The Strength of the Church
Precis of Address
John 14:25-26, 16:25; 2 Cor. 3:2-3, 7:18; Eph.
"Be strong in the strength of His Might."
There are one or two things on my heart to say which I feel are of
very great importance to us and to the Lord at this time.
The letter to the Ephesians is not simply a presentation or
conception of the Church as to its nature and existence. It presents
tremendous and intensive activity concerned with the building of the
Church. A very energetic process is seen to run throughout the whole
of this short epistle.
This word has mainly to do with "Strength" - the strength of
the Church: do trace this through the Word, it will open up much
both as to the nature of our calling and the character of the
conflict the Church is in at this end-time of the age.
When the Lord Jesus first introduced the thought of the Church, He
said: "Upon this rock I will build My Church and the gates of Hades
shall not prevail against it," the predominating element seen
here is a mighty strength. Yes, all these counsellings of
Hades shall not prevail against this mighty rock strength
and this thought of strength is connected with the Church all the
way through. It is spiritual strength in view, inward strength. It
is the strength of Who and What the Lord Jesus is as very God,
It is very necessary and most essential to recognise the inwardness
of the new dispensation after "Pentecost"; everything now related to
the Lord Jesus is inward, no longer outward, objective. He is God in
the Throne, but He is known experimentally through the Holy Spirit
Turn to the second letter to Corinth 3. The old Covenant was an
outward thing written on tables of stone: Paul bringing it down to
our times writes "written with ink": but the new Covenant is not a
thing of time, but an Eternal Covenant; not an outward writing but
an inward writing by the Eternal Spirit of the living God and
written in our hearts.
Oh! do we get the greatness of this fact, it is so necessary and
vital to see the inwardness of everything, this must
be recognised by the Lord's people. The life of the believer is
inward and everything to do with the life of the believer is inward,
and in so far as the believer's life is outward and dependent upon
outward things, to that measure it will be weak; in so far as the
believer's life is dependent upon gatherings and to be
ministered to by others and knowing the Lord only in this kind of
outward manner, instead of that deep inward knowing Him, alone in
secret with the word and prayer, the expression of life will be weak
and not constituting spiritual strength to the assembly, but rather
bringing in a weakness (a dead weight and even ground for the enemy
to work on and from).
All is now inward and we do recognise that "all" is the Lord
The Church is an aggregate of individuals and it needs each
individual to know the Lord in this inward manner and to live this
inward life; and to have a dictating by the Holy Spirit of the "Law
of the Lord" inwardly to our hearts and to know the heavenly things
within as inwrought by the Holy Spirit.
The essential point is this - the very great need, the desperate
need of the Church being strong in every individual member. The
great need of this day is more strength in the Church, for the
Lord's people individually to be Strong in the Lord, and so able to
personally contribute to the assembly, and be a strong factor in the
Lord unto the realisation of His purpose.
In our gatherings together, the strength of the gathering is
determined by the strength of the individual and is no stronger than
the strength of the secret life of each individual in his or her
personal secret history with the Lord.
We do not just come together to hold meetings, to sing, to have a
nice time: we meet together that there may be spiritual strength
both manifested and received through meeting with the Lord. (I am
not forgetting the first and chief purpose - to worship Him - all
else is nothing apart from worship of Him unto Whom are all things.)
But the question here is of spiritual strength. The effectiveness of
our gatherings together and its impact in the spiritual realm is a
question of spiritual strength; when we meet together there is far
too often the aspect of passive expectation instead of recognising
the very fact of our being gathered together should be the occasion
for a mighty expression of spiritual power for the accomplishing of
We are up Against Great Spiritual Forces
The Ephesian letter heads all up to the realm of wrestling in
spiritual places where nothing less than the exceeding greatness of
His power will accomplish the purpose and enable the Church to
fulfil its vocation: that is the realm of the Church's activity on
behalf of brethren in Christ in all the world; it is the one battle
throughout the world against the one enemy against the Church of
Christ. Oh! that we would recognise there are always terrific issues
at stake when the Lord's people assemble together and there should
be a strong expression of power and influence against the whole
system of evil - the impact of the Lord's children meeting together
into the Name, should be the setting back of the adversary and a
celebration of the triumph of Christ over His enemies; meeting
together thus there can be the winning of the battle miles away.
Paul attributes his own victories and escapes to the prayers of the
assemblies far off (2 Cor. 1:2). When we get together there are
tremendous issues for the Lord Jesus at stake as gathered up and
focussed in the Church.
We are in a universal fight, the battle is on and the Church is
never going to get through to the throne without a fight.
While all is secured in the Throne in our Lord Jesus Christ by His
complete and perfect triumph in His Cross, yet that triumph has got
to be wrought out and manifested, and the Church is His instrument
unto this, so the battle is always focussed in the Assembly.
The need is great for the Lord's people to recognise this and so to
be gathered together unto action, and in spiritual power for the
whole body of Christ. It is the business of the whole Body and of
every member in that Body. So the question is one of spiritual
strength and power; and the power and spiritual strength of the
Church assembled is the individual quota of spiritual life and
strength to the whole.
There is a tremendous amount the Lord wants to reveal to His people,
that, by that revelation they shall possess the spiritual knowledge
of Himself that is necessary for the further unveiling and full
realisation of the ends of God for this time. It is very important
to know the time we are living in, and God's Eternal Purpose in
relation to it.
You cannot fight without spiritual knowledge and the Church cannot
be built without spiritual revelation; and you cannot get one ray of
revelation without a fight; for the enemy is out in full strength
and subtlety to cut across the revelation, and ever seeks to prevent
spiritual revelation, being given or received.
In Daniel 10 we read of the terrific conflict on earth and in the
heavens; and see it all related to revelation. (Dan. 10:1 A.R.V.) "A
thing was revealed unto Daniel... and the thing was true, even a
great warfare, and he understood the thing and had understanding of
the vision. I Daniel was mourning for three whole weeks... I
did not anoint myself at all until three whole weeks was
fulfilled... Fear not, Daniel, from the first day thou didst set thy
heart to understand and to humble thyself before God, thy words were
heard, and I am come for the words sake, but the king of Persia
withstood me one and twenty days... the vision is yet for
many days (marg. for the end of times.)"
Daniel stood in relation to the whole Body of the House of Israel;
and the Church gathered together is representative of the whole
Company of the Lord's people. The Lord must have such an instrument
in these latter days - end-days of this dispensation.
This chapter in Daniel shows it was a costly business to receive
revelation; yes, it costs to receive revelation and it costs
to give it out; spiritual ministry is tremendously costly
and there is a battle every time for every bit of revelation.
This revelation is not something extra to
Scripture, but what is hidden from unenlightened eyes in
It is absolutely necessary to be strengthened with all might in the
Lord. "Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might"
(Eph. 6:10). "Strengthened with power through His Spirit into the
inward man... that ye may be strong to apprehend... strong to
We require an inwrought strengthening in order to know! Spiritual
knowledge is far more than mental acquisition; and it is only
spiritual revelation that accomplishes things, and is the strength
of the Church in its nature and constitution unto the enabling for
its mighty work. The strength of the assembly is just the strength
of the several individuals who are gathered together, and our
gathering together does not lift us up above our personal
relationship to the Lord, together with other of the Lord's children
we are still the same measure in ourselves, and that measure is the
measure of our secret history with the Lord, and unto that measure
is the spiritual exercise in the assembly. The individual has got to
be exercised in the things of the Lord and his inward man gains
strength through such spiritual exercising.
Take the matter of prayer: what about our private prayer life? Now,
beloved, these questions are not meant to be criticisms but unto a
constructive purpose only. The assembly is no stronger than its
individual prayer life. If we come to the assembly and do there our
private praying, that praying which we should have had alone with
God, or get others to do our praying for us - the Lord does not
accept that kind of substitution; only as we are individually mighty
and strong in our private prayer life will the assembly reap the
strength of it as they come together. Each one gathered into the
assembly having a strong, true private prayer life in secret with
the Lord, means a strong mighty power of spiritual effectiveness in
the Body of Christ and unto a definite realising of the specific
ends of God for that hour as related to His Eternal Purpose in
Christ Jesus. But if we are doing our private praying in public the
Lord knows and there is weakness and ineffectiveness in the
assembly; and if strong in private prayer life the assembly will
feel it and the whole Church of God will benefit.
What are you doing in your personal prayer life? Of course there is
an added strength by all being together, and there is gain to the
individual by corporate prayer.
And what is true in the prayer realm must be true also in the realm
of the Word.
The Holy Spirit strengthens us in this way by exercising our inward
man in the Word.
What time has the reading and study of the Word in your life? Are
you getting all your knowledge of the Word from other servants of
the Lord, instead of getting down on the Word yourself as well?
The Holy Spirit demands work and perseverance with the Word; it is
very necessary for us to have the Word in us for the Holy
Spirit to work upon; this is the way of strength, down on the word
working, reading persistently, meditating, praying, and not giving
up when we come to a dry spell - but persisting on and on. The Holy
Spirit needs this exercising of our inward man in the study of the
Word and prayer, to build the Church strong, and the Lord will make
use of every bit of the Word thus individually planted, and the Holy
Spirit will come down and operate upon that.
The Word of God is the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17). "Let
the Word of God dwell in you richly" (Col. 3:10). What is true of
prayer and the Word for making us strong with the inward spiritual
strength is also true of Witness.
When I say we must ever be alert to witness for the Lord Jesus, I do
not mean that we are to button-hole every one to speak with them
about their soul. What I mean is, do we at the outset of the day
definitely seek the Lord to be made alive to every opportunity for
Him, to be on the look out, alert to take the opportunity as it
comes along, are we prayerfully and eagerly looking out for it? Are
we alive in spiritual watching for souls?
The strength of the Church depends upon the spiritual life
of its members. How often do we ask the Lord to make us alive for
contacts? Are you on full strength to witness? The feature of the
Church after Pentecost, was that all believers went everywhere
preaching the Word - wherever they went, in their daily life there
was a proclaiming of the Lord Jesus - they were in all circumstances
a witness and a testimony to Him; a living testimony, a
witness of Life; and, beloved, it must be so.
And then the wonder, when we come together, Oh! how vital it would
be, how alive unto God, and the whole Body of Christ throughout the
world would feel the impact of so coming together in the Name of the
Lord, and there would have to be a standing back of the
May the Lord bring us into this for His Name's sake in an
increasingly fuller measure.
First published in "A Witness and A Testimony" magazine, May-June 1930, Vol. 8-3.