CHRIST AND HIS CHURCH, ONE!
By William Gadsby, of Manchester
For as the body is one, and hath many members,
and all the members of that one body being many, are one body;
so also is Christ — 1 Corinthians 12:18
The inseparable union which subsists between Christ and his church is a most glorious part of the dispensation of God’s matchless grace. The blessed Lord Jesus Christ, as the Christ, and his church, are one, and always were one. They never were, never will be, two. In the eternal purpose of the glorious Trinity, Christ and his church sprang up together, as one glorious body, the Lamb and his wife, having all grace and glory secured in the Head, for the eternal blessedness of every member, and the declaration of the glory of all the perfections of Jehovah. Thus Christ and his spouse are one, and God is glorified in that one glorious body. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ; according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love; having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made as accepted in the beloved” (Eph. i. 3-6.)
The whole church, as one blessed body, with its various members, in one inseparable union to the glorious Head, are emphatically called Christ ; and the whole context proves that each member is a part of this one glorious Christ mystical; and in this body there can not be a schism: “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.”
In this chapter, the apostle makes up a simile from the human body, to show that Christ the Head, and the church the members, are but one body; for as the human body hath many members, as the eyes, the nose, the ears, the feet, etc., yet it is but one body; so also, the body of Christ consists of many members, yet it is but one perfect body. One member cannot justly say to another, I have no need of thee; nor can one branch of the church be considered perfect, separate from the rest. (Heb. xi. 40.) Indeed, the church is declared to be “members of Christ’s body, of his flesh, and of his bones” (Eph. v. 30), and “the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (i. 23). As the glorious Head, Husband, and Surety of this one blessed body, Christ came, and came for the express purpose of redeeming her from all iniquity, and presenting her to himself a glorious church: “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church; and he is the Saviour of the body. Therefore, as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” And again: “Who gave himself for us not,”– not ‘who came to make an indefinite atonement, that might or might not save sinners;’ not for *sin* indefinitely; no, beloved; he came to redeem his church, and save his body, and “gave himself for (persons) as I have said, that he might redeem us from all iniquity; not merely to give us a chance of saving ourselves; no, no; but “that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” (Tit. ii. 14.)
Of this one blessed church, as the glorious body of Christ, it is said, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of law, being made a curse for us.” (Gal. iii. 18.) When, under the sweet unction of God the Holy Ghost, Paul enjoyed a measure of this blessing, as one of the members of this inseparable body, he solemnly exclaims, “Who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. ii. 20); not merely for sin, indefinitely, but for me; for, through matchless grace, he has made it manifest that I am one of his blood-bought family; and, therefore, by the grace of God I am led to sing this glorious song, “He loved me and gave himself for me.” And when God’s dear people, in the present day, enjoy the same witness of the Spirit, under the same solemn unctuous power, they can sing with Paul, and say, “He loved ME, and gave himself for ME.” “He was wounded for MY transgressions, the chastisement of MY peace was laid upon him, and with his stripes I am healed.” (Isa. liii. 5.)
What highly-esteemed persons are those who are thus loved and redeemed, and who constitute the body of Christ! Where grace has made it manifest to the poor sinner that he is one, what manner of person ought he to be, in all holy conversation and godliness. O, my dear brethren, how ought we to walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour. (Eph. v. 2. ) The great love of Christ to his blessed church runs through all his works. God the Father hath put all things under his feet, and given him to be “Head over all things to the church.” (Eph. i. 19—22.) And his blessed Majesty overrules all circumstances and events for his own declarative glory and the good of his church; and it is one branch of the church’s solemn employ to sing both of mercy and judgment. (Ps. ci. 1.)
All the wrath of men, the rage of hell, no, nor the dreadful wanderings and sins of his own people, can ever divert him from this glorious purpose,—his and his Father’s honour in the complete blessedness of his church. The awful sins of his people fell upon him in most dreadful torrents of horror, and, like piercing swords, they stabbed him to the heart. Yet such is his matchless love that the very blood which flowed from his broken and pierced heart, side, and hands, he by his Spirit applies to the hearts of his people, to heal the horrid malignancy of their crimes; so that, “with his stripes we are healed.” Bless his holy name, he was made sin for us, and for us bore all the curse and wrath due to our vile transgressions, and, in the riches of his grace, he has made us the righteousness of God in himself. (2 Cor. v. 21.) He stood before the Father and divine Justice in our sins, and bore all the wrath due unto us ; and, by a matchless, glorious transfer, we stand before God and Justice in his holiness and righteousness, and are “complete in him.” (Col. ii. 10.)
This is God’s blessed method of saving, completely saving, the one mystical body of Christ, that no flesh should glory in his presence. Their whole salvation, holiness, righteousness, and happiness is in, from, and by, the Lord; and he shall have all the glory. “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption; that according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”
The blessed body, the church, is of God, in Christ, chosen in him before the foundation of the world, and shall abide in him for ever. In him she is free from condemnation: “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died; yea, rather, that is risen again; who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” (Rom. viii. 32, etc.) Now all the blessedness contained in these notable verses flow from everlasting, electing, redeeming love, and are freely and graciously bestowed on the members of Christ’s body; and so dear is this body to the Three-One God that the Father “spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for *us* all, and with him also freely gives *us* all things.” And mind, it is the same blessed *us* for whom Christ hath died, and rose again, and for whom he makes intercession at the right hand of God. Yea, it is the same blessed *us* in whom the Spirit “maketh intercession, with groanings which cannot be uttered.” It is the same *us* which can “never be separated from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus.”
Matchless, unparalleled love! And blessed, thrice blessed, are the people that are in such a case! Such is the love of Christ, the Head, to his glorious body, that when he was personally upon earth, wading through deep waters and drinking full draughts of the wrath of incensed Justice, the just due to his church, all he felt, and all he viewed that he had to under go, for her, could not move his heart from her, nor cause him for one moment to forget her. Read John xvii. There you will perceive that when the dreadful hour drew near that death and hell must be let loose upon him, his loving heart and busy thoughts were all engaged in the solemn business of God’s glory and the blessedness of his spouse.
Poor, desponding, broken-hearted child of God, what hast thou to fear? The life of Christ and thy life are but one life; for he is thy Life, and “because he lives thou shalt live also.” Hear his holy prayer to his Father in thy behalf, thou poor, weak worm, poor, worthless, mourning, sin-sick soul: “I pray for them. I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine; and all mine are thine, and thine are mine, and I am glorified in them.” See the blessed ground upon which he goes, as if he were determined to remind the Father of the relationship which subsisted between the Father, and himself, and the church: “And they are mine and thine; and I pray for them, and for them only. Thou gavest them me, and I give them eternal life, and that life is in myself. This is my body, and my flesh, and my bones; my glorious church (Eph. v. 27), and thy glorious house, which thou hast determined to glorify. (Isa. Ix. 7.) Yea, thou hast said thou wilt be unto her an everlasting light, and her glory. This is thy chosen Zion; thy rest for ever. Here thou wilt dwell, for thou hast desired it. Therefore, they are thine and mine; and what they are in thy love and purpose of grace, as chosen in me, and as they stand in me, I pray that they may be brought to a sweet view and feeling of in their own souls, and live and act accordingly; that they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one; I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one.”
The Lord enable each believing soul to realize a little of the blessedness of this glorious union,—-“That they may be one, even as we are one; I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one.” Poor sinners taken up into union with God, by virtue of their union to Christ, their Head ; one with Christ, as he is one with the Father! Bless his holy name, he has taken their nature into union with his Godhead, that he might come down and suit himself to their cases and circumstances, and, by power divine, vitally make manifest what they are by virtue of an eternal union to him, in the ancient settlements of heaven; and he makes them partakers of his Spirit, life, and holiness, to raise them vitally up to God (Eph. i. 17, 18; Rom. viii. 11; John vii. 88, 89; xiv. 17-19; Heb. xii. 10; 2 Pet. i. 4); that by faith in Christ, under the divine unction and teachings of God the Holy Ghost, they may hold converse with the Father, as their own covenant God and Father, in the openings of his love in eternal election and sovereign choice of them in Christ before the world was; and in the gift of Christ to them, and them to Christ, and all the blessings secured in him for them, both for time and eternity, and to hold solemn converse with Christ, as their glorious Head, in his incarnation, holy life, and dreadful sufferings for them, and in all the endearing offices he fills, characters he sustains, names he bears, and relationship in which he stands to them; together with the fulness that in him dwells; and to hold converse with the Holy Ghost, in his soul-quickening, enlightening, convincing, reproving, teaching, anointing, sealing, comforting, sanctifying operations. And thus, by virtue of their union to Christ, are they raised above the world to have fellowship with God, and, at some blessed moments, are brought to enjoy the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, and are looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ. (Tit. ii. 18.) And when the world is in a blaze, this glorious church shall share in all the beauties of Christ, their glorious Head, and receive the kingdom prepared for them of the Father, before the world was; and so shall be forever with the Lord.—