Where is the Lord in the midst?


WHERE IS THE LORD IN THE MIDST?

Reading at Düsseldorf, Germany
Sabbath, 10 June 1933
James Taylor

2 Timothy 2 : 22

But youthful lusts flee, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, with those that call upon the Lord out of a pure heart.

2 Timothy 3 : 8, 9

Now in the same manner in which Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, thus these also withstand the truth; men corrupted in mind, found worthless as regards the faith.

But they shall not advance farther; for their folly shall be completely manifest to all, as that of those also became.

Exodus 8 : 16-19, 23

And Jehovah said to Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch out thy staff, and smite the dust of the earth, and it shall become gnats throughout the land of Egypt.

And they did so; and Aaron stretched out his hand with his staff, and smote the dust of the earth, and there arose gnats on man and on beast: all the dust of the land became gnats throughout the land of Egypt.

And the scribes did so with their sorceries, to bring forth gnats; but they could not. And the gnats were on man and on beast.

Then the scribes said to Pharaoh, This is the finger of God! But Pharaoh’s heart was stubborn, and he hearkened not to them, as Jehovah had said.

And I will put a separation between my people and thy people; to-morrow shall this sign be.

Luke 2 : 44, 46

but, supposing him to be in the company that journeyed together, they went a day’s journey, and sought him among their relations and acquaintances:

And it came to pass, after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers and hearing them and asking them questions.

J.T. Perhaps the brothers have a special wish as to something which we should consider together.

Ques. Can you show the saints from the Scriptures a way out of the present confusion, leading them to where the Lord is really in the midst and not only where they claim to be right and to have the Lord in the midst?

J.T. In order to answer this important question let us read 2 Timothy 2:22; and 3:8, 9; Exodus 8:16-19, 23; Luke 2:44, 46. The last passage clearly shows that there are Christians who think they have the Lord among them, but who do not have Him among them. It says that His parents supposed Him to be in the company that journeyed together, but He was not there. Then it says further that they sought Him among their relations and acquaintances; they sought the Lord where there were natural relationships, while He is only to be found where spiritual relations are fostered. They had to return to Jerusalem. Many Christians today are like Mary and Joseph; they think the Lord is in their midst but they deceive themselves. They move perhaps on natural lines, while the Lord can only be known spiritually.

Luke generally regards Jerusalem as the divine centre. In Luke 24:49 the disciples were to remain in Jerusalem till they should be clothed with power from on high, and in the same chapter the two disciples from Emmaüs returned to Jerusalem, after they had seen the Lord. So in Luke 2 the parents of Jesus also had to return to Jerusalem and there they found Him.

The fact that many Christians celebrate the Supper and hold fast certain customs does not give them the slightest guarantee that the Lord is in their midst. We must seek for other proofs of the Lord's presence. Jerusalem is a type of the divine centre. We must stand in relation to it, otherwise we cannot claim to have the Lord among us. In the same chapter (Luke 2) we also read that there was a certain man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon. It characterised Simeon to dwell in Jerusalem, and he was led of the Holy Spirit. It says of him that the Holy Spirit was upon him (v. 25), that he had received a divine communication by the Holy Spirit (v. 26), and that he came in the Spirit into the temple (v. 27). When he was in the temple, the Lord also came in. Then Simeon could give a correct account of the Lord, that He was a light for revelation of the gentiles and the glory of His people Israel (vv. 28-32). That shows us what is present in Jerusalem, the divine centre.

True believers have to seek after other distinguishing features than mere externals ecclesiastically, for these can easily be imitated by others. True believers must seek a proof that that with which we are going on is also a living reality and cannot be imitated. Every spiritual Christian very soon discerns imitations and separates himself from them. When we return to Jerusalem we find the Lord in the temple. The temple is the place where we are always receiving new and fresh communications from God, as we see with Simeon. If we are not constantly receiving fresh thoughts from God, we cannot claim to have the Lord in our midst. If there is with us a hunger after God's word and we have no living communication from God (Amos 8:11, 12) but have to live on what was said earlier, for example, or Mr Darby's writings, then it is clear that the temple of God is not with us. In the temple there are to be found continually fresh communications from God. Simeon could take the child Jesus in his arms and he received at that time a completely new revelation as to Christ. That characterises Jerusalem. Simeon could speak of Christ with spiritual intelligence. The aged Anna also coming up the same hour, gave praise to God and spoke of Christ to all those who waited for redemption in Jerusalem. These spiritual characteristics must be found with us if we claim to have the Lord in our midst.

Ques. Is not all that so deceptively imitated?

J.T. Just on that account our spirituality is put to the test. We were speaking earlier of the householder who brings forth out of his treasure things new and old. Such an one will not be deceived by imitations. Where the Lord is really present He makes His presence also felt. He is never inactive, but if He is there He makes Himself noticeable.

Ques. Are there many today like Martha?

J.T. But Martha received the Lord into her house and He also went in.

Rem. But her heart was not right.

J.T. The Lord was not satisfied with her, but she was near enough to the Lord for Him to set her right. Where the Lord is present we are in a safe position for He will then put right everything that is not right with us.

Rem. The two disciples went away from Jerusalem to Emmaüs.

J.T. But they also returned to Jerusalem after the Lord had restored them. Martha and the two disciples who went to Emmaüs represent believers who can still be set right, but Christians who think and claim to have the Lord in their midst, although that is not so, are quite hopeless if they do not become upright and repent. Ephraim is joined to idols: leave him alone, Hos. 4:17. Only if they perceive that the Lord is not with them can they be helped. If we once honestly ask ourselves if the Lord is in our midst, then He is not far away from us. The disciples on the way to Emmaüs were conversing about the Lord and He walked with them.

Ques. Will all not be restored?

J.T. The Lord would gladly restore all and on this account He is standing at the door and knocking (Rev. 3:20).

Ques. Does that refer to believers?

J.T. Quite so. If any one hears His voice and opens the door then the Lord goes in to him and sups with him in Laodicea and the person concerned is then transferred into a circle (in Philadelphia) where he can also sup with the Lord. The Lord says, I will . . . sup with him, but then He also adds, and he with me. The fact that the Lord can eat with him where he is shows that it is a question of a believer, for an unbeliever can provide the Lord with no spiritual food. This shows, however, very beautifully the present attitude of our Lord. When Christians say the Lord is with them and yet they have no fresh food, they are manifestly not supping with the Lord. They have no proof of the Lord's being in their midst. It is impossible that the Lord can remain in a dead state of things. If the Lord is really amongst us then as with Martha He puts right all that is wrong, and if all is right with us, then He reveals Himself as with Mary. The service with us is then always in the living power of the Holy Spirit.

Rem. The characteristic of His sheep is that they hear His voice (John 10:27).

J.T. The sheep also know the voice of the good Shepherd (John 10:4), and the Lord knows them (John 10:27). In the addresses to the seven assemblies (Rev. 2 and 3) the Lord says to each assembly, I know.

Ques. Is the Lord at the present time taking up a waiting attitude in relation to believers who are going their own way?

J.T. Yes, He is standing at the door and knocking. It is wonderful that the Lord does this, for this attitude is very humbling for Him. If I place myself in the street and knock continuously somewhere without being opened to, then at last I make myself ridiculous. But the Lord in His great grace is taking up this attitude.

Ques. What does the knocking mean?

J.T. Perhaps the Lord takes away my husband or wife, or my business goes down. The Lord knocks continually on, He knocks and knocks. But it is a dishonour to the Lord if He has to continue to knock and receives no answer.

In Exodus 8:16-19 we have that which cannot be imitated. The gnats were the only sign of which Pharaoh was not previously told, and also it is not written that they were taken away again. It only says that the scribes said to Pharaoh, This is the finger of God!. That was life. A proof that the Lord is really present among Christians is that there is then a living condition of things there.

Rem. The scribes could not imitate that.

J.T. For that reason I suggested reading 2 Timothy 3:9, Their folly shall be completely manifest to all, as that of those also became. It is as clear as anything for everyone who has eyes to see, that those who from time to time have separated from us are not marked by life and have no fresh food. When the Lord gave us a fresh thought about His Person then they all fought against it with one accord.

Ques. Does that relate to believers, men corrupted in mind, 2 Tim. 3:8?

J.T. I should not like to apply that to believers in its full sense, yet whoever openly opposes the truth always shows that he is corrupted in mind. The magicians withstood the truth by imitating it. It is very important that we understand the sign of life, which they cannot imitate. It came to light in creatures which could scarcely be seen with the human eye. These gnats are types of us. If we really live according to God we must take up a small, humble position. We see the power of God in these little creatures, which can scarcely be seen.

Rem. And yet they are such a trouble to people.

J.T. That can only be God's finger if such little creatures are brought into being and then such power proceeds from them. It says There arose gnats on man and on beast: all the dust of the land became gnats throughout the land of Egypt, Exod. 8:17. They were extraordinarily small and diminutive but they made themselves noticeable everywhere, so that the scribes had to confess This is the finger of God! (v. 19). Immediately after that, Israel was separated (vv. 22, 23). As soon as we feel in us the life which cannot be imitated, we separate ourselves from everything else.

Ques. In what way can we be gnats?

J.T. That means that we take up the ground of being the offscouring of the world, the refuse of all (1 Cor. 4:13), but that from the dust of the earth we have come forth in life, and in this way are a plague for all men. When anyone lives as Christ lived, then men call out, Away with such a one as that from the earth, for it was not fit he should live, Acts 22:22. Every natural man thinks that of a believer who is marked by life. All the dust of Egypt became gnats. Every one who has the consciousness that he is dust becomes a gnat and a plague to other men. Man is dust and when he recognises it, then the power of God works in him. Thought I am speaking of it, I have to confess how little I know of it practically. We are scarcely aware that we are the offscouring of the world.

In the next chapter (Exodus 9:8-11) ashes of the furnace were scattered over the land of Egypt and the ashes became dust which brought forth boils on man and on cattle. The scribes could not stand before Moses because of the boils. The ashes of the furnace goes further than the dust of the earth, for it represents that which has gone through the fire. The three friends of Daniel had been in the burning fiery furnace (Dan. 3). What could Nebuchadnezzar with all his mighty men do to them then? They had gone through the fire. That which such believers have cannot be imitated. The fire has burned up in them what is of the flesh. The ashes speak of death in a more drastic way than the dust of the earth. Israel had death in this way before them as they celebrated the passover, for the lamb was roast with fire. Even the sin-offering was completely burned up. One who has experienced that of which these types speak now lives only by the power of God. He is truly spiritual, for the flesh in him has come to an end and such a one also knows where the Lord is present.

There are, however, many Christians who in the experience of their souls have not yet arrived at this. They must have facts as a proof that the Lord is present. The scripture gives us such proofs in 2 Timothy 2 where it says, Pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, with those that call upon the Lord out of a pure heart (v. 22). God requires me first of all to pursue righteousness in connection with those to whom I wish to attach myself. That means, however, that I must carefully examine all their previous history. In the Old Testament it always says, 'give your genealogy; show where you have come from'. I must accurately search out how, for example, the whole movement of Brethren has come about and how the Open and Elberfeld Brethren originated. I must look into the whole previous history. Perhaps they are the descendants of very honourable men, yet they have perhaps to be accounted polluted, like the descendants of Barzillai, who is referred to in 2 Samuel 17:27; and 19:31-39. They were removed from the priesthood as polluted because they could not declare their genealogy (Ezra 2:61, 62; Neh. 7:63, 64). We must be able to declare our genealogy.

Ques. What does that mean?

J.T. Our previous history must be clear and transparent.

Rem. If in it we have an unrighteous position, we are to be rejected.

Ques. What is then our genealogy?

J.T. That is a very important question for us. About a hundred years ago the Lord intervened again just as in the days of Luther and directed the attention of the saints to the truth that He is the Head of the body, the assembly. Professing Christians rejected this truth with the same enmity as marked the Jews who surrounded the Lord in John 10:24. But from then on, the Lord separated Himself from the Jews and departed beyond the Jordan to the place where John was baptising at the first. The same thing happened a hundred years ago in Christendom. Since that time the Lord is standing outside of all christian systems and has returned to first principles. A hundred years ago the Lord recovered His people to the principles of the apostles. Luther only recovered justification by faith and the gospel, but a hundred years ago every essential feature of the assembly was revived and since then the Lord has maintained His people in these first principles. That is our genealogy. Like the Lord, we have separated ourselves from the unrighteousness in the Christian profession and are pursuing righteousness, faith, love, peace with those that call upon the Lord out of a pure heart. There are perhaps many breaking bread with us, however, who do understand that.

Rem. But the Open and Elberfeld Brethren take the same ground.

J.T. They assert that, but the facts of the history of their division show that they do not do so. In order to prove that, we have zealously to follow up the occurrences at the divisions from 1845 onwards. The pamphlet, the whole Case of Plymouth and Bethesda, is a reliable account of the origin of the Open Brethren and it is to be had by all who in faithfulness to the Lord wish to look into that painful conflict and the consequent division. The Bereans who searched out from the Scriptures what Paul said to them, are set before us by the Holy Spirit as a pattern. The brethren in Bristol., meeting in Bethesda, a former Baptist chapel, were not faithful to Christ, for they received people to them who were in fellowship with a man in Plymouth of whom they also admitted that he was a heretic. In this way they ignored 2 John 9, 11.

The Elberfeld brethren wrongly accused F. E. Raven as a heretic. There are sufficient proofs that all their accusations are false. They are, therefore, obviously on unrighteous ground, and the Lord cannot be with false accusers.

Ques. Did Elberfeld in 1890 forsake the way of truth?

J.T. Yes. They not only brought forward false accusations but they rejected the truth as to eternal life. Further, they ignored the teaching of 1 Corinthians as to the local assembly, for according to that epistle a local company where there is a person presumed to be a heretic, must first of all be required to take his case in hand and if possible place him under discipline. Instead of this, Bexhill refused a letter of commendation from Greenwich, where Mr Raven resided, and the brethren at Elberfeld gave that out as a ground for division, for they asserted that Greenwich by this action of Bexhill, was now out of fellowship. Such behaviour is extremely unrighteous, for up till then no one had laid before the assembly in Greenwich anything of Mr Raven's so-called heresy. Moreover, when the Lord brings a special truth prominently forward, as He did in 1890, then every believer and every local assembly is obliged to take a stand before Him in relation to it. But the assemblies in Germany accepted the decision of Elberfeld without an examination of the matter. Those who behave in this way cannot possibly be pursuing righteousness. On the contrary they identify themselves with the false accusers of F. E. Raven and with the unrighteous action of Bexhill.

Ques. Are there not many with Elberfeld who are in ignorance of the true state of things?

J.T. Undoubtedly, but that does not justify them, according to Leviticus 4, where one who has sinned through inadvertence (ignorance) is regarded as guilty. When his attention is called to it then he has to own it, and by the death of Christ (typically) to cleanse himself of it. Also, that many of them did not pass through the happenings of the year 1890 does not justify them, for the Lord says to the Pharisees that God would even bring the blood of Abel upon their head (Matt. 23:35). That shows how important it is that before I join a company of Christians I have to examine thoroughly their whole antecedents, otherwise I may possibly ignorantly bring blood-guiltiness upon me.

Ques. Could then Elberfeld not have acted ignorantly when they judged Mr Raven to be a heretic?

J.T. Certainly, but they should have acquainted themselves better as to the facts, for all the accusations against Mr Raven which Elberfeld received and spread were completely false. If I accuse someone of being a murderer and the person concerned and many others show me clearly and plainly that my accusation is false, am I not then a false accuser, and doing the work of the enemy, if I do not withdraw my accusation? Mr Raven and many others wrote that all accusations of Elberfeld were untrue, but Elberfeld did not withdraw the accusations.

In view of these painful facts one can in no way say that the Elberfeld brethren are pursuing righteousness, and that the Lord is in their midst, for the Lord is only to be found where righteousness is. We can see in Deuteronomy 19:15-21 the judgment which pursues a false accuser.

Originally published in MINISTRY BY J. TAYLOR, New Series, Vol. 77.

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