The Price Of Reigning With Christ
By Jessie Penn-Lewis
In Matthew 20:21-22 we read that the mother of James and John came to Jesus and made a request of Him: “Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on Thy right hand and the other on Thy left, in Thy kingdom. Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask . . .”
Long before Calvary, the Lord gave a hint of what was coming, and His disciples caught the vision of a throne—an earthly throne for their Master, with themselves in close association with it. When some of them came to ask Him about it, the Lord took the question and applying it to the infinitely higher destiny of those who “follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth,” asked: “Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of . . .?” Are you prepared for the price?
They replied, “We are able,” and the Lord said, “Ye shall drink indeed of My cup . . . but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of My Father” (verse 23).
When the other disciples heard this conversation they were “moved with indignation against the two brethren,” but the Lord called them unto Him and said, “Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them . . . it shall not be so among you; but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your servant.” That is the practical outworking of union with Christ! The way down is the way up.
The Training For Rulership
There are those who will sit with Christ in His throne hereafter (Rev. 3:21), but the preparation for that position is now. We need to understand, when we know this union with Christ in His death and the life-union which brings us into fellowship with Him in resurrection life, that there must be an intelligent outworking of it day by day.
It is not only sharing the fellowship of the victory He won over the world and Satan its prince, but that victorious rulership has to be wrought into us, and manifested through us in daily life. There are so many references to rulership in the Gospels, and so often it appears as if that rulership is to be postponed until after the Judgment Seat—but the training for it is in this life.
“Well done, good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful in a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things” (Matt. 25:23): to one, rulership over ten cities, to another, over five, according to the measure of their faithfulness.
The rulership of the throne is not yet a visible thing. The princes of the Gentiles exercise earthly dominion still, “but it shall not be so among you.” Now the one who would be “great” must act the part of a servant. He who would be first—who would lead his brethren—must be “their slave” (Matt. 20:26,27).
It is a going down—down to be a servant, never to stand for your “rights”; power to submit; power to be a bond-slave on earth—that is the “price” of the throne. But all the while, on the heavenly side, you are being made a ruler in resurrection power.
Can you drink of the cup? Can you go down? Have you so truly entered into union with your Lord that you have power to go down before someone else gracefully—without looking miserable about it, and without struggling and effort, and a fight?
Think of Christ as He washed His disciples’ feet, as He stood in the Judgment Hall. Think of the mocking and scoffing, the scourging and beating! Can you drink of the cup? Can you go down? Every time you go “down” you go “up.” May the Lord prepare us for the throne, and make us willing for the preparation.
But I would urge upon you that it is now—now, in this present year, now, through our present circumstances, that God wants to work in us. God has put you into just the one place where He can fulfill your prayer, and prepare you for the future. You may think that the enemy has interfered with your circumstances. Apparently they are all upside down, almost as if you were in the devil’s hand.
My friend, that is God’s highest vote of confidence in you! God is greater than the devil. The things that are the blackest and most difficult, that look as if the devil was having his own way with you—do believe that it is out of that very condition that God is working out your future glory and rulership. “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor 4:17).
That is the way to rulership. How deep can your faith go? If you can stand in the midst of all that, and trust God absolutely, without anything to show that He is with you—if you can stand unmoved through it all, and say, “I believe that God is GOD”—that is victory. “Be still and KNOW that I am God”—How far can you trust God in the dark?
Can you drink of the cup? You may say, “I am able. I can do all things through Christ.” Yes, we do know that God is able, and we need to get clear away from ourselves, and very close to Him. There will come a time when we have nothing left to us but God, so that we are just anchored upon Him.
The devil is absolutely defeated, and God can have all His own way with you, when you learn to “go down,” if you can really bring self—this evil thing that wants to be something— down to the cross, so that wherever you are, you will know to be the very best place God could have found for you, and no other circumstances would have suited His purpose.
God has put you in exactly the right crucible to burn up what He sees needs to be burnt up. Many think “victory” means getting your circumstances put right. No! Victory is within—when in the midst of your circumstances the Spirit of God can so energize you and strengthen you in spirit, that you can stand quiet in the thick of it all and say, “God is GOD,” and know that you are held by Him—which is infinitely better than all your trying to hold things steady.
“Servant Of All!”
At the end of Ephesians 1 we are shown the Risen Christ, set at God’s right hand, “far above all principality, and power, and dominion,” with all things under His feet, and immediately we are told, “and you hath He quickened . . .”; “hath quickened us together with Christ . . . hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus.”
The Risen Lord calls us to this place “far above” even now, and in spirit we are seated with Him there. But on earth, our visible position is that of “servant of all” for His sake. May the Holy Spirit teach us how to be, in deed and in truth, “bondservants of Jesus Christ” down here, for this is our preparation for sharing the throne later on.
Are you willing for this? Are you able to drink of the cup? He drank of the cup for us, and we may say, “Lord, I cannot of myself, but by Thy grace, I choose it.”
I have been reading a book written by a lady who was imprisoned in Russia during the revolution. She belonged to the old Russian nobility. I was very impressed by one thing she wrote—it contains a tremendous lesson for God’s children. She said this: “We had to prove to these Bolsheviks that people of our class could not be injured by what they did; and that what our enemies did would never make them what we are.”
They were sending these noble ladies to clean their floors—floors so dirty that they had to take knives to scrape the filth off—and they went with a smile, as if it did not matter to them at all.
What about your “class”—your heavenly position? We belong to the royal family of heaven, and we have to show what we are. Nothing on this earth can lower you, if you do not lower yourself. It is not what you do, but what you are that counts.
Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians, “Ye have seated yourselves upon your throne” (1 Cor. 4:8, Conybeare). They were glorying in their spiritual privileges and knowledge, but the Apostle adds sorrowfully, “I would to God ye did reign.”
Their idea of throne-life was very different from the pathway of the Lamb of God, and very different from the path of His apostles who were “made a spectacle to the world,” who were “fools for Christ’s sake,” weak, despised (verses 9-14). Yet Paul beseeches them to follow him in this path—it is the path of spiritual power now, and it is “the way up” to the throne.
“If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him” (1 Tim. 2:12). Salvation is free to all—the throne position is prepared for those who are willing for the preparing. “To sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it shall be given to those for whom it is prepared.” “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne” (Rev. 3:21).