By G.V. Wigram
REVELATION 3: 14, etc.
THERE is one thing very helpful to remember in connection with all truth; viz., that as it comes from God, man, as a creature, is unable in himself to hold it. It is a question that often escapes from our minds, that we are powerless not only as sinners but as creatures. Not only is it impossible for God to allow a single blot in His presence, but a creature as such cannot stand before God. Any created being needs to be sustained by God. This is proved in the angels, who kept not their first estate; and in the garden of Eden, when man was seen unable to stand upon his own resources. When God was not present to hold and keep him in place, being a dependent limited thing, he fell; left to himself he had no power. It will be proved again in the millennium, when a brilliant court is set up in heaven, extending its rule over the earth, while Satan is bound in the bottomless pit; but in the end, when he is loosed, and the restraint over men on earth is withdrawn, there is the following after, and taking part with Satan. No display of God could ever keep man; His power could, but He had not laid hold of the wickedness to keep it really in.
What God keeps He hides in Christ. The saved man is one chosen in Christ, and therefore the only question is whether He can keep him. It is very helpful to remember this; for it lets me down as to myself, not only as a sinner, but it also teaches that as a creature I am dependent. There must, then, be something above me, and if I am not instructed by that I shall get off my ground of dependence. God never meant from the beginning to give up the keeping; He always meant to be the keeper Himself. It is well to bear this in mind in looking at these churches, because it gives us to see where we are, and what the security of our heart is.
There is something solemn in the titles with which Christ introduces Himself here. "The Amen," the "verily," as if He would have them to know He was speaking with all deliberation and consideration. This spueing out of His mouth is a very serious thing, but he knew what He was doing. He is the "Faithful Witness," not only for man, but for God. The thought of claim is brought in here. Christ comes and claims all for God in the position in which He has placed us. In the gospel Christ not only shows what God is for us, but what He would have us to be for Himself. In speaking to the Jews:" Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart," etc., God asserts His right over man, but Paul's gospel was far beyond that. Christ loved God's purpose about the poor sinner being saved to bring fruit to Himself from them as such. He was the faithful witness for God and for man.
The "beginning of the creation of God." If Christ was the foundation for these Laodiceans to be built upon, were they who professed to be built upon the foundation like it? In the case of Paul's building it was so; but if these were not found so, they would be tested by it and rejected. Christ never counted on anything from man. He knew there was no good in him. We see this in John 13, 14. Peter said, "I will lay down my life for thy sake." Christ's answer was, "The cock shall not crow till thou hast denied me thrice."
There is much grace shining out in this address to Laodicea. People often forget that God turns things in favour of grace, instead of against it. Why has God put into man's hand this testimony of grace? Because He delighted in it. He has spent two thousand years in showing what the light is in grace. He has sent out witnesses -- people to show forth what His love to man is, because He would not shut it up. Grace has been revealed, and people have had to be let down in themselves to see how unable they are to keep it. Man is brought to a dead stand in the presence of God. I see everything has been positively abused. What hope then is there for me? Well, God has not only revealed grace to man, but He is the God of grace. He has not only shown mercy, but He is the God of mercy. Adam might have said to God, "I have dropt every thing out of my hands," but then God said, "I have every thing in My hands." This is part of our moral education. He knew what use we should make of mercy, and yet permits us to trade with it; and when we come to the end of everything He says, "I am not ruined; look to Me. I have it all." So in all these different manifestations to the churches God would show us what we have in Himself.
Let us look at some of the particulars connected with this Church. Christ looks at the lukewarmness with utter disgust. Because "thou art neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth." Moderation is the outcry of men; every thing of respectable measure, the form of religiousness without any power. Christ hates this. He would rather have them dead, cold (He would then know what to do with them), if not burning hot. The happy medium, as it is called, is no pleasure to Him. Men try to mix the language of Sodom with Canaan; they would have both countries, and so break down the boundary that God is most anxious to keep up. In Roman Catholic countries Protestants are obliged to have the word of God in their hands continually, and there is consequently a great deal more vitality than in countries where there is nothing to disturb the quiet easy settling down. Nothing so hinders my having a taste of grace as having a fair outside. If I then just get a place, a good reputation for myself, and God is not glorified, I have no taste of mercy in my own soul. It is better to be broken down as a poor sinner than to have the name and character of being a saint without the living reality.
"I know thy works," God says. In this country, and in this year, there is a general feeling of satisfaction in what men call works; but Christ says, "I counsel thee to buy of me gold." When a person is really walking with God he can neither count possessions nor works. With Paul it was always upwards and onwards. When there is form without the power, people look round themselves; Paul looked round Christ.
"White raiment." These things are all the spoils of a victor; one who has conquered continually will have nothing to make him ashamed -- that "the shame of thy nakedness do not appear." The eye must be upon Christ above for conquest. Christ above must be glorified.
Nothing would stand the eye of Christ, the eye of God, but what is Christ's. If there is a shred of one's own, God will mark it, and pick it out. There is an immense mass of things done -- Bible distributions, missionaries, etc.; but that is bringing what is done to a human standard. How would all the machinery look in the sight of Christ rising up from the Father's throne? What is a system without a living Christ? What was it to Paul? All the hope of the Church is formed for His return. Then I am a widow until He comes; and if a widow, I cannot sit as a queen, and glory in what I have. With these Laodiceans there is complacency in the labour of their own hands -- works; but after all, if God lets in the coming of the Lord Jesus upon them, they will find all that they are doing will be spued out in that day. What is the cure for all this? A word from Christ's mouth makes people wince. They do not like it; but if the eye be single, the whole body will be full of light. He says, "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire." Have you the gold here spoken of? -- the broken heart, all the springs in God? This is to be really rich. You have all wealth in your possession, if you are nothing before God, but are trusting in His mercy.
These Laodiceans did not know Pihahiroth (not knowing what to do, but finding it a happy place to sit down to wait for God). "White raiment, that thou mayest be clothed." There is the white robe of Christ to cover over all our own deformity, and there is the vesture wrought out, the righteousnesses of saints. We should like to have not only the perfect robe to cover us, but the recognition of what He has wrought in us. We have so to walk now, as that these things may be manifested then to be approved, being formed and fashioned by God's grace working in us. Christ would wish us to be coming home laden with the fruits of righteousness wrought in us. "Eyesalve." They were no judges themselves of what was good, and they needed eyesalve. There is something in your eye that hinders your seeing, and you need to be put upon something to cleanse your eye. A Christian may be in a perfect fog, he gets no light, and before he can get it, he has to turn towards God, and seek the glory of God. Christ presented Himself to God -- "Lo I come to do thy will;" "Thy law is within my heart;" "If any man will do His will," He says, "he shall know of the doctrine."
Rev. 3: 20: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock." Christ's patience is remarkable here. "If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me." You must be in Christ where all His light is upon you, or you are out of Christ, where there is no light upon you. How far is it a settled thing in our hearts, "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one." If we are to be part of the letter for Christ, it must be Christ in us -- anything that is good must be put in by Him. If we have learnt to say, "Sinners, of whom I am chief," we must also learn to say, "Saints, of whom I am least." This will not be making light of failure, but will give a taste of grace.
I have to do with God who sees how I have failed in everything. I have nothing to say, and then I may count upon His rich grace to meet my need.
"Behold, I stand at the door, and knock." Here we see the perseverance of His love. He stands knocking to those who have got in, and do not know how to get out of the ruin. Christ says, "Let me in. If, like Peter, you have cursed and sworn, you have used all My gifts for yourself more than for my glory; still, let Me in." This is a most blessed thing. The sun will not roll its twenty-four hours without God being there, if the soul is open to receive Him.
One word as to the promises. The mind, if less spiritual, is most attracted by the lower promises. When the soul is in a more spiritual state it is drawn most by those connected with the person of Christ. There is a difference in these promises; yet this is a very blessed one as connecting one as a victor with Christ Himself. He has won the throne, and those who overcome will share the throne with Him. The rich unselfishness of who and what He is comes out most blessedly in it all. He does not bring things to be sold out, but holds forth these promises as encouragements to us while passing through the wilderness. If those poor Laodiceans could have realized what they gave up when He came to them with His gold, etc., knocking at their hearts, dead dogs as they were, they would find they made a sad miscalculation in being in the place they were. They were satisfied with themselves, and with what they possessed, saying, "I am rich, and increased in goods, and have need of nothing."
from Memorials of the Ministry of G. V. Wigram. Vol. 1.
[Notes on Scripture; Lectures and Letters.
Second Edition, Broom 1881 (First Edition 1880)]