There are two distinct relations in which believers may be viewed with reference to the Lord—relations so intimately interwoven that the one may be said to be the complement of the other; namely, as the subjects of His authority, and the objects of His love, the former bringing out into relief responsibility, the latter privilege. It is not to be forgotten that “God hath made that same Jesus both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). Exaltation, supremacy, dominion, authority and power stand connected with the first title, while love, suffering, and humiliation, issuing in infinite privileges for the believer, stand connected with the second.
This twofold relation to the Lordship and to the love of Christ, the Christian is called to recognize both in the language of his lips, and in the language of his life; in the secrecy of his chamber, and in the collective character of his relations with the Lord’s people. Neither the one nor the other can be superficially viewed, without serious injury resulting to the individual and to the company.
Of the many rocks upon which it is possible to make shipwreck, in all probability the greatest danger and the most complete disaster is the divorcing of the Lordship from the love of Christ.
The tendency is natural to dwell in unfeigned delight upon that love, so deep, so true, expressed in the death of the blessed Savior, forgetful of the thought conveyed in that remarkable combination of words selected by the Spirit, representing what is essential to the due and reverential remembrance of His death, namely, “the Lord’s death” (1 Corinthians 11:26); for the cup is the cup of the Lord (v. 27); the supper is the supper of the Lord (v. 20); and the table is the table of the Lord (ch. 10:21). What might be called the environment of the scene and occasion is that of the Lord, while the communion or fellowship enjoyed in the energy of divine affection is that of the body and blood of Christ (ch. 10:16).
Herein is involved that attitude of soul that implies subjection to His authority, to His orderings, to His word and will, by which alone our love can find any expression emancipating itself from mere fruitless emotion and fulfilling those deep parting desires of the Lord uttered in John 14:21, 23: “He that hath My commandments and keepeth them he it is that loveth Me”; and “If a man love Me he will keep My words.” The lack of this as the habit of one’s spiritual life—and who is not conscious of failure in this respect?—not only necessarily affects the heart’s appreciation of the Lord’s supper, but leaves the soul powerless to act to meet the emergency that may arise, as a test, allowed as such by the Lord Himself.
Following up this line of thought, some remarks on Revelation 1 may not be without profit, where the beloved apostle, overwhelmed by the consciousness of the love of Christ as Savior, breaks out into words of adoration from an overflowing heart; words to which believers, from that day to the present moment, have so often subscribed their hearty Amen at the Lord’s table. “Now unto Him that loves [literal translation] us and washed us from our sins in His own blood,” etc.
But the very next scene “in the isle that is called Patmos” appears to convey what is both arresting and instructive. John was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s day”: but the vision is not of that suffering love to which his heart responded not long before, but of that other and equally essential aspect of the same identical Person which the Spirit, through the medium of “a great voice as of a trumpet” turns John completely round to contemplate; for the voice was from “behind him…and I turned to see the voice.” The vision was that of majestic dignity; of impressive holiness, authority and power; of righteousness and glory; and its effect upon John, who had so profound an apprehension of the love of Christ, was such that it is written: “When I saw Him I fell at His feet as dead.” But this was none other than the One whose love, expressed in death, had enraptured the heart of “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” drawing him out in responsive words of worship and adoration. It appears as if the Lord would add to this the sense of His majestic dignity accompanied by the symbolic attributes of His holiness, thereby encouraging the reverential sense of His Lordship without depreciating that of His love. For gracious words follow: “Fear not, I” —this majestic One, impressive in His dignity, holiness, and glory—“I am the first and the last and the living One and I became dead, and behold I am living to the ages of ages,” and that without divesting Himself of any of those symbolic attributes before ministering to John’s relief.
What impresses itself upon one’s thoughts in these two scenes is the similarity between the circumstances that befell John and those in which the Lord’s people are liable to find themselves, and from which, without pride, they cannot claim immunity, namely, becoming so engrossed with the contemplation of the love of Christ in death, and their answering response in worship and thanksgiving, that they may find themselves drifting fast into forgetfulness of the supreme dignity, the holiness, and the searching character of the glory of the person of Him who died. Such forgetfulness is a ready stepping-stone to lightly esteeming His supremacy and also His authority in the Assembly and over the individual. In other words, permitting the proper and blessed sense of the love of Christ to eclipse in the soul the due and necessary sense of the Lordship of Christ, and thus losing the full effect upon heart and conscience of the expression “the Lord’s death.” Surely the believer should never forget that the love of Christ and the Lordship of Christ are the complements one of the other, at all times and under all circumstances; nor fail to cultivate diligently in his own soul that which deepens and strengthens the foundations of divine fellowship, namely, the abiding consciousness of the Lordship of Christ, apart from which the fellowship of love tends to laxity, by reason of love preponderating over that holy and healthy sense of responsibility which is essential to a well-balanced path, whether individual or collective; part and parcel of true divine liberty, and far removed from any sense of bondage.
To claim freedom from responsibility is to claim title to self-originating motive and design in the service of God, as well as to tamper with a principle that is the very kernel of apostasy in the anti-Christian world.
Obedience is the pivot of Christian liberty. Hence the value and importance of a divine apprehension and appreciation of the Lordship of Christ, and its inseparable association with His love.
There is another aspect of the Lordship of Christ which is in perfect harmony with what has been said above, namely, that which bears upon His administration of the things of God and on His behalf. Christ as Lord being the dispenser, as He is the depository of present and eternal blessings, with which His Lordship stands intimately and primarily connected.
To refer for a moment to Joseph, who was in his history a remarkable type of Christ, it will be remembered that while he administered everything for Pharaoh in grace, wisdom and blessing, there was yet another character in full harmony with that of administration, in which he appeared as regarded his brethren, namely, in the dignity and glory of his personal position. The effect of this was good, deepening the apprehension of Joseph’s grace, as revealed in his words and kiss of reconciliation.
The reverential consciousness of the glory, holiness and majesty of the Lord’s person by no means tends to produce a legal spirit or legal thoughts in His presence, but rather contributes towards liberty and communion with the Lord on its proper plane.