"Thou Hast Not Denied My Name"

It is a revelation of Christ’s Word, and the freshened sense of relationship to Christ - the new realization of what He is to His people, - that practically produce Philadelphia. Every genuine revival, as I have already said, necessarily has something of the spirit of this, - tends, at least, towards it. Of course, when I speak of revival, I do not mean simply the conversion of souls, even in numbers : the revival I am speaking of is of saints, not sinners, although naturally the effect of this will be seen in a new power in the gospel for the conversion of sinners. But when interest in the word of God is revived, and the love of Christ is felt in new power in the soul, increased communion with Him will issue in the "communion of saints" being more valued and more sought after, and the spirit of obedience will cause the "yoke" with those who are not Christ’s to be an intolerable bondage.
If such a revival were felt in the whole Church of God, how surely would every chain of this kind be broken by the energy of the Spirit of God, and the whole Church be brought together! But such a thing has never taken place, and the consequence of local and partial revivals has been therefore in fact more or less to separate Christians from Christians, - those who can go on with the world and with the worldly from those who cannot do so. Hence every such movement has to bear the reproach, on the part both of the world and of many Christians quite as much as the world, of causing divisions, which it is true it does and must do, and which the Lord’s words declare he came to do - not to send peace, but a sword, and to make a man’s foes to be ‘those of his own household.’
In a state of things like this, compromise and expediency soon begin to do their fatal work. That which the Spirit of God alone can accomplish is taken in hand by the wisdom of man, Scripture itself being perverted to its use - for they cannot do without Scripture. ‘Froth must he partly clipped, partly suppressed, or else not insisted on charity will he invoked, and liberal tolerance, with premise of wider and speedy results, - the seed in this case needing no "long patience " on the part of the husbandman. From such attempts have arisen the religious confederacies of the day, assuming soon the large proportions which seem so triumphantly to justify them, but in all which the "dogma," the unyielding truth of God, tends to he thrown out or ignored, that men may keep company with one another.
For the truth, somehow, - the unconpromising truth - does seem to rouse men, and set them at variance. The jarring sects of Protestantism, have they not arisen from those ' private interpretations' of an open Bible, which wiser Romanism has condemned in favour of what is strangely affirmed to be catholic,' even while it is plain that put it to the free, unconstrained votes of the "Christian world," it could never he. Rome's word, however, is not compromnise, but authority. Protestantism too loves not the word Compromise, but rather tolerance; you must he liberal in divine things, where you have no rights; for the word of God, too, claims authority, and of the highest kind, as is evident, if it be that. Scripture is not, in that sense, tolerant: as how could he be who could write, "If any man think himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord"? (i Cor. X1V. 37.)
Scripture therefore - spite of Sunday-schools and what not - tends with its sharp-edged teaching to be in a certain disrepute to-day. As men did with Him of whom it speaks, in His day, so now: they bow it out. With studied respect of manner, they seldom allow it to dictate to them where its voice is unsupported by some other authority, or where obedience will cost them much. Few there are, it is to be feared, who are absolutely ready to receive and welcome all the truth of God; for, there is really no other reason, and can be none, why all Christians are not of one mind to-day, than this, that they do NOT In heart desire at all costs to follow the truth. ‘‘He that willeth to do God’s will," says the Lord Himself, "shall know of the doctrine" (John vii. 17). How could it be otherwise, if God be what He is? But then what does the confusion abroad in Christendom at the present time, tell of the condition of soul prevalent among the true people of God themselves
For the most part, it is not strife about doctrines that is so characteristic, as indolence and indifference about them. Some, very active in eager evangelism, have given them up pretty much, as only hindering their work. If they pause to realize the meaning of this, they will have to own that God has made a mistake, or they have; - God’s word is not in harmony with His work; - He from whose love to man the gospel has come, cannot have foreseen the effect of His truth! And how many, on the other hand, have just received what has come down to them from their fathers without exercise of soul about it! without following the apostle’s well-known rule, to "prove all things, hold fast that which is good"!
As a consequence, many things carelessly received make Scripture, in all that is inconsistent with these, really unintelligible; and this lies really as an accusation, though they would not openly formulate it, against Scripture itself. It cannot fail to be so. The searching it, produces but perplexity. They hold to it in general - give it up as to minor details: would be astonished, could they seriously examine it, how much of what they believe God has given to them has thus exhaled altogether; - how much is but as a dead thing - dead without any lamentation over it - not the living word of God at all.
And this affects even the most central truths, - truths about the Person of Christ, truths about His work. How many conflicting views about atonement prevail in the so-called orthodox denominations What is the remedy? why, leave out the "views" then, say many: do not define. But suppose Scripture does? This will mean in that case, "don’t go too deep into Scripture." And that is what is at the bottom; we should know surely whose voice it is that suggests this. It is one and the same voice that says to one person, "Be humble: don’t imagine that your opinion is better than anybody else’s"; and to another, "Be charitable: good men differ about these things"; and to another, "Don’t contend for this: you will make enemies, you will lose your friends"; and to another, "You are not learned: don’t occupy yourself with what requires a theologian to decide about"; and to another, "The Church has settled this"; and - getting more and more the dragon’s voice - "Oh, but surely there are mistakes in the Bible : you do not mean to contend for verbal inspiration?" So the form of the argument varies; but the voice is that of the "liar from the beginning," him who "abode not in the truth"; and his aim is ever to discredit the truth. "Don’t go too far." "Don’t be too sure." "Don’t be dogmatic." "Don’t be uncharitable." The devil knows men well, and what is the chord in each that will be most responsive to his touch. He is a good chemist too, and can mix his poisons so that there shall be scarcely taste or smell of the principal ingredient: all the same it will do its work.
And amazing it is, the easy-going torpidity of Christians, that will allow their best blessings to be stolen under their eyes, and never discern it. In other matters they will be quite other men. "The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light"; but now, with a large number of Christians you shall find (and not unsignificantly) in worldly matters all the wisdom of the world, and in the things that should be their own things as Christians, the most childish incapacity. I may seem to be wandering from what is before me, in dwelling upon these things; but in fact I am fully keeping it in mind all through, and that it is "he that hath ears to hear" that will listen to it. And the Lord insists upon this in all His addresses to these Asiatic churches.
What is the meaning of this word to Philadelphia, "Thou hast not denied My Name"? You have not, at any rate, denied it, my reader? I trust not, indeed: but perhaps you think of this as mere gross apostasy, or as the lapse under pressure of such days of persecution as have been, when a little incense thrown upon an altar to some heathen god would save one’s life by abjuring Christianity. Few are tempted that way now, and you have no need to look closely at it: is that so? Yes, it may do, if we want to let ourselves off easily. But if Philadelphia in its deeper application just applies to such professedly Christian times as these, then it will seem surely strange that the not having done what few among us have any strong temptation at all to do, should be, in the Lord’s eyes, a special commendation of Philadelphia! As to this also, we need not in that case lay much emphasis upon the warning, "hold fast that which thou hast"; and overcoming will not be in this application difficult ; - or in another view of it we may say, perhaps, will scarcely be possible, when there is for the mass no difficulty to "overcome."
Have we possibly, then, misinterpreted it? For one would say, rather, that there would be on the contrary some special and exceptional suitability in the commendation and warning both, which would infer some special liability, just on the part of Philadelphians, to this specific sin, - some special trial in this respect to which they would be exposed! Can that be true? Does it seem unlikely? In the gross form in which we may be disposed to take it, yes. But is the gross form then the true interpretation? can it be so, when it leads to such a result as to almost evacuate meaning from it, as applied to Philadelphia? What is it, to deny His Name? What is "His Name"? All names are significant in Scripture; but the names of God and Christ, how specially, how transcendantly significant! If God acts "for His Name’s sake," that means, to declare what He is. If we are "gathered to Christ’s Name " - which is the true form of the words (Matt. xviii. 20), "to," not "in, " - it is because what we realize Him to be, draws us (each and all together) unto Him. "His Name" is thus the revealed truth of what He is. He is away from earth; and we have not Himself, visibly, to come to. But the truth of what He is, draws us together, and as so drawn, we confess what He is to us, and so coming have the promise of His (spiritual) presence. This is how we are united together, as a wheel is; by the circumference surely; but if that were all - if it were the main thing - the wheel would have no strength : its strength depends above all, upon the centre; so our union is (in a way that transcends all that the figure can express) by the Centre, which Christ is to all of us: and this, in proportion as it is true, defines and secures also the circumferential union - that to one another. Carry this back to our subject: think of what Philadelphia stands for and expresses. If the gathering of Christians is in question in it, and it is to a true Christ (to the truth of what Christ is) they would be gathered, then what more central for the Philadelphian than not to deny this truth of what Christ is - this all-essential, all-sufficing Name
Now another question - and let no one who values Christ treat it lightly: if there be a devil, the enemy of God and man, the constant and subtle opposer of all good, and with such knowledge as such a being may have, of what it is that he is opposing, how would he seek to corrupt and destroy such a movement as that of Philadelphia? The answer is not in the least doubtful: he would attack it at that central point upon which all depended: he would attack the truth of Christ, His Person and work. As surely as that is true, so sure is it that a main test for the Philadelphian would be the CONFESSION OR DENIAL OF THE NAME of CHRIST, the Centre of gathering.
Look at this all through, and see if I have strained the argument in any wise. See if any link in it is missing, or if any is insufficient. If it be not, let us take one most evident step further. These addresses are prophetical: this particular address therefore is a prophecy. There is implied here then, in connection with this movement to recover (on principle) the Church of God, that there would be an attack of Satan upon the Lord Jesus Christ as the Centre of gathering. Has it been so? Brethren who have knowledge of the history of the last fifty years in relation to this movement, I cite you all to bear witness as to this before God: have there been questions affecting the Person of Christ and the gathering to His Name? I charge you, as you would listen to His word, to answer the question: has not history fulfilled this prophecy? And how then does the prophecy affect our position, whatever it may be, with regard to our Lord’s own commendation here: "Thou hast not denied My Name"?
But again, let us remember that the great enemy of us all is one well versed in the ways of this terrible warfare. He has skill acquired in six thousand years’ multiform experience. "He is a liar, and the father of it." The covert and the wile are his. Nothing is more common than to see him in the garb of sanctity; and he is familiar with the habit and the speech of love. He can appear as an angel of light, and his ministers be as the ministers of righteousness. He can be Satan, and denounce Satan; only putting Satan for God and God for Satan. Well may we look to our armour; well may we cleave to the word of God; well may we be "praying with all prayer"; well will it be, if in truth it can be said of us, that "we are not ignorant of his devices." All the world is on his side. The flesh, even in a Christian, pleads for him. Nor can we meet him with his own weapons, nor foil him by the adoption of his own tactics. In the encounter with him we have always to keep in mind what Proverbs says of the "strange woman": "lest thou shouldst ponder the path of life, her ways are changeable, that thou shouldst not know them."
Let us fix this firm in our minds, that the Lord here, in commending Philadelphia for not denying His Name, assures us of what is the great danger in such controversies as have arisen. The great danger is lest the Philadelphian in his aim to have together the people of God should forget in some way the gathering Centre, should link himself with the denial of the Name of Christ. We shall look at "links," if the Lord will, by and by; but let us already anticipate the apostle’s warning words that one who "receives" or even "greets" the man who "brings not this doctrine" (of Christ) is "partaker of his evil deeds" (2 Jno. io, ii); therefore that one who knowingly "greets" the denier of Christ’s Name is "partaker" of that denial. The history - which here I do not give - of the first attack of the enemy makes undeniably clear where it began. And as to those affected by it, it is just as clear where alone any suspicion even of such denial, or of greeting of the deniers, has attached. One body there was (of those divided at that time) which even those separated from, did not and could not charge with such denial, or with any compromising adherence to those denying. The same could never be said of the other side: there, if anywhere, (and the attack of the enemy is certain,) the danger-signals of the prophecy alone display themselves. Satan here was certainly permitted to be the sifter of God’s wheat, and he does well in that way what he takes in hand to do. Plenty of failure, no doubt, could be urged on both sides. Piety too could be urged on both. In a sieve things naturally get well mixed. So much the more important is it to stand clear upon the ground given by the prophecy, and see that while on the one side men were pleading for the Centre, the other side was all the time thinking of the circumference. Both surely need to be maintained, and it is quite possible, of course, to err on all sides; yet he who holds fast to Christ will find that Christ is an attractive power for His people; it is Christ whom the Spirit of God glorifies; it is here that government of heart and mind is found. It is only from the centre that the circumference can be truly drawn. Philadelphia is neither praised nor blamed for her conduct in relation to the people of God, as we have seen: it is "My Word, My Name, My patience," that are spoken of: and to get His point of view is all- important.
If Christ be honoured, the Spirit of God is free, truth finds its place in relation to Him, and there is progress: souls can be led on. All that will, can judge in the case in question. The Spirit of God cannot be mistaken in this, or turned aside into other channels than those connected with the Rock from which the water flows. And here is a distinct and precious evidence of Christ’s approval. Apart from this, the stream grows sluggish and dries up. Souls may be blessed and ministered to, for God is gracious; but the supply is elsewhere.
No one can, I think, deny these principles. If they are true, they will not mislead in honest application. Nor do I write a word for those who have no heart to make it.