From time to time we feel it to
be helpful to our readers if we try to put into some concrete
statement something relating to this ministry.
Very many write us of its value
and helpfulness, and we are glad that its true object and purpose
is discerned by so large a number. Even so, we are continually
concerned to bring it to clear and definite issues. This is
because this ministry is so very practical in its background, and
we are anxious that this fact should be kept in view. These are
not just ideas and teachings that are expounded, but the issues
of a life in the school of deep and, often, painful experience.
It is the result of something being done and then explained.
Note the order. In the old
dispensation, God first showed a pattern and then commanded that
all should be made accordingly. In this dispensation, He began
with mighty acts, the acts of the Cross, Resurrection and
Exaltation of Christ, and the sending of the Holy Spirit; but
these were not wholly understood even by those chiefly involved,
and their meaning had to be arrived at by way of progress and
crises. This ministry is so much of that character. The Lord has
done and continues to do things in us and with us, and then
teaches us their meaning. We are still learning: hence there is
always room for adjustment, and need for teachableness.
To sum up this work and
teaching of the Lord, it just amounts to this. There has taken
place an undercutting of the whole of Christianity, as it is
known now, in its crystallization into a set, established, and
accepted system, with all its institutionalism, traditionalism,
etc., and a bringing right back and down to the spiritual and
essential significance and implications of Jesus the Lord. So
very much of that which goes by His Name is now so much separated
from His Person. Not historically, of course, for it all relates
to Him as the historic Jesus; but vitally, spiritually,
organically, and immediately. The 'Gospel' has suffered this
severance. It is now so largely 'salvation' as a matter of
forgiveness, justification, peace, happiness, heaven, and escape
These are truly the blessings
of the Gospel, but at the beginning it was Christ who was
preached; the Person who was kept in full view; the one through
whom the Gospel came. It was "the gospel of God concerning
his Son". The emphasis was not upon what men could have, but
upon God's rights and Christ's glory. This may seem to be
straining things, but let it be understood that the Holy Spirit -
the Custodian of Christ's honour - is most jealous on this
matter, and will only commit Himself to this keeping of Christ in
There is everywhere today an
immense amount of definite or tacit admission of the failure of
Christianity; the asking of the question: 'What is wrong with
Christianity or the "churches"?' The would-be doctors
seeking to diagnose the malady and prescribe the remedy are a
growing multitude. Not all are mistaken, and if we seem to have
joined their ranks, we do not think that we are speculating when
we assert that that which is preached and taught has become -
although largely unwittingly - detached from the personal significance
of Christ Himself. The business of the Church and its ministry is
not to propagate a system of Christian truth, but to bring Christ
Himself, in the power of the Holy Spirit, wherever it goes and
is. The Gospel as such saves nobody. Salvation is a vital
personal contact and union with Christ Himself. Hence, and this
is the crucial point, Christ must have a living organism in which
and by which to make that contact and that union.
Christianity has become
something almost entirely apart from the Person of Christ. It is
a religion, a system, a philosophy of life, a set of ways,
practices, and ideas. It is something that people enter into,
take up, join, and choose. They come to Christ through the
Christian system, but the Christ they come to is a
denominational, sectarian, ritualistic, or evangelical Christ.
The Christ that they know and believe in is the Christ of this or
that connection and interpretation. Christ rarely now creates
Christianity; it is Christianity that creates Christ.
The Church - that is, what is
termed the Church - is now an institution. It has become the
Church of historical production, of accidental or human
production. It is a hierarchy of ecclesiastical, social, human,
and arbitrary selection, direction, and government. As we know
it, it is not "one body and one Spirit". The
terminology of Christ as Head of the Church, and the Church as
the Body of Christ, is employed, but it is all objective, and so
largely in the realm of Divine Sovereignty; it is fatalistic in
effect, rather than immediate, subjective, and essentially
personal in the presence and authority of the Holy Spirit.
All this, which represents a
vast amount more, indicates the loss of one inclusive and
pre-eminently essential reality. That is an inward revelation of
Christ as the embodiment of an altogether other order of creation;
of a constitution which is according to a Kingdom that is not after
this world, either as a whole or in any part.
Christ just cannot be
conformed to anything here, national or denominational. "The
world knew him not." He is, to the natural man - who may be
a Christian - inscrutable, inexplicable, and unintelligible. His
power and influence cannot be attributed to any of those things
looked for by the world as explanations; e.g. birth,
education, personal abilities either in constitution,
acquirement, or attainment. He positively repudiated all such
attempts to explain His works and teachings, and to answer men's
question, "Whence hath this man this...?"
What Christ did and said came,
so He declared, not out from Himself, but by seeing the Father.
What we do and say must be by seeing the Son, and this demands,
in Paul's words, a "spirit of wisdom and revelation in the
knowledge of him". It is the irreconcilable difference
between imitation and duplication, on the one hand, and
generation and reproduction, on the other.
The reproduction of the Church
is not its duplication. It is a fatal mistake to try to form 'New
Testament Churches'. That is the policy of sectarianism: to have
churches everywhere of a pattern and technique. The Church was born,
out from heaven, as all its members have to be, and it is
just the same with churches. It is the violation of a fundamental
principle to try to form churches after any pattern, and so to
duplicate - even if the original was born of God and
represents His mind. Every next one must be born in the same way.
Everything with God takes its rise and its form from life - and
that Divine life! In so far as we crystallize truth into a
set compass, measure and limited interpretation, we make it
minister death rather than life; bondage rather than liberty;
letter rather than Spirit. God's way is once, and once only, to
create - the prototype - and then to generate from that;
not copy it by imitation, either mass-production or otherwise.
The Holy Spirit is
in charge of this dispensation and everything has to be born of
the Spirit if it is of God. We may have all the truth that is in
the New Testament and seek to reproduce things according to it,
but that is no guarantee that we shall have the living organism.
We hear people speaking of 'standing for' this truth and that;
meeting on the ground of such-and-such a truth; but this can only
engender divisions and exclusiveness. Christ is the
ground of meeting, and we should contend only for this ground.
It is significant that the
majority of divisions, and these the most acute, have come about
in directions where 'the one Body' has been the truth contended
for. We can well understand that the enemy would make it his
business to bring such a vital matter into dishonour and
reproach; but there will always be this possibility, if truth -
even the most important truth - is put in the place of the
Person. Even the truth or doctrine of the Person can obscure the
Person Himself. Hence even fundamentalism can be very
un-Christ-like in spirit and behaviour.
All this, and so much more of
its kind, represents the need for that basic and drastic work of
the Cross, as an abiding power, so that what is presented is not
'Christianity', as it has come to be so largely known, but
Christ, in terms of life, light, power, love, liberty, and glory.
It is not this or that 'church', but Christ expressed, as present
in the corporate organism - His Body.
Hence it is no particular
teaching, company of Christians, 'work', or 'Fellowship' that is
the object of this ministry, but only and always the Fulness of
There are many Divine
principles governing such a testimony, but these are contained in
the messages of this spoken and printed ministry.
When all has been said, the
fundamental fact has to be borne in mind that the real seeing of
Jesus is a Divine fiat, an act of God: the granting of a "spirit
of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him".
First published as an Editorial in "A Witness and A
Testimony" magazine, Sep-Oct 1953, Vol 31-5