and I ought to keep myself separate." "Be ye holy, for I am holy." The father in Christ will see even differently to this -- he will see something peculiar in God's character as to holiness, he will see what is beautiful in the essential character of God, and will be able to say, That is just what I want."

      Holiness is the essential character, not an attribute, of God. Christ says here, "He that is holy." When I come to God, I see in Him certain attributes -- power, wisdom, intelligence, and I find those things existed in God before redemption was unfolded. At one time He is finding out knowledge of witty inventions, in creating a world; at another, by the foolishness of preaching, saving them that believe. But there is something higher up than any of these. There are three kingdoms -- Creation, Providence, and Redemption. God set up creation as the Creator; but there was no expression of mercy there. He was pleased to see creatures capable of enjoyment. There was goodness in exercise, but no mercy. In providence you see the power of God, and the wisdom of God; but if you merely look at providence for mercy, you see it limited to present things, and it is irrespective of responsibility. But God's mercy in redemption is connected with eternity. The high spring is in God, flowing down to something beneath Him. But when you get up to the divine glory, and see how it became Him: for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings, you see how it was possible for One who was perfectly holy to take up such things as we are. There was nothing between the garden of Eden and the pavement of hell, as it were, if God had not brought in mercy. He comes and shows how He could pick up the victims, fillet the flowers of man's sin round His neck, and take up the one who is fit for nothing but a hot place in hell, and give him a place in heaven, to share all the glories of His Son. That God could have nothing to say to His Son, when in the place of the sinner, cuts the whole question of the magnitude of man's sin. That you who are shut out of Eden should be made to share all the glories of God's Son, could never have entered a created mind. In bringing in mercy, God re-arranged everything in heaven and in earth. The only thing that suits the sinner is mercy, and yet it is the last thing the sinner takes hold of. God's holiness is more shown in mercy than in anything, and therefore nothing is so precious to the child of God (a father in Christ nearing his rest), as the character of God's holiness. Weigh in your minds what your thoughts of God's holiness are. It is a word that has scared many, but it is a word of blessing and power, when one really sees how it embodies that special trait in God's character -- mercy. Christ was standing here in relation to this little militant remnant, not only as having the understanding of this character, but in the circumstances where this holy separation to God is needed; and He comes as such to associate them with Himself, sweeping out all that would not bear the light.

      "He that is true." Here is another characteristic of the Lord Jesus. The two words, faithful and true, are similar; "true" means much the same as truthfulness. The truth was not embodied in any of God's manifestations to man until Christ came. A ray of light came down (e.g. Noah, Abraham, etc.); but we could not say that God came down then, or in the giving of the law, to call back man to the knowledge of what God required; but when God's Son came into the world, there was the full manifestation of what God was. Truth came in the person of Jesus Christ. That thought of reality when it comes into the mind is greatly connected with simplicity. It has been said of Christ, that two things were peculiar in Him -- simplicity and repose: He was never hurried nor fluttered. He had one thing to do, and that was for God. There was perfect simplicity, because there was in Him only the expression of the one thing. For young people who may be puzzled what to follow amidst the maze of things around, the great thing is reality; be real, and you will be simple. There was no distortion in Christ; He was always kind to people for God's sake. Take this as a trait of Christ to follow -- reality, simplicity; be real before God.

      Another trait that Christ takes in coming to the little band in the wilderness to separate and strengthen them from the evil around is, "He that hath the key of David;" this is one of the insignia of office. Christ had a perfectly divine and human character, and besides that, He had a variety of offices. In David we have an allusion both to Israel and the Church. Abraham was the head of the family of faith, and David also occupied a special place. God gave to him, as to Abraham, promises too big for a man upon earth to have; they were heavenly and earthly. "Key" is expressive of office; it implies power to open and shut. A stranger coming into this house would not know where to find certain treasures in it that are locked up. I have the key, and can find them. Christ says, "There is no spring for Israel except from Me. It is laid up, and none can open but Myself. I do not yet set Myself to make Israel to germinate, but I shall do it. 'I am the root and the offspring of David.'" The allusion here is connected with the hope of the Church. It is true in the most minute things that He openeth, and no man shutteth, etc. He opened the Church by Peter; He opened the door to the Gentiles. He will open the way into the Father's house, and then to Israel afterwards. He will be the Opener to blessing, and will shut out all that is contrary. He is the Opener and the Shutter. This applies to us individually now. What I have to do is to look out to see what Christ opens to me, and to do everything He gives me to do with my might. Take everything that comes under your hand, and do it. There is not a single thing little as well as great, but what is connected with the person of Christ. We have no need to be anxious, but calmly to leave things to Him. The connection of this with the testimony is important. This testimony should be near to our hearts. If you love your Father, do you not wish His honour? Do you not wish that men should know and believe that it is their fault, and not God's, if they are not saved? Two things connected with light should affect our hearts. There are two parties concerned in it -- God and man. In mission societies we see value for souls the one absorbing thing with them, but there was another with Christ; it was God's value for souls and desire to save them, and we never get the right desire about the blessing of any, until we see how the glory of God is connected with their salvation. The great thing to mark from what we have seen this morning is the importance of the single eye -- simplicity and reality. All responsibility rests with Him who has the key of the promises, and we have need of resting quietly on Him in simple dependence.

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See Also:
   Addresses on the Seven Churches: Introduction
   Addresses on the Seven Churches: 1: Ephesus
   Addresses on the Seven Churches: 2: Smyrna
   Addresses on the Seven Churches: 3: Pergamos
   Addresses on the Seven Churches: 4: Thyatira
   Addresses on the Seven Churches: 5: Sardis
   Addresses on the Seven Churches: 6: Philadelphia Lecture 1
   Addresses on the Seven Churches: 7: Philadelphia Lecture 2
   Addresses on the Seven Churches: 8: Philadelphia Lecture 3
   Addresses on the Seven Churches: 9: Laodicea

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