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Based on Malachi 3:16-18 I believe the Lord will harken to us as we consider his word together.

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The sign of the prophet Jonah #3   T. Austin Sparks

Started Jun-13 by PAULFROMNYS; 70 views.
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"Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." - Col. 1:26,27.

The words of scripture speak for themselves, and little need be added. A glance at their context will make quite clear that the Church is constituted by resurrection union with the Lord Jesus.

What is of immediate concern to us here is that God must and will have His people and the full range of His testimony and glory. When Paul was in Corinth the whole situation was intensely difficult. The conditions set forth in Romans 3 are the actual local colourings of Corinth from where the letter to the Romans was written. The word of the Lord to Paul in the midst of such a setting was "I have much people in this city." It reminds us of the Master's words earlier. "Other sheep I have." The Lord had them before ever the Gospel was preached to them, before they had known anything about His salvation: He had them. In that "foreknowledge of God the Father". They were His, and "all that the Father hath given me shall come unto me"; even in Corinth, Rome, and so on. Thus we see that "Ephesian" truth, (if that is a right way of putting it) is implied in Jonah's commission outside of the limits of the Jewish covenant. This was the principle which so greatly provoked the Jews of Nazareth when the Lord told them that, while there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah the Prophet, it was to an outsider, a Sidonian widow alone that the prophet was sent; and while there were many lepers in Israel in the days of Elisha it was only Naaman, a Syrian - an outsider - who was healed. The sign of the Prophet Jonah then reaches on to embrace the nature of God's eternal purpose realised in resurrection, and the Church is the abiding shrine of that sign and testimony.

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2. The Church's Power

The Lord Jesus within such as have become united with Him in the likeness of His death and resurrection, joining them into one spiritual body causes that body to persist in the power of a deathless life. This testimony must of necessity be a practical one, and therefore all the forces of death gather round to quench that life or submerge it, and "wheresoever the body is thither are the vultures gathered together" to devour. Many many times both corporately and individually it has seemed that there was "the sentence of death," and the Lord's people have "despaired of life," but although "cast down" they have not been "destroyed" for that which has been destroyed (Heb. 2:14) cannot destroy that which has destroyed it.

As a corporate whole, represented on earth by one united people, the world does not see the full meaning and measure of this testimony. It sees divisions, schisms, and internal conflicts and disagreements, but the miracle of the child of God persists, and in another realm of higher intelligences the testimony is recognised to the full (Eph. 3:10). There is little doubt but that - given spirituality - (that is, a fellowship in life with the Holy Spirit) the powers of death will exhaust themselves without success in the matter of the testimony of the Resurrection of Christ in His people. Viewed superficially there may often appear to be a triumph on their part. The merely human factors may entirely come to an end. The man or woman may "despair of life" in more ways than one. Understanding and sentient assurance may be totally eclipsed.

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3. The Ministry of the Church

Ministry comes by enlightenment, and doctrine only comes vitally through experience. Before Jonah could preach effectively to Nineveh he must be made the thing which he would preach.

The disciples had every fact concerning Christ which they were intended to preach from the moment of His ascension. But they did not have the inner spiritual meaning of those facts. Hence they had to spend the interval in prayer rather than preaching. Vital ministry is not just as to the great doctrinal facts of Christ, but the inner revelation of their meaning; and this comes by being "baptised into His death," and "raised together with Him." While there is an initial and crisic aspect of this, it is a thing which in principle operates continuously. The more this is entered into in experience the more effective does ministry become. The Church does not exist to be just a notification or expostulation of the great facts of the Person and work of Jesus Christ; but it is intended to be a representation and embodiment of the power and spiritual nature of those facts. It is not what is said but the influence emanating, and the irresistible force, not only over the minds and wills of men, but over the power of the devil.

It is the power of the Church, and the power of the Church is "the power of His resurrection."