"A Candlestick of Pure
Gold: of Beaten Work" Exodus 25:31
"The Testimony of Jesus" Revelation 1:9
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|January -- February, 1969
||Vol. 47, No. 1
AN EARNEST APPEAL TO ALL WHO RECEIVE
The heavy increase in printing and postal costs makes it necessary to
ask you that, if you do not feel the need of the ministry of
this paper, you will kindly let us know. The cost of a postcard will
save us much more if you will so co-operate. But we are only too glad
to send the paper where there is a felt need for it.
FROM THE EDITOR
With this issue of the paper we enter upon one more year of its
ministry. We would convey to our readers our warmest and sincerest
wishes for a year of very much blessing and of "His increase". Amidst
the world troubles and Christian trials and perplexities we need so
much help in light, assurance, and support from the Lord. We pray that
the ministry of this little paper may be used in some small measure to
meet this need.
In our last issue we used what to some was a rather enigmatical phrase:
'Much prayerful help is needed for the future. Changes are pending and
much wisdom is required in making decisions and resolving problems.' We
had hoped that by this time we might have had something more definite
to say. We may have it before this issue reaches you, but we can here
intimate what we were referring to. The premises in which for so many
years we have had our offices and stores, as well as the residence of
our two so faithful and devoted secretaries, are in the market and are
virtually sold for housing development. It is only the final word of
consent by the planning authorities which is awaited, and may come any
day---or be refused. This will involve us in a major move, and at
present we cannot see how this could be in this same area. Thus your
prayer fellowship is much needed. He who has cared for this ministry
for these forty-seven years will not fail. No room for more now.
Warmest greetings, T. Austin-Sparks [1/2]
THE CUP AND THE FIRE
4. THE TESTING OF THE FIRE
We return again to our basic passage of Scripture:
"I came to cast fire upon the earth: and would that it
were already kindled! But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how
am I straitened till it be accomplished! Think ye that I am come to
give peace in the earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: for
there shall be from henceforth five in one house divided three against
two, and two against three. They shall be divided, father against son,
and son against father; mother against daughter, and daughter against
her mother; mother in law against her daughter in law, and daughter in
law against her mother in law" (Luke 12:49-53).
I confess that is one of our Lord's utterances that I least like, and
that I find myself most unhappy to speak about. If anyone else but He
had said it, perhaps we should have turned away. I am quite sure that
if that had originated with myself, or with any of my brethren, it
would have caused very great offense. But He said it. And it seems to
me to be all of a piece with the beginning of that statement.
Perhaps you have noticed that this marks a very abrupt change in the
whole course of the narrative. Up to the end of verse 48 you seem to
have been on one thing: and then quite abruptly there is this change. I
can only think that there was a pause on His part. He said that; and
then He was quiet for a moment, and His mind ranged the future -- the
future of His own influence and effect upon the world. And then He
began this part of His utterances, in a quite different, strange realm.
"I came to cast fire upon the earth ...". 'That is why I came; that
sums up the meaning of My coming. Why did I come? For what did I come?
What is to be the outcome and the issue? I came to cast fire upon the
earth ... and how am I pent up, straitened, limited! What do I want?
What is it that is necessary? I have a baptism to be baptized with, and
I would that it were over! I wish that were accomplished and then I
should be free of this straitness and this limitation. The purpose for
which I have come could be realized. Oh, that it were already
accomplished -- this baptism of the Passion, of the Cross!' So He
thinks and so He speaks. I have said that this paragraph, from verse 49
to verse 53, seems to be all of a piece. We see here the effect of the
fire, and it is very terrible. It introduces the element of judgment.
There is no need to argue with anyone who knows anything about the
Bible that fire in the Bible is so often the symbol of judgment -- as
But we need to comprehend the meaning of that word 'judgment'. We so
often limit it to one of its aspects, especially the final one. We
speak of 'bringing to judgment' -- meaning by that, to punishment --
the final effect of judgment. But judgment in the Bible is a more
comprehensive word than that. It is, to begin with -- and this can be
clearly seen in terms of fire, or fire in terms of judgment -- a trying
of things, a putting them to the test. Now Scriptures will leap to your
mind which bear that out. Fire tests, the fire tries, the fire finds
things out, does it not? That is the first effect of fire. And that is
the first meaning of judgment: to put everything to the test, to try it.
Having done that, it discriminates: that is, it divides; it shows to
which category things belong, and it puts them there. Fire has that
effect. It says: That is of that kind, and it belongs to that kind; it
is of that category, or that realm, or that kingdom: this belongs to
another. Fire finds out: it discriminates and it divides.
And then it relegates finally. It says: that has been found to belong
to a certain realm; it has been designated, it has been discriminated;
it belongs there, we put it there. That is the final effect of the fire.
That is the content of the word 'judgment'. We need always to keep that
full meaning in mind when we use the word. We will not dwell upon its
application more fully at the moment.
We are told in the Word of God that this judgment -- which would come,
mark you, with the coming of the Holy Spirit -- the effect of Christ's
release through the Cross, in the coming of the Holy Spirit was to cast
fire. In other words, the effect of Christ's release would be the
coming of the Spirit as the Spirit of fire; and as the Spirit of fire
His presence would always be in terms of judgments in this threefold
sense of the word. The Holy Spirit's presence is like this and it has
this effect. Let us [2/3] now look into the Word
to see the realm in which that operates.
Here in chapter 12 of Luke's Gospel we have it operating in one realm.
We read those terrible words: "Think ye that I am come to give peace m
the earth? I tell you, Nay, but rather division." The word in the old
Authorized Version is "a sword". Division! It sounds terrible, and we
are on very delicate ground, we have to be very careful. But He goes on
to explain what He means by division: "There shall be from henceforth
five in one household divided, three against two, and two against
three." And then He gives examples of division in the family. Here the
fire is at work in the realm of human relationships.
Now let me say here at once, in parenthesis, and with considerable
emphasis, that this has nothing to do with outward divisions within the
Church, divisions amongst those who are in Christ. That is not what the
Lord is speaking about or pointing to. He is thinking in a totally
different realm, in the spiritual realm. This division takes place
entirely upon a spiritual basis. The divisions as we have them in the
first letter to the Corinthians are because of other things amongst
believers that are not spiritual, but this is a spiritual division,
essentially and basically.
Perhaps the classic illustration or example of this is the one that we
have in the early part of the Old Testament, in the case of the
Levites. You will call to mind how, when they had reached the
wilderness, Moses was called up into the Mount. He was there so long
that the people came -- I think deliberately placed by God -- under a
very severe test, as to where their hearts really were: whether they
were after their own interests or after God's, their own ends or His;
whether their hearts were in this matter with the Lord, or whether
their hearts were set upon their own gratification and pleasure. They
were put to the severe test of that probationary period of the forty
days and forty nights in which Moses was in the Mount, and they broke
down under the test. When Moses came down, hearing the noise in the
camp, you remember what had happened -- the calf and the dancing.
"These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee out of the land of
Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and cried: 'Who is on the Lord's
side?' "Whoso is on the Lord's side, let him come unto me." 'And all
the sons of Levi went over to him. And he said, Gird every man his
sword upon his side, and go in and out and slay every man his brother,
every man his friend.' The sword, the fiery sword, has come into the
realm of human relationships. It is finding out where the heart is,
testing the heart; it is discriminating between motives, "the thoughts
and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12); and it is putting these
people in the category to which they belong. Here are the Levites, who
have been put to the test and have come through triumphantly, and for
evermore they stand as representing the full, pure thought of God
concerning His people. The point is that this work of judgment, of the
fire, of the sword, came into the realm of human relationships, to find
out the motives of the heart.
You can take that into Luke 12. That is just what it means. The
divisions, even within the family, the home, the household, will be
made by the Holy Spirit on this matter of the relationship of the
heart. We can see, as we read the story of Israel in the wilderness,
that the heart of that nation, that generation, as the Psalmist said,
"was not stedfast with God" (Psalm 78:8). In their heart they lusted
after Egypt -- the fleshpots of Egypt. Their heart was back there, even
while they were in the wilderness; and that generation never entered
the Land, because its heart was not with the Lord. It is a matter of
inward division, a division in the heart.
Now the Holy Spirit is always a divider in that way; it is a work of
the Holy Spirit to do that. In a sense -- not in the wrong sense, and
be careful how you take me up -- in a sense the Holy Spirit is the
cause of divisions. There is a realm in which He is the divider.
Let us take our Bible and go right back to the beginning. The Spirit of
God brooded upon the chaos, the darkness, the void. What was the first
thing done by and through the Holy Spirit? Dividing between things: a
process of division between light and darkness. "And God divided the
light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness
Night" (Genesis 1:4-5). And then God divided between the heaven and the
earth. He divided the waters which were under the firmament from the
waters which were above the firmament" (1:7). They had got too near;
one was right down on top of the other, so that you could not discern
or discriminate between the clouds of the heavens and the waters upon
the earth. He put the firmament -- an expanse, a space -- between: and
He called it Heaven. In the same way he separated the dry land from the
waters, and He "called the dry land earth; and ... the waters called he
seas" (1:10). And He "saw that it was good."
Now there are Old Testament things which have, as we know, a New
Testament meaning. These are [3/4] found in
their counterpart in the new creation. And when you come to the book of
the Acts, the book of the Holy Spirit at work in relation to the new
creation, you find all the way through that divisions are taking place
as a result of the Holy Spirit's activity. Indeed, you may say that
that is the characteristic of the Spirit's work right through the New
Testament: a dividing between light and darkness; a judging and a
pronouncing. 'That is darkness -- that is one realm, and that is light
-- that is another realm; and these two can never, in the right and
proper way, obtain together, they cannot co-exist. They are separated
and belong to two entirely different categories.' The Spirit of God has
Interpret that spiritually, and you see what it means. What a
tremendous amount there is bound up with that in spiritual life! It
works out in this way, that anyone -- and this is the test -- who
really has the Spirit is very sensitive to light and very sensitive to
darkness. They know quite well about the big division that God has
made; and, when they touch anything that belongs to the darkness realm,
they feel the darkness in their own spirit, they know they have touched
darkness, they know they have come into another realm. That is a work
of the Spirit, and a very important work indeed.
On the other hand, anyone who has the Spirit will be equally sensitive
to light. When there is true light -- we will define that in a moment
-- the spiritual man or woman at once leaps to it. Why? Because this
kind of light is not cold light: it is the light of fire -- it is
living light, that has energy in it. You can have light, but it is
cold. You can have imitation fire, but it is cold -- like those things
that you switch on, with the imitation of glowing coal, but it does not
make any difference, other than psychologically! You see the thing, and
perhaps you imagine something, but really it is all an illusion. And
you can have that kind of light, but it is imitation, it is artificial,
it is false. You can switch it on and equally quickly switch it off.
But that is not the light of fire, which is energetic. And the light of
the Spirit, the light of God, the light of Christ, is always living,
energetic light. When you and I who have the Spirit come into touch
with I light, it is not that we become mentally and intellectually
interested, fascinated, charmed or captivated. It is that something
within us leaps up and responds, because we have met energy .
These are marks of the Spirit, judging which is which and what is what,
what belongs to this realm and what belongs to that; and these things
are set apart: so that it is something quite abnormal if darkness comes
into the day or light into the night. It is not the ordinary course of
things at all. Do you see the point? You can have those differences of
kingdom or realm within your own family, your own household, and there
can be no fellowship at all because there is the division which is made
by the Holy Spirit Himself. Many can confirm and testify to this from
their own experience, and some are suffering because of it. But the
point is that is how it will be if the Holy Spirit comes in, and the
Lord Jesus was faithful and honest enough to let it be known that that
is how it would be. You cannot avoid it, you cannot get over it, you
cannot bridge it. It is painful, but it is a mark that the Spirit has
done something. Would that we, as the Lord's people, might be more and
more sensitive to those different realms which are put apart by the
Spirit of God! It is a mark of growth in the light of the Spirit to
become more and more sensitive to what belongs here and what belongs
You may remember that on two different occasions Paul used that phrase:
"the things which differ" (Romans 2:18; Philippians 1:10); and he said
it to believers. He would have them know, as Christians, the things
that differ. That was the true kind of division that ought to have
existed at Corinth. The other was a false and a wrong division; but
this was where things had got mixed up. Day and night had been all
mixed up together; things which belonged to the night were present
among the "sons of the day" (1 Thessalonians 5:5), and they were not
sensitive to them. And so the first letter to the Corinthians has so
much about the Holy Spirit -- the real effect and work of the Holy
Spirit. We must recognize that the life of the Spirit is a life of
spiritual dividing; the course of the Spirit-governed life is that of
discerning, being sensitive to the things that differ.
The next application of this is to the whole matter of Christian work.
Paul speaks about this in his first letter to the Corinthians, chapter
"According to the grace of God which was given unto me, as a wise
masterbuilder I laid a foundation; and another buildeth thereon. But
let each man take heed how he buildeth thereon. For other foundation
can no man lay than that which is laid which is Jesus Christ. But if
any man buildeth on the foundation gold, silver, costly stones, wood,
hay, stubble; each man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall
declare it, because it is revealed in fire; and the fire itself shall
prove each man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work shall abide
which he built thereon, he shall receive [4/5] a
reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he
himself shall be saved; yet so as through fire" (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).
And we place alongside of that a passage from the letter to the Hebrews:
"Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying.
Yet once more will I make to tremble not the earth only, but also the
heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those
things that are shaken, as of things that have been made, that those
things which are not shaken may remain. Wherefore, receiving a kingdom
that cannot be shaken ..." (Hebrews 12:26-28).
Here we come into the realm of values in life -- in life's work; and
the discrimination is brought in by the fire. The fire tries "of what
sort it is". And remember, this is addressed to Christians. It is not
addressed to those who are doing their work, following their
profession, as people of the world. This is addressed to Christians,
and it is speaking about Christian work: Christ as the
foundation, and the work that you do on that foundation. Paul is saying
about Christian work that there is one realm which will abide the fire,
and there is another realm -- in Christian work -- which will go up in
smoke: it will be proved that all that was for nothing: the worker will
just get into heaven, and that is all! Saved -- yes -- "so as through
Here is a division which the Holy Spirit makes in the realm of
Christian work. If we want to sum it all up, really get to the heart of
it, it just amounts to this: Only that which is done by and through the
Holy Spirit Himself will remain, will abide the test, will be "found
unto praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1
Peter 1:7). There can be a tremendous amount of activity and energy, of
work and works, engaged in by Christians in relation to Christ, at
least in intention, which comes into this category of being consigned
to the fire, disappearing in the flames, and leaving the worker at the
end with nothing for all his toil.
This is what was happening in the book of the Acts. Look through this
book and see the discrimination that is being made. Yes, a
discrimination is truly being made. Oh, how those Judaizers laboured!
How they travelled and compassed sea and land! It must have cost them
quite a lot to make those long journeys. Their movements were far and
wide. You are forced to conclude, not only that they were men who meant
business, but that, so far as they understood themselves and their
position, they were what we would call sincere men. I do not see very
much difference between these Judaizers who pursued Paul wherever he
went and gave their very lives to this sort of thing, and Saul of
Tarsus as he was. It is just what he was doing; he was one of them.
"I verily thought ..." -- 'I truly thought'; if you like, 'I honestly
thought' -- "with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to
the name of Jesus of Nazareth" (Acts 26:9). That is the utterance of an
honest man, of a sincere man. 'I verily thought that I ought ... I
considered this thing: this was no mere impulse, this was no mere
fanaticism. I thought' -- Paul was a man who thought -- 'I thought that
I ought ... It was a matter of conscientious conviction with me that
this was what I ought to do, that it was the right thing to do, that I
was called upon to do it. It was a matter of conscience with me. I
verily thought within myself that I ought ...'
Yes, but how possible it is to be as utterly sincere as that and as
utterly mistaken! The Judaizers were like that. But their work did not
last. Here is the work of the Spirit going on: and it has gone on, and
it is still going on. It has stood all the testing and all the trying
out, and it survives the fire -- the fire of judgment, the fire of
testing. It has proved itself to be the work of the Spirit. It shows
the supreme importance, as the key to the whole of this thing -- not of
being sincere, not of being enthusiastic, not of acting on the basis of
conscientious conviction -- but of being governed by the Holy Spirit.
That is the important thing! it is only that that lasts.
This all comes into the realm of Christian work. Perhaps you may have
felt a little catch just now about the Judaizers: but you have got to
concede them quite a lot, you know. These Judaizers were not
anti-Christian. What they really wanted was Jewish Christianity -- a
Christianity with a Jewish complex. They are prepared to have
Christianity, if only Christianity will conform to the Jewish order, to
the Jewish pattern. I am not going to argue that out now, but I could
bring forward much evidence to show that that is so. Paul shows by his
letter to the Galatians that that is not the work of the Spirit. It is
something quite different.
The next thought here takes us into the realm of Christian testimony:
the fire at work in the realm of Christian testimony. We turn to a very
"But thanks be unto God, which always leadeth us in triumph in Christ,
and maketh manifest through us the savour of his knowledge in
every place. For we are a sweet savour of Christ unto [5/6]
God, in them that are being saved, and in them that are perishing; to
the one a savour from death unto death; to the other a savour from life
unto life" (2 Corinthians 2:14-16).
There is the dividing effect of the fire. You know the picture, the
background. Paul is thinking in terms of the Roman procession, the
triumphant General leading his prisoners in his train, holding
celebrations of his victory from place to place. At every such place
the altar was erected, the fire was lit, the flame leapt up, and the
incense filled the air, and that had a double effect. There were some
who were in the way of perishing, and that was the place where they
would perish; they will be sacrificed there. There are others who are
not in the way of perishing: they will pass that fire and go on; they
will be saved. The background, you see, is very vivid. The fire is
discriminating and determining here.
But Paul says that this is the dual effect of the Holy Spirit in our
life and ministry, as we go from place to place. Something happens
everywhere and every time. One or both of two things happens in every
place. On the one hand, those who refuse the light, who persist in
fighting against the victorious Lord, who resist the Holy Ghost, are
brought to condemnation: they are put into the category to which they
belong -- condemned. On the other hand, those who believe, those who
accept are, by the same Holy Spirit, brought into liberty. They pass
the testing fire and go on in life. "To the one a savour from death
unto death; to the other a savour from life unto life."
Now the point is this: Paul is saying that this is the effect of the
Holy Spirit in our ministry and in our testimony. In other words, the
Holy Spirit never leaves things as they were. The presence of the Holy
Spirit always brings about some kind of a crisis and verdict. If the
Holly Spirit is present, speaking, we cannot be the same afterward as
before. Some thing has happened. We are either more hardened or more
softened; we are either more condemned or more saved. In the presence
of the Holy Spirit something happens; the fire does this work of
This is what the Lord Jesus meant when He spoke of 'casting fire upon
the earth'. What will the fire do? Well, it will make this division, it
will bring this judgment; it will determine things and people and their
destiny. We know how true that is in history. That is the effect of the
Holy Spirit. But what I want to underline in that particular connection
is this: If you and I are really men and women who are governed by the
Spirit and filled with the Spirit, the effect of our presence and our
passing this way will be to leave things otherwise than they were
before. There will be eternal verdicts reached be our having gone this
way. That is, of course, the object of ministry. 'Thanks be unto God
who leads me on from place to place to celebrate His victory.' The
effect is either the one thing or the other; things are not afterward
as they were before. Holy Spirit ministry must be like that: it must
produce something, it must effect something, it must make a difference.
And in fact it does! It does that!
THE FIRE DISCRIMINATING
The fire is cast upon the earth, and, as we go through this book of the
Acts, we can see all these things happening: they are happening all the
time. The fire is doing it: the fire is finding out, is testing, is
discriminating, is relegating. The end of the story is that you have
got two realms set apart, and shown for what they are and what they
There is very much more, of course, that could be said on this matter
of spiritual discrimination; the things that belong to the different
categories, that essential spiritual difference. But I think we can sum
everything up by saying this: that if we are really governed by the
Holy Spirit, we shall all belong to one category. That is the point.
There will not be so many different categories, or realms, in which we
live: there will not be two -- there will only be one. The Holy Spirit
seeks to secure one category of people, and that is a people wholly
governed and led by Himself. And if you have to say: 'I fundamentally
disagree with you' on anything, then one of us is not in the Spirit. It
is up to us to find out where the wrong is, because the Holy Spirit is
not fundamentally of two different minds. He never can be that. To be
really in the Spirit means, I repeat, to be of one category, of one
And so the Apostle wrote so much to these churches about this oneness
of mind, of heart, of spirit, this 'all speaking the one thing' (1
Corinthians 1:10). He said it again, he asked for it again, he was
pleading for it (cf. Philippians 1:27, 4:2); therefore it is possible.
The solution to all those problems and difficulties is life in the
Spirit. And that, of course is based on the Cross, where we find an
infinite capacity for letting go to the Lord. If we forget all the
rest, let us remember that. [6/7]
GOD DEALETH WITH YOU AS WITH SONS
Reading: 1 Kings 1:1-37.
WHO is to be the heir? Who will be given the throne? These were the
questions in everybody's minds during the dying moments of David's
earthly life. One man felt confident that he knew the answer, and that
man was Adonijah. In those days of uncertainty and confusion it
probably seemed good to find a man with the qualities of initiative and
resolution which were so desirable. Adonijah had much to commend him.
"I will be king", he affirmed, and for the moment it seemed likely that
he would be.
He had the means. He must have been a wealthy man already. He had
chariots, horsemen, and a large bodyguard all at his disposal. He is
also described as "a very goodly man", which suggests that he had an
excellent appearance and presence, he had the regal carriage and the
easy manners which were so suitable for David's heir. More than that,
he had the seniority. Absalom, at one time a pretender to the throne,
was now dead and Adonijah was next in the succession to him. Perhaps
for this very reason Joab and Abiathar, who had remained loyal at the
time of Absalom's insurrection now backed Adonijah and were ready to
co-operate in setting him on the throne. With the backing of such
eminent civil and religious leaders the matter appeared to be as good
as settled. He was the central figure of a great banquet where he was
being toasted as the new king.
It was at this juncture that David acted. He was not dead -- not yet --
and he was the one man who could give an authoritative decision. It may
be felt that he had left it rather late, but it was not too late. By
his decree Adonijah was set aside and Solomon anointed king.
We may questions the reason for this decision, since Solomon was
certainly junior to Adonijah. He seems to have made no claim for
himself, his cause being taken up by Nathan, who was later helped by
Bath-sheba. At that stage Solomon seems to have been a silent young man
and when later he talked to God he confessed: "I am but a little child"
(1 Kings 3:7). He neither had Adonijah's self confidence, nor did he
seem to have his wealth. No mention is made of his chariots and horses,
but only that he was to be caused to ride on David's mule.
Yet it was he who was chosen to inherit the kingdom. David was most
emphatic about this choice and ordered that Solomon should be anointed
forthwith. Of course, it could be possible that David was mistaken, but
the choice was not primarily his, but God's. As Benaiah so aptly
commented: "Amen; the Lord, the God of my lord the king, say so too!"
But why? The answer is not far to seek. In the course of the
description given of Adonijah the illuminating remark is made -- "And
his father had not displeased him all his life in saying, Why hast thou
done so?" He had always had his own way. Because Adonijah had never
been chastened he was quite unfit to inherit his father's throne. And
Solomon? Well, it was he who passed on the excellent counsel quoted in
Hebrews 12:5 and 6: "My son, regard not lightly the chastening of the
Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: for whom the Lord loveth
he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth."
THE TRAINING OF SONS
Solomon ultimately, by God's grace, became a man of very great wisdom,
and among other things he came to appreciate the value of his strict
upbringing. The quotation is from the book of his Proverbs which on a
number of occasions gives quite clear directions as to how children
should be educated. "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he
that loveth him chasteneth him betimes" (Proverbs 13:24). There are a
number of similar adages. They are, of course, in direct contrast with
modern educational theories, but there seems no doubt that in Solomon's
case it resulted in a son who could safely be entrusted with his
father's kingdom. Although he deteriorated later -- as all types must
do -- he became for a time the ideal king. And he was made an inspired
writer to record truths which surely are as much entitled to acceptance
as other books of the Word of God.
It was really a question of love, as he himself came to realize.
Solomon had been especially loved from his birth, not only by David but
by God Himself (2 Samuel 12:25). And even before his birth he had been
designated by name as the son destined to [7/8]
become David's heir (1 Chronicles 22:9). It is not surprising,
therefore, that David treated this son with special discipline, while
he let the others have their own way and never said 'No' to them.
Probably the young Solomon found this chastening irksome, and often
longed to be like Adonijah, who was never crossed in any wish of his
and never made to do what he disliked. It must have seemed most unfair
at the time. Solomon, however, lived to understand it all and wrote his
words of reminder that a true son must expect to find his father's hand
heavy at times.
"He that loveth him chasteneth him betimes." The word 'betimes' seems
to suggest that there were certain occasions when Solomon deserved to
suffer. No doubt this was true in his case, but it is not the meaning
of the quotation in Hebrews, for there the matter of chastening circles
round the great Son of God Himself.
THOUGH HE WERE A SON
"Consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against
himself" (Hebrews 12:3 -- A.V.). He certainly was the Father's
appointed heir, and it was as such that he learned obedience by the
things which He suffered. Note "things"; that is not only the great
agony of the Cross, but the many lesser trials and crosses of every
day. Because the Father loved Him and had destined Him for the throne
He could not lead the relatively comfortable life which might have been
His (not that He wished it!) but was subjected to much that was
irksome, small things as well as great. If we consider the matter we
will agree that there was much suffering in His daily life which does
not seem to have been absolutely necessary, even for the One who was
destined to die on the Cross for sinners.
It may have been inevitable that the religious leaders should reject
Him, but why that extra sneer about His works of mercy being
attributable to Beelzebub? It was true that His disciples were faulty
men who were bound to cause Him much distress, but why did the
sensitive Son of God have to endure over three years of close proximity
to Judas Iscariot? Not for Judas's sake, for he got no benefit, but
rather condemnation. Not for the eleven's sake, for they never even
suspected that there was anything wrong. Surely, then, this appointment
was ordered by the Father and continued right through to the end in
order that the Lord Jesus might be under a peculiarly testing
discipline. It seemed as though a great sigh of relief came from our
Lord when Judas went out into that dark betrayal night, but even then
He still had to endure the traitor's kiss in the garden. So this
particular suffering went right through to the very end. The same is
true of the believer. There never comes a time in the Christian's life
when he is so experienced or so old that all further trials are
removed. He is moving towards an eternal inheritance and so his
discipline can never be relaxed. Indeed, sometimes it seems that the
testing increases rather than diminishes.
"Consider him ... lest ye be weary and faint ...". Think of how this
trying discipline of Judas was watched by Satan as well as the Father,
especially on that last evening when his repulsive hypocrisy might have
extorted some rash reaction from the sorely-tried Son of Man. But no,
in this and in every other temptation He never failed: He treated the
traitor with courtesy and even with favour right to the very end. As we
have said, it seems that the apparently unnecessary wounds not only
continued to the end, but even multiplied. He had to be forsaken, but
why Peter's denial and oaths? He had to be crucified, but why the
mockery of the soldiers and the crown of thorns? Why indeed, if not for
that very chastening which was associated with the Father's loving
concern which always kept the throne in view.
WITH YOU AS WITH SONS
The Hebrew believers who received this letter were suffering similar
irksome trials. These seemed so severe and so unnecessary that their
hands grew limp with discouragement and their knees palsied with
despair. There was even the danger of a root of bitterness springing up
in their hearts. To them, therefore, God sent the message of
explanation and encouragement based on Solomon's words. They were to
receive a kingdom which cannot be moved, and therefore they should
welcome the loving discipline which was calculated to fit them for
their high destiny. Were they foolish enough to envy the Adonijahs who
have nothing to cross them? Whether David was right to be so indulgent
to Adonijah we do not know, but we can well imagine that he silenced
any inward doubts by reminding himself that this son of his was never
to be his heir, so that it did not matter so much if he grew up to be
spoilt. Would the Hebrews wish God to act in this indulgent way towards
them? Did they really want that He should never say 'No' to them when
they begged to have their own way? Of course not. They wanted to be
truly loved, and they wanted to be heirs of God and joint-heirs with
Jesus Christ. For this it was necessary to suffer with Him. [8/9]
INSPIRATION FOR US
And we? it is not difficult for us to feel hurt by reason of the trials
or even handicaps which mark us out from others. These may seem
unnecessary, and sometimes even unfair. We wonder why others can get
their own way, or why they seem to have lives so free from the things
which irk us. We may well be in danger of losing heart and being
tempted to slow down in the race of faith, or even to give it up.
Let us look again at Solomon. No, better still, let us look off unto
Jesus. If in His case we have to explain the many painful and puzzling
trials of His life by recognizing that these were the Father's loving
ways of fitting Him for His place in the glory, cannot the same -- in
our smaller measure -- be true in our case? It not only can, but it is.
God is speaking to us as to sons, and He is dealing with us as with
sons. Satan misinterprets our experiences by trying to convince us that
they prove that there is some flaw in God's love for us. The very
opposite is true. It is just because He does love us so that He never
wants us to have the disappointment and mortification which came to
Adonijah; He wants us to have an honoured place in His kingdom. Like
Benaiah, let us acclaim His wisdom: "Amen: the Lord God ... say so too."
At times this may appear to be just superficial optimism. It is nothing
of the kind. We are reminded that no chastening for the present seems
to be joyous, but grievous. Nobody is suggesting that we should like
our setbacks and painful experiences, or even pretend to do so. No, for
the present they may be heavy to bear. "Nevertheless afterwards ...".
That is the point. God is working for the "afterwards" of eternity. We
may trust His love. - H. F.
NOTE. The following is the first of
four messages given by the editor at the Aeschi (Switzerland)
Conference in September, 1968. They are the beginning of what may
become a book to be published in due course. In editing these messages,
some little additions have been made because, being given at the time
in three languages, time was strictly limited. - EDITOR.
THE MISSION AND THE MESSAGE OF JESUS CHRIST
1. IN THE GOSPEL BY MATTHEW
I HOLD in my hand a little book, and all that is in between the covers
of that little book has to do with one thing, or three aspects of one
thing: the mission, the meaning and the message of Jesus Christ, the
Son of God. You know that it is the New Testament, and the whole of the
New [9/10] Testament is summed up in those words
-- the mission, the meaning and the message of Jesus Christ, the Son of
God, and it is that with which we are going to be occupied, as the Lord
I want to underline this: that the New Testament is all summed up in
those three things. As you know, it has many parts. There are
twenty-seven books, but all the twenty-seven books make one whole. In
some way each one of them tells us the mission of Jesus Christ, the
meaning of Jesus Christ, and the message of Jesus Christ. There are
twenty-one personal letters, and it is a wonderful thing that God chose
to give us all this in personal letters. It is indeed wonderful what a
personal letter can do when God inspires it! One-third of the whole New
Testament is in personal letters. There are five historical books, the
four Gospels and the book of the Acts; and then there is the one book,
the Apocalypse, which contains history, prophecy and doctrine. The
majority of the letters have personal names attached to them. The one
exception is the letter to the Hebrews. There were evidently more
writings by the apostles which have been lost, but two things of
greatest importance remain to us.
Firstly, God has seen to it that everything has been preserved which is
necessary to the life of a Christian. For the Christian life we do not
need any more than what is in the New Testament, and I think you will
agree that we have quite enough. When I was a young man I thought that
I understood the Bible. Someone has said that the Psalmist must have
been a young man when he said: "I have more understanding than all my
teachers" (Psalm 119:99). Well, after sixty years of Studying the New
Testament, it is more than I can cope with today. God has seen to it
that we have all that we need for life and conduct.
The second thing is this: the whole of the New Testament is a
many-sided revelation of one Person. Every one of the twenty-seven
books is a distinct aspect of one Person, and each one of those
twenty-seven parts has a particular purpose, but very many Christians
are quite unable to say what that particular aspect is. The great need
is for us to read one of these books, and I advise that you read it
right through at one sitting. Remember that the chapter arrangements
are quite a mechanical thing not arranged until the fifteenth century.
That is man's hand upon the book just for convenience, but the really
valuable thing is to read the whole book through at once.
Now having read that book, you stand back from it and you ask yourself
some questions: 'What does that book say to me?' Not: 'What is
there in that book?' but: 'What does the book say to me? Now that I
have read it, what does it amount to? What is its part of the whole?
What is the result for me of having read that book?'
That is all preparing our way for the several things that we are going
to consider. Our present purpose is firstly to show what we mean by
what we have just said, and secondly to consider some of these parts of
the whole. I want you to remember this as we go on -- that we are
trying to understand the very essence of Christianity. Having said
that, we will start on our first part, which is the Gospel by Matthew.
I want you just to look at two fragments, one at the beginning and one
at the end. We shall refer to these more fully later on.
"The book of the generation of Jesus Christ the son of
David, the son of Abraham" (1:1).
"But the eleven disciples went into Galilee, unto the
mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him they
worshipped: but some doubted. And Jesus came to them and spake unto
them, saying, All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on
earth. Go ye therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing
them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit:
teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I Commanded you: and lo,
I am with you alway even unto the end of the age" (28:16-20).
THE MAN MATTHEW
To reach a conclusion as to the message of Matthew we must first
consider the man himself. Who and what was Matthew? Well, we know that
his former name was Levi, and he got a double name -- Matthew Levi. We
know that he was a tax-gatherer, and he lived in Capernaum. Please
believe that this is not a lot of unnecessary detail; the two things
that I have just said have a tremendous history bound up with them.
Matthew was a tax-gatherer and he lived in Capernaum. He was a man who
was invested with Roman authority; he was employed by the 'army of
occupation': he had sold himself to the enemy in the land. He had
accepted Roman authority and he was a man under authority. If he said:
'I want so much as tax', all the Roman Empire stood behind him. That
gave him a great deal of liberty, for he could put his own price on
things, and he could be very exacting. Do you remember when John the
Baptist was baptizing in the Jordan and all the publicans came to him?
(I wonder if Levi was one of them! If he was, he had never been
baptized.) What did John the Baptist say to these publicans? 'Do not
exact more than you have a right to do!' So the publicans were men who
liked to get more than they had a right to have. You are following me
closely, are you not? Is your mind moving ahead of what I am saying?
Levi was evidently a man who loved power, for he had imbibed the spirit
of imperial Rome.
What about the time in which Levi lived? it was the time when Israel
was in great weakness, for she was being ground under the heel of
imperial Rome and had lost world authority. Put a ring round that word
'authority', for that is the key to Matthew.
There is one other thing to say about Matthew. The only thing that
remains as the fruit of his life is his Gospel. That is something very
wonderful! We don't know anything else about the subsequent history of
this man. Was he an apostle? Yes -- and yet the only thing that remains
is a book, but what a book it is! He is the only man in the New
Testament who calls himself a publican. He alone says: "Matthew the
publican" (Matthew 10:3). Twenty centuries afterward we are studying
that Gospel, and it has been studied all through those twenty centuries
-- the fruit of a converted publican. There are possibilities for us
Now it says that Jesus came to Capernaum, and as He passed by He saw
Levi sitting at the receipt of custom. He said: 'Levi, you wicked man!
You traitor to your country! You enemy of your own country! What are
you doing there, Levi?' No, Jesus did not say anything like that. He
looked at Levi, He saw his account books and all his money and He saw
all the people looking at Levi with anger. He knew the worst about him
and He said: "Follow me!" That is all. And Levi arose and followed Him.
I think it is possible that Levi had overheard Jesus' teaching in
Capernaum, and perhaps he had seen some of the miracles, so that when
Jesus said: "Follow me!" he heard in those words something [10/11] more than the words themselves. He heard
something that appealed to his sense of authority. Jesus did not say:
'Levi. would you like to be one of My followers?' Nor did He say:
'Levi, I give you an invitation to come with Me.' I wish I could catch
the tone of Jesus, but it would have been something like this: 'Follow Me!'
There was authority in His voice. Young Christians, Jesus does not invite
you to be Christians. He does not just say: 'Would you like to be one
of My disciples?' The voice of Jesus is the voice of Divine authority.
This is not a messenger of the King inviting; this is the King commanding.
You refuse this call at your eternal peril. When Jesus says: 'Follow
Me!' there is all the content of eternal destiny in that. This is where
we strike the message.
Now note one or two other things about Matthew. Matthew already knew
what was in the Bible. He knew the Scriptures, but the Scriptures had
no authority in his life until Jesus came in. If you read through this
Gospel by Matthew you will find that he repeats one phrase nine times,
and that phrase is: "that it might be fulfilled as it is written." Now
he had all that Scripture, but his Bible was not alive until Jesus came
into his life, and when that happened, he said: 'Why, this is what the
prophet wrote about. I am seeing Jesus everywhere now!' He could
identify Christ in the Scriptures when he had wholly committed himself
to the authority of Jesus. That is very instructive. You see, we are
not saved because we know something about the Bible, nor because we
have been brought up in a religious family. The very reality of
Christianity is in an absolute committal to the authority of Jesus
MATTHEW'S TWO FOCAL POINTS
Now, just leave that for a minute, and note Matthew's two focal points.
In his genealogy he says: "Jesus ... Abraham ... David" -- 'the seed of
Abraham, the seed of David'. So Matthew sees Jesus in relation to a
chosen nation, and Abraham is the first of this new chosen race.
Matthew sees Jesus in relation to a chosen people and then he says: 'of
the seed of David'. What does David mean? David represents the Divine
thought for this people, which is dominion in the world. First, then, a
chosen people: that is Abraham. Then a people in absolute authority
amongst the nations. That is the Divine thought.
Hold on to that very tightly. Presently Matthew is going to say to that
chosen nation: "The kingdom of God shall be taken away from you, and
shall be given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof" (21:43).
This is tremendous! So Abraham is to have another nation! A heavenly
people, and that people is to inherit the authority among the nations,
to be the true seed of David. That is where you need to dip
into the book of the Revelation: a great multitude out of every nation
centred in the Throne.
THE BASIS OF CHRISTIANITY
There is another point of which I want you to make a careful note,
because all the sovereign wisdom of God is found in this point. When
the New Testament was put together, quite contrary to the usual way of
men, the books were put in their wrong chronological order. The New
Testament is not put together in chronological order. If it had been,
Matthew would not have come in for a long time. When those men sat down
to put the book together, for some reason which they did not know they
said: 'We will put Matthew at the beginning.' They were more under the
government of the Holy Spirit than they knew! The Holy Spirit knew what
He was doing, so He said: 'We will put Matthew first.' And why is
Matthew first? For the best of all reasons: this Gospel by Matthew is
the first message of Christianity, and it is the foundation and basis
of all Christianity. What is the basis of Christianity? What would be
your answer if you were asked: 'What is the essential basis of all
Christianity'?' The answer is in the last words of this Gospel: "All
authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth." The absolute
lordship of Jesus Christ is the foundation of all Christianity.
You notice how this idea had got hold of Matthew. It is he who tells us
about the centurion who said to Jesus: "I also am a man under
authority, having under myself soldiers: and I say to this one, Go, and
he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh" (8:9). I hear the echo
of the voice of Jesus: "Follow me!" "He taught them as one having
authority", says Matthew, "not as their scribes" -- and the scribes
were supposed to be their authority! The great note of Matthew's Gospel
is the absolute right of Jesus to command and be obeyed, and you note
that the message of the Gospel in the book of the Acts was: 'We preach
Jesus Christ as Lord.' The claim of Jesus Christ is unmistakable in
Matthew. "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old ... but I say
unto you ... (Matthew 5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43). Six times He takes
authority over "them of old", and "them of old" means Moses supremely.
So on to the end, where it is all gathered up into 'All authority is
given (has been given) unto me in heaven and on earth.
Therefore go ye and teach all nations ... whatsoever I
have commanded [11/12] you" -- "have commanded".
Matthew's Gospel is always called -- by the Bible teachers -- "The
Gospel of the Kingdom", and the aspect of Jesus in it is that of the
King. What we are saying is that the true characteristic of a true King
is authority, and this is the imperative of Matthew, the erstwhile
tax-gatherer, who worshipped authority so much as, first to sell
reputation and honour and popularity to a foreign and hated power, and
then to do the same as to this life for the heavenly, spiritual
authority of Jesus Christ.
THE SPIRIT IN THE WORLD TODAY
Now why are we Saying these things? The greatest peril that exists in
the world today is the growing spirit of rebellion against authority.
There is a spirit which is refusing all government and all authority in
this world. It is the spirit of lawlessness, the spirit which claims
independence of life and action. Children are casting off the authority
of parents. They are demanding a life of absolute independence, and,
sad to say, this spirit is amongst many Christian young people. If you
would give them advice they will not take it, and if you say: 'That
behaviour, that dress is not worthy of the Lord Jesus', they will not
listen to you. But, of course, this is not only true of young people.
It is a spirit that has come into the world, and that is the message of
the letters to the Thessalonians, where it says that at the end the
antichrist will be "the lawless one".
SPIRITUAL POWER AND SPIRITUAL VICTORY
I need say little more. All that sounds very hard and very terrible,
but I will ask you to read again the book of the Acts, which is the
book of spiritual power, spiritual authority, and spiritual victory.
All the world rose up against the Christians. So much the worse for the
world! Did Herod kill James with the sword'? So much the worse for
Herod! Read the sequel. Oh, no, here is an authority that is greater
than the rulers of this world. These people may be poor people, and
weak people from the standpoint of this world. They may be despised
people. They may be poor, converted Levis, but they were joined to the
"all authority in heaven and on earth". They were joined to the King of
kings and Lord of lords.
Dear friends, you and I may be poor specimens, so far as this world is
concerned. We may be the despised things and the things which are not,
but Jesus Christ in us is greater than we are, and greater than this
But we come back to the point. The message of Matthew is the absolute
lordship and authority of Jesus Christ. Oh, may we all be found under
that lordship! It will come to mean much more than I am able to say.
When all is said, it is victory at the end, for 'He must reign
until He has made His enemies the footstool of His feet'.
But I do want to emphasize this thing: the beginning and the fullness
of Christianity is in the lordship of Jesus Christ.
(To be continued)
FOR BOYS AND GIRLS
A MOTIVE IN LIFE
YOUNG Lionel went home early that Saturday evening. He was feeling
restless and depressed. He had a good home, good friends and a good
prospect for the future, but somehow nothing seemed worthwhile. There
seemed to be no real purpose in life -- nothing to live for, nothing to
work for, nothing to fight for.
Mother and Father were watching the T.V. because it was the special
November Remembrance Rally at the Albert Hall. Clearly they did not
want to talk, so he sat down and began moodily to look at the screen.
The Albert Hall was obviously packed with people, and the arena was
occupied by a military band which was playing and marching up and down,
with the musicians weaving their way between one another. Lionel liked
the music, but what he liked much more was the precision of their
movements. As he watched he began to lose some of his gloom. When the
London Scottish came and played their pipes it was, if anything, more
impressive, especially as the announcer pointed out that these were not
regular soldiers but men who devoted their money and their spare time
quite voluntarily to train in this way. Lionel realized how keen they
must have been to get themselves to such a high standard.
That, however, was true of all the contributions [12/13]
made by the various services. To Lionel, though, the last was the best.
It was a display of gymnastics by R.A.F. men. Only the leader was a
professional P.I. instructor: the rest were just R.A.F. men from
various technical branches of the service who had given up their spare
time to make themselves fit, and then trained together for a final
period of special preparation for the great occasion.
It was thrilling to watch the split-second timing of their exercises
together. They were not only superbly fit and skilled, they had so
practised their jumps that it almost made Lionel dizzy to watch them.
He half expected some kind of loss of rhythm, or clash between one and
another, but no, it was perfect. Of course, when they finished there
was tremendous applause, but the men did not acknowledge this by bowing
or hand waving, but all smartly got into line facing in one direction
and stood to attention while their leader saluted.
'Who is he saluting?' Lionel asked. He had noticed that the bands and
the other performers had all done the same thing. They seemed not to be
aware of the rows of clapping spectators, but just faced in one
direction and saluted. Lionel's father answered his question by saying:
'If you had been here earlier you would have seen. That is the royal
box which they are facing, and in it is the Queen Mother.' 'Anyone
would think', commented Lionel 'that all their trouble and expense had
been given especially for her.' Perhaps it was,' his father answered.
'Don't you think that would make any effort worth while, to know that
you were doing it for a Queen?' 'I suppose that she was clapping too,'
guessed Lionel. There had been no shots of the occupants of the royal
box after he came into the room. 'I suppose she was,' replied his
mother, 'and I am quite sure that she would acknowledge their salutes
with a smiling "Thank you".'
Lionel went off to his own room, his mind in a ferment. He was a true
Christian yet he had been grumbling that he had no inspiring objective
in life. Those men had worked hard and long just for the one moment of
standing at attention before the Queen Mother, saluting her and feeling
that she appreciated their efforts. He could not very well stand at
attention before his Saviour, and it would seem like irreverent
play-acting to salute, but he knew that he could get down on his knees
and tell his Lord that he had devoted the day to pleasing Him. But had
he? No, he had been aimless and self-centred. So instead he knelt down
and confessed his failure, knowing that the Lord Jesus was ready to
From then onwards he made a practice of praying each morning that he
might be helped to devote the new day to pleasing his King and Saviour.
He never had to search for a worth-while motive for life after that.
Like Paul he could say: "I am ambitious to be well pleasing unto Him"
(2 Corinthians 5:9). H. F.
THE CHURCH -- ITS NATURE, PRINCIPLES
(With special reference to its local expression)
NEXT to the Person of Jesus Christ the Church has been, and continues
to be, the great battleground of history. So much so is this the case
that an ever-increasing number of books, journals, periodicals,
'Councils', 'Convocations', discourses, etc., are occupied with this
matter as a primary concern. But most of all this is controversial,
thus justifying the phrase 'the battleground'. This is all very
significant, indicating that it is a primary matter, and that it is
something which does hold a position in the forefront of
accountability. Rightly it does, and perhaps much more so than all
this writing and talking understands. It is a primary concern in the
whole cosmic realm, the super-mundane sphere, if we are to take both
the practical evidence and the definite New Testament statements
seriously. For instance, the whole letter to the Ephesians, and
particularly 3:10 and 6:12.
It may seem to be arrogant and ambitious for us, who, being of such
little account in ourselves, and by the medium of such an insignificant
a means as this little paper, to think that we can handle this immense
matter to any advantage. Having had this as a primary concern for so
many years, and having seen the Church and the churches in so very many
places from Far East to Far West, with much prayer exercise over it,
perhaps we may be given something to say which throws some light into
the shadows or darkness of the immense confusion which exists in
relation to the Church. We are especially concerned with the matter of
local-assembly expressions of the Church, for only there [13/14]
can the real meaning of the Church be brought to immediacy.
We have to begin by asking the question which includes everything else,
and which really expresses the problem in many minds:
CAN WE NOW ACCEPT THE POSSIBILITY OF TRUE LOCAL EXPRESSIONS
OF THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH?
This question -- and there is not a little, but very much, to give rise
to it -- has, because of its acuteness, received many answers, or has
been attacked in many ways. Some of these are as follows:
1. A large section of Christians have answered definitely 'NO', and
they base this upon what they term 'the total ruin' position. They say
that the Church is in unredeemable ruins, and therefore a corporate
expression is no longer possible. Of course, they especially relate
this to the Church universal, but they bring it very close by arguing
that at the end-time everything will be individual. The basis of this
is that in Revelation 2-3, where the Lord directs His address "to him
that overcometh". Well, that is argument No. 1.
2. Then there are those whose answer is that the only possibility now
is an approximate expression of the Church. That is, there can be no
full and complete expression, but something comparative, provisional,
and partial. There can be some features, and we must build upon
some things which we perceive to be in the New
Testament. In large instances the major denominations represent this
position. Presbyterians base their whole position upon one
interpretation of New Testament Church order, as they conceive it. The
same is true of Lutherans, Congregationalists, Baptists, Methodists,
'Brethren', etc. For each and all of these the term 'Church' is
employed. But it is a concept which is a convenient solution to the
problem namely, a partial approximation.
3. Then, there is the answer which is expressed by what is called
'Sublimation'. That is, that the Church is a sublime conception and
idea. It is idealistic, and we must live in the abstract realm of a
sublime conception and not try to bring that 'down to earth', be too
practical and demanding in reality. This answer and interpretation is
expressed in the term 'The Church Mystical': but not practical.
4. There are those who have written off the whole idea of Church,
either as impossible or unnecessary. They are definitely Christian
Institutions and organizations, but not a Church or churches. To this
category belong the Quakers, the Salvation Army, and a vast number of
mission halls, and 'Missions'.
5. Finally for our purpose, there are those whose answer is a very
positive one! Yes, we must return to the New Testament pattern 'and
have New Testament churches'! They believe that the New Testament
contains a definite 'blue print' for local churches, and they are
committed to 'forming' such wherever possible. Unfortunately,
they vary very much as to teachings, emphases, and practices, and some
of them are characterized by excesses, abnormalities and exclusiveness.
Well, what are we going to say to all this?
As we see it, all are more or less wrong or right (we underline
'more or less', but we would say that some are totally wrong), because
the true nature of the Church has been either lost or lost
THE HISTORY OF ISRAEL
The history of Israel has a lot of light to throw upon this matter of
the Church. Historic Israel was constituted upon the same eternal principles
as the Christian Church. Indeed, they were called "the church in the
wilderness" (Acts 7:38), and they were termed God's elect. They were
intended to represent in time on the earth an eternal and heavenly
concept. In types and symbols to figuratively and temporally embody
spiritual principles and Divine thoughts. For our purpose here we have
to narrow this all down to the main principles involved in their
history. We divide that history into two phases. The one before, and
leading to, the captivity in Babylon the seventy years. The reason for
that captivity was purely and definitely idolatry. The captivity dealt
with that, and after that there was no more idolatry of the same
kind in Israel. But then came -- and still exists -- the second,
and both worse and longer, phase of judgment. This is revealed in the
second aspect of the ministry of the Prophets. It is obvious that the
Prophets prophesied in relation to the immediate future of the
Babylonish and Assyrian captivity, and also in relation to a time
further on. This second aspect is often taken up in the New Testament
and applied -- or shown to apply -- to those times and events, with the
extra feature that post-New Testament times (unto our day) were
visualized. But why this second and longer and more terrible relegation
to judgment? Why Israel's confusion, weakness, and loss of the immediate
presence and power of God, and only His sovereignty behind
their history? The answer is in one phrase -- "spiritual blindness".
"Blindness has happened to Israel" (Romans 11:25). There is a great
deal about this in the Gospels, and both the teaching and miracles of
Jesus were directed to [14/15] and against this
blindness. The giving sight to the blind was a testimony to Israel
, as well as to the world. This blindness, however, was particularly
related to the Person, the significance, and the purpose of Christ.
That intervention in history was a mission to redeem, recover, and
reestablish that eternal concept in the heart of God, which was
as 'the mystery' in Israel: that is, the spiritual principles
and meanings hidden in their temporal election and
constitution, and to embody it all in a Person who was to be reproduced
by the Church, as the Corn of Wheat, through death, being reproduced in
resurrection in a corporate body.
There we have touched the very heart of the true nature of the Church.
The touchstone of the Church is a seeing by Divine --
supernatural -- Holy Spirit revelation and illumination the real
significance and meaning of Jesus Christ and His mission. It is so
evident that the great Apostle of 'the Mystery' -- the Church, came to
his knowledge and understanding of the true Church by way of the
revelation of Christ to, and in, him (Galatians 1:16).
To truly see Christ is to see the Church, and only so can there be a
true church. It was when the Lord was able to say of Peter that 'flesh
and blood had not revealed the truth of His (Christ's) Person' that
Christ immediately made the first definite announcement about the
Church: "Upon this rock will I build my church." This all means, that
fundamentally, a true expression of the Church, locally, is not more,
nor less, nor other, than the spiritual apprehension of Christ by
believers. The Church, local or universal, is not traditional. That
would make it second-hand and therefore artificial. The Church cannot
be seen through other people's eyes, whether those others be of the
past (Apostles, etc.) or present (teachers).
We have known people to live in the presence of the teaching for years,
and rejoice in it, repeat it, eventually to prove that they had not
really seen with their own spiritual eyes by contradicting and
discarding it all too easily. They had seen it mentally through the
eyes of someone else -- the teacher or preacher. When Paul saw,
it effected something in him that became himself, and no amount or form
of suffering and outward disappointment could make him depart from the
"heavenly vision". We repeat, that all of his rich and full
understanding of the Church did not come, in the first place, from a
revelation of some thing called 'the Church', but from a seeing of
Christ as in the eternal councils of God. As the very foundation this
answers the five points which we earlier mentioned, and answers them
comprehensively. Can there be local expression of the Church? Yes,
given that such a seeing and apprehension of Christ is present, and we
must dismiss the Holy Spirit and His work if we say that such a seeing
is not possible now (Ephesians 1:17-18).
But having made the statement, it is necessary to say more as to the
essential principles of a local church as a microcosm of the
The first (included in what we have said above) and the most difficult
to explain, although not to experience, is in that misunderstood,
disliked, and frowned-upon word -- spirituality. It should not be
difficult to understand, because any and every true born-anew believer
knows that there is something about him or her that is not just
natural. A change in mentality, disposition concept, gravitation has
taken place in them. They are just different since the new birth took
place. (We are talking nonsense about the Church if this fundamental
change has not been effected.) But we still have to define spirituality.
As a word and an idea, spirituality is not peculiar to the Bible and to
Christians. The world uses it. For instance, in visiting a picture
gallery, some pictures are looked at and the viewer passes on. But
another picture holds the attention, for there is something more than
canvas, paint, and an object depicted. That picture has an "atmosphere"
about it: it touches the emotions; it stirs a sense of wonder; it is
not just something in itself. There is something more about it than
itself. The remark about that something is that there is something
'spiritual' about it. The same thing can be said about a song; the
execution of a piece of music: an ornate and beautiful building: a form
of service; and so on. This is what the world calls the spiritual. But
what they really mean is mysticism. This can be particularly found in
literature, and there is a category of writers known as 'the Mystics'.
Religion is a special realm of mysticism. Let us say at once, and with
emphasis, that mysticism and true spirituality, according to the Bible,
are two entirely different things. They belong to two different realms.
The one is temperamental, or a matter of temperament. It has its
degrees. The simple response to beauty and emotion: or in more intense
forms it can be psychic, fanatical. It can be induced by pathetic or
tragic appeals. It can be worked up to excitability and paroxysms by
repetitions -- as of choruses and incantations. Thus, either mildly or
extravagantly, an extra element can appear or give character.
Religion lends itself peculiarly to the mystical in these various forms
But the spirituality of the Bible of which we are speaking is
different. It is the result of a new birth [15/16]
by the Holy Spirit. It represents a change of nature and
constitution, not the release and intensification of what is already
there. Indeed, it is an "altogether other", just as Christ was -- in
the deepest reality of His person -- an altogether other. In that
'other' He was not known, understood, and explicable. He was
inscrutable. Not just mysterious, but of another order. There was
another intelligence and consciousness. There was another capacity and
ability. There was another relationship. This is all true of the
individual believer by reason of being "born from above". (See John
1:13, 3:6-7 margin) The Church is the aggregate of such
believers, in which what was true of Christ is true of it -- deity
He and it are the spiritual meaning of all symbols, and He
definitely said that with His coming the old order of material,
symbolical representations had entirely given place to that which they
represented. It was no longer things to represent, but that
which they represented without the things (see John 4:20-24)
and note that John's Gospel and the Letter to the Hebrews are two great
documents of the great transition from the historic, the temporal, the
tangible, to the spiritual. The Apostles were moved by the Holy Spirit
into that transition. It cost them travail to be so born again, but
they got through by Divine energy.
So spirituality, which is a heavenly other nature and endowment, is the
first basic principle of the Church. Let us repeat that the Church is
the vessel and embodiment of "the mystery" so often referred to in the
New Testament, especially by Paul, and the mystery was and is
the hidden meaning of things, and of Israel, but which mystery
is now revealed to and in the new order, the new Israel, the Church.
The "mystery of Christ" is the meaning of Christ, inscrutable to all
but those who have "the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the
Knowledge of him" (italics ours).
Our space is gone, so we must continue later. There is much more to say.
DIVINE ORDER -- IN CHRIST
5. THE CROSS AND THE DISRUPTIVE POWER OF SIN
"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness,
even so must the Son of man be lifted up" (John 3:14).
"Jesus therefore said, When ye have lifted up the Son of
man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself,
but as the Farther taught me, I speak these things" (John 8:28).
"And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all
men to myself" (John 12:32).
IN the Scriptures cited above we have the Lord Jesus three times
speaking of being "lifted up". Of course, it means on the Cross. In
connection with that 'lifting up' He uses two phrases: "Whosoever" and
"All men". The issue of the Cross, then, is said to be a unifying of
humanity. When we think of the Cross we usually, and almost entirely,
think of sin. This is right, if we understand what is meant by sin.
There are sins, and there is sin. The Cross is His 'bearing of our sins
in His body on the tree'. The Cross is also the judgment upon, and
destruction of, the effect of sin.
In the Bible sin is regarded as spiritual disease. There the greatest
illustration of spiritual disease is leprosy, and the effect of leprosy
is to disintegrate the body, to break down its unity. It does that
first in the individual, and then in the society; for the leper must go
outside of his family and away from other people. This breaking up
principle and power of sin is also represented in another type which
has an embargo upon it when the Cross (in figure) is present, and that
is leaven. The effect of leaven is to break up, disintegrate, and
Jesus says that the Cross and the 'lifting up' will be against that
effect of sin. Sin separates between man and God; between man and a
heavenly society; between the "natural man" and the spiritual man in
the Church . (See 1 Corinthians.) It was because of that divisive
effect of sin that the Apostle said that he would know nothing among them
but "Jesus Christ, and him crucified".
The only cure for divisions in any realm is the power of the Cross. We
have -- in these messages -- been seeing the course of disruption, from
Satan's jealousy of God's Son in the "before the world was" (John
17:5), and the resultant schism there, to the earth in its chaos as
possibly Satan's earlier 'princedom' ("the prince of this world"), then
to -- and in the Garden -- man and wife; then to the family, the tribe,
and the whole race.
That long and terrible history was destined by Divine Counsels to be
met and destroyed, and "reconciliation", [16/17]
reunification, reintegration, to be accomplished in the same dimensions
as the evil. The instigator and his work were to be destroyed and cast
out of God's domain of light, life, and love, for ever. The Person to
do it, and rightly constituted for it, was God's Son, and the
instrument for its accomplishment was His Cross. Every aspect of the
cosmic universe was focused in that Cross. The Cross is a factual position,
basic, fundamental, final as to this schismatic power of sin. Then it
is a progressive principle to be applied and made effective in the
Church. The final and consummate vision of the Cross is a great
multitude out of every tribe and nation singing in unison
or harmony the Song of the Lamb.
This is all a very great test and challenge as to the place and work of
the Cross in ourselves personally; in our relationships; in the local
assemblies, and in the Church universally. The heart of the disrupted
universe, and the heart of all disrupted situations contains an 'I'. It
commenced there when "Lucifer" said in his heart, "I will be
equal with the Most High". The principle of selfhood, in some form of
'grasping' and not letting go to God, is accountable for all schisms
which affect Divine interests and glory (See Philippians 2:9 onwards )
So, coming back to our main subject, the Divine order is in the Person
of God's Son. It is secured by His Cross. It is increased by the
principle of the Cross at work in believers. It is the real meaning of
'knowing Christ', and it is consummated when the Lamb in the throne is
the adored Centre of a new creation.
Let us not just view all this objectively, but continually challenge
all motives and situations by it.
THE APPLICATION OF THE MESSAGE TO LOCAL ASSEMBLIES
While the disruptive work of the enemy of Christ is extended to the
whole Church -- the true Church -- to effect its disunity by
every possible means because the true Church -- the Elect of God -- is
destined in the eternal counsels to occupy the position of
administration of the 'new heaven and new earth', it is of particular
interest and concern to the enemy to disrupt and discredit all local
representations of Christ and His Body. This he will do -- and does --
by bringing about wrong order. Order -- Divine order -- is absolutely
indispensable to growth, strength, and effectiveness. This fact is
greatly over-looked, and therefore much advantage is given to the
disruptive forces. Because the Divine order is heavenly and spiritual,
only the Holy Spirit, sent down from heaven, knows what it is and can
administer and constitute it. Immediately man puts his hand upon the
Church local to organize, form, arrange, and control it, disorder -- or
unorder -- will set in, with the results of confusion, limitation,
artificiality, make-believe, and -- in time -- an end in itself. It can
be worse -- even shame and disgrace.
Therefore, to have the Divine order it is basically essential -- as in
the beginning -- that the Holy Spirit shall be in complete control in
terms of the absolute headship and lordship of Christ. This means that everything
shall be meticulously referred and deferred to the Holy Spirit. This is
the principle embodied in fasting with prayer. We say the principle
, because there is no virtue in fasting without its meaning. To
some men it might be costly to go without a meal or two; to
others meals are not of such account, indeed they feel better without a
few. The principle of fasting (not only or merely in going
without food for a day) is the refraining from what is of man in
any way to give the Lord a full way through occupation with
Him, which is the function of prayer. The Lord does not want us to go
on 'hunger strike' to get what we want, but to go on
self-strength strike to let Him have what He wants. It was out
of this 'prayer with fasting' that the Holy Spirit instigated
the Divine order at the beginning. (Acts 13, etc.) Note: the
appointments were made firstly through abandoned prayer, then by Holy
Spirit direction, then in the midst of the (local) Church, and
evidently by the Church's unity. Who will ever estimate the values
which issued from that microcosm of the heavenly order? The most
impressive thing, and the most significant, is that the local emerged
into the universal. Souls saved, companies born, and saints fed in
far-reaching ministry, and all-time values. Man's arrangements and
appointments do not work out in that way!
Every assembly ought to be a vessel of light and food for all
the Lord's people, as well as of evangelism to the unsaved.
The law of order as governing development, growth, strength,
effectiveness, and reproduction is written large by God in all organic
nature, and not least in the human body.
Order is the spontaneous outworking of life. It proves that life is
unimpeded, unobstructed, and working normally. What is true in nature
is equally true in the spiritual organism -- the Church. It is when
there is an invasion of something contrary to "the law of the Spirit of
life", from selfhood or the world, that the life is obstructed and
there is a loss of power, effectiveness, and productiveness. The Bible
calls this "the Anointing". Every vessel, every ministry, [17/18] every "office", every position , every
function in the local Church should manifestly be under the
anointing. It should be evident to all that that man in that position,
doing what he is doing, is unmistakably there and functioning under the
anointing, that God put him in that position, and therefore
life flows through him and his function.
When we have said this (and we could add very much more
concerning Divine order in the local assembly), we are brought back to
an all-inclusive and comprehensive work and meaning of the sovereignty
of the Holy Spirit: it is to reveal Christ. We have said that Christ --
the Son of God -- is the full embodiment of the heavenly order. By the
Anointing He expressed that order. We need to get right away from our
man-crystallized systems of Christianity to a new Holy Spirit revealed
apprehension of Christ. If the Holy Spirit is really governing He will
organically constitute all things according to Christ, and the Church
and churches will not be institutions, organizations, or even
'churches' but representations and expressions of Christ.
CHRIST OUR ALL
2. CHRIST OUR MIND
The note in chapter two of the Philippian Letter is the Cross making
Christ's mind ours -- Christ our mind.
"... make full my joy, that ye be of the same mind."
"Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality
with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of
a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in
fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto
death, yea, the death of the cross. Wherefore also God highly exalted
him" (verses 5-9).
"For I have no man likeminded, who will care truly for
your state. For all seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ"
"I exhort Euodia, and I exhort Syntyche, to be of the
same mind in the Lord" (4:2).
THE STREET OF GOLD
WHEN we reach the end of God's work in this dispensation and see that
work concretely represented in its consummate form, symbolized
by the heavenly city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of
heaven, the specific features of which are described or mentioned, we
see that one of those features is that the city has one single highway
or street, and that street, that highway, that thoroughfare of the new
Jerusalem, is said to be of pure gold. God will not begin to make His
city at the end of the dispensation. He is making it now, and every
part of it is now in process of constitution, and not least the street
of gold. When we take up our New Testament and begin to read these
apostolic letters -- Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians,
Philippians, Colossians -- we are already in the preparation of the
city, or the city is already potentially present, for the city is the
Church, and we can see the street running through all these letters as
the Church is in view, or we see God making His thoroughfare, preparing
But the city is being prepared, constituted and built amidst much
adversity, just as much as -- and I think a very great deal more than
-- Nehemiah had to contend with in building the earthly city, or its
To come straight to the point: this street, this thoroughfare of pure
gold, is where all the saints meet. If there is only one street
that is the only place; people will not have outside streets and
backways out of touch with one another. They will all be there together
in one place, and this gold, this golden thoroughfare, is none other
than the drawing together of the love of God. What we really have,
amongst the many other things in these letters, is the way in which the
Cross secures that love which constitutes the oneness, the fellowship,
of the saints: for the Cross is so closely associated with the love of
God. We know that quite well, and we know that for His love to be truly
in our hearts is the result of a deep work of the Cross. The letter to
the Philippians brings that into view in a very clear, precise way. We
have seen how all these letters lead on and on, stage by stage, step by
step, to final fullness, each one taking up what has gone before to
carry it on to something greater, but we will look back over them just
for a moment.
The letter to the Romans is a great letter on the love of God. We need
not stay to argue that, but you will remember that it is there that we
have everything [18/19] presented in a full,
comprehensive way. It is all gathered there; our salvation in
its fullness, in its completeness from every angle, is all gathered
into that letter. But when you pass on from the letter to the Romans,
then you begin to take things up, shall we say, piecemeal. The thing
has to be dealt with in parts, so that the next letter -- the first
letter to the Corinthians -- is very significant from this present
standpoint of our immediate consideration. You remember how, at the
beginning of the letter, the Apostle deplored the slowness of growth,
the poorness and meagreness of spiritual life, so that he was having to
speak to babes and not to men; and then he put his finger upon the
cause and spoke of divisions among them. 'One says I am of Paul;
another, I am of Apollos; another, I am of Peter, and yet another, I am
of Christ,' and all these positions were repudiated and rebuked by the
Apostle. Here was a making of four thoroughfares where God intended
that there should only be one! I suppose the people who said: 'I am of
Christ' thought that their thoroughfare was the best of them all, but
probably it was the worst, because it was making Christ an instrument
for doing the very thing that He had come to try to make impossible,
for bringing about something that was furthest from the thought of God.
All this was a terrible contradiction of love! It was a contradiction
of the nature of the one street of the city, so we are not surprised
that, as the Apostle gets near to the end of that letter he, by
inference, says: 'Your gifts may divide you, and because gifts may
divide or be the occasion for one setting off another, or for setting
himself off against another, all these gifts may just miss their
objective, which was for the building up of the whole Body. Therefore,
although gifts may be right, in order for them to reach their end there
must be the one all-governing thing: "If I speak with the tongues of
men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a
clanging cymbal."' So he covers the ground of gifts and says that love
is the way, love is the street, love is the thoroughfare, for them to
reach this end of building the Body.
SATAN'S ANTAGONISM TO FELLOWSHIP
We might pause there, because what we want to see at the outset is how
Satan continuously fights this very thing because of the tremendous
issue, the end of love. What we are going to see, or what we may see at
once without any waiting is that Philippians 2 brings immediately the
exaltation of the Lord Jesus to the highest place of authority, power
and dominion in every realm. That is what this chapter brings into
view: the Name which is above every name, in which every knee shall
bow, every tongue shall confess to the glory of God the Father. That is
the end -- the city being the vessel of the glory of God, having the
glory of God by the testimony of Jesus.
Now, says the Apostle, in order to reach that Throne, that highest of
all places, the way is: "Have this mind in you which was in Christ
Jesus." What is this mind? Well, 'be of the same mind one toward
another ... I beseech you to be of the same mind'. It is oneness in
love. "I have no man likeminded who will earnestly be concerned for
your affairs: they all seek their own, not the things which are
Christ's." You see that this mind of Christ is a oneness of mind which
has no self in it -- and that is chapter 2: "He emptied himself." There
was a great deal of self at Corinth. Satan continuously fights against
the building of the city, and especially against the preparing of this
highway of love. Sometimes it would seem that the objective of the
devil is the destruction of the love of God's people one for another
because of the great end in view through that love: "Love buildeth up".
Dear friends, what do these things mean 'I am of Paul, I am of Apollos.
I am of Peter, and I am of Christ'? Do you not think that it is very
probable that those who said: 'I am of Paul' were really taken up with
a line of teaching? 'That is Paul's teaching, Paul's interpretation,
Paul's vision, Paul's conception, Paul's wonderful comprehension of
spiritual things as such!' It was something peculiar to Paul's ministry
that attracted them, and they made it the thing upon which they
fastened. Apollos -- well, we have come to think of him as being a very
eloquent man, a man of eloquence and burning zeal. According to the
word in Acts 18 he was a learned man, he knew the Scriptures, was full
of zeal and very earnest, but, again, it was something peculiar to a
man and his ministry, or, shall we say, to a ministry. Peter -- what
shall we say of Peter? It may have been that Peter, being the Apostle
to Jews of the Dispersion, appealed more to those who had a Judaistic
outlook and rather relieved the tremendous strain which Paul's heavenly
position put upon them. Whatever it was, you see that it was a man's
line of things, given him by God, but something of ministry which
appealed to them. What shall we say of the fourth group? 'I am of
Christ!' Well, it may just have been this: 'I do not belong to your
denomination, nor to your sect. I do not belong to any denomination at
all. I am above and outside.' Even such can make undenominationalism a
denomination and standing apart, and be schismatic. That is why I said
that perhaps this is the worst of all. We have to be very honest and
faithful [19/20] in facing things like that.
These are the things that have been going on all through the centuries.
The people of God have been broken up by teachings, ministries,
personalities, and then by false conceptions of what a heavenly
position is -- perhaps as represented by the 'Christ party', false
conceptions of a heavenly position. Oh, if the Lord will enable us to
receive this word, it may make a lot of difference and provide a way,
as we were saying earlier, for the Holy Spirit, a way for the 'supply
of the Spirit of Jesus Christ'. The Cross has to do something in this
THE WORK OF THE CROSS
Now first of all, you and I have to allow the Cross to smite and to
slay everything represented by the first three, that is, teachings,
interpretations, specific lines of truth, of ministries and
personalities in ministry, so that in no way are we attached to these
as things, but rather, in a true and right and spiritual way, it is
Christ who is our focal point, our meeting point, our basis -- Christ
Himself. We may have Paul, Apollos and Peter and not grow one whit
spiritually, like the Corinthians. We may have all that they have to
give us and still remain stunted because there is an 'it', a something,
a line, a teaching, an interpretation, a ministry. We think, of course,
that it is the Lord. Are we quite sure? That it really is the Lord is a
matter about which we have to be made very sure. And then the Cross
must deal with this fourth thing, or that which is represented by the
fourth thing: 'I am of Christ!' I will be very practical and come right
to the point. It is a false apprehension of a heavenly position for
anyone to run down Christians because they are in denominations, and to
have anything in them which separates them from children of God because
they are in these things. That is a false apprehension of a
heavenly and spiritual position. I want to say that with great
emphasis. Such people have not yet come to the place where they can
discriminate between children of God and things in which children of
God may be. You and I might come to the place where, more or less, we
could not participate in the things, and might see that the things
-- call them what you like, 'sects', 'denominations', such things --
are limiting things and are a contradiction to the thought of God. We
may come to see that there is all the difference between a very strong
feeling and conviction about that, and allowing our feeling toward the
thing to touch the people who are children of God. Dear friends, you
have to keep a very wide gap between those two things, and when you
meet someone who is in something, which thing you feel the Lord
has delivered you from or led you out of or shown you to be not in
accord with His mind, you must not allow your feeling toward that thing
to touch that child of God. Our attitude toward a child of God is to be
the love of God for His children as His children wherever they
are, and there are children of God in some extraordinary places and in
things which may be unthinkable to us. You and I have to recognize
children of God wherever they are, in whatever they are, and keep the
street intact -- one street, one thoroughfare. We walk with children of
God as they walk with the Lord because they are children of God.
Satan's business is to try and make that impossible and to split up
this street into a thousand highways and byways and cul-de-sacs. It is
true! He is fighting against this all the time, and there is nothing
too sacred for him. The tragic, painful, grievous story of the Church
is just this -- the story of Satan's mischief in dividing the Lord's
Well, Corinthians is basic to this matter. I would like to leave what I
have just said and say no more, but if only the Lord would take hold of
that and deal with us on this matter! It does seem to me, dear friends,
that if we violate this it is as though we drew something across the
thoroughfare and closed the way to our own progress and to our own
testimony. If we cut short God's way, our way is cut short. Well, Satan
fought it at Corinth in this way, and you see how Paul answered.
Paul fought it in another way at Galatia, but it was the same thing in
principle. Here these Galatian believers had shown marvellous love, the
love of Christ, at their conversion, toward the Lord's servant who was
used as their spiritual father. He said: 'You would have plucked out
your very eyes and given them to me!' Then along came the Judaizers
with their pernicious work and they gave themselves over to the devil
to do this very thing, and that beautiful love, which showed itself so
wonderfully at the beginning, just passed out. These Galatians turned
against the very man whom God had used to bring everything into their
lives. Read the letter again in the light of Satan's work against the
love of God, and see what Satan was after: 'Ye did run well. Who has
cast the witch's spell over you?' 'Having begun in the Spirit, do you
think you are going to be consummated in the flesh?' What is the devil
after? Simply the arresting and turning back of these people in the way
to God's purpose. And how did he do it? Well, you may say by Judaizers,
by false teachers, by false brethren. Yes, but in main how? By
interrupting the love between them and the one whom God had appointed
and chosen to lead them on to His full thought. [20/21]
We dare not pass through all the Epistles now! You notice that
Galatians leads on to Ephesians, and Ephesians takes up Corinthians and
Galatians. How wonderful is Ephesians on love! When you get to the end
of the letter you have the great revelation of the love between Christ
and His Church: "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved
the church, and gave himself up for it." And you know that it is not
long before you find yourself in the battle in the heavenlies. When you
look very closely you will find that it is love that is very largely
Satan's objective. Why do I say that? You look at the letter itself,
and then go over to the first chapters of the book of the Revelation,
where the Lord says to Ephesus: "I have this against thee, that
thou didst leave thy first love." Satan has won!
You pass into Philippians, and it looks back and it looks on. It looks
back to Corinth. How much there is in this letter to the Philippians
that savours of what we have in Corinthians, although, of course, it is
very much more beautiful here and things are on a very much more
advanced level; and yet, you see, you get something coming down the
way, a dim reflection of what was at Corinth. What is all this about?
"Be of the same mind", "be of one mind ... one love ... one heart ...
one soul!" What is it all about? It is a Corinthian peril again at
Philippi, and the need still is that the Cross should keep out all that
ground which is contrary to love, the love of Christ, and hold the
saints together unto the full end. There is a real backward look in
this Philippian letter, as you will see if you only look at it.
And there is the onward look. After this we shall come to Colossians in
this Divine ordering of the arrangement of the letters, and there we
shall find ourselves in the presence of "Christ, all and in all" for
the Church, that is, the Church now coming into the fullness of Christ.
But with what does Philippians anticipate that? Oh, Satan's way of
preventing the whole corporate expression of love by individual
differences! That is what you have in Philippians. It seems that the
trouble -- what trouble there was -- at Philippi was individual
differences. Here are Euodia and Syntyche, two sisters, I presume, who
had a difference. I think it is a very wonderful thing that the Apostle
knew all about individual things at Philippi, and the state of things
between individual believers! But there it was, and these individual
differences were Satan's blow at the great corporate oneness in the
fullness of Christ.
My point is this, dear friends: that it is no use our talking about the
Church, the Body, or the city in these comprehensive terms and figures,
and their wonderful representation and all that they mean, and be taken
up with the great idea which makes its appeal to us and fascinates us.
That all becomes nonsense if there are those in a local assembly who
are not of one mind. It is all nullified by such people. The message of
Philippians is just sandwiched between Ephesians and Colossians. Think
of that! I always thought that there was a point where the arrangement
broke down: Colossians and Ephesians ought to be right next to each
other, Colossians first and Ephesians next. That may be how they were
written, but the Holy Spirit is quite right in the arrangement.
Ephesians: the Body comprehensively presented with its great eternal
calling and destiny; Colossians: the Church in relation to the Head in
whom the fullness dwells, and sandwiched in between there is a little
letter like this which says: 'Yes, these are great conceptions, immense
Divine ideas and intentions, but do not forget that the whole arch
rests upon one keystone, and the keystone is two of you -- Euodia and
Syntyche.' Very practical! My word, it brings us up sharp! I said
earlier that this letter finds us out, and none of us can stand up to
Now, all that we think, all that we stand for, all that we speak of,
all our vision, all the great language and phraseology -- "the Church",
"the Body", "the city", "the eternal purpose", "the calling and the
destiny" -- just come to be focused upon something between persons: "Be
of the same mind." You see, when the city comes, it will be
inconceivable that two people should be somewhere up in a corner or in
a side road having a difference. We all have to move together on one
thoroughfare, and the nature of that thoroughfare is pure gold --
perfect love. That is what God is working at, and that is what Satan is
working against. How very elementary we are! How at the beginning of
things we are! But are we really? Philippians is well on, and it just
says to us that perhaps it will be more difficult to show this mutual
love and be of this oneness of mind at the end. Perhaps it will get
more difficult as we go on. Perhaps Satan will have a great deal more
to use and to play with, and will use it well. Perhaps the battle will
become far more intense. Yes, I have no doubt but that Satan will
persist in increasing force in his endeavour to divide and scatter the
people of God.
Now, a great responsibility is thrown upon us by this very simple word.
The whole testimony of Jesus just comes back again to become a matter
between persons, and what this letter says to us, particularly in this
part, is this: Wherever they are, in whatever they are, children of God
are still children of God, members of the Father's family -- a brother,
a sister of yours and mine -- and we must not be evilly affected toward
anyone because of any of the [21/22] reasons why
they are where they are. They may not have seen what you have seen,
they may not have had the advantage of the teaching that you have had.
Oh, countless may be the reasons why they are there, but if they love
the Lord it is not for you or for me to judge them. See how Paul takes
this line all the time with those who did things which others thought
to be utterly wrong! Some of us feel very strongly about the
fundamentals of the faith, but many a man who would not be called a
fundamentalist, and who by his very upbringing and training is a
modernist, has been won by the love shown to him by others. Many who
have gone away into that sort of thing have at the end come back by
love being shown, and love can do a great deal more than argument. We
must not hate people away from the Lord by our hatred of their
Now, we are not going to compromise with evil, and we are not going to
say that wrong things are less wrong, but let us always keep that gap
between a true child of God and the thing he is in. Many modernists are
not truly born again children of God. Many have
a background to which they may return when suffering intervenes. In any
case, let us not harden the situation by an un-Christlike spirit. Let
us show love unto all, for there is so much hanging upon it. I am sure
that if the Cross will do this work in us it will be cutting a channel
for the Spirit, and He will have a freer way; and I am quite sure that
the Holy Spirit is locked up and hindered where there is anything that
is contrary to the love of God.
(To be continued)
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Soest, Holland HFL. 50.00.
Sini, India RS. 20.00. [22/23]
WITNESS AND TESTIMONY LITERATURE
The books and booklets listed below can all be ordered
by post from the addresses given at the end of the list. More detailed
information about the literature is available on application to the
Witness and Testimony office in London.
|By T. Austin-Sparks
|THE STEWARDSHIP OF THE MYSTERY
| Vol. 1 ALL THINGS IN CHRIST
| Vol. 2
||(Art paper covers)
|WHAT IS MAN?
|THE ON-HIGH CALLING or COMPANIONS
| OF CHRIST AND OF A HEAVENLY CALLING
|DISCIPLESHIP IN THE SCHOOL OF CHRIST
|GOD'S REACTIONS TO MAN'S DEFECTIONS
|WE BEHELD HIS GLORY (Vol. 1)
||(Art paper covers)
|WE BEHELD HIS GLORY (Vol. 2)
||(Art paper covers)
|RIVERS OF LIVING WATER
|THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO PAUL
|WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A CHRISTIAN
|FUNDAMENTAL QUESTIONS OF THE
| CHRISTIAN LIFE
|THE GOLD OF THE SANCTUARY or
| THE FINAL CRITERION
|THE CITY WHICH HATH FOUNDATIONS
|THE RECOVERING OF THE LORD'S
| TESTIMONY IN FULLNESS
|THE SCHOOL OF CHRIST
|THE SPIRITUAL MEANING OF SERVICE
|THE SIGNIFICANCE OF CHRIST
|IN TOUCH WITH THE THRONE
| (Some Considerations on the
|THE CENTRALITY AND SUPREMACY OF
| THE LORD JESUS CHRIST
|GOD'S SPIRITUAL HOUSE
|HIS GREAT LOVE
|UNION WITH CHRIST
|THE MORE EXCELLENT MINISTRY
| (Incorporating Union with Christ
| The Ministry of Elijah and Stewardship)
|CHRIST -- ALL, AND IN ALL
|CHRIST IN HEAVEN AND CHRIST WITHIN
|"I WILL OVERTURN"
|THE SUPREME VOCATION
||or 5/- per dozen
|A GOOD WARFARE
||or 5/- per dozen
|WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN?
||or 5/- per dozen
|THE BLOOD, THE CROSS AND THE
| NAME OF THE LORD JESUS
|THE WATCHWORD OF THE SON OF MAN
|THE ARM OF THE LORD
|CHRIST OUR LIFE
||or 1/6 per dozen
|By H. Foster (Booklet)
|THE REALITY OF GOD'S HOUSE
|By Various Authors
| (Each volume contains a number of
separate messages )
|THE WORK OF THE MINISTRY
| The three volumes, when ordered
|For Boys and Girls
|By G. Paterson
|GOSPEL MESSAGES FROM THE ANTARCTIC
| (170-page cloth-bound book.
|By H. Foster
| (All with illustrated art paper
|READY FOR THE KING (48 pp. Illus.)
|ON WINGS OF FAITH (52 pp. Illus.)
|BURIED TREASURE (48 pp. Illus.)
|OPENING IRON GATES (40 pages)
|Published by SURE FOUNDATION
|By DeVern Fromke
|THE ULTIMATE INTENTION
|UNTO FULL STATURE
A WITNESS AND A TESTIMONY
The six issues of the magazine, bound together, to form a volume with
light blue art paper cover, are available for the following years: 1956
to 1961, 1964 to 1967. Price per volume (1 year): 5/- ($0.70).
Certain back issues of the paper are also available and will be sent to
those who desire them at cost of postage only. Please indicate the date
of the issue(s) required.
POSTAGE AND PACKING: For postage and packing please add
the following to the total amount of the books ordered:
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Orders for literature and requests for "A Witness and A Testimony"
should be addressed to:
WITNESS AND TESTIMONY PUBLISHERS,
30 Dunoon Road, London, S.E.23, England.
Telephone: 01-699 5216
Witness and Testimony literature can also be obtained from:
|P.O. Box 68505,
||1505 South Westmoreland Avenue,
|Indiana 46268, U.S.A.
||California 90006, U.S.A.
|Convocation Literature Sales,
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||(Mr. Donald J. David),
||158 Purasawalkam High Road,
|Virginia 23502, U.S.A.
||Madras, 7, India.
Printed in Great Britain by Billing and
Sons Limited, Guildford and London [24/ibc]
[Inside back cover]
LITERATURE IN FRENCH
(translated from English)
|By T. Austin-Sparks
||[By T. Austin-Sparks (continued)]
|L'Alpha et l'Oméga
||Questions Fondamentales de la Vie
||Le Service de Dieu
|Ce que Signifie Etre un Chrétien
||Son Grand Amour
|Le Chandelier Tout en Or
||Un Témoin et un Témoignage
|Les Choses de l'Esprit
||La Vocation Céleste
|Christ notre Vie
|Christ -- tout, et en tous
||By H. Foster
|Le Dieu de l'Amen
||L'Eglise que Dieu demande Aujourd'hui
|L'Ecole de Christ
||La Prière de l'Eglise et l'Accroissement
|En Contact avec le Trône
|Il faut qu'll Règne
||La Réalité de la Maison de Dieu
|Un Jeu de Patience
|La Loi de l'Esprit de Vie en Jésus-Christ
||By Watchman Nee
|La Maison Spirituelle de Dieu
||Etre Assis, Marcher, Tenir Ferme
|La Place Centrale et la Suprématie du
||Qu'en sera-t-il de cet Homme?
| Seigneur Jésus-Christ
||La Vie Chrétienne Normale
|Quelques Principes de la Maison de Dieu
|Qu'est-ce que l'Homme?
|Qu'est-ce qu'un Chrétien?
||L'Histoire du Bambou
The above literature in French can be obtained from: Mr. J. C.
Lienhard, 12 rue des Peupliers, 92 Bois-Colombes, France. Telephone:
[Back cover is blank]