CAPTURING THE VISION OF CHRIST
by Willard A. Ramsey
Since Jesus said "I am the way. the truth, and the life," it seems evident that the unifying essence of all truth is revealed through the heart, mind, words, ex-ample, and person of Jesus Christ. The will of the Father is purposely and fully comprehended — clearly revealed and expressed to us in the person of Jesus Christ as the Holy Spirit illuminates Him to us in the written Word, especially the New Testament Scriptures. As Jesus began His earthly ministry. His vision for His work included
three major phases for fulfilling the purpose of the Godhead. First was His redemptive work as the Lamb of God: "Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day" (Luke 24:46). Thus the saving Gospel was actualized.
Second, Jesus saw the necessity to provide for the propagation of this saving Gospel throughout the world: "that repentance and remission of sins should be preached i n his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem" (Luke 24:47). He said to the eleven. "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). And again, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and. lo, am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen" (Matt. 28:19, 20). For this purpose the church was instituted and commissioned.
Third, following the long-term work of spreading the Gospel, Jesus envisioned the perfect consummation of God's redemptive purposes: "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away . . . And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away" (Rev. 21:1, 4). Thus will the "restitution of all things" be accomplished.
If we can look through the eyes of Christ as He began His earthly minis-try and catch the same vision He had in these three major phases of God's purpose. Christian discord would essentially vanish. To be sure there are other major truths, but most of the discord occurs in these three areas, namely, soteriology (the vision of Jesus concerning salvation), ecclesiology (the vision of Jesus concerning the church), and eschatology (the vision of Jesus concerning last things).
JESUS' VISION OF SALVATION
During His earthly ministry Jesus was resolute toward the first of these visions as an objective. He was wholly task oriented: "But I have a baptism to be baptized with," He said, "and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!" (Luke 12:50). His role as the Lamb of God fulfilling all the Old Testament types of a vicarious, substitutionary sacrifice was constantly in the forefront of His thoughts. He was relentless in the pursuit of this objective, and the grievous form in which He knew it must be accomplished did not deter His resolution nor blur His focus upon the task before Him. "And It came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51). "1 gave my back to the smiters. and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting. For the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint..." (Isa. 50:6. 7). Neither the prospect of the cross nor the relentless contradiction of sinners against Him could change the focus of His vision of the primary objective of His short earthly residency. "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom 1 am chief (1 Tim. 1:15).
Apart from the fact that He would save sinners, there would be no necessity for the cross. In His vision of the work of atonement. Jesus saw the satisfaction of the judicial responsibility of the Godhead as paramount. "... God hath set forth Christ to be a propitiation [a satisfaction) through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say. at this time his righteousness: that he might be just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (Rom. 3:25. 26). "He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities" (Isa. 53:11). Thus all the judicial restraints of a just and holy God to forgive a penitent believer and waive the just penalty for his sin was removed at the price of the blood of Jesus Christ — and He never wavered in His resolve.
How great then is the obligation of His redeemed to get the message of salvation right, to get uniform under-standing among ourselves, and to banish all the discordant impediments that mar its credibility and confuse the world. We are responsible by the obligation of grace to see the salvation of God through the eyes of Christ and to preach it uniformly with all the weight and resolve that He felt on His trek to the cross, "that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations."
JESUS' VISION OF THE CHURCH
Scarcely less than the resolve of Jesus for the provision of salvation was His resolve to leave behind a suit-able, functional, effectual agency to propagate this message of salvation — with all related truth. Such an agency was His chosen means of propagation that His investment in the Cross would not be in vain. This effectual agency is His church.
The use of the word effectual with regard to the church will surely be questioned, for the nature of the church is a great arena of controversy. But that is precisely why we must look through the eyes of Christ to see His vision of the church. I humbly submit, without belaboring it here, that the aggregate body of all the saved — divided and distributed throughout all the discordant denominations, movements, and sects — will never be effectual as it is and cannot be Christ's vision of the church. I feel we have gone seriously wrong because we have looked at what exists — the inconsistencies of men — and have named that the church. And this very thing impedes the progress of the church as Jesus conceived it. But He is not responsible for the status quo: He never conceived, built, or approved it. What-ever was conceived and established by Christ as the agency for representing His name. His Gospel, and related truth, is effectual. We must look through His eyes to find it.
Only Christ could establish such an institution; it could not be delegated — not even to the choicest of men. John the Baptist could, by preaching repentance and faith in the Lamb of God, "make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Luke 1:17), but more than that must be done before this people prepared by salvation would be an effectual representative of Christ, the Gospel, and all related truth to the world. Only Jesus could conceive of, organize, train, and commission such an effectual agency.
The initial work of Christ in providing this agency began early in His personal ministry. It must be complete, in place, trained, and ready to go before He returned to the Father. His initial work was to select from among all the existing saved people a teachable corps of men and to make of them the foundational elements of this new agency.
So important was this work that an all-night prayer vigil was in order: "And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. . . . And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach" (Luke 6:12; Mark 3:14). These select men. having already been disciples (learners), were now called apostles (sent ones). This was no casual, incidental thing. Here was now an institution, a corps, a body, an assembly, authorized and ordained as official spokesmen for the Lord. "And God hath set some in the church, first apostles ... " (1 Cor. 12:28). This was the infant church.
This corps continued as the personal tutorial of Jesus, carefully taught, prepared, and groomed for the long, arduous road ahead. Near the end of His personal ministry. Jesus told them of the worldwide, expanding, perpetual ministry of the church and conferred upon it an awesome authority and responsibility: "Upon this rock." He said, "1 will build my church: and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And 1 will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matt. 16:18. 19; see also, 18:15-18). For a handful of fishermen, a tax collector, and a few common men. it was a fearful responsibility to be left in charge of the affairs of the kingdom of heaven on earth! Looking upon this small beginning, the world would have nothing but disdain for it. Nevertheless, it was" ...the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15). In their misgivings they needed reconfirmation of this awesome calling, and Jesus said, "Fear not. little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32).
The final preparation Jesus conferred upon this completed and trained institution, corps, or assembly was His endowment with a supernatural authentication, with the empowering and perpetual superintendence of the Holy Spirit: "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the utter-most part of the earth" (Acts 1:8). And so it continues today, perpetual, un-changed In essence, and wholly effectual when operating according to the vision of Jesus!
JESUS' VISION OF ETERNITY
The task orientation of Jesus toward the soteriological and ecclesiological aspects of the purpose of God was fired by His vision of the eschatological aspect, "who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb. 12:2). The "joy" ever before Him was and is the victorious consummation, goal, and objective of God in Christ to buy back fallen, sin-cursed men, defeat the enemies of righteousness, and restore His own to an environment of perfect pristine purity in sinless, tearless bliss. He promised His disciples. "In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if l go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:3). Ever before Him was and Is the removal of the post-Eden death-curse: "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away" (Rev. 21:4). "And there shall be no more curse..." (Rev. 22:3). Jesus is now at the right hand of God, "From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool" (Heb. 10:13). 'For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" (1 Cor. 15:26). The joy set before Him will Mine to full fruition "when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written. Death is swallowed up in victory" (1 Cor. 15:54).
Bright was His vision for the "restitution of all things" (Acts 3:21) to a pristine perfection surpassing even the edenic probationary environment in at least two wonderful ways: First, the centerpiece of the New Heaven/Earth environment will be the abode of God and of the Lamb who shall have purged the universe of Satan, sin. and death and who shall have restored all things to God's original perfection: "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people ... the glory of God did lighten it and the Lamb is the light thereof (Rev. 21:3.23).
Second, the inhabitants of this environment will be eternally immune to sin and invulnerable to a fall: "For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified" (Heb. 10:14): "... he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy. let him be holy still" (Rev. 22:11). Satan shall have been cast into the lake of fire and can never have access to or have the slightest influence in the New Heaven/Earth environment as he did in this present earth. In this eternally perfect environment, no sin shall ever arise, no sinful sons of Adam will ever be born (Matt. 22:30). No death or suffering shall ever again mar the domain of God nor grieve the heart of a mother. "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."