Alfred Place Baptist Church

4:13 Christian Maturity

Ephesians 4:13 “Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

A British Prime Minister once said that his priorities while in leadership would be Education, Education, Education. There are many admirable things about such a sentiment. Nero would have never even thought like that when he became Emperor in Rome in 54. He was the infamous Caesar whose prisoner Paul was when he wrote this letter. The apostle had appealed to him for freedom to be engaged in Christian evangelism and gatherings for himself and for the whole church. Nero and the Roman Caesars weren’t at all interested in sponsoring education, but through the worldwide triumph and spread of Christianity maturing in knowledge and understanding is now valued all over the world. Whether today’s Caesars can deliver true wisdom to the citizens of their countries is questionable. The Bible affirms that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. There can’t be wisdom without that. Certainly as a congregation we are all concerned about growing in knowledge. In the next verse to our text Paul’s concern is that Christians “will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming (v.14). The apostle’s concern is for an educated growing church.

Notice that Paul is focusing on the whole church: “until we all reach unity in the faith” (v.13); he would be horrified if in a congregation there would be just a few high-flyers who were the Christian eggheads, bursting with theological understanding, while the rest of the congregation were content that it was so; “go and see so-and-so,” they would tell the inquirer, if someone asked them about justification, or the nature of the inspiration of Scripture, or whether Jesus Christ had two natures, or some such doctrinal question. They would point out to them the experts in ‘mother church.’ They themselves weren’t interested in such matters. The problem is that the egghead won’t be there in your office on Monday when people ask questions about Christianity. He isn’t with you on the train or plane. He’ll be absent from family gatherings. There’s simply you alone, and under the spotlight for being a ‘Christian.’ Paul wouldn’t be happy if there were a single Christian who was biblically illiterate. You are the light of the world, and the light is the message of the gospel, known and lived out by every Christian. So Paul is saying in our text something like this, “We must all as a congregation reach the unity of a one heart and mind in these various areas – the faith, the knowledge of the Son of God, spiritual maturity, attaining the whole measure of the fullness of God.” The apostle specifies three areas of growth in our text:

1. LET US ALL BE UNITED IN OUR KNOWLEDGE OF THE FAITH AND OF THE SON OF GOD.

The ‘faith’ referred to here is not our trust in God but the Christian faith itself; revealed religion; the truths God has taken such pains to bring to us. We are to contend for the faith that has been delivered to the saints once and for all. We have a duty to use our minds in religion, and apply rigorous Christian thought to every area of our lives. It’s great to enjoy Christian experiences (I sometimes wish you all had some of mine, and I would covet yours too), but we have to think through the implications of our faith, and to gird up the loins of our mind. You are familiar with the three aspects of our Christian lives, the Facts of biblical religion, our Faith, and our Feelings. The facts come first: God was manifest in the flesh; Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures and under Pontius Pilate; he rose from the dead on the third day. These are the facts of the Christian religion. Next comes our faith; it focuses in the person and work of Christ; we trust in the facts; we believe that they are true and we entrust ourselves in the one who says, “Come to me.” Our feelings come third; they flow from our faith in the facts. The Christian life is like riding a galloping horse and we cling to the reins and look ahead to the Facts. Our eyes are on Jesus Christ. Then we keep going, but if we look behind us and focus our eyes on Feelings we are not going to keep on the back of this stallion for very long. We are going to fly through the air and crash to the ground. We are saved from many a fall by looking in faith to the facts not looking back to our experiences.

Paul begins here with the faith and it is crucial we see the importance of knowing and understanding it for ourselves. Let me give you a number of reasons for this;

i] Personal testimony and evangelism requires it. How can you share your faith with someone if you don’t know what you believe? I remember a mother of a boy who had begun to attend this church saying to me in their home, “Tell me, what do you believe?” Tonight I am ready to tell her because I have grieved over my non-answer for years. Alas, my words were very inadequate that night. I wasn’t ready to give her a simple answer for my hope, as Peter urges every Christian. Can we tell people of the nature of God, that he is light and love, that he is Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Can we explain to people what Jesus meant by saying, “You must be born again”? We can never testify to people or answer their question until we know what is the faith.

ii] Why do you believe what you believe? Do you know? What are the grounds we have for our faith? What are the facts? In the world today we touch enormous hostility under a very thin surface. Paul talks about taking our stand for the Christian faith in an evil day and keeping upright. There are those who might want to know our reasons for worshipping Jesus Christ. Why don’t we believe in reincarnation? We do we believe in heaven and hell? There are common objections to these doctrines and we should know basic Christian answers.

iii] The other reason for knowing the faith is what I have hinted at already, its importance for personal religion. We are souls who will live as long as God himself, and our calling is to know God in this life that we may serve him and his people with all our ransomed powers. Most of the pressing problems in any congregation can be traced back to ignorance in individual Christians. Problems of doubt, of assurance, of discouragement; problems in handling bereavement can stem from an ignorance of the Christian faith, or from a failure to apply it. Many of the problems in the church are due to failures in relationships and these are often the result of doctrinal ignorance or defiance. We don’t know the Lord Jesus Christ as we should. Remember the problems that lurked there in the church at Philippi, everyone knowing his own position and his rights; no one prepared to give ground, and so the church was breaking up. “Are you forgetting Jesus Christ?” asks Paul. “Why isn’t his mind in you?” Then he goes on to speak of the way the eternal Son of God was prepared to become a man, a servant, a crucified lamb. Jesus didn’t say, “I know my position and my rights and they are sacrosanct. You have to give way.” Jesus gave way.

It is so important for every one of us to come here each Sunday, morning and evening, and listen and learn and do what we hear. We have to grow together as we listen together and obey together, and so we reach unity in the faith. Then Paul, you notice in our text, goes on to mention unity in “the knowledge of the Son of God” (v.13). So much has been made known to us about Christ in four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and also in the New Testament letters explaining who Christ was, and why he came, and what he accomplished, and what he is doing today. It is all most fascinating, but it is not enough to have such information in our memories. This external revelation of the Son of God can motivate people to act; it can change people’s lives; it can clean them up and make them more responsible social and moral creatures. All that is possible, and yet those people not be saved.

Let me remind you of an incident in the life of our Lord when ten lepers from a leper colony sought him out. Think of it, a whole ward, as it were, full of men suffering with leprosy deciding to go en bloc to see the Son of God about getting better – and Christ healed the lot. They were to a man cleansed of their disease, but you remember what happened next, nine of them went rushing off to their homes and families without a backward glance. Just one cleansed leper came with words of gratitude and thanks to Christ. All of them had been changed by him. Their outward lives from that day on were going to be utterly different from the years they’d been outcasts with that terrible contagious disease, but only one leper had a change of heart. The Lord Jesus’ influence can change our company and our lifestyles and our tastes, while all the time our hearts remain unchanged. It was when Lydia’s heart was opened by the Lord that she knew the gospel and embraced the apostle’s teaching. Then she became a different person. We can know so much about Jesus Christ, but growing in our knowledge of him begins when his truth enters our hearts. Then our lives can overflow with his grace and love – that is Paul’s desire for every one of us. It was his desire for himself – “that I might know him,” he said. Of course he did know him but to know him deeper, with more gratitude for all he’d done for Paul. “There is so much more of the Lord Jesus that I need to know,” he was saying.

There have been occasions over the past years when I’ve thought, “I should have gone twenty years ago. I’ve seen little success and I’ve wasted my years here. Somebody else could come here who would be more useful than me.” I have seen men after a barren ministry moving and then their work has flourished. But more often I’ve seen the very opposite; men moving from a church where God has sustained them and they’ve moved to another pulpit and there they’ve known nothing of the blessing of God. Humanly speaking it has been a disastrous move. Then I say to myself, “Why art thou cast down O my soul?” Such thinking is very foolish. That another man might have been far more able, of that there is no doubt, but he couldn’t be more useful unless God made him useful. Spiritual usefulness doesn’t depend on natural ability; it depends on the application God makes of his truth to men’s hearts.

We have to know the Son of God from our hearts, not simply an apprehension of him but to know the glory of his love in our lives. Are we all united in that? How do you answer that question? I can’t answer it. Yes, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so. We know he does, but what impact is that having on our lives? Or consider the holiness of the Lord Christ. How often that is emphasised in the Bible, that he was like a lamb without a single blemish or spot; holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners. How his own heavenly Father testified how well pleased he was with his Son. Do I relate to God’s holy child Jesus? Is my life affected by the fact that I walk in fellowship with God’s holy Son day by day? When I read the newspaper, or watch television, or listen to other people does the fact of my Saviour’s holiness make its imprint on my life? Do I know him as the holy Son of God?

Let me emphasise again that such knowledge of God the Son is not too strange for you; it is not too high to understand. It is not a knowledge for preachers alone. Whoever you may be, sitting in front of me here in your pew, this is within your range. You can reach it; you can attain a greater knowledge of the Son of God than you have already. You get it by coming here on Sundays and applying your minds to what you hear. There was a woman who once came to this church but she was so sporadic in her attendance. She would come on a Sunday night, and then I wouldn’t see her for a month or so, and then she would turn up again. And she might come on one of those Sundays when I’m preaching one of those really leaden complicated sermons. You know what I’m talking about, so that it might be two months before she heard a lively powerful message. That was no good for her at all. Maybe twelve times in a year we would have the pleasure of her company in church, and she was absolutely stagnant in the Christian faith. There was no spiritual growth at all. She finally stopped attending. You imagine a child who goes to school on average one day each week, and then he’s at home for the other four school days. Will he be making any progress in school? None at all. Sundays are sacrosanct for us; we need to be changed and the Word of God teaches us, and reproves us, and corrects us and instructs us in righteousness.

Donald MacDonald was a Free Church of Scotland who had a powerful ministry in the Greyfriars Church in Inverness. He had been converted in an awakening in Ness on the island of Lewis in the Hebrides under Roderick John Macleod in 1924; he was fourteen years of age. Many years later as a minister there was an occasion when he was sitting in a congregation listening to a man whom he didn’t know and had never seen before. The man preached, giving an address, quite a long address in fact, which was beautiful. Donald MacDonald made it his business after the meeting to find out where he’d got this knowledge of God. He introduced himself and thanked the man, and then he said to him, “Where did you do your training?” He told Donald, “I was thirty-six years of age before I knew anything about God or about the Bible. It was a foreign book to me, but at the age of thirty-six I was converted and I spent three whole years in the study of the Bible. During those years I didn’t know that there was such a thing as a commentary on the Bible. I was apart for three whole years just studying the Bible. When I emerged and came out into the open, I discovered that what I had learned from the Bible was Reformed theology. He had come to believe in Christ alone for salvation, through faith alone, by grace alone, on the authority of Scripture alone and all to the glory of God alone. That is historic Christianity and he found himself not isolated at all but surrounded with a great cloud of witnesses.

This man had reached unity in the faith with Christians down through the centuries – the historic Christian faith – and he’d come to a deep knowledge of the person and work of the Son of God, and he had done so by the Bible alone. Men and women, I plead with you, study the Bible if you want to know the most fascinating person this world has ever seen. Study the Bible if you want to enjoy God and be a happy man. Study the Bible if you want an anchor in your life. Study the Bible that you might live a useful life. Don’t be content to come to church on the Lord’s Day and hear the Bible read aloud by me. Get down your own copy of the Bible and study it for yourselves to come to a knowledge of the Son of God. And the same time as you are studying it keep saying good-bye to sin; bid it farewell for ever. As you do that you will get fresh glimpses of the glories of Christ instilled into your mind.

2. LET US ALL ATTAIN MATURITY.

Paul again is addressing the entire congregation, the totality of believers as the body of Christ. “I want you to become a really mature church,” he is saying. The phrase ‘mature’ is a controversial choice of words because it is the word for an adult male, a full-grown man, not the generic word ‘human being.’ The contrast is found in the next verse with its reference to infants who in an instant can wail, or dance with joy, or stamp their feet, or sulk. “Be a man!” says Paul to the entire congregation thinking of all the strengths of God-created manhood – as in the warrior.

Sometimes we can let ourselves be discouraged by our empty pews, but what if we had a full house? How quickly we would take that for granted, and what if they were many immature men and women, just like children, tossed about with every wind of doctrine? What tensions and problems and hostilities they would bring to us. We would have the numbers, yes, but numbers of difficulties along with them, and we would look back longingly at these days when we were at peace and modest. You consider the contribution that a few mature Christian students bring to our congregation, how their loyalty and servants’ hearts motivate us, how we are lifted up by their praying. What an influence these men and women are in the church. I refer to some of our students because this is unusual. Maturity comes with age and experience. Old wine is the best wine we are told because the wine has matured, and that is so with the Christian, and yet we find old Christians who are immature believers and young Christians who are mature believers.

What is the mark of a mature Christian? It is maturity in faith of which the New Testament speaks. A mature Christian is strong in believing. I think we can find it beautifully expressed in one Old Testament believer in these words, that he trusts in God and is not afraid. I’m referring to that great testimony of the prophet Isaiah, “Behold God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid” (Is. 12:2). Frequently people are afraid of past sins. King David had every reason to be afraid of past sins, for he’d committed sins and we know he couldn’t and didn’t forget them. Man of God though he was, he fell deeply, just like you and I do. Yet he said, “I will trust and not be afraid.” He repented, in fact he hated what he’d done, and his trust in our merciful God cast out his fear. Think of it in this way: if you’ve committed wrong and been fined or put into prison, once you have paid your fine or served your time in prison, it’s all over. The law is satisfied; you are free. Similarly, a truly Christian man always laments his sins, his past sins, but he says: “I will trust and not be afraid,” because God’s law has been satisfied. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. Those sins were once and for all condemned in Christ. Payment God cannot twice demand, first at my bleeding Surety’s hand, and then again at mine! Christ has met all the demands of the law for my past sins and therefore I can say, “I will trust and not be afraid.”

Spurgeon says about himself that sometimes he felt his life to be “as dark as hell’s profoundest night.” Think of that! Such was the expression that he used and it is arresting enough for anybody to remember, but he goes on to say: “I trust in my God, and I know that his light will shine upon me, and I know that I shall never perish, nor will any man pluck me out of his hand.” Today, men and women, you may be bowed down, burdened because of your past sins. How are you going to get rid of that burden? There is only one way. Trust in the work of Jesus Christ! Believe that he died bearing the punishment of your sins; trust him and then you won’t need to be afraid. And you won’t be afraid. That is what a mature man does.

The truth is also the same regarding present things. Present things sometimes make us afraid. But still we have to trust God. And again I’m not saying anything that isn’t true in Christian experience. It is of no use trying to think, or to make out that we’re different from other people. It’s not so. We’re more or less the same, whatever differences there are between us; in one sense we are all cast in the same mould. My teacher John Murray said on one occasion that sometimes certain thoughts came into his mind and that he thanked God that no one knew them nor would ever know them. Well, men and women, don’t you say the same? You know the effect these thoughts have on you. You know how they cast you down with the gloom they bring into your soul, the blight that they cause. These things come in and they raise their own questions and cause you to say: “Well, now, how can this be if I’m right with God?” And the only answer is: “I will trust Him, and not be afraid.” That is the voice of the mature Christian. It is not the voice of the antinomian!

I’m not saying that you’ll get rid of all such thoughts. You’ll not get rid of them altogether, but you needn’t be afraid. Although these thoughts have come into your mind you needn’t be afraid of the Judgment Day. The one judging you is the Saviour who died for you. You are trusting God, and if you trust God you don’t need to be afraid. It doesn’t matter what is true of yourself; the mature Christian trusts what God is and what he’s said. “I won’t be afraid” – not in a carefree sort of way, but “I won’t be afraid”, because I know God’s faithfulness to the work of Christ will never be broken. All in Christ are going to be pardoned. Nobody can ever break in upon that, no circumstance can possibly alter it. It’s not as if you’ve known God for twenty or thirty years during which he has never failed you, but that you fear he might fail you in later years. Not so! That happens, of course, in ordinary life. It happened in the life of David. His best friends had turned against him at the last, and I suppose a lot of people have the same experience; their best friends may turn against them or be unfaithful to them. They don’t carry out to the letter what they promised. They disappoint them. It is not as if you have known God for forty or fifty years and that he has never failed you, but then, alas he might fail you this coming winter. There is no ‘might’ in it, my friends! There is no possibility of it! That cannot be. It will not be. Therefore the mature Christian trusts him because he is God. “I am the Lord, I change not” (Mal. 3.6). But let me contrast this attitude of mature Christians with those who are not mature.

i] There are some who trust and yet are afraid

It is not maturity to trust and still be afraid. I am much indebted for these following points to a sermon of Donald MacDonald preached in Greyfriars Free Church in Inverness on February 27, 1977. He said these words, “You are perhaps listening to me today and you trust in God, and yet you’re afraid. I have told you before, I think, of an instance in my own experience when I was talking to one of God’s real saints, a pious lady who lived near to God. She had communion with God, but she never believed that she was a true Christian. She never had assurance. One day I was sitting with her and I said: ‘Look, let us get a Bible.’ And we got a Bible and I had it on my knee. I was in no hurry that afternoon, and we were not alone, there was somebody else in the house. I turned to verse after verse, chapter after chapter, and I said, ‘Do you believe this?’ ‘Oh, yes!’ She didn’t deny it. ‘Now,’ I said at the end, ‘if all these things are true of you, and the Bible is true, do you believe the Bible is true?’ ‘Of course,’ she said, ‘I believe the Bible is true.’ ‘Well, then,’ I said, ‘you are a Christian.’ ‘Oh, yes,’ she said, ‘but if you knew my heart. . . .’ No ‘but if’ was needed; in that respect she was absolutely wrong. She trusted and she was afraid . . . I plead with you, men and women, if you trust God tonight, don’t be afraid. You say, ‘I wish I could get assurance.’ Well, if you trust God then you are bound to get it sooner or later. If you trust God then you have assurance, you ought to have assurance, and it is wrong for you not to be assured. So there are some who trust and yet are afraid.

ii] There are some who are afraid, but they don’t trust

For them I am terribly sorry. They are afraid of death; they are afraid of old age and its concomitants; they are afraid of the Judgment seat and have been afraid for a long time. They are never happy. It does not matter what they get or how they get on; there is always something missing, there is always something lacking, there is always a stone in the shoe – the future, death, the Judgment seat. They are afraid. Year follows year, but they don’t trust. O my friends in this sad plight, I am sorry for you! I wish you would get over it. I wish you would trust. I wish you would trust, even now. I wish I could trust for you, but I can’t. Why be afraid? Why not get away from all this fear by trusting God? Only trust him! Trusting will solve your problems. You are afraid. You come to church and you do not get what you want, although you have everything that the world can afford to give you. But there is something wrong. You are afraid, but still you do not trust. O my dear friends – you who come here morning and evening, regularly and faithfully, every Sabbath, and who feel that you lack God’s blessing and come short of his salvation – I plead with you, seek his face, trust his grace, find deliverance from fear in the work of his dear Son. Trust and bid your fears depart. So there are some who are afraid, but they don’t trust.

iii] There are some who don’t trust and also are not afraid

There are some people, no doubt, listening to me tonight and they are as hard as the rocks. They don’t fear God and they don’t trust God. Nothing makes them afraid. If we speak to them of the fires of hell, and of a lost eternity, and of being with the devil for ever and ever and ever, nothing seems to move them. They put no trust in God for life or for death. They’re not afraid of God. I say to all such persons. What a state you are in! What a state you are in! One d ay you will fear, and you will not be able to trust. You will be afraid, but there will be no room for trusting, if you continue in your present state. Cry therefore to the Lord for his mercy and his grace through Christ Jesus!

But just as a parting word I say to God’s people, who trust him by his grace: Trust him always and in all circumstances. Trust will banish your fears and you’ll enjoy the happiness of a child of God. You will receive a joy unspeakable and full of glory and at the end you will say when you see death coming near: ‘There is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing’ (2 Tim. 4:8). (Donald MacDonald, “Christian Experience,” Banner of Truth, Edinburgh, 1988, pp.29&30). So, firstly, let attain unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, Secondly, let us attain Christian maturity.

3. LET US ALL ATTAIN THE WHOLE MEASURE OF THE FULNESS OF CHRIST

The church is always receiving from Christ’s great fulness and so it is filled with Christ (Ephs. 1:23). That is the only explanation for the millions of lives of the redeemed people of God, full of grace and truth, found all over the world today. They have been filled with Christ. What lies before them all? This unbelieving glory, that the church is going to attain the whole measure of the fulness of Christ. This is what Paul has already prayed for them, that they might be filled with all the fulness of God (Ephs 3:19). In other words, that they will one day become as perfect as Christ is perfect, as holy as the Son of God is holy. That is the certain and effectual destination of the people of God. To that we are heading, and nothing less than that. That must be my chief end. God doesn’t say, “Aim for 9 out of 10.” All the church wants to be just like its head; that is its longing and expectation. When we see him we shall be like him. The whole church will attain the whole measure of the fulness of Christ.

We are presented in the book of Revelation with a great wedding scene in heaven; the Bridegroom is going to be married to the bride. The Son of God is the Bridegroom, and you and I are the bride. We are going to be married to Christ very soon. Once in this world he came seeking for us and when he found us he asked us for our hand in marriage. Would we be married to him? Imagine it, the immense gulf between the Prince of glory and us Cinderellas. Yet he offered us himself to become our husband and best friend and provider and sovereign protector for ever. We bowed in wonder before him and owned him as our eternal bridegroom. That has been the key to our lives ever since that happy day; Christ has been our Lord. But better things are to come; in heaven our courtship days will have come to an end and there we will be his eternal bride. We will be just like Christ, full of love and joy and peace. All our sin will be removed from us and we will be resplendent in his righteousness. The Marriage Feast of the Lamb will soon begin! Are you ready for it?

I don’t know what your present feelings may be, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if some of you are afraid that you’re not ready. You are afraid that the ring you wear is not his gift; you are afraid that the dress you have on is not his righteousness: you are afraid that the marriage certificate hasn’t been signed by him, and therefore isn’t valid. But banish your fears, banish them all. The ring you have is his, he gave it to you. He put it on your finger. Who else could put it on? And the dress you wear is his righteousness, clean and white. Who else had it to give you? This is the marriage dress woven by him with hands imbrued with blood, his pierced hands. Oh what a precious garment it is! Who else could give you a garment like that? Who else could give you a garment, won and paid for by substitution, by being forsaken of the Father on the cross? Do not be afraid; trust fully in your Lord. His name is on your certificate also, as well as your own. His name is on it as sure and surer even than yours and if your name is on it, it is because his name was on it first. And at the feast we shall see him and be like him. As free from sin as he is; as righteous as he is!

You say, “But how unworthy I am of all this. How ashamed I feel of my life.” There is something wonderful here and I must explain it to you. The more fellowship we get with Christ in the world, the more ashamed we feel in his presence. There is no one more ashamed of himself in the presence of the Lord than the person who is nearest to him. How we can look upon him, how we can see him face to face, as we see one another just now, without being ashamed, I cannot tell, for it is an experience we have never had in this world. But that is how it is going to be. We shall see him. We shall have humility without shame in his presence. We shall look upon him and we shall not be ashamed nor will there be misunderstanding or disagreement. There will be no parting. There will be no divisions. There will be no devil. Oh, what havoc he has caused in the church! How he has set brethren one against the other, denomination against denomination! But they shall come from the north and from the south, from the east and from the west, and they shall sit together as one in the Kingdom of God.

I would plead with you in his name, seek to attain the whole measure of the fulness of Christ every day of your lives. If you have this hope in you then purify yourselves as God is pure. Try to be as like his wife as you possibly can be. Try to get her disposition as much as you possibly can, even while you are here on earth. Seek to have his disposition in part, which you’ll have in fullness there. Blessed are they who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb. Blessed indeed are they!

To unbelievers I would ask you how can you possibly contain your grief at not being one of the Lord’s people, at missing out on heaven, and the marriage feast, at not being the wife of the Lamb? How can you possibly live without being the wife of Christ? How is it that grief does not break your heart that you are not the wife of Christ? Come to Christ and accept his proposal. Take him today as your Saviour and Husband and Friend. Make him the supreme object of our love. “He has won our wills to himself. He has captivated, in a holy way, our hearts; he has taken our hearts to be his own. He has captivated our affections and made them his; no wonder, then, that we fall down and adore him who stands in the midst of the throne of God.

“One final word in parting. As a church, you know where we go wrong – it doesn’t matter what church we belong to, this is true of us all – we go wrong when we put the Lamb out of his proper place, out of the midst. That is where his heart is; that is where he wishes to be and where he promised to be. To put him out of his proper place is what the Corinthians did in the days of Paul. Some of them said, ‘I am of Christ’; some said, ‘I am of Paul’; others of Apollos, others of Cephas (Peter), and Paul says to them in searching words, as if they were words of fire, ‘Was Paul crucified for you?’ (I Cor. 1:13)’ They were putting Jesus out of their midst. I want to say to you, don’t put Jesus out of the midst of your heart today. Let him be the centre to which everything in your life will gravitate. Otherwise, I would question very much whether you are a Christian at all. Christ must be, and continue to be, the centre of all things in your life. There are other things claiming to get into the midst of your heart – greed (Oh, the greed of the present age in which we live!), worldliness, love of the world, love of its ease, love of its luxuries, love of its plenty, love of its money, love of every kind other than love of Christ. This I say, that nothing is worthy of supreme love but Christ. There are people who are worthy of being loved much, but nothing and nobody is worthy of your supreme love but Christ alone. Do not let anyone have it but Christ alone. And, if you have a saving interest in him, no one else will have your heart. Your faith will go out in adoration of him as the ‘Lamb as it had been slain’, and your faith will exercise itself upon him, manifesting itself in glorious adoration as long as you live. It will merge into an everlasting homage, after you leave this world and go into the next” (Donald MacDonald, ibid, p. 144).

5 December 2004 GEOFF THOMAS