"A Candlestick of Pure
Gold: of Beaten Work" Exodus 25:31
"The Testimony of Jesus" Revelation 1:9
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|July -- August, 1969
||Vol. 47, No. 4
THE GREAT DIVIDE AND THE GREAT
AMONG the games that used to be played at parties there was one like
this. A large circle was formed by the company present, and then
someone began by whispering something to the next person. This was
passed on right round the circle. The last person of the ring then had
to say aloud what he or she had received, or thought they had received.
It was then compared with the original statement, and it was both
amusing and amazing how the thing had developed, lost its character,
both by addition, subtraction, or distortion. Often the original could
only with difficulty be recognised.
While Christianity is not a game, it has greatly suffered in this way
as it has passed down the generations through the minds and lips of its
vast circle of sponsors and adherents. So much so that it is very
difficult to recognise the origin in what has emerged in course of
time. It therefore becomes necessary and of very great importance to
both ask and seek to answer the question: What is it that we have come
into in Christianity? The object of these messages will be just to do
that as ability may be given by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth.
We shall begin on a wide basis and work from the circumference to the
centre. We know that the Bible is divided into two main parts, or
sections, the Old and the New Testaments. That is not just a literary
division. It is truly a historical division, but it is much -- very
much -- more than that. Upon the difference represented by that
division hangs everything that God has said, and wants us to know as to
His eternal intention. It is just there between the two Testaments, or
halves, of the Bible that the immense significance of our above title
stands -- the Great Divide and the Great Transition. As we proceed, we
shall shortly come to point out that in that gap between the Testaments
stands nothing less than the Cross of Jesus Christ.
The first section of the New Testament is that which comprises the four
"Gospels". Whatever differences in likeness, context, presence and
absences there may be in the four, they all certainly have this in
common: they all lead up to the one climax, the Cross of Christ. All
that each has contained is shown to be steadily and inexorably moving
toward the Cross. From what we learn later we understand that the Cross
was fixed in the counsels of God according to His foreknowledge from
the foundation of the world. What, then, do we conclude from this
climax of the Gospels, the very first section of the New Testament? The
Gospels introduce the great Person of Jesus Christ. [73/74]
They proceed with His works and His teaching, substantiated by His life
or character. All this comprises His mission, which mission is to
reveal God and God's purpose for man. The place of the Cross as the
inevitable and fixed climax to the Gospels says one tremendous thing:
it is that all that revelation of God, in life, work, and teaching, can
only be made good for, and be entered into by man through, the Cross of
Jesus Christ, God's beloved Son. We ought to place many marks of
emphasis and exclamation at the end of that statement. Read it again!
That, then, clearly and surely says that the Cross stands right at the
beginning of the New Testament, and that again means that it stands
between the two. If we just put the figure of a cross there we shall
see that its arms stretch backward and forward. Then we should draw a
strong line right down the centre of the Cross. By this figure we are
enabled to understand the whole teaching of the New Testament, or, in
THE TRUE MEANING AND NATURE OF CHRISTIANITY
That arm with the backward aspect -- up to the central line -- says
FINISH, AN END. The arm with the forward aspect says ALL THINGS NEW
(i.e. different). On one side the Cross is the closing of a door upon
one whole historic system related to God. On the other side the
Cross -- in the resurrection of Christ -- proclaims an open door to an
entirely new Divine economy. One side says 'No! positively No!' The
other side says 'Yes! definitely Yes!'
Of course, what remains is for us to understand what it is to which the
No and the Yes apply. That will follow. For the present we have to come
to realise the inclusive and emphatic fact that there is a
point in the history of God's order at which there is an immense
dispensational divide and transition. We do not hesitate to say that
the confusion, weakness, frustration, and failure which so much
characterises Christendom is very largely due to failure to realise, be
really alive and understanding as to this divide and transition! There
is a very real and true sense in which the New Testament is entirely
occupied with the business of making this divide and transition clear.
This will become evident as we proceed. It can be rightly said that the
New Testament is built on two aspects expressed in two words, the
occurrence of which demands a lot of close study or tracing. Both by
actual use and by clear implication these two words and aspects are
numerous. These two words -- set over against each other -- are "Not"
and "But". They respectively cover and embody two comprehensive and
entirely different systems in the Divine economy, that is, in God's
methods with man, and the means employed by Him. They divide the two
main dispensations. All the main works of God are included in those
affords. As to his works and ways up to the Cross the great "Not"
applies. It says: 'Not so any longer.'
We shall at once proceed to note some of the main points upon which the
great divide and the great transition rest. The first of these is:
THE NO AND THE YES OF HUMANITY
The fundamental statement is in John 1:12-13: "Children of God ...
born, Not ... but of God." This is enlarged upon in chapter 3:3-12, and
it runs in close connection with all that is in this Gospel. It is
pursued along many lines, as we shall see. But before we follow this,
may we be reminded of one helpful matter. When John wrote this Gospel
he was an old man, probably very old. At the end -- or near the end --
of his life he had been exiled and imprisoned on the Isle of Patmos;
for exactly how long we do not know, but the point is that, with all of
his personal, intimate knowledge of the Lord Jesus, His teaching,
works, character, death, resurrection, ascension, and the advent of the
Holy Spirit, he had much time for quiet detached meditation and
thought. His Gospel is the product of this, therefore every word and
statement is heavily loaded with much consideration and communion with
the Lord. We take it all as just written statements, but we really
should give something of the same meditation to even the words employed
by John; for, as we have said, they are laden with eternal meaning.
Having said that, we return to the point at which we put in that
parenthesis. The "not" and the "but" in its first application to
mankind is pursued along various lines. Those lines are:
(a) The title of the Son of God which is foundational to all
that follows in this connection.
(b) The words which most conspicuously characterise this Gospel.
(c) The "signs" which John selected, or was led to select, to
illustrate and demonstrate the particular object in view.
We begin with
THE TITLE OF THE SON OF GOD
"In the beginning was the WORD."
"The WORD was with God."
"The WORD was God."
"The WORD became flesh." (John 1:1, 14) [74/75]
It is not at all necessary to enter the tortuous jungle of Greek
philosophical and mystical thought which is associated with this word
"Logos". Whatever help there may be in its elucidation, let the
scholars dig that out. The simple facts are that it just means this in
the Bible. A word is the means of expressing something that is in
the mind, a thought expressed. Then (in this connection) it is the mind
or thought of God. The next element in the word is that it is not
abstract, but an act. God's word in the Old Testament is God's act, it
is a fiat. "In the beginning God said ... and it was ." "He
spake, and it was done", etc., etc.
The next thing here is that the mind, the thought, the expression
thereof took Personal form: "Became flesh." The result -- and
note how this connects with our present application of the divide and
transition -- is that we have in Christ the personal expression of the
mind of God as to humanity; a kind of manhood! A new kind of
humanity; not only a better, but a different from all other. This is the
great significance of the Incarnation, a fundamental
difference. Humanity, yes; but different. Not in bodily or physical
appearance. Not in all human soul-sensibilities and endowments;
but deeper than body and soul, a spirit begotten of God. "The (or an) only
begotten of the Father" (John 1:14). The "only" is unique. This is an
unique humanity, not only an improved specimen. The difference is in
what follows, as we shall see.
So, the first meaning of the "Not" and the "But" relates to the title
given to the Son of God who became "Son of Man"; that is, a different
and unique human emanation and expression of God's mind; an act of God.
From there we proceed along the line of
THE DOMINANT WORDS USED BY JOHN
They are quite a cluster, but for our immediate purpose we note these:
"Father", "Son", "Life", "Light", "Truth", "To know", "Believe", "Love".
"Father" occurs 116 times in this Gospel, more than any other word
. It is therefore the background of all that is here. The very term
implies begetting; emanation of those of like nature.
John was particularly dominated by this conception of God. In his
Letters as well as here he says much about being begotten of God. The
children of God are God's act and their existence is the projecting of
His will ! While they are the children of His love, they are
not of impulse, but calculated and preconsidered. The whole conception
of humanity was in the mind of God before creation, humanity that now
is. The Word -- "God manifest in the flesh" is the "But" over against
the "Not" in this respect. If Christ's mission was -- in the first
place -- to reveal the Father, as it certainly was, then the Father is
revealed in human form in His children; initially, progressively, and
ultimately in all likeness, as John says in his Letter. It is a nature
that we refer to, not His deity. We do not partake of that! It
will be of great value to the reader if he will trace this word
"Father" through John, and stop to think in each case.
From the "Father" we proceed to the "Children" (John 1:12).
First, the fact is stated that Jesus gave it to some to be children of
God, and that He did this precisely on the basis of receiving Him.
Weigh that carefully!
Then it says that this relationship to God is a given "right",
prerogative, authority: "He gave (them) the authority to become the
children of God." The word is 'exousia' and it has a legal meaning. It
is the rightful, legal, legitimate, authoritative status of true
children. These children inherit rights and claims by their birth. (See
all the New Testament teaching on "heirs of God, jointheirs with Jesus
Christ"; the "Inheritance", etc.)
From there we are led on to the nature of this humanity, these
"children". It is here that the first categorical "Not" "But" connects.
The great divide, the great contrast is so emphasised. "Which were born
(begotten)": Not --
(a) "Of bloods" (plural),
(b) "The will of the flesh,"
(c) "The will of man."
"Bloods" in the plural seems to mean the mingling of sexes, and there
may very well be a hidden reference to the birth of Jesus which was not
the mingling of the blood of Joseph and Mary, but "of God". "The will
of the flesh", according to later New Testament teaching (e.g. Romans
8:4-8, etc.) is the choice, the decision, the energy of the natural
man. So, "not of the will [volition] of man".
This is a tremendous and categorical sweeping away of everything but
God's act in new birth. What an 'everything' that is in Christianity!
"But of [out from] God." Every true child of God can say: 'I am
God's act in the deepest reality of my being.' Not by natural birth
from earthly (even Christian) parents. Not by the force or strength of
any man's will, but God did it! "Not" "But". There is a divide in the
race, a difference in the humanities.
(Not to overload this chapter we must leave the further features of
this "But" side until the next issue.) [75/76]
"SO SEND I YOU"
"As thou didst send me into the World, even so sent I
them into the world" (John 17:18).
THE world, in the sense in which the Word so often describes it, is not
only a sphere where men live, but it is also a sphere which governs
men. Their behaviour, their bodies and their very souls are ruled,
tyrannized over, by the world. That was the world to which the Lord
Jesus did not belong, and that is the world from which, by His
wonderful work upon the Cross, He has delivered us, so that in a sense,
just as before He entered upon His humanity He stood right apart from
the world order, so in a very real sense the moment we are men and
women in Christ, we too stand right apart from that world order.
And yet, though it was true of the Lord Jesus that He did not belong to
this world, He came as one sent into the world: "As thou didst send me
into the world ..." We know that; we know the life that the Lord Jesus
lived here in the world and we know -- we notice as we read the Gospels
-- that all the time the comfort and the strength in His heart was the
knowledge that He was not here by chance, He was not the victim of
circumstances or of men, but He was here because the Father had sent
Now He makes this most remarkable comparison. As the Father sent Him
into the world, so are we sent into the world. You will believe that
those who have been sent by the Lord into other lands as His missionary
servants have, in times when things seemed difficult and full of
problems and, indeed, of suffering and danger, been fortified in their
hearts by this knowledge that, however bad things were, at least they
had been sent there by the Lord. But I want to suggest to you that such
servants of the Lord have no monopoly of that comfort and that it is
available for every one of us; for I take it that our Lord Jesus was
not speaking merely of the apostolic ministry of these whom He had
sent, but of the position that every child of God holds in this world.
We do not belong to the world, and are not of it. Well, then, why are
we in it? Not because the Lord just suspended the full working of His
redemption for us and left us here for a while. It is as though, in a
flash when we were saved, we were taken out of it, and then were
brought back into it again, not as belonging to it, but as sent here by
I want to bring this as a word of comfort, perhaps, to some who may be
tempted to feel that their lives are governed by men, or by the ways
and circumstances of this present time, or by their own private
conditions of life. So long as we, even for one moment, accept that
mentality that makes us the victim either of circumstances or of men or
of ourselves, so long do we lack the comfort and the strength that the
Lord has for us. So long as we are able, even in the most uncongenial
or difficult or apparently unfruitful circumstances, to say: 'The Lord
sent me here!' so have we all the comfort and strength that Christ had
in being in this world.
And let us remember this: even the Lord Jesus did not move about just
as freely as He pleased, in spite of the specific guidance which He
received from heaven. It would seem to be so much easier a life if we
could go here, or move out of certain circumstances, or take a course
that was just something between us and the Lord. I suggest to you that
the life of Christ was not like that. Christ the babe went down to
Egypt under the drive of a force of danger, as it seemed. Christ the
boy had to leave the temple and go back with His parents subjecting
Himself to their will rather than to that which seemed to Him to be the
opening of a ministry. On certain occasions Christ sought solitude, and
the crowds thronged Him and robbed Him of what He sought. At other
times He could not go into the cities, but had to withdraw Himself
because one whom He told to be quiet published abroad what ought to
have been kept secret, or because the people would have taken hold of
Him by force to make Him a king. Then there were the last phases of the
life of the Lord, when He was taken by cruel and wicked men and led
away to the Cross. So, you see, there was something even in the life of
the Lord Jesus which was akin to that which comes to us of making us
apparently the victim of circumstances or of the ways of men. If for
one moment the Lord Jesus had accepted what was apparent, He would have
lost His joy and His strength; but He never accepted that, and the
position He took, not merely when He was on His own initiative taking
some step as between Himself and the Father, but even when He was being
moved about, hunted, driven, taken prisoner, crucified, was all the
time: 'I am in this world as sent by God!'
Now, can you and I take hold of that just where we are? It is more
difficult for us to see the purpose of our being sent, perhaps, than it
was for the Lord, but we have His Word on which to rely. For you, [76/77] just you, this verse is true: "As thou didst
send me into the world, even so sent I them into the world." 'As the
Father sent Me into the world', says the Lord, 'so have I sent you into
And when the Father sent the Son into the world, did He just leave Him?
Did He not give Himself with all the interest and strength of His love
to stand behind that Son, to carry Him through? Of course He did, and
the inference of all this chapter is that the Lord is saying concerning
those whom He has sent into the world: 'I stand behind you! I pray for
you!' Well, it means a great deal when the Lord does not just say: 'I
will mention them in My prayer', but: 'I pray for them! I give Myself
to that! Because I sent them into the world they are My
responsibility!' We are His responsibility just where we are, and even
though at times our lives seem to be ordered by circumstances beyond
our power where it is hard to see one trace of the hand of God, let us
hold fast to His Word. We are where we are because He sent us there,
and if He sent us there, He will pray for us and see us through. Always
providing that ours is a prayerful life of dependence upon the Lord, as
was His. - H.F.
THE WISDOM AND VALUE OF BEING
PRONOUNCEDLY THE LORD'S
A MESSAGE TO YOUNG CHRISTIANS
"Whose l am, and whom I serve" (Acts 27:23).
THIS dramatic story of the voyage of the Apostle Paul to Rome has many
things in it which form profitable instruction. From among these we are
just lifting out one of particular value. It is that contained in our
title: the wisdom and value of being pronouncedly the Lord's.
You know that the Apostle was a prisoner on his way to be tried before
Caesar. Perhaps it would both help you and make unnecessary the
lengthening of this message if you refreshed your memory with the whole
chapter and what led up to it. The focal point of the message is that
Paul did not leave anyone in any doubt as to where he stood, and
because of that God eventually put everything into his hands.
Paul could have kept quiet. There were several things that might have
made him decide to do so. He was Caesar's prisoner. He was under the
authority of both the Roman centurion and the captain of the ship. He
had a very great deal to think about, for things had taken a strange
and unexpected course in his life, and now he might be going to a quick
execution. But, no, he looked beyond Caesar, Rome, ship, sea and
circumstances to the Lord, and, in the hour of trouble he declared
himself boldly and openly, not as the prisoner of men or circumstances,
but as the prisoner and servant of the Lord. This openness and courage
A POSITION OF POWER WITH THE LORD
It constituted a link with Divine sovereignty. That Divine sovereignty
had been very real in his recent history leading up to this situation.
There were not lacking those things which could have provided plenty of
ground for misgivings, and for the devil's paralysing accusations. This
whole threatening disaster could have been looked at as the result of
Paul's own mistakes and faults. He had gone to Jerusalem in spite of
(a) The Lord's earlier command that he (Paul) should depart from that
city and be sent "far hence" because they would not receive his
testimony (Acts 22:21).
(b) The fact that his brethren had besought him not to go, and warned
him of what would happen.
But his concern for his own people in that city was so strong that he
would not be dissuaded, and he went against all appeals and pleadings.
When he got to Jerusalem he was caught in a trap, resulting in
imprisonment, near death, and the several trials, issuing ultimately in
his appeal to Caesar. One of the rulers said that if only Paul had not
appealed to Caesar he might have been set at liberty. That 'if only'
could have been a forceful point of satanic and self condemnation. 'If
only I had not made that mistake!'
The Apostle had much to reflect upon, and when things go wrong and
trouble overtakes, the devil is not slow to jump in and say: 'This is
God's judgment upon your wrongdoing.' The appearances are that God has
left us to our fate, and we see no way out. But this man was no
introvert, but one who still believed God; for, whatever strange
and seemingly contradictory features arose in the process, God had said
to him that he 'must testify of Him in Rome' as he had done in
Jerusalem. This confidence in the sovereign rule and overruling [77/78] of God had these two initial effects: it made
him bold before men, and linked him with that sovereign rule and grace.
There was an underlying factor that gave God a clear way for His
sovereignty. Paul had absolutely no personal interests to
serve. He knew that in going up to Jerusalem he took his life in his
hands. He was not going there for anything for himself. He was not
actuated by some worldly ambition. There were no prizes for him in this
life along that course. It was all a way of cost and suffering and
sacrifice. Such a spiritual position is always a way which God will
take to overrule our mistakes, and even use adversity to His own end.
Apostles were not perfect and infallible men. God has never had an
infallible servant apart from His Son. His best men have made mistakes,
and these mistakes have never been kept out of the records of their
lives. But be it Abraham, Moses, David, Peter, or Paul, their utterness
of heart for God, and the absence of personal interests have made those
records a story, pre-eminently, of sovereign grace and power.
So it was in the occasion under consideration. Utter abandonment to God
gave God that wonderful opportunity of exercising His sovereignty, so
that this seeming disaster turned out to be a Divine strategy.
If the heart is wholly set upon God's purpose our human faults
and defaults will be covered by sovereign grace. We are not now
thinking of the definite sins of rebellion and self-will. They may
arrest or retard the goings of God, so far as we are concerned. But the
weaknesses of our humanity can be no hindrance to God if only there is
no dominating self-interest.
The next thing which is noted in our chapter is that this pronounced
out-and-outness for the Lord is
A POSITION OF MORAL POWER IN A TIME OF CRISIS
For a time the ship's master flouted Paul's advice. Paul was less than
a passenger: he was one of a number of prisoners. His opinion could be
dispensed with; and so they silenced him and made it necessary for him
to be quiet. In any conference which they had, Paul was in the rejected
minority. But the hour of crisis came. The day and the hour came when
that majority was in sore straits, and now the one man upon whom their
only hope depends is the man who had been refused a place; the man who
had been keeping a silent vigil with God, and to whom God had been
speaking. You know the rest of the story. The man of utterness for God
whom men rejected is God's key to the situation when everything is
going to pieces. The lesson is quite evident, and this principle has
had many occasions in history. "Be still, and know that I am God."
There is one more very wonderful feature of this sovereign government
of God. It is
THE FOREKNOWLEDGE OF GOD
In the narrative we come on the statement by God to Paul: "God hath
given thee all those that sail with thee". Does this mean, as it well
might do, that God had the eternal salvation of the ship's
master, the centurion, and the company in mind when He put Paul on that
ship? Would we be going too far in imagination if we thought that some
of those later referred to by Paul as "those of Caesar's household"
(evidently saved believers) came to the Lord on that voyage, and that
even the centurion may have been one of "the praetorian guard"? (See
Philippians 1:13, 4:22.) Such a surmise can be supported by another
occasion when Paul was "in much fear and trembling". The Lord spoke to
him with the same words as those used here: "Fear not, Paul", and then,
as to the desperate situation in Corinth: "I have much people in this
city." Note: "I have". Not: 'I am going to have.' The Lord foreknows
those who will believe and has a messenger on hand. Before the voyage
came to its climax in the loss of the ship, and before any
listening to Paul took place, God had said, "I have given thee". It
was a sovereign act out of sovereign foreknowledge. I venture to say
that if Paul had never let anyone suspect that he was a Christian, the
great co-operation with God would not have followed.
There are times when we wonder why we are found in certain most
difficult and perplexing situations. Everything in our expectation has
broken down. It is far from rare that, eventually, it is found that God
had something of considerable importance to Himself in that situation.
Hell has raged like a sea tempest, and, humanly, the way seemed to have
come to an end. But, again, if the heart is not divided in its
interests, and no other concern than those of the Lord is keeping us
from being pronouncedly the Lord's, the issue may be the eternal good
of others. Remember, the Lord would not, on the two occasions
mentioned, have said to Paul, "Fear not, Paul", if Paul had been above
fear, and incapable of it; a superman, utterly without fear. Paul's
moral ascendency was due to God's grace; and that is not for giants in
themselves, but for those who are wholly committed to Him. [78/79]
A closer look at the story will reveal some characteristics needed in
anyone whose ways are supported by the Lord. One of these is true
humility. There was no proud or arrogant fighting for his own
conviction on the part of Paul. However strongly he knew of the
mistaken course, and repudiation of his advice, he stood back and
evidently left the situation in the Lord's hands, keeping his own hands
off. This is vital to the Lord's undertaking. Humility is the evidence
that we have no personal or private interests to safeguard. It is also
a mark of our not "thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought to
think". It is not our vindication that matters, but only the
Then patience is so very important. Paul had given his advice. It was
flouted. Then it seemed that he had been wrong and the others right.
Things went in their favour and they seemed justified. "The south wind
blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose ..." (Acts
27:13). This is a very trying element in God's sovereign ways -- the
way by which alone He can come into His own place, and also brings
souls to Himself by way of self-devastation. Sometimes it does appear
that God is favouring those who have refused His authority and better
judgment. They really do seem to be prospered and blessed! This is set
in much wider context than Paul's voyage to Rome. In the whole range of
God's goings from of old He has so often allowed wrong, and His own
authority to be set aside and seemingly given rein to man's
"History's pages but record
One death grapple in the darkness,
'Twixt old systems and the Word.
Truth for ever on the scaffold;
Wrong for ever on the throne:
Yet that scaffold sways the future;
And amidst the dim unknown
Standeth God, keeping watch above His own."
The phrase "the patience of Jesus" (Revelation 1:9) was used by John in
a time when that 'scaffold' of Rome's persecutions did seem to
be the triumphant 'throne' of intense opposition to all that was of the
Lord Jesus. But history has shown otherwise, in that phase, and in many
others. Patience is Divine power.
So we conclude this message, with its deep eternal principles of God's
sovereign rule, and its showing of the wisdom and value of being pronouncedly
"Whose I am" -- absolute proprietorship.
"Whom I serve" -- absolute obedience.
FOR BOYS AND GIRLS
PAYING THE PRICE
THE Queen could not get in! One would imagine that even if lesser
people were kept out, there would be no difficulty in arranging for her
to pass the barrier. But no! The rules could not be changed even for
the Queen of England. Her sixpence was underweight and so she had to
stand outside with her group of attendants while it seemed for a moment
as if she would be forced to return to her palace without every
enjoying the experience which lay the other side of that barrier.
Perhaps I should explain. Here in London we have recently had a new
underground railway put into operation. It is called the Victoria Line
and is the most up to date in the world. Queen Elizabeth II was asked
to open this line, and as she had only once ever been on a Tube train,
and that when she was still a girl, she was no doubt pleased to
undertake this task.
Among the many electric devices used on this line is one which makes it
unnecessary to have ticket-collectors in attendance. A slot machine
issues special tickets which are made to cause the barrier to open to
those who present them. The gate opens automatically and the ticket
holder is allowed to pass.
Consequently when the London Transport officer took the Queen to enter
the gate he expected her to put her sixpence in the machine like
everybody else. He not only expected it but knew that it was essential,
for even he, important though he was, could not get the gate open
without the suitable ticket.
Now queens do not carry money about with them -- they do not need to --
but their helpers do. So Her Majesty turned to her Equerry to ask him
for the necessary sixpence. Fortunately he had one, but unfortunately
it was an old, worn sixpence which was underweight. The machine
rejected it. He tried again. Once more the thing slipped straight
through the machine and dropped out at [79/80]
the bottom. The poor Queen still had no ticket. There was no prejudice
against the royal family in that machine, there was simply a demand
that everyone who wished to travel in the train should provide herself
with a coin which weighed the correct amount. The sixpence which Queen
Elizabeth had provided was weighed in its delicate balances and found
wanting. So she was not allowed in.
The whole situation might have been very awkward if the London
Transport officer had not intervened. It was not a question of waiving
the demand. He could not do that. He could not excuse the Queen,
however much he might have wished to do so. Even she had to accept the
laws. He could not excuse her, but he could provide the very coin which
his Company demanded as the price of admission. So the official put his
hand in his own pocket and drew out a sixpence which he had there. This
was placed in the slot of the machine, and it worked perfectly. The
Queen withdrew her ticket, presented it at the barrier and was allowed
on to the platform and so into the train.
We can only hope that she enjoyed her journey. I think that we can be
quite certain that the donor of the sixpence was pleased and proud to
have been able to make it possible for her. He it was who paid the
price. Did the Queen order her Treasurer to repay him the money?
Probably not. He would not have wished for that. What must have caused
him a pleasure which money cannot buy was to receive the Queen's
gracious thanks for what he had done.
What God most desires from us, too, is that we should thank Him for
paying the price for us. For we too have been "weighed in the balances
and found wanting" (Daniel 5:27). However good we may feel ourselves to
be, or however important we may be in this world, God has to deny us
entrance into His eternal kingdom of life if we come short of the
perfection which is the condition laid down by His law.
He cannot excuse us. He cannot accept anything less even from the Queen
of England. We would all be shut out for ever but for the fact that He
has acted in the same way as that London Transport officer. He demands
the price, but He Himself has paid the price. God Himself has provided
the necessary perfection to enable us to enter in to His kingdom.
Jesus Christ was also "weighed in the balances". But He was never found
wanting. He is the perfect fulfiller of all God's holy law. When He
died on the Cross He undertook to pay for you and me, and by that
sacrifice He has provided righteousness enough for all who will accept
I have said that I doubt if the Queen ever offered to repay that
sixpence. In our case we never could repay God even if He asked us to
try. But He does not. He only asks us to give Him the pleasure of
seeing us accept Christ as our Saviour and then live lives which truly
say 'Thank You' to Him who paid the price for us.
"There was no other good enough
To pay the price of sin;
He only could unlock the gate
Of heaven, and let us in." - H. F.
THE MISSION AND THE MESSAGE OF JESUS
4. IN THE GOSPEL BY JOHN
IN order to arrive at the message of John there are two things to be
noted. The first: that his Gospel is the last of the New Testament
writings; and the second: the times and conditions in which he wrote.
THE PLACE OF THE GOSPEL IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
It is very important for us to note that John's Gospel was the last of
the New Testament writings. If the New Testament were put together
chronologically, the Gospel by John would come after the book of the
Revelation, but the Holy Spirit did not arrange that. He arranged that
it should come in the place where we have it, and I think we shall see
His wisdom as we go along. When the Apostle John wrote his Gospel he
was a very old man, with long and deep experience.
Perhaps there is a little word of warning to young people there. Young
people today are inclined to despise the old people, and to say: 'Well,
they have had their time. Now it is our day. They belong to [80/81] yesterday; we belong to today.' Now, young
people, if that is your position, you must cut out the Gospel by John
from your Bible, and I am quite sure you are not prepared to do that!
When we have finished this message I hope you will be less prepared to
THE TIMES AND CONDITIONS IN WHICH THE GOSPEL WAS WRITTEN
When John wrote his Gospel all the other Apostles had gone to be with
the Lord. All the New Testament epistles had been written, all the
Roman Empire had been evangelised, and all the New Testament churches
had come into being. The great storms of persecution by Nero and other
emperors were fading away. Even John was now released from his exile in
Patmos. He was not writing the Revelation to the church which was in
Ephesus, but he was writing his Gospel in Ephesus. Jerusalem
had been destroyed and the Jews had been scattered all over the world.
That was the time in which John wrote his Gospel.
If we ask about the spiritual conditions of that time, we have only to
read the first three chapters of the book of the Revelation. We are
familiar with the letters to the seven churches in Asia, and in the
majority of cases there was a state of serious spiritual decline. The
Lord had to send through John messages of very serious warning. A very
tragic state of spiritual declension had come about, and Christianity
was very largely in a state of confusion. You only have to read John's
first letter to realise that! John felt that he had to write for end
times, and that the conditions which existed then would be the
conditions at end times.
I do not think that we today, if we believe that we are in the end
times, fail to recognise very similar conditions. There was not only a
historic feature in John's writings; there was also a prophetic.
Now John was evidently very troubled about the spiritual situations,
and out of that troubled heart he wrote his Gospel. The question was,
and is: What is the answer to such a situation? What is the answer to
the problem of spiritual declension? What is the answer to the problem
of spiritual confusion? John's Gospel is the answer. In this Gospel he
gives what he is convinced is the need. When you read the Gospel by
John always bear these things that we have said in mind.
One of the early Christian fathers, Clement of Rome, said, "John's
Gospel is the spiritual Gospel", and that definition has stuck to this
Gospel all through the centuries. John set himself to write not a new
book on Church order, not a book on Church traditions, nor on new ideas
and ways. That is what is being done now to try to solve the problem.
Many books are being published on New Testament church order, and many
new ideas are being introduced into Christianity. Some of them are the
most extraordinary things! You cannot even find them in the New
Testament! But what did John write as the answer? He wrote on two
fundamental demands, two things which do not deal with the externals,
but go right to the root. To use a medical term, he wrote not to deal
with symptoms but to deal with causes. The two things with which John
deals in his writings are:
1. The Person and place of Jesus Christ.
2. The meaning of Jesus Christ in God's universe, the meaning of Christ
in the Divine economy, or order.
If we get clear on these two things we have the answer to all spiritual
THE PERSON AND PLACE OF JESUS CHRIST
John begins on this matter right outside of history: "In the beginning
was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John
1:1). You cannot put any date to that! Luke went right back to Adam,
but John leaps back behind Adam and speaks of Jesus Christ, God's Son,
in His eternal existence, before all time and before creation. Before
John has finished this Gospel he will tell us that Jesus is praying to
His Father, and in His prayer Jesus says: "O Father, glorify thou me
with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the
world was" (John 17:5). That was before the creation -- a tremendous
thing to remember!
If you were to read all that men have written and said about John you
would certainly find yourself in great confusion. Some do not even
believe that it was John who wrote this Gospel! Man in creation has
brought his wonderful head over against the eternal Christ. There was a
great preacher in London some years ago who preached a wonderful sermon
on the greatness of God. He set forth the magnificence and glory of
God, and all the people were holding their breath. They could hardly
breathe for the wonder of God that was being set forth, and then the
preacher pulled his gown up round him and said: 'There comes down the
aisle there a little man, about the size of an umbrella, and he says:
"Dr. Parker, I don't believe that there is a God!"' Yes, little
man and the great God!
Now, you see, John set himself to show how great is the Son of God:
greater than man, greater [81/82] than history,
greater than time, and greater than all things.
Having introduced us to the Person, John proceeds to tell us that this
One of whom he is writing created all things: "All things were made by
him; and without him was not anything made that hath been made" (John
1:3). He was the creator of all things, and then John brings this One
into time: the great God of eternity, the great God of creation, is now
present in human form: "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us"
Then John says that this One was the creator of light. He is the very
source and embodiment of light. He is the light, and the generator of
light: "... the true light, which lighteth every man" (John 1:5). Later
John records that Jesus said: "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12).
Further, John says that He was the source of life: "In him was life;
and the life was the light of men" (John 1:4).
THE MEANING OF JESUS CHRIST IN GOD'S UNIVERSE
Now what is it that we are coming to? John always goes beyond things
to the Person, and he had one purpose in his mind when he wrote
this Gospel. That purpose was to transfer everything to Christ,
so that the Gospel of John is the Gospel of the great transition.
Here we see the wisdom of the Holy Spirit in putting this Gospel where
it is. Matthew is the Gospel of the absolute lordship of Jesus Christ,
showing that all authority is vested in Jesus Christ. Mark is the
message of ministry under the authority of Christ. Luke is the message
concerning God's new humanity. Leap over from Luke to the book of the
Acts, which takes all those three up on new resurrection ground. John
comes between Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Acts. He is the link between the
two, the bridge over which they pass to the new dispensation. So John
is the Gospel of the great transition. What is this transition? It has
First, it is the transition from all the parts to one complete whole.
Now, I want a whole conference on that alone! If you read the Gospel by
John carefully you will find there, in the background, the history of
the people of Israel. I dare not stay with all the details of that; but
were Israel in the wilderness, needing bread? He said to the Jews:
"Your father did eat the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This
is the bread which cometh down out of heaven, that a man may eat
thereof, and not die" (John 6:49-50). All the way through this Gospel
John has in the back of his mind something in the history of Israel. I
beg of you to read it in that light! These are all the parts of the Old
Testament, and now John gathers them together and makes them complete
in the one Person. Jesus is the completeness of all the parts of
Secondly, it is the transition from the historical to the eternal. John
is showing an eternal significance to the historical. He is showing us
a spiritual meaning in all these things in history.
Then it is the transition from the temporal, material, to the spiritual.
And fourthly, it is the transition from the earthly to the heavenly.
You remember the repeated phrase of the Lord Jesus in John's Gospel:
'Verily, verily, I say unto you ...' How often the Lord Jesus uses that
phrase! Most truly, emphatically, I say unto you ...' And what
was the connection of that double exclamation? "Verily, verily, ... I am
." "I am the true vine" (John 15:1). Israel was called 'God's vine',
but failed to give Him the fruit that He sought. Israel was a false
vine, but Jesus takes that over to Himself and says, most emphatically:
"I am the true vine." Israel was God's flock of sheep, and He
was their shepherd. Jesus says: 'Verily, verily ... I am the true
shepherd'. The manna in the wilderness did not keep Israel alive for
ever. "Verily, verily, ... I am the bread of life ... this is the bread
which cometh down out of heaven" (John 6:47-50). Everything in John's
Gospel is a transfer to Jesus Christ.
THE NEW DISPENSATION
Now we must come close to the real message. All this that John wrote
was an argument for one thing: he was making it perfectly clear that
the new dispensation which had come is a spiritual spiritual
dispensation. Jerusalem had been the centre of government for the old
Israel. Now Jerusalem has gone, but have men been left without a centre
of government? Have we no seat of government? Why is John continually
recording that Jesus was saying: 'I return unto the Father'? For this
very thing! The seat, and the centre, of government for the Lord's
people is now in heaven. It is neither in Jerusalem nor in Rome. The
Church has no headquarters on this earth. You may do what you can to
have a government for the Church on this earth, but you are
contradicting this fundamental truth. Paul says that Jerusalem is
above, and we are to get all our direction from above. That is how it
was in the book of the Acts -- the headquarters had gone from
Jerusalem. Where was the headquarters of the New [82/83]
Testament Church? Some people have said 'Antioch', but I cannot agree.
Even at Antioch they were going to their headquarters in heaven. It was
there that the Holy Spirit said: "Separate me Barnabas and Saul" (Acts
13:2). John is transferring the city from the earth to heaven, and is
showing that all that Jerusalem had been in the old dispensation was
true of the Lord Jesus in the new.
I ask you: If it were like that now, would it not solve a lot of the
problems? Would it not get rid of a lot of the confusion in
Christianity? The prayer meeting, not the board room, is the way of the
Church's government. Have the churches declined, as they did in the
time of John? What is John going to say about this? He will teach us
that the Church and the churches are no more than the measure of Christ
in people. Quite early in his Gospel the Lord Jesus will say to the
woman of Samaria: 'The hour cometh, and now is, when neither in this
mountain nor in Jerusalem shall ye worship the Father. Not in the great
temple at Jerusalem, nor in the great Samaritan temple in Samaria, but
God is a Spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit'
What, then, is the Church? It is not a place, nor a building, nor a
congregation, nor so many men and women gathered together. It is just
the measure of Christ that is there in those people. If it is only two
or three 'in Christ', that is the representation of the Church. Christ
is the Church, and it is only the measure of Christ in people that
makes the Church. The Church is more or less represented according to
the measure of Christ. Confusion, yes, spiritual decline, yes; but
bring Christ in and all that is dealt with. If we will remain on the
ground of Christ most of our problems will be solved. Has Jesus gone to
the Father? Yes, He has, but the Holy Spirit has come in His place. You
see, we are keeping very close to John's Gospel.
Now, that is the nature of this dispensation. It is wholly a spiritual
dispensation. But John does not only tell us that as to the nature, but
he tells us that this dispensation is superior to all other
dispensations. How superior this dispensation is to the one when Jesus
was here on this earth! I wonder if you believe that. We have a little
children's hymn, and, of course, we like to sing it with the children:
"I think when I read that sweet story of old,
When Jesus was here among men,
How He called little children as lambs to His fold:
I should like to have been with them then."
Now that is very sentimental! And it is very lovely. And lots of people
still go to Palestine to see the places where Jesus was. While they are
there they are living twenty centuries ago! Would you prefer to be back
there with Jesus on earth rather than to be here today? Now think about
that! You have missed the message of John if that is what you think.
John is telling us that we are in a far superior time to the time when
Jesus was on earth.
There was one word that Jesus was very fond of using: 'Greater.' You
remember Jacob and his ladder -- his dream when he saw a ladder from
earth to heaven, with angels of God ascending and descending, and the
Lord above it. Well, that was very wonderful, and out of that dream
came the twelve tribes of Israel. But to Nathanael He said: "Thou shalt
see greater things than these." 'You will see the heavens
opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of
Man, and this will produce a far greater Israel than the earthly
WORKS IN THE NEW DISPENSATION
But the word that I really want to get to at the end is in chapter
14:12. Jesus has been speaking about the works that He has been doing,
and then He says: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on
me, the works that I do shall he do also, and greater works than these
shall he do; because I go to the Father." In the dispensation that
follows the earthly life of the Lord Jesus greater works are going to
be done than those He did when He was here. What were the works that He
At the Pool of Bethesda He raised a poor, impotent man and made him
walk. That man was thirty-eight years old. They did not live so long in
those days, and I wonder if you realise that even the Apostle Paul was
only a little over sixty when he died. This poor man at the Pool of
Bethesda only had, at most, a few more years to live, and then he died
and went into his grave. 'Greater works than these shall ye do.' What
are the greater works? In this context it is a far greater thing to put
a man or woman on their spiritual feet than on their physical feet! It
is a wonderful thing to see how we are kept by the power of God, for in
the course of the Christian life there are many times when we might
easily collapse. How often Be have felt: 'I cannot go on any longer!',
and yet, after many, many such times, we are still going on. Oh, the
miracle of lives we have known which seem many times to be going to
give up, but they are still going on. The spiritual is the greater work
than the Physical. Oh, the miracle of the walking power of the Holy
Spirit! The same thing is true of all these other works of [83/84] Jesus. Did He open the eyes of the blind? It
is a far greater thing to have your spiritual eyes opened! Spiritual
knowledge and spiritual intelligence are far superior to the natural.
Did He work a miracle of feeding the thousands in the wilderness? Well,
friends, would you not sooner have spiritual food than your breakfast
this morning? We go on in this wilderness of a world, and the world can
provide us with no food. It is a far greater work to provide spiritual
food than to provide natural bread. What was the greatest work that
Jesus did? After all these works, He crowns them with the raising of
Lazarus. I suppose it would be thought to be very wonderful if we could
raise the dead physically, but is it not a far greater work to raise
the spiritually dead? 'Greater works than these shall ye do.' This is a
greater dispensation than when Jesus was on the earth.
This is the message of John: the transition from the earthly to the
heavenly, from the natural to the spiritual, and this will solve the
problems and will answer the questions.
THE NEED OF SPIRITUAL UNDERSTANDING
But when we have said all that: John knew one thing when he wrote his
Gospel. He called all these works of Jesus 'signs', and he implied that
the great need of this dispensation is spiritual understanding. Any
ordinary person can see the thing that is done. The Jews saw the things
that Jesus did, but they were not saved because they did not have the
spiritual intelligence to understand the deeper meaning. The great need
is spiritual intelligence. The Holy Spirit has come to be spiritual
intelligence. May He give us spiritual intelligence so that we
understand the true nature of the dispensation in which we live!
THE MOMENTOUSNESS OF JESUS CHRIST (1)
Reading: Philippians 3:1-16.
"I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; but now
mine eye seeth thee" (Job 42:5).
THIS verse sums up the whole book of Job, for it is the deep
explanation underlying Job's life. This book takes a patriarchal
character and shows us, in a wonderful way, God's dealings with that
man in relation to Christ. Christ takes a very large place in the book
of Job; indeed, He is the object in view in all that is happening here.
This verse, then, sums up the whole book of Job and shows us a
tremendous transaction which is taking place in the life of this man.
Concerning his past life Job said: "I had heard of thee by the hearing
of the ear", so that his relationship to God had only been by the
hearing of the ear. Then came these tremendous experiences that he went
through. He went down into the depth of sorrow, and this resulted in an
altogether different relationship to God: "But now mine eye seeth
thee." From hearing he went to seeing, and that is no small thing. It
marks a revolution in a life.
Where do we begin with Job? First there are three marks which we must
At the beginning of his life we find Job in a state of fulness. He was
a wealthy man. He had a large estate, with every kind of comfort, and a
prosperous, happy family. He was highly esteemed, a man who was taken
account of and who held a position of influence. His life was marked by
Job was a good man. God Himself challenged Satan as to Job, saying:
"Hast thou considered my servant Job? for there is none like him in the
earth, perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and turneth
away from evil." So we see that Job was a good man; but the statement
is made with certain reservations, and is not absolute. However, as
amongst men, Job was a good man; that is, he was not wicked and God had
a high estimate of him.
We see clearly that Job was quite satisfied with himself. He knew no
trouble in his relationship to God, neither did his spiritual state
cause him anxiety.
That is where we begin with Job, but what comes out later?
As to goodness, we have to look more intently and we find that it was
an outward and legal goodness, not inward and spiritual. His knowledge
of God was more an objective knowledge. There was no question for him
as to the reality of the existence of God, but to him God was something
outward, someone up in His heaven while he was on this earth. He had
just heard about God, and he adjusted his life according to the
light he had, but it was all [84/85] outward.
Job's righteousness was based upon his works. He argued with his
friends about that. When they said to him that his sin was the cause of
his suffering, he gave a whole catalogue of all his good works. So his
righteousness was rather of works than of faith.
Thus we see in Job fulness, outward goodness and self-satisfaction.
Now let us turn to the beginning of Job's transition:
"Now there was a day when the sons of God came to
present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them. And
the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the
Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up
and down in it. And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my
servant Job? for there is none like him in the earth."
But Satan challenges God, and says:
"Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an
hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath, on
every side?" In effect, Satan is saying that Job does it because it
is for his own benefit. It is easy to be good when you are protected
from suffering! "But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that
he hath, and he will renounce thee to thy face."
God accepts Satan's challenge and gives him permission to touch Job,
except that he may not touch his life. And Satan goes, and does his
work. All Job's outward wealth falls under Satan's power: his home, his
children, his herds, everything is destroyed. Then Job is touched in
his body, and finally his wife and his friends turn against him. And at
last he suffers from the stroke of Satan. (We will touch that later.)
Gathering all these difficulties and needs of Job together, we have the
spectacle of a man whose life had been very full on this earth. He had
had friends, earthly means, a home, a family, a standing amongst men,
influence, and a sphere of usefulness. He was not a bad man. But now he
is broken and utterly emptied, until he reaches the very bottom of
himself. He is emptied of all he possessed, he is broken in spirit,
broken in soul, broken in body, and brought down to the very bottom --
and at the bottom he meets God on a basis of pure grace. He has learned
the lesson of his own nothingness. It often takes a tremendous amount
to bring people to that place of recognising their nothingness! Job's
knowledge of God had not been an inward knowledge, a knowing Him in his
own heart, but something from the outside, and therefore, as there was
no true knowledge of God, there was a corresponding ignorance of his
own heart. This is always so! So Job did not, at the beginning, know
his own heart.
"I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth
thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes."
This is the transition stage! But what was it all unto? On the one
hand, fulness and goodness, a great measure of self-righteousness, and
on the other hand, brokenness, emptiness, everything gone -- and all
that by God's permission!
We must remember that Satan was God's instrument and he was not doing
this independently of God. After the first blow, when Job's possessions
and family were destroyed, Satan went back to God and challenged Him a
second time. Again God asked him: "Hast thou considered my servant Job?
for there is none like him in the earth ... and he still holdeth fast
his integrity, although thou movedst me against him." God
did it through Satan, but why did He do all this? We can never say when
some trouble comes into our life: 'This is absolutely from the devil!'
It may be from the devil, but there is the Lord's meaning behind it.
What was all this unto?
We have the all-inclusive answer in this verse: "... but now mine eye
seeth thee." What does that mean? It is Christ who comes into view
again and again. Job is in quest of God in a new way. He knew Him -- "I
had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear" -- but now he cries: "O
that I knew where I might find him!" Job is crying out to find God, for
God is not in him. He is crying for a personal inward knowledge of God,
and why does he seek after a personal, inward and spiritual union with
God? Because this is the only thing which can save him now. One of his
friends says to him: "Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace,"
but Job says: 'It is easy to say: "Acquaint now thyself with God!", but
that is just my difficulty. I cannot find Him, so how can I get to know
Him? Oh, that I knew where I might find Him, that I might come even to
His seat!' That personal, inward knowledge of God has been the quest of
men throughout the ages, and Christ is the answer to that cry.
"Oh, that I knew where I might find him!" "He that hath seen me hath
seen the Father"; "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the
world"; "If a man love me, he will keep my word: and my Father will
love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." God
is found in Christ, and in Christ the Holy Spirit becomes an inward
reality. But first all our own righteousness [85/86]
and fulness and self-satisfaction have to go and Christ has to be our
righteousness our fulness and our satisfaction.
VICTORY OVER DEATH
Then we see another thing in Job's life, and that is the matter of
victory over death. Job came face to face with death. This had not
caused him any difficulty before, because the sin question had not been
dealt with, but now he had questions about himself. He was shaken and
his soul was torn through fear of death. He was not sure about himself
and his relationship to God, and he asks: "If a man die shall he live
again?" There must be an explanation, or is life only a dream? Is there
no answer, no vindication? He had lost all, yet he had believed in God.
Is that all now? Is God a myth and life a tragedy? If a man die, is
that all, or shall he live again?
Let us turn to the Gospel of John to find the answer to this acute
question: "Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection and the life: he
that believeth on me, though he die, yet shall he live.'
Job wanted the resurrection and the life, and Christ is the answer to
his need. Christ governs everything. Job came to see that there is life
beyond, a life triumphant over death, and now he is at rest. In the
forty-second chapter we find Job as a man who has come through the
storms. His heart is at rest and his problems are solved: "Now mine eye
THE GREAT DAYSMAN
Then there is another point. Job's friends were accusing him of sin;
Satan, through those friends, was acting as the accuser. In himself Job
was not sure and he longed for assurance. On the other hand, it looked
as if God had a controversy with him, as if something had gone wrong.
His friends could not help him, and Job cried for a daysman to stand
between the opposing sides, for such a man who could come in between to
see that both sides had fair play and that all got their rights: a man
who had no personal interests, neither on one side nor on the other.
We know our New Testament well enough to see that Jesus Christ has
become that great Daysman. He is the great mediator. In 1 Timothy 2:5
we read: "For there is one God, one mediator also between God and men,
himself man, Christ Jesus." Christ answers Job's need and is the One
who will see that there is fair play on both sides.
THE GREAT REDEEMER
Just one thing more for now. Job needed a redeemer. He needed to be
redeemed from sin, redeemed from Satan, redeemed from
the power of death, and redeemed from the corruption of his own
flesh . He cried for this redemption; then, towards
the end of God's dealings with him, there came a flash into his heart
-- only a flash -- but in that flash he saw some One and he cried: "I
know that my Redeemer liveth!" And then darkness returned.
"He is able to save to the uttermost them that draw near unto God
through him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them"
(Hebrews 7:25). That is what we need -- redemption to the uttermost!
Here Job saw his Redeemer for a moment and knew that HE lives. And
because He lives -- "He ever liveth" -- He can save to the uttermost.
What we want to emphasise is that the great transition of Job was a
transition from himself to Christ. God thought it worth while to
lead him through the depths, to empty him and to break him completely
in order to bring him to an inward knowledge of Christ. God finds it
far more important that we should know Him in a deep personal way than
to do a great many good works.
Perhaps God has led us that way of taking certain things away from us
-- our reputation, or the estimation of our friends. Perhaps those who
are near to us have lost their confidence in us. We may have known a
certain sphere of fulness, many a door has been open to us and we had
many friends -- and then God has laid His hand upon that and it has all
gone. Perhaps we are increasingly conscious of our own nothingness, and
we are coming to the place where we do not think we are as good as we
thought we were. Our heart, perhaps, is not quite sure about our
spiritual state, and it maybe that our relationship to God is not quite
what it should be. Perhaps friends say to us that we are going wrong
and are mistaken. But that through which we are now going may be the
way into something much larger, and we may get to know the Lord in a
much deeper way. In Philippians 3 Paul speaks of himself and of the
law. He possessed much by birth, through education and teaching, and
was much esteemed by others. But then Christ came into his life, and
all these things had to go in order that he might win Christ; yet the
knowledge of Christ was far more to him than what he had possessed
We are speaking of the momentousness, the tremendous significance of
Christ, but it is only [86/87] through
experience that we enter into these things -- not through hearing about
them, nor by studying the Bible, nor by going to church. Those are not
the ways which will bring us there. Only by being emptied and broken do
we come into the fulness of Christ. But the end justifies all: the
great place which Christ has in us. It is worth everything to know
Christ in fulness! A good man is broken and loses everything in order
to find more of Christ. The floodtide of God is Christ. May we be
filled unto all His fulness!
"HOLD FAST THAT WHICH THOU HAST"
[C. J. B. Harrison]
"These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in
his right hand" (Revelation 2:1).
"Nevertheless that which ye have, hold fast till I come.
And he that overcometh, and he that keepeth my works unto the end, to
him will I give authority over the nations" (Revelation 2:25-26).
"Because thou didst keep the work of my patience, I also
will keep thee from the hour of trial, that hour which is to come upon
the whole world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. I come quickly;
hold fast that which thou hast, that no one take thy crown"
"And the dragon waxed wroth with the woman, and went
away to make war with the rest of her seed, that keep the commandments
of God, and hold the testimony of Jesus" (Revelation 12:17).
IN those closing chapters of Revelation the Lord Himself is speaking
very solemnly to His people, and His speaking is in relation to things
coming to an end. He is speaking in relation to the consummation, the
heading up of things. Again and again we find that on His heart in this
speaking is the imminence of the end, the nearness of its coming. Does
not the book of the Revelation begin in that atmosphere? "Things which
must shortly come to pass." The Lord is moving on to the end, and He
who holds the seven stars in His hand is saying this: "That which thou
hast, hold fast till I come!"
What have we that needs to be held? Well everything that we have really
discovered of Christ meets a challenge. Satan wastes no time on
challenging our mere theories, but only if any child of God really has
something. God would not say, 'what you have' if it were not something
which He knows is worth having. He says, 'Hold on to that which you
have!' There are some things we have that we have received of Him; they
are holy things, they are precious things, for they are discoveries of
the Lord Himself. If we have nothing of Him that we have discovered,
then we have nothing at all. But I do not think many who read this
would say: "I have not found anything in the Lord!' I think we have all
found something, and from the moment we discover Him to be anything to
us, the adversary appears and challenges every bit of that possession;
he assails every bit that we possess that really is livingly of Christ.
The very first factor, perhaps, in our knowledge of the Lord is the
knowledge of sins forgiven, and some of us remember the joy of knowing
that the sin question had really been settled. We gloried, we rejoiced,
for we were forgiven people. And then, for many of us, trouble set in.
The enemy pounced and insinuated a question: 'Are you quite sure?' Some
of us escaped a very bad time because we knew the answer to that, but
those who do not know the answer very nearly go out. The answer is: "It
is written!" And that carried some of us through that time. We just
said: 'The Lord says so!' When we have that answer the enemy does not
waste much time on us; and so we have to hold fast that which we have.
And as we move on to know the Lord better in any way we all need fresh
discoveries of Him. I think that so many have taken a deep breath of
the Lord, perhaps some time ago, and they have been holding their
breath ever since, and now they are very nearly out of breath. The Lord
wants us to be taking fresh breaths, really receiving abundance of
grace, because the abundance is available every day. There are more
discoveries of Him awaiting us once we have tasted -- 'to whom keeping
on coming' -- and the Lord Jesus wants to satisfy all our needs. You
remember those who are spoken of as "blessed and satisfied with the
goodness of the Lord" (Deuteronomy 33:23). He wants us to be like that.
If ever you are dissatisfied, if ever you are running dry, there is
only one explanation -- you have been looking in some other direction
than Himself. Our first tendency is to be looking at ourselves to try
to find some improvement there. You notice that some people who have
had an up and down spiritual life, when you meet them, and perhaps
rather foolishly ask them how they are getting on, nearly always say:
'Oh, well, I am [87/88] afraid I am not much
good.' Well, that is it. They have not yet learned to transfer their
whole direction from themselves to what the Lord Jesus is, to look away
unto Him, to not expect to be any better, nor to come to that place
where Christ becomes the only hope of existence. I do hope that He is
becoming that to some of us! If Paul said that love was the thing to
aim at, I think it will be nearer the truth when we say that cleaving
to Himself is the secret of everything. We cannot love except as we
cleave to Him.
And so our discovery of Christ is the outcome of learning by degrees
that in no other direction have we any resource. The Lord is constantly
pointing us to Himself; and every time we freshly discover that Christ
is sufficient and have proved Him, and we have begun to know the Lord
better, the enemy will not leave anything like that alone. Have you
noticed that when you have really met the Lord, have appropriated
something that the Lord revealed and committed yourself to it, and that
has become a fact for you, that fact must be challenged by what you
meet afterwards? And during that time the Word is saying: "Hold fast
that which thou hast!" It is possible to let slip what we have. We all
want to have more of Christ and to manifest more of Him. Why do some
people manifest little, perhaps some who have had opportunity for many
years? Their growth has been negligible and they register very much the
same as they did perhaps ten years ago. There is no river, nothing
flowing. May it not just be this: that there never was a real taking
hold in faith of what the Lord said? They have never said: 'Lord, that
is mine now and I praise You for it. I thank You for it.' Then when the
tremendous reaction came and the enemy sought to dislodge them from
that position, they failed to hold fast what they had. They failed to
say: 'This is a bad time, but what You said at that time is still
true.' They let it run out like a leaking vessel, so that when it comes
to the next series of meetings, they are starting all over again
exactly where they were before. After a time they may even become dull
The thing is: how much more of the Lord Jesus has really taken up
residence in us? "What thou hast!" Have we got anything? We have got
something but we may have more, and God is dealing with us all in order
that there may be more of Christ and less of our own strength, by which
I mean even our own dogged continuance in what we think. God wants that
we should really receive of Himself by faith continually, receive
continually what we need morally and what we need of patience and
endurance. And the Lord has an end in view.
THE LORD'S END
His end is the Kingdom, the overthrow of the whole regime of the evil
one, and His instrument, His very means of doing that, is saints;
something done in the Church of which you and I are members that causes
the collapse of the whole hierarchy of evil. Now, Satan is trying to
prevent our seeing that. He says: 'It may be something to do with some
important people, but not you!' I believe that it is to do with each
one of us and that your battle lost or won is affecting the whole
situation. We are all equal in Christ, and if one member suffers or
fails, all the members suffer, and the Lord's end is the overthrow of
that terrific stranglehold that is on His universe. We see the forces
in their outward display and we think how tremendous they are, but the
invisible forces behind them are far more terrible. Millions of men are
just playthings! Armies that can stretch for one or two thousand miles
are nothing to the powers behind. They can push them along and wipe
them out in a night. The powers in the heavens are the powers God is
going to shake, and the thing behind is going to tumble to the dust.
"He that overcometh, and he that keepeth my works unto the end, to him
will I give authority over the nations" (Revelation 2:26). The Lord is
speaking simply to the saints. What a privilege that we are of that
company! This word is to us. He says to us: "Hold fast that which thou
hast!" Are you going to say: 'I have not got much!'? He says: 'Hold on
to what you have.' It is that wicked one who is saying that it does not
matter about you, and you have not got this or that. The Lord's
attitude is one of love. Do hold what you have and you will have more.
"Unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance"
(Matthew 25:29). There is plenty more to follow if you will hold on.
"Hold fast that which thou hast, that no one take thy crown" -- your
part in the Throne, your fellowship with Him in the day of His glory.
I think there is another emphasis: that we are not going to win in this
battle by trying to be or to do something more. The emphasis of the
Lord is: 'Hold what you have.' I do not mean hold some opinion that you
have, or hold something that you say is of the Lord. Hold fast to your
utter confidence in Himself about every bit of grace that He has shown
you. It is grace that we need to grow in, not in some doctrine, or
something of opinion, or something of a theory, but grace. There is a
measure of Christ in us and that has come through the appropriation of
faith, and the Lord is saying to us: 'That is precious to Me. Do not be
moved from it!' [88/89]
THE LINK OF FAITH
And when we come to that next word: "Hold fast that which thou hast,
that no one take thy crown", the words 'hold fast' are simply the verb
of the noun 'strength'. Be strong in what you have. It is not the same
word as just holding it in your hand, but it is: 'You have got it. Now
be strong in Me about it!' In Him we are possessed of everything that
we need. As we are together here and see one another, we represent the
wealth of Christ. "Ye are in him made full" (Colossians 2:10). And what
brings that to pass? The link of faith which says 'I appropriate Christ
as fulness for me. I appropriate all that He is to make up all the
lacks.' So, having appropriated by faith, the Lord is saying: 'Hold
that! Maintain your ground that in Christ you have all that you need.'
Some of you, I know, are being put into very hot places. There are
places which some of us may know where there is great pressure and
little relief. All of us know something of battle in these days but at
any rate there is fellowship and a coming together for many of us. But
some, without that opportunity, are meeting even more intense forces in
the utterly naked way that perhaps others do not meet it. How is that
to be countered? How is there to be a going through so that 'no man
take thy crown'? I believe the Lord is saying: 'It is all right. You
have everything. You have Me, your sins are forgiven, there is no
condemnation, you are joined to Me in the Throne, you are in victory.'
Do not get worked up, for it is a fact. Just be strong and inwardly,
even without the ability to spend time thinking, retain a confidence of
heart that Christ is enough, that He in you is all that you need. That
is 'holding fast to what you have' and no one can take your crown while
you do that. The Lord Jesus is invulnerable. He is Himself the victor,
and He is the victor of every field in the weakest saint. The kingdoms
and the nations around us may rage, but the crown is on His head. He
stands unmoved when everything else rages, and that is the Lord who is
joined to you in your spirit. The Lord is saying: 'Do not move! If you
will only hold fast and refuse to be moved, you are through.'
"He that keepeth my works to the end ..." What are His works? Well,
just the work that is of faith, the corresponding action to our
confidence in Himself. We have confidence in Him and therefore we walk
in a certain way. Spontaneously, out of our relationship with Him,
there are certain things that cannot be done and certain things that
can be done. The certain things we do are the works of faith, and there
are extra works which are the fruit of our confidence in Him. You are
not trying to help the Lord, but you are just counting on Him, and
because of that confidence in Himself you actively do the next thing in
the light of that fact. You are doing very ordinary things? Well, they
are His works. It is rather comforting to know when you have to do
certain very ordinary things that they are His works. "To the pure all
things are pure; to the defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure" (Titus
Yes, we can be unscathed in the midst of the battle because of His hold
upon us, and I want to finish with that.
THE LORD'S HOLD UPON US
This is the One who holds the seven stars in His right hand. A little
further up it says: "The seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand
... are the angels of the seven churches." The saints to whom He is
speaking are in His right hand, so before He begins to say anything to
us He says: 'I have you in My hand. Far mightier than your faith-hold
on me is My hold on you!' The Lord is holding us through this warfare.
If we were to sink altogether, we would find Him picking us out again.
There is a mighty hold in His hand, and He will not let go. you may say
as you go into battle this week: 'That word was about holding fast, but
I feel I have let go!' Here is the accuser again. He is always at it.
The answer is: He will hold you fast. You are in the right hand, the
authoritative right hand of Him who has the mightiest hand. I think we
need that foundation. We need the rest of knowing that He holds us
through all the ups and downs. As that hymn says: "Blest when my faith
can hold Him fast." We have a better time when we hold Him fast, when
we hold on. And He is encouraging us to hold on -- not ordering us to,
but encouraging us to hold on. He is saying: 'I will not let you go. If
you hold on to Me it is going to make a lot of difference!'
I believe we are all together in this battle of faith just now. The
Lord is saying: 'Hold on! Behold. I come quickly, but hold on just a
little longer that no man take thy crown.' And there is a crown of
glory that fadeth not away which He has prepared for just a little
grain of faith. It is all His goodness and His glory, and He is well
worthy of our trust. - C. J. B. H. [89/90]
CHRISTIANITY -- A PROCESS OF
Reading: 1 Corinthians 2.
"We ... are transformed into the same image"
(that is: 'We pass from one form to another')
2 Corinthians 3:18.
AS I have moved about amongst Christians in many parts of this world,
and in many situations, one thing has been growing upon me more and
more strongly. In the presence of a great deal of confusion amongst
Christians and many complications in Christianity, the feeling has
become stronger and stronger that the need is for Christians really to
know what Christianity is, and to know what it is that they are in as
Christians. That sounds, perhaps, rather drastic, but I am quite sure
that a very great deal of the trouble -- and I think all agree that
there is a good deal of trouble in Christianity generally -- is due to
a failure really to understand what Christianity is. It may seem
strange that I should speak to you, mostly experienced and mature
Christians, about the true nature of Christianity. Well, if you feel
that it is presumptuous and hardly called for, be patient, and I think
that before we get very far you will feel as I do: that although we
know a good deal about Christianity as it is taught in the New
Testament, we are very often in difficulty ourselves for the very
simple (or profound) reason that we have not really grasped the meaning
of what we are in. So often, when distressed as to some situation, and
perplexed that it should have come about, I have found that that is
just what the Word has said would happen.
May I say to you (and I am sure you will agree after a moment's
thought) that the major part of the New Testament, by which I mean all
these Letters which make up the larger section of the New Testament, is
all bearing upon this one thing: to make Christians understand what
Christianity is. If that is true, and all these Letters were to
Christians, surely we have to conclude that even New Testament
Christians needed Christianity explained to them, and even then there
was this necessity of just defining the real nature of that into which
they had come.
Begin with the Letter to the Romans. Was that necessary for Christians?
It was written to Christians, but what was it written for? To put them
right in the matter of Christianity! Apparently those people were not
quite clear in their position, in their lives and in their hearts as to
the implications of that into which they had come by faith in Jesus
Proceed, as we are going to do, into the Letters to the Corinthians,
and what are they? Set over against a background of real confusion and
contradiction in Corinth, those Letters were written really to try to
make the Christians understand what Christianity really is. And so on
and on through the New Testament that is the object; that we and all
who believe in the Lord Jesus should really have a clear understanding
of what this is, of the meaning of the name we bear, and the meaning of
that which we believe and into which we have come by the grace of God.
We can gather it all up in this simple statement: that the whole
Christian life is an education as to what Christianity is. Is that
true? Do you not sometimes stand in the presence of some situation,
some difficulty, some trial, some complication, some perplexity, some
experience, and say: 'What does it all mean? I am a Christian. I have
put my faith and trust in the Lord Jesus. I am His, but I don't
understand what it all means. Why this experience? Why am I going this
way? Why has this come my way? Why is my life such as it is? These many
things are so full of mystery and perplexity. What is it that I have
got into? Is this Christianity? Is this really what I have to expect
and accept? If so, I need understanding, and enlightenment, and I need
help as a Christian, for this thing is often beyond me altogether.'
Well, that is the setting -- but is that true? If there is anyone who
has never been that way, who has never had a moment like that, and
whose path has been so nice and smooth, with everything so right and
well adjusted and without any kind of trouble, I will excuse you if you
like to read no further, for I have nothing to say to you.
Well now, what is the point on which these words in 2 Corinthians 3:18
are focused? "We are transformed ...", and it is the present active
tense: 'We are being transformed'; 'We are in a process of
transformation, passing from one form to another.' There is a sense in
which that fragment, that condensed verse put into those few words,
touches the heart of the whole New Testament and explains everything.
Having said that, we come back to this second chapter of the first
Letter to the Corinthians. This Letter (as indeed are all the Letters,
but this is a very good example) is built around two contrasted words,
and they are in this second chapter. Those two contrasted words
describe two different types of humanity, two different manhoods, and
between the two, firmly and squarely the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ
is planted. Look at the chapter again in the light of that last
statement! "When I came [90/91] unto you ... determined
to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ, and him
crucified", and everything after that rests upon that distinction
between these two types which the Cross divides and says: 'That belongs
to one category of human beings and this belongs to another category of
human beings.' There is a cleavage cut by the Cross of the Lord Jesus
Christ between those two which separates them and makes them two
different species of mankind. That truth follows right through this
Letter. Read it through with this in your mind. The Apostle here speaks
about a foundation and a building. He says: "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", and then he drives the wedge of
the Cross right into the superstructure and speaks of one kind of work
or works, which are the product of one type of man, or Christian, and
another kind of work, or works, which are the product of another kind.
The first will go up in flames and will never be found in eternity. It
has gone for ever. The second will abide. It will abide the fire of
judgment and the test of time, and be found in the ultimate structure,
or building of God.
You see, Paul is applying this principle of the divide between two
kinds of Christian people, and to the two kinds of work, or fruits,
from each respectively, and the building, he says, as to its eternal
value, will be determined by who is producing it, by what kind of man,
or manhood, is producing it. Which of the two is producing this
building? Think about this! These are not nonChristians. What an
immense amount is being built upon Christ that is going up in smoke!
Every man's work will be tried by fire, and its real value and its
endurance will be determined by and will depend upon where it comes
from, that is, from which of these two types of manhood.
Now you are wondering what the two words are which define the two types
of manhood. Read the chapter: "the natural man ... he that is
spiritual." There are the two words: the natural and the spiritual Christians
. They are not unconverted people, not non-Christians. Is it necessary
for me to put in all the detail to confirm and ratify what I am saying?
May I remind you that the Apostle Paul had been in Corinth for two
whole years with these people! I do not know what you think, but if you
had the Apostle Paul going in and out for two whole years, you would
have plenty of ground for consideration! He was there amongst
them for two whole years, going in and out, teaching them probably
every day, and then he went away for five years. Then he heard things
which were reported to him by the household of Chloe. I wish everyone
would do what the Apostle did! He did not take the report without
investigating it. He got the report and then immediately despatched a
reliable messenger to investigate, either to find that the thing was
not true or to find that it was so. The messenger sent and came back,
saying: 'It is all true, and worse than the report.' The deterioration
in five years!
You are perhaps startled and shocked by that, and will say: 'Can it
be?' Well, remember the messages to the seven churches in Asia in the
Revelation, and how all those churches began. There were wonderful
things in those churches at the beginning. Read the story of the
beginning of the church in Ephesus, and what a story it is! Against
such tremendous antagonism and hostility those people came out clearly,
and they brought all their magic books, of which the price is given
(and that represented a tremendous amount in human values!), and piled
them up in the open street, or it may have been the market square, or
some open place, and set them all aflame. That is a thoroughgoing
division! But where is that church in the Revelation? "Thou didst leave
thy First love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and
repent" (Revelation 2:4-5). What can have happened? Well, I put that in
by way of emphasising this possibility, at least, of declension. Why in
Corinth, why in Ephesus, and why in the others that decline? Come back
to the two men, the two men instead of one man, the two men instead of
each individual. It is not a dividing of a company into this category
and that category, but the two things in a person. You know, we are
all, if we are the Lord's, in some measure natural and spiritual. Do
you agree with that? The question is not whether we are altogether
perfect and there is no more of the natural in us. That is not the
point. The point is: Who is dominating and governing? Which of the two,
the natural or the spiritual? Here in Corinth, as we see by the Letter,
the natural man was in control in the men and in the women and had
taken ascendancy over the spiritual man.
The two words, then, are 'natural' -- and you do not need that I should
tell you that the Greek word is 'soulical' -- and 'spiritual'; the man
of soul and the man of spirit always in conflict. Who is going to have
the upper hand, the mastery, in every one of us? The two are in each
Now what is this natural category, this natural species? Look at the
Letter again. First of all, the [91/92]
dominance, ascendancy, control of intellectualism, the wisdom of this
world. That is the thing that is being marked and underscored as a part
of the trouble in Corinth; the control of intellectualism, the natural
reason, the natural mind, the idea that you are going to solve the
problems of life along intellectual lines. Will you tell me that that
is not a peril of Christianity today? Why, it is everywhere! It shouts
at you from the religious press. You may not read so much of it, but it
is my business to be familiar with what is happening in the Christian
theological world, and I tell you, friends, that as I read certain
theological magazines I find death. They are wearisome to the
spirit. All this terrific effort to solve the problems of Christianity
by the human intellect; the research, argument, discussion and debate,
theses, etc.; philosophical Christianity trying to solve spiritual
problems; what a weariness it is! I have to put these papers down
sometimes! I cannot finish them, for they are so dead, so utterly
lifeless. And that sort of thing is everywhere. It is thought that if
you go to our seats and seminaries of learning with a clever brain,
able to put out a convincing argument, you are going to save souls.
There never was a greater fallacy!
This Letter to the Corinthians says that. Read this second chapter
again and you will find that Paul is saying that. Paul was an educated
man, so much so that for two thousand years the best scholars have
found him defeating them, and they have not mastered him yet! Come to
the religious bookshops and look at the shelves on the exposition of
the New Testament, and you will find that Paul predominates. I got a
book by one of our leading professors of theology in the universities
and it was called A Portrait of Peter . This man, with all his
learning, set out to give us a portrait of Peter. I opened the book and
found that the first few pages were wholly occupied with Paul! He could
not get to Peter because Paul was in the way, and the issue of his
attempt was: 'Well, Peter was a great man, but Paul was very much
greater!' Yes, this man Paul was an educated man, an intellectual man,
a learned man. You cannot discredit Paul along that line at all, for he
will beat you every time in that realm -- but listen! 'You Corinthians,
when I came to you I came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom,
but in fear and in much trembling. I had determined that I would know
nothing amongst you intellectual Corinthians save Jesus Christ, and Him
crucified.' What was Paul's conclusion? 'It is no use, however much I
may have of the schools, whatever I may know, however I might be able
to argue with the Corinthians or the Athenians on Mars Hill, I will get
nowhere along that line with a spiritual situation like this. I have
made up my mind about that.' It is part of the natural man to think
that you are going to be able to build up something by intellectual,
scholastic, academic acumen. The fact is that what intellect can build
up, intellect can pull down!
Then look at this prominent word: power. It is there in the chapter:
wisdom ... power; and at Corinth there was a worshipping of natural
power, ability to conquer by natural strength. You can call it
'powerism', for it was an 'ism' there. Crush by your superior strength,
impose something forceful, mighty, upon people, and you will win. Only
be strong enough and you can solve all the problems and change all the
situations. 'Powerism' is the natural man's idea of how it is going to
Then emotionalism has a large place with these Corinthians. Going to
capture, captivate and master, and gain your end by force of emotion
stirring up people's feelings, playing upon them, working upon them
until they make an almost hysterical response. If you do that well and
thoroughly you will get some Christians! The Apostle says: 'Not at
all!' It is evident that these Corinthians were very emotional people.
What does the Apostle put over against these three aspects of the
natural man? Over against wisdom he puts 'foolishness'. In the first
chapter he speaks of "the foolishness of the preaching". You find that
'foolishness' was a great thing with the Apostle Paul! "We are fools
for Christ's sake" (1 Corinthians 4:10). What did he mean? Well, he did
not mean: 'Be simpletons!', which is what we immediately take to be the
meaning of being foolish. What Paul meant by foolishness was the denial
that intellectualism could find out God. 'The princes of this world,
and the wisdom of this world did not find out God', said Paul, 'and
they could not find Him out. They could not find out anything to do
with God.' "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of
God: for they are foolishness unto him: and he cannot know them."
Foolishness is the denial that all the wisdom and all the philosophy of
the Greeks there in Corinth, where they boasted of this thing so much,
could get through the barrier to find God; and that all this [92/93] power of mind and will projected and asserted
in any way whatever will come up against the barrier and not get
through, will not find God, nor the things of God. It is all written
off as foolishness when the quest for God is pursued along that line.
How foolish it is! And Paul gives a wonderful, almost startling,
example of this: "God's wisdom ... which none of the rulers of this
world knoweth: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the
Lord of glory." There is not much sense in that wisdom, is there? Not
much logic or philosophy in that!
So Paul puts what he calls 'foolishness' over against their wisdom,
meaning a positive denial registered by the Cross of the Lord Jesus
that mere intellectualism can find God and the things of God. It
cannot, for the natural man cannot!
Over against the powerism of this mentality of the natural man, the
Apostle almost glories in using the word 'weakness'. He says even that
Christ was crucified through weakness, and he is always speaking about,
and glorying in, his own weakness. What does he mean? The denial that
this kind of human force, assertiveness, can achieve anything in the
spiritual world. What a building we are tearing down!
You know, that has been the test of man right from the beginning. Was
it not the test of Abraham to let go even of what God had given him in
Isaac? The test of this man's real spirituality was the ability to let
go. Was it true of Jacob? Was he not a man of tenacity, of
determination, a man who would get what he wanted at any price, at the
cost of anyone else's convenience and wellbeing? Was that not the issue
of Peniel, or Jabbok? "I will not let thee go!" That is Jacob! He had
been like that all his life, holding on tenaciously to what he wanted,
what he had or what he wanted to have. But the finger of God touched
the hollow of his thigh, and after that you can see that he is a
cringing man! See how he meets his brother Esau!
You are not, whether you are Abraham or Jacob or any of the others whom
we might mention going to get through with God fully and finally by
your own natural determination and tenacity. One of the great lessons
of the Christian life is to learn how to let go to God. Oh, all the
exhortation to be strong in the Lord, to endure, to acquit you like men
and be strong, does not mean with this natural strength. It is another
kind of strength, and a very different kind, a strength which is only
seen by our ability to let other people sometimes have their way, to
get what they are after and set us at nought. They hold, grip, maintain
things in their hands to our disadvantage, and our real strength is in
our weakness. The Apostle Paul put this into words. Read the second
chapter of the Letter to the Philippians: "Christ Jesus, who, being in
the form or God, counted it not a prize to be on equality with God, but
emptied himself, taking the form of a bondservant ... becoming
obedient, even unto death, yea, the death of the cross." Well, has it
proved to be the right thing? 'We are being changed ...' Do you see the
So, over against intellectualism -- foolishness; over against powerism
-- weakness; over against emotionalism -- what? The denial that the
quest, the craving, the pursuit of sensationalism will get you there.
For I believe that was the heart of these Corinthians' lust, their
excessive desire, their outreach of soul for spiritual gifts. It is
impressive that it is to the Corinthians, far more than to any other
church in the New Testament, that so much is said about spiritual
gifts. These demonstrations, this display, these things that you can
see and glory in because you can see them, are all out of
sensationalism. I am quite sure, from what we read, that if you had
gone into those gatherings in Corinth you would have seen some
hysterical behaviour as they made these spiritual gifts, as they
thought, the ground and nature of their spirituality -- and they are
the most unspiritual church of all. So over against unbalance,
lopsidedness in the Christian Church, there is need of balance.
Do you notice one characteristic of these Christians, one defect which
is written so clearly and so largely here in the Letter? There is a
lack of the power of spiritual discernment, the spiritual perception,
the spiritual intuition which warns us: 'Go steady! Don't be carried
away! Don't be thrown off your balance! This thing may be all right in
its right place and under proper control, but be careful! There is a
snare in every spiritual gift, and if you make the gift the
main thing and not the spiritual meaning of the gift, that thing, which
in itself may be quite right, will lead you into trouble.' I am
covering a lot of history when I say that. Perhaps some of the biggest
problems with which some of us have had to deal in people have been the
result of this unbalanced quest for the manifestation of the
sensational aspects of Christianity.
Well, perhaps some of you are not able to understand all this, but this
is the situation here in Corinth, and I am only saying this to show
that [93/94] there are these two orders, these
two categories of what I have called species of humanity which have
their residence within one shell of the human body: soul and spirit.
They are there, and the Apostle writes to these same people -- for the
second Letter is only a continuation of the first -- 'We are being
changed from one form to another.' What is going on? What is the
process of the Spirit of God in the believer? What is the meaning of
all this that the Lord allows to come our way, this discipline, these
adversities, these trials, these sufferings, these difficulties, these
'strange things' (to use Peter's words, for they are strange to us as
coming from God, or being allowed by God)? What is the meaning of it
all? To bring about the change, the transformation from one species to
another, from one kind of humanity to another. There is something in
each trial, in each adversity, in the suffering, which, under the
sovereignty of God, is intended by Him to make a difference in us. 'We
are being transformed.'
It is certainly not wrong to have a soul! It is that which has
to be saved. In the course of that salvation, the great lesson is how
to keep the soul under the control of the spirit. This is what is meant
by being 'spiritual'. This is truly "He that is spiritual".
We acknowledge with gratitude the following gifts received from 28th
March to 31st May 1969:
Aberdare £3; Amstelveen, Holland £5; Auckland New Zealand
£1 5s.; Barnehurst 10s.; Barnstaple £1; Beaconsfield,
Quebec £1 3s. 1d.; Belfast £5, £20; Benbecula
£3; Bristol £1; Bromley £10, £6; Buenos Aires,
Argentina £8; Cape Town, South Africa £1; Chadstone,
Australia £5; Chesterfield £5; Congleton £4,
£3; Constantia South Africa £3; Crewkerne £1 1s.;
Cuenca, Spain £2; Dolwyddelen £1; Dublin £3;
Gateshead £2; Gawcott £3; Geneva, Switzerland £4 16s.
6d.; Gy, Switzerland £20; Hamilton, New Zealand £1;
Hastings £5, £5; Hatch End £10; Heathfield £10;
Henley-in-Arden £2; Hildenborough £5; Horley £1; Hove
£1; Hull £2; Ipswich £1 10s.; Kaleden, British
Columbia £2; Kings Lynn £5; Kleinburg, Ontario £2;
Konstanz, Germany £1; Leicester £20; Leigh-on-Sea 10s.,
10s.; Letham £1; London S.E.12 £5; S.E.23 5s., £5,
£3 10s., £2, £5, 6s.; Lucknow, India £2;
MacLeod, Victoria £4 3s. 6d.; Manchester 10s.; Milford-on-Sea
£1; Mt. Waverley, Victoria £2 2s.; Newcastle-upon-Tyne
£4; Norwich £3; Paris, France £1 10s.; Penrith, New
South Wales £2 10s.; St. Leonards-on-Sea £1; Sandown 10s.
6d.; Simla, India £2 2s. 9d.; Sunderland £5, £10;
Toronto, Ontario £5; Vancouver, British Columbia £3 16s.
11d.; West Wickham £5, 5s. 9d.; Woodford Bridge 15s.; Zetten,
Holland £5 11s. Total: £279 4s. 0d.
Alhambra, Calif. $5; Altoona, Pa. $5; Audubon, N.J. $142; Bennington,
Vermont $5; Bergenfield, N.J. $10; Birmingham, Ala. $5, $15, $15, $50;
Bowling Green, Ky. $10; Brooklyn, N.Y. $14; Butler, Ga. $10; Canton,
Okla. $8; Charlotte, N.C. $5; Clubb, Mo. $10; Costa Mesa, Calif. $50;
Covina, Calif. $20; Des Moines, Iowa $10; Fort Worth, Texas $10, $10;
High Point, N.C. $6; Indianapolis, Ind. $10; Irving, Texas $20; Kansas
City, Mo. $5; La Porte, Ind. $5; Los Angeles, Calif. $5, $10; Manhattan
Beach, Calif. $2; Manila, Philippines $200; Martinez, Calif. $15;
Medicine Lodge, Kansas $10; Minneapolis, Minn. $10, $5; Nairobi, Kenya
$13.50; New York, N.Y. $25, $3; Norbeck, S.D. $100; Oakland, Calif.
$10; Old Saybrook, Conn. $10; Orlando, Fla. $1; Osseo, Wisconsin $6.50;
Rockford, Ill. $5; Romeo, Mich. $10; Santa Cruz, Calif. $5; Taichung,
Taiwan $1; Tulsa, Okla. $10; Vineland, N.J. $5; Whitney, Texas $3;
Whittier, Calif. $5. Total: $925.00.
Calgary, Alta. $8.90, Colborne, Ont. $5, Maple, Ont. $10, North
Vancouver, B.C. $2; Stouffville, Ont. $1, Willowdale, Ont. $25. Total.
Wolhusen, Switzerland Sw.Fcs. 20.00. [94/95]
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.