The Maintenance Of Assembly Testimony
W. E. Vine, Bath
The messages which the Lord sends to the seven assemblies as recorded in Revelation, chapters 2 and 3, show His Personal relation to each assembly and the importance in His sight of the maintenance of a witness for Him on the part of each. The independent testimony of each under His authority and control, none being under the direction of another or of any central organisation, is made clear, as elsewhere in the New Testament, but what is especially prominent in these two chapters is what assemblies are to Christ, how He values in them what is faithful and consistent, as lampstands shining with the light of testimony. By faithful adherence to His word an assembly reveals His character and thus makes known His Name (3. 8).
He has regard to the way in which each responds to the voice of the Holy Spirit; for the messages which the Lord sends to each are “what the Spirit saith to the churches.” Each assembly is formed by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12. 13), is indwelt by Him (1 Cor. 3. 16), and is a sphere of His operations in bestowing and raising up spiritual gifts, ministering through them according to His rights and prerogatives, where such are recognized and not ignored by the ministerialism of Christendom. It is ever the design of the Holy Spirit to glorify Christ (John 16. 14, 15). The Lord therefore measures the condition of an assembly according to the evidence it gives of subjection to His will, and of response to the leading and operation of the Spirit of God.
The messages are not private communications to an individual authority as to the discharge of his responsibility; the responsibility lies with the entire assembly in each case. Where an assembly departs from its devotion to Christ and ceases to express the love which God has made known in and through Him, it is in danger of its complete removal as a lampstand (2. 5), even though there may be much of which He can approve (verse. 6).
The description of the position and attitude of Christ in the matter of this relationship is very solemn. He walks “in the midst” of the assemblies (2. 1). He is actively engaged in observing their condition and how far it bears witness to His own Person, His character and ways. He is seen as “like a Son of man”; He therefore has a perfect understanding of their state. He is “clothed with a garment down to the foot,” indicative of a combined priestly and royal ministry. He is “girt about at the breasts with a golden girdle,” indicative of righteousness, truth and power. The whiteness of His head and hair sets forth His holiness and His eternity as the Ancient of Days. His eyes are “as a flame of fire,” emblematic of penetrating judgment that discerns evil. His feet are like “burnished brass,” as if “refined in a furnace,” emblematic of the absolute purity and holiness of His ways. His voice is as “the voice of many waters,” suggestive of utterances of Divine judgment, that the seven stars are in His “right hand” indicates both possession and power. The sharp two-edged sword proceeding from His mouth is directed against everything that is contrary to God’s mind. His countenance, shining as the sun, signifies not only that He beholds all things but that He reveals everything in its true condition.
How deeply important therefore it is that those who seek in their collective capacity as assemblies, to fulfil the Word of God, should guard against a spirit of self-satisfaction! The mere fact of gathering according to a doctrine of Scripture is not sufficient. The Lord had to say to one assembly, “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and thou art dead.” He called upon it to repent (3. 1-13). Self-satisfaction was the marked feature of another, and the Lord said to it, “I will spue thee out of My mouth.”
May we be enabled to keep the word of His patience (that is, the word which tells of His patience and its effects on those who are His), and to hold fast that which we have from Him (3. 10, 11).