Unity According to the Apostle John

Not for a moment is it overlooked that, in restoring Peter from his distressing fall, He made its completeness evident before chosen witnesses by charging him to feed His lambs, to shepherd or tend and feed the sheep. Nor again does one forget that the ascended Christ gave gifts to men, not apostles and prophets only as the foundation (Eph. ii. iv.), but evangelists, and shepherds and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, &c. till we all arrive at the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God. But He has in no way abnegated His own relations because He gives and sustains subordinates, each in his place to serve and do His will as laid down in His word. Nor is any notion less worthy than to relegate the "one flock, one Shepherd" only to the future and heaven. It is here that we need to recognise both, as He recognises them. It is now that the enemy subtly and persistently and everywhere tempts the saints to give up the truth of the relationship as a present fact, and the responsibility it involves on us to walk faithfully in accordance. It is revealed to act on our faith and practice as we are on the earth. In heaven by-and-by there will be no question, for that which is perfect will have come.

In chap. xi.51, 52 is the next reference. Here it is the comment of the Holy Spirit on the words of Caiaphas to the Jewish council, not in parabolic form like our Lord's in chap. x., but in terms void of figure. " Now this he said not of himself, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but that he should also gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad."

More than one weighty truth denied in Christendom we find here unambiguously. To the cynical sentiment of the wicked high priest God gave a turn of incomparable grace. Its adoption in apostate unbelief by the Jews in the politic sense of Caiaphas was the ruin of their place and their nation by the Romans. By-and-by mercy will prevail according to the oath sworn to Abraham, glorying over judgment. Jesus died for the nation, not to gather it into the church as some vainly imagine, nor assuredly to make it an object of irreversible woe like the Babylon of the seven hills, but to save and bless Israel as such at the end and for ever, beyond all that was ever tasted at the beginning under David and Solomon. For He Who died for them will come and reign over them, an infinitely greater than either (to cite a few decisive proofs, Isa. iv. 2-6, ix. 7&8, xi.)

But He should die, said the Spirit, for another purpose wholly distinct, and about to receive its accomplishment in the very near future while He sits at God's right hand on high. True virtue of His death was then to be shown in the new and wondrous work of gathering together in one the scattered children of God. Till Jesus died and went to heaven and sent down the Holy Spirit, nothing of the kind was known or could exist. In Judaism as established of God provisionally (and He had no religious dealings of a public nature elsewhere), no such gathering was thought of. It was an elect nation responsible to be governed by His law; and they were bound to separation from all other nations. There He dwelt Who brought them forth from Egypt to this end, Jehovah their Lord.

Now that the Jews rejected Him Who was not Messiah only but God, His death (their awful sin) became in God's ways the basis of an entirely different and an incomparably " better thing," the gathering together in one of God's scattered children. It is the church undoubtedly, but not viewed as "one body" which was revealed elsewhere. It is family union, in the closest connexion with life eternal, the special truth prominent throughout the Gospel and the Epistles of John, the groundwork of communion with the Father and the Son, as we find explicitly there.

Severance between the Gentile believers and the Jewish was therein intolerable. Yet before the cross the barrier, it is notorious, subsisted as God's actual order; and Jesus while yet alive in flesh charged the twelve, saying, Go not into a way of the nations, enter not into any city of the Samaritans. Risen from the dead, He expressly bids them disciple all the nations. For the children of God were to be gathered in virtue of His death into one, they "one flock," as He "one Shepherd." Fleshly distinctions, and outward ordinances, vanished away before the infinite efficacy of that death which blotted out the sins of all believers in the gospel, and by the grace which united them.