What does it mean to be a creature?
In part one I looked at the two-fold foundation of what it means to be human–a living being created in the image of God. That foundational law of our being is: (a) our dialogic relationship with God is the only source of experientially knowing good, and (b) without this experiential knowledge we can’t be living beings. I also touched on the serpent’s temptation of Eve, noting that this temptation reveals what it means for the Creator to be our God and what it means for us to be creatures. (The tempter was striking at the foundation of our humanity.) These are the two areas that define the covenant between Creator and creature. One of the primary functions of the Creator is to teach righteousness–right behavior–to the creature. Look again at George Fox’s statement concerning the three states and three teachers that I quoted in part 1. The corresponding obligation of the creature is to hear and follow the teacher. This hearing and willingness to obey should be uppermost in the lives of individuals and in the church as a whole, but the temptation of the serpent was, and still is, to disregard this obligation.
In looking at what it means to be a creature, I want to examine George Fox’s letter To all the Kings, Princes, and Governors in the whole world: and all that profess themselves Christians, and others, to read and consider. In this letter he states:
So now Christ is come, and you that are called christians will confess him; but how does he exercise his offices in you, or amongst you? (Works of Fox, Vol. V, p.319)
Here is an obvious disparity between the role of the Creator to teach and Christendom’s fulfillment of their obligation to hear and willingly obey. The whole of Christendom will declare that Christ has come, as much in our day as in Fox’s. But, for the most part, they do not have a Christ whose function is to teach them righteousness, who is to be experienced within them and among them in all his offices or functions. For them, Christ came to die and will return sometime in the future to transport all believers to heaven.
If we continue reading Fox’s letter, he goes on to list specific offices (or functions) of Christ and the obligation of those who would follow him.
His office, as he is a counsellor; do you hear his voice from heaven, concerning your heavenly state: his office, as he is a leader to lead you out of sin and evil, and to rule in your hearts by faith, as a commander: his office, as he is a shepherd, are you his sheep? and do ye hear his voice? for Christ saith, I am the good shepherd, and give my life for the sheep: and again, I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and I am known of mine.
And he calleth his sheep by name, and leadeth them out; and when he hath put forth his sheep, he goeth before them; and his sheep follow him, for they know his voice.
Now consider, doth Christ exercise this office of a shepherd amongst you? do you follow him? do ye know his voice? and doth he lead you in and out into his pastures of life? or do ye know the voice of the hireling and stranger, and follow them? which his sheep will not.
The offices of counsellor, commander, and shepherd are offices where Christ begins to deal directly with individuals and the corporate body as a whole. These, like all the other offices, are not optional experiences that the Christian can choose or not choose according to what suits his preferences. The counsellor’s voice apprises you of your heavenly state–an absolute must if you are going to enter the kingdom of God. The commander’s commands bring you out of sin and evil and establishes his rule in your hearts by faith. The shepherd’s life is the sheep’s life. Kill the shepherd and you kill the sheep. Our shepherd is an everlasting shepherd with everlasting life. The shepherd’s voice guides the sheep to the pastures of life and to the the springs of living water.
Fox went on to ask:
[H]ow doth Christ exercise his office, as he is a bishop…
[H]ow does Christ exercise his office, as he is a priest amongst you…
[H]ow do ye feel Christ exercising his office as a prophet amongst you…
[H]ow doth he exercise his kingly office amongst you, or in you…
[M]ust people look any where else, but to Jesus the heavenly and spiritual man, to be the author and finisher of their faith…
The benefits to be gained by Christ exercising these offices in and among us are the very fabric our creaturehood. By virtue of these offices we are apprised of our heavenly state, we are led out of sin, we have life and feed in the pastures of life, we are overseen such that we remain living and untainted, we are washed and presented pure to the Father, we are guided in all things, the Father is revealed to us, we are made to understand all that pertains to life, we have a living foundation to build on, we have a ruler ruling in our hearts whose power is greater than the power of the world, and we have a faith that is written and perfected in the heart–a faith that overcomes the world.
So, where are you sitting, individually and corporately, regarding all these functions of Christ? Hear again Fox’s question, “how does he exercise his office in you, or amongst you?” One response I have repeatedly seen to such a question amounts to, “Well, why do I need to experience Christ in all his offices?”
In Vol. I, p.365, Fox listed seven things people could sit down in:
First, they that sit down in Adam in the fall, sit down in misery, in death, in darkness and corruption.
This is a common table around which many sit and feed.
Secondly, they that sit down in the types, figures, and shadows, and under the first priesthood, law, and covenant, sit down in that which must have an end, and which made nothing perfect.
At this table we find seated those who have decided that a strict adherence to all the precepts of the Old Testament Scriptures are the sure way to gain entrance into the kingdom of God.
Thirdly, they that sit down in the apostacy, that hath got up since the apostles’ days, sit down in spiritual Sodom and Egypt; and are drinking of the whore’s cup, under the beast and dragon’s power.
Filling the chairs around this table are all those who put their faith in religion. Whether it is the Christian religion or some other, it makes no difference.
Fourthly, they that sit down in the state in which Adam was before he fell, sit down in that which may be fallen from; for he fell from that state, though it was perfect.
This is an agitated table with unstable chairs.
Fifthly, they that sit down in the prophets, sit down in that which must be fulfilled: and they that sit down in the fellowship of water, bread, and wine, these being temporal things, they sit down in that which is short of Christ, and of his baptism.
This is a table of hunger and profession that does not satiate. The pretense can offer no life.
Sixthly, to sit down in a profession of all the scriptures, from Genesis to the Revelations, and not be in the power and spirit which those were in that gave them forth; that was to be turned away from, by them that came into the power and spirit which those were in that gave forth the scriptures.
This is a table surrounded by deceitful chairs for you never know if what you perceived will be substantial. Your seat could be blown away by the next wind of doctrine.
Seventhly, they that sit down in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, sit down in him that never fell, nor ever changed. Here is the safe sitting for all his elect, his church, his spiritual members, of which he is the living head, his living stones, the household of faith; of which house he is the corner-stone, that stands and abides all weathers.
So, why is it important to experience Jesus Christ in all his offices? Because the organization whose purpose is something other than waiting for and experiencing Christ, the head, is not the church. They have become gods in their own eyes and follow after the serpent, their teacher.
Experiencing Jesus Christ in and among us fulfilling his various functions is what it means to “sit down in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” This is the restoration of our creaturehood, the fulfillment of our obligation in the heavenly covenant. (And he breathed into us The Word of Life and man became living beings.) Experiencing Jesus Christ in and among us fulfilling these various functions is the foundation of the people of God of which Christ is the living, active head.