"A Candlestick of Pure
Gold: of Beaten Work" Exodus 25:31
"The Testimony of Jesus" Revelation 1:9
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|November -- December, 1969
||Vol. 47, No. 6
GOD'S NEW ISRAEL
Messages at the conference in Aeschi (Switzerland) 1969
No. 1. "WHAT SEEST THOU?"
"The word of the Lord came unto me, saying ... What
seest thou? ... The word of the Lord came unto me the second time,
saying, What seest thou?" (Jeremiah 1:11, 13).
"Then said the Lord unto me, What seest thou?"
"The angel that talked with me ... said unto me, What
seest thou?" (Zechariah 4:1-2).
"The burden ... which Isaiah ... did see" (Isaiah
"And he said, ... What seest thou?" (Amos 8:2).
WHAT a very great deal was bound up with this interrogating and
challenging method of the Lord with His Prophets! The history and
destiny of individuals, of the chosen nation, and of the nations, were
involved in what they were able to answer. We are not here concerned
with the specific answers that they gave, but we are very seriously
concerned with the principle governing this so great ministry. In what
we are going to say we feel that we are touching one of the most vital
factors, if not actually the most vital factor in spiritual history. It
is with us, as with them, a "Burden", something weighty and demanding,
for, as we have said, the spiritual history and destiny of God's people
are bound up with it; and who is not concerned with that
Extra weight is given to this matter when we realize that at a certain
time in the life of God's people the function of the Prophets
took preeminence over all other functions. Kings and Priests came under
the Prophet's power. Perhaps it ought not to have been so, but there it
was, and it has become the accepted way of defining even the offices of
the greatest of all -- our Lord Jesus Christ -- as Prophet, Priest and
King; giving the prophetic function priority. The reason for this is
very clear when we remind ourselves that the function of the Prophet
was to set forth, represent, and battle for God's full and final
thought concerning His people. The true Prophet has the sovereign [121/122] support of God in a way that, sooner or
later, his ministry will be fully vindicated, and destiny will be
determined be it. Thus it is that we must recognize that, while God may
appoint some servants particularly to this ministry, and qualify
accordingly, the ministry itself is to be so embodied in the people
that they become its expression, that is, the representation of God's
whole mind and intention.
When we move among the true Prophets of God we find ourselves
in an atmosphere of real and intense concern. It is almost the
atmosphere of emergency and crisis. Here everything is positive,
momentous, urgent, serious. The Prophet is a man of passion. Reality is
the passion of this ministry, and any artificiality or pretense is
Having said that, we are brought to the two main things which lie
behind this present consideration. They are: the seeing and what is to
be seen; the principle and the message. But, do let it be
understood that, while you may not think of yourself as the messenger
or the prophet, your spiritual history and destiny are inseparably
bound up with the principle and the message being true in your own
case. We embark, then, upon two very big and important matters.
THE PRINCIPLE OF ALL SPIRITUAL HISTORY AND DESTINY
This is contained in the second word of the Divine interrogation --
"What seest thou?"
We shall all agree that seeing governs progress, assurance, and safety.
Without sight progress is, at best, limited. To the blind the range and
distance of unaided movement are restricted. There is also a real
element of uncertainty, tentativeness, and question. Further life for
the unseeing is an unco-ordinated life. It is lonely and largely
It was just like this in the life of the Prophets, and we could quote
from them immensely as they pronounced upon it. The New Testament very
largely has to do with this very matter, and it is most emphatic that
spiritual seeing governs all spiritual progress, competence, assurance,
reliability, and service. The great Apostle Paul with his life
and ministry put it all down to this one basic thing: God revealed His
Son in him. God shone into his heart; and he said that his
life-ministry was "to open their eyes" (Acts 26:18). Jesus said much
about it, and, by one tremendous act, showed that sight is a birthright.
It was to the man born blind that He gave sight; this was a
"sign" of the spiritual heritage of the 'newborn'.
The New Testament is very positive that we shall only make spiritual
progress, and not be either arrested, turned aside, misled, deceived,
or robbed of our assurance, as we "walk in light", as we have
"the Spirit of wisdom and revelation". In other words, as we see!
Further, the whole matter of coordination in the Body of Christ, the
Church, and the churches, is itself dependent upon oneness of
vision. It is essential to be of one mind by one seeing. Weakness,
erratic progress, lack of effectiveness, and marred testimony are all
traceable to difference in vision, therefore of objective.
Paul spoke of fighting so as not to be beating the air. There is a
touch of humour in that. He had evidently seen some boxers using
tremendous force and being desperately in earnest, but landing it in
the air and really hitting nothing. Every boxer of repute knows how
important his eyes are in a contest.
Our spiritual progress, strength, and ultimate attainment depend upon
initial and continually growing spiritual seeing! The times sadly need
such people. In all your praying pray persistently for spiritual sight!
Now we come to the main part of our present "burden" and purpose; the
emphasis is on the first word of God's challenge:
"WHAT seest thou?"
This is going to lead us a very long way, and into very great truths.
We must, however, begin here by putting it to you. What would be your
answer if you were asked: 'What do you see as to the inclusive
thought of God for this present dispensation? What is God doing in this
age? What are His people now, and what is the explanation of His
dealings with them? Who are you? What are you?'
It is the answer to these questions and challenges that engages us now
and in the following chapters. May the Lord help us to put it clearly
and help you to see it unto His final satisfaction! If this is really a
matter of serious concern to you, you will be willing to compass much
ground with us, for "there is much land to be possessed". So
very much is bound up with that spirit and disposition expressed in
those words: "If by any means I may attain." The Bible does
show us that the people who really 'attained' were the people who meant
business with God; and, on the other hand, those who made shipwreck of
their lives were those who did not so mean business.
Well: What seest thou?
The New Testament is built upon the Old Testament, and the Old
Testament is -- in the main -- the history of God's elect. The first
flash of light is in that dark hour of man's deflection when God
intimated [122/123] that there would be an elect
Seed (Genesis 3:15). The thin red line of that "Seed" runs on with a
few individuals known as Patriarchs until it reaches a man called
Abram. With and from him the river broadens into a nation, and from
that point the Bible is wholly the book of the history of that nation
for forty-two generations (Matthew 1:17). So that the New Testament is
preponderatingly built upon the history of Israel. In the New Testament
the Old Testament is quoted some two hundred and seventy-three times
and mainly in connection with Israel. The many and varied phases of
light and shade in that nation's history are drawn upon for
exhortation, admonition, inspiration and solemn warning. Again and
again some aspect of Israel's life is taken up to support, illuminate,
reenforce an appeal or a warning being made to Christians.
The life and history of Israel are recapitulated and relived in the
history of Christianity, but with this major difference: in the Old
Testament it is temporal, earthly. In the New Testament it is
spiritual, heavenly, eternal.
With the New Testament the days of the historical Israel are numbered,
and that nation is rejected. All its temporal system is wound up and
done with, and its spiritual principles are passed into another nation
and constitute it the new Israel. We make this statement of
facts, and presently we shall be enlarging upon them.
In effect the New Testament is the continuation of all that was
spiritually true of the Old Testament Israel on the Divine
side. The New Testament takes up, not the things and literal
history of the old Israel, but the meaning and spiritual
principles of their history.
Consequently, the Church of the New Testament is Israel in a heavenly
and spiritual form. Everything that was in the earthly life of the Old
Testament Israel is now taken up spiritually for either the
constitution of the Church, or for its warning. The Church is reliving
the life of Israel on a heavenly and spiritual basis. Hence,
the Church is called "the Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16 and context)
and Peter, having himself passed through the great transition,
transfers the major characterizations of historic Israel to the
spiritual Church. (See Matthew 21:42-44, and 1 Peter 2:6-10.) We are
going to take up as many aspects of this as we can in order to answer
the governing question: What seest thou?"
No. 2. "THE HOPE OF ISRAEL"
That phrase employed by the Apostle Paul was used to sum up the whole
substance and issues of his life-ministry (Acts 28:20). You will
observe that in the defence made by Paul before Agrippa he narrated the
story of his life as a Jew, and now in his Roman prison he meets the
Jews in Rome and tells them that he is there as a prisoner for "the
hope of Israel".
What was the hope of Israel? While there were many things included in
that hope, the inclusiveness was a Person, and that Person was called
(in Hebrew) the Messiah. It would require a whole volume to cover all
the ground of the Messiah and the Messianic hope in the Old Testament.
Some of it will come out as we proceed, but that Person dominates the
Old Testament from Genesis 3 onward. He is implicit in personal and
symbolic types; He is "the Prophet" which was to come, He is the
Prophet which the Lord told Moses He would raise up 'like unto him'
(or, "as He had raised him -- Moses -- up"); He was "the root of David"
'David's Son', the "Branch", the "Servant of Jehovah", etc. All the
many and various titles and designations, functions and offices,
intentions and promises were embodied in that One Person -- the coming
Redeemer, King, and Salvation, whose name was "Messiah" -- and He was
"the Hope of Israel".
How very significant and impressive it is, therefore, that that name, with
all its content, is so fully taken over into the New Testament.
This is -- for many Christians -- somewhat veiled or obscured by the
change of language. So often in our own English language we commonly
use two words which mean the same thing, but do not realize that they
belong to two different languages. For instances we often hear people
trying to give emphasis to a thought or feeling by saying: 'Let it be
living and vital!' 'Living' is English. 'Vital' is Latin or French. The
meaning is identical in each language. So it is with this word
"Messiah". That is Hebrew (Mashiach) and means "the Lord's Anointed".
The exact New Testament equivalent or synonym is "Christ".
It is very impressive that this word or name occurs over five hundred
and twenty times in the New Testament, and it would be quite correct,
and significant, if we did as one version has done and every time we
come on "Christ" just say "Messiah". An extra, and tremendously
significant factor is that this Hebrew-Greek name is used so very
largely in writings to Gentile Christians! [123/124]
What then arises? The Messiah -- "Hope of Israel" -- is the Christ of
Christianity, and Jesus of Nazareth is He. What a content! All that was
rightly in the Coming One of Israel's hope is
fulfilled in Jesus Christ, but with this difference: Israel's "Hope"
was earthly, temporal, material. The Church's attainment unto it all is
heavenly, spiritual, eternal. Israel's expectation was every temporal,
earthly blessing. The Church's heritage (now) is "every spiritual
blessing in the heavenlies".
We are bound to come on this again later. There is the further feature
to be observed. Israel lived for the day of Messiah's appearing when
all their earthly expectations would be realized. For the Church He has
come and accomplished all that is necessary for that realization, but
she lives for the day of His appearing when what He did will be the
entire order of heaven and earth. So Peter who, as we have
said, had, after a big battle, made the great spiritual transition,
writing to converted Jews said: "Blessed be the God and Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ (Messiah), who according to his great mercy
begat us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ
(Messiah) from the dead, unto an inheritance incorruptible, and
undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven ..." (1 Peter
Every word of that statement should be weighed as a contrast to
Israel's hope and inheritance.
"Living hope." "Resurrection" (Old Israel is not now in
"Inheritance." "Incorruptible." "Undefiled." 'Unfading.' "In heaven."
This is indeed a great transition from one Israel to another! One
inheritance defiled, corrupted, and faded away. (See 1 Thessalonians
2:14b-16.) The other Israel -- the Church -- (Galatians 6:16 and
Hebrews) with the incorruptible, undefiled, unfading, heavenly
What ought to follow now is a long consideration of what was in
Israel's "Hope" which has been transferred, in a spiritual way
at present to the Church, but this is not a series of volumes, and we
are only indicating major foundation facts. Much more will
surely come out as we go along. But let us just quote the words of one
writer in this connection:
"Jesus of Nazareth needed no outward enthronement or local seat of
government on earth to constitute Him of David's kingdom, as He needed
no physical anointing to consecrate Him Priest for evermore, or
material altar or temple for due presentation of His acceptable
service. Being the Son of the Living God, and, as Son, the Heir of all
things, He possessed from the first, the powers of the Kingdom; and proved
that He possessed them in every authoritative word He uttered, every
work of deliverance He performed, every judgment He pronounced, every
act of mercy and forgiveness He dispensed, and the resistless control
He wielded over the elements of nature, and the realms of the dead. These
were the signs of royalty He bore about with Him upon the earth; and
wonderful though they were -- eclipsing in royal grandeur all the glory
of David and Solomon -- they were still but the earlier preludes of the
peeress majesty which David from afar described when he saw Him as his
Lord, seated in royal state at His Father's right hand, and on which He
formally entered when He ascended up on high with the word: 'All
authority is given unto me in heaven and on earth.'"
At the end of the stormy and disturbed four hundred years between the
Old Testament and the New there existed a small Jewish remnant of
faithful and "devout" men and women in Jerusalem still looking and
longing for the coming of Messiah. Of these Simeon was representative,
and it is said of him that "the Holy Spirit was upon him". He was
"looking for the consolation of Israel", and it had been revealed to
him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen
the Lord's Christ (Messiah)". "He came in the Spirit into the temple:
and when the parents brought in the child Jesus ... he received him
into his arms, and blessed God, and said ... Mine eyes have seen thy
salvation ... the glory of thy people Israel". And he said: "This child
is set for the falling and rising up of many in Israel; and for a sign
which is spoken against" (Luke 2:25-35). That whole passage needs to be
carefully considered in the light of this whole subject of Israel's
Messiah being the Church's Christ through the Cross.
But a question presses for an answer. Who was this Messiah-Christ, and
when was He anointed?
We know that "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth, who went about doing good
...", and we know that anointing took place immediately after His
baptism at the Jordan. But, before He was Jesus of Nazareth, He was the
Son of God, and before times eternal He was "appointed heir of all
things" (Hebrews 1:2). Further, we know that through, by and unto Him
"all things have been created" (Colossians 1:16).
There was a great and high angelic being who was called "the anointed
cherub that covereth" (Ezekiel 28:14).
Two things emerge from all this. One is that the eternal Son was above
all other beings, and "so much better than the angels" (Hebrews 1:4),
even Lucifer; and the other, that the anointing at Jordan [124/125] was related to His work of redemption by the
Cross (the Spirit always follows the altar, the blood, the Cross), and
that by the anointing He was spiritually and officially
constituted Prophet, Priest, and King. This is foreshadowed and
typified in the Old Testament, and taught as actuality in the New
Testament. This is our Christ, the Messiah of the new Israel.
(To be continued)
A message given by Mr. Poul Madsen
at the Aeschi Conference, Switzerland,
in September, 1969
THE WORD OF THE CROSS
"For the word of the cross is to them that are perishing
foolishness; but unto us which are being saved it is the power of God"
(1 Corinthians 1:18).
"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and fill
up on my part that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my
flesh for his body's sake, which is the church; whereof I was made a
minister, according to the dispensation of Cod which was given me to
your-ward, to preach fully the word of God" (Colossians 1:24-25).
I CANNOT tell you how grateful I am to be among you, and to meet old
friends whom I have not seen for twenty-one years. Some of us were
together at Kilcreggan, Scotland, in 1948, and for me that was a time
of very real importance. There the Lord gave me two things: a new Bible
-- a new revelation; and new friends -- a new experience of fellowship
in the Lord. And those two things have stood the test of time. It was
not just a time of emotion, but some days when the Lord did a lasting
work in us.
Some of use have been through many things during the last twenty-one
years. We have had many joys, some trials, some sorrows, some
difficulties, and quite a number of things which we would not have
chosen ourselves; and through all these things we have proved and
experienced that the preaching of the Cross is truly the power of God.
The word of the Cross has brought us through. A sentimental word could
not have done that. A superficial word would not have been able to
carry us right through, but the word of the Cross has actually and
truly brought us through many, many different things; and the word of
the Cross is actually the Word of God, touching all aspects life.
1. A WORD OUT OF DARKNESS
The word of the Cross is a word out of darkness and suffering: "My God,
my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" That was a word out of utter
darkness, and you find it throughout the Bible. It was the word of
David. Again and again he cried: "Why, my God? Why?" It was the word of
the prophets, and it was the word of Job. It was a word of suffering,
but not of despair, a word out of deep trial, but not of rebellion; and
a word out of that experience has power -- and how that word has helped
2. A WORD OF THIRST AND LONGING
The word of the Cross is also a word of deep, deep thirst, a longing to
see the Lord's plan of salvation fulfilled. How I long to see the full
salvation of my God! That also is a word throughout the whole Bible.
The Lord said: "I thirst", and David did the same; so did the prophets.
No one in touch with reality and in touch with God can come through on
his own. He has a thirst in him for the realization of the Divine plan
of salvation. How often we have been in difficulties and in situations
where this thirst was felt in our innermost being! And how the word of
the Cross has been a power to bring us through when we felt our thirst!
3. A WORD OF TRIUMPH
The word of the Cross is also a word of true triumph, not a
superficial, cheap victory, but true triumph: "It is finished!" We find
throughout the Bible that in the hours of deepest suffering the Lord's
saints have been enabled to triumph, and I repeat, not a cheap,
superficial victory. It is not only an emotional thing, but true
victory that can stand even in the sight of God. How the word of the
Cross has helped us, even in hours of deep darkness, to triumph through
4. A WORD OF DEEP REST
The word of the Cross is a word of deep, deep [125/126]
rest. The waves were high, the enemy was seemingly triumphant, the
darkness was heavy, but, in spite of all that, the word of the Cross
gave us the deepest rest in our Lord. "Father, into thy hands I commend
my spirit." Sacrificing everything, even Himself, He was in the deepest
rest in the will of His Father. Losing everything, His rest of faith
was triumphant; and you will find that everywhere throughout the
Scriptures. It is the word of the Cross, the eternal Word of God.
"Though the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the
vines, the labour of the olive shall fail ... yet I will joy in the God
of my salvation" (Habakkuk 3:17-18). How the word of the Cross has
enabled us, through many trials, to be quiet in our Lord, the Lord of
our salvation! The enemy has been very busy and our nerves were very
weak, but the word of His power brought deep rest to our innermost
5. A WORD OF DIVINE LOVE
The word of the Cross is also a word of love -- not cheap love, but
Divine love: "Father, forgive them." One of our leaders in Denmark, who
is not a Christian, said publicly: 'I do not know the truth, but this
is the biggest word ever spoken to mankind: "Father, forgive them."'
And then he added: 'It might well be the truth!' And you find it
throughout the whole Bible. David prayed for Saul, the prophets prayed
for Jerusalem and for their enemies. Nothing can create this love in us
except the word of His powers the word of the Cross.
In the last twenty-one years we have been tempted quite often to
bitterness, or to fight with carnal weapons. How wonderful it is when
the word of His power creates in us who are being saved the love of God!
6. A WORD OF FELLOWSHIP
The word of the Cross is the word of fellowship: "Woman, behold thy son
... Son, behold thy mother." I have not seen my two brethren here
during these twenty-one years, and yet I say: 'Behold, my brothers.'
That is the power of the word of the Cross, making us a new family; not
founded on an emotional basis, but in spirit and in truth.
So I can testify to the power of the preaching of the Cross. "Unto us
which are being saved it is the power of God." And it has brought us
through. Signs could not help us. Sensationalism had no power to help
us. The wisdom of men could not bring us through, but this word has
actually proved its power in bringing all of us through. And now my own
great wish is to be enabled to preach that word of the Cross; it may be
that the Lord has given us some time here in order to enable us to
preach that word, but without some practical identification with those
who spoke the word of the Cross fully, how could one expect to preach
7. A WORD TO BE PREACHED
The word of the Cross requires the spirit of the Cross, and thus Paul
says that he rejoices in his sufferings. It had something to do with
his ministry, for through the many sufferings he was enabled to preach
the word of the Cross fully. Preaching is not only saying correct
things according to Scripture; it has to convey the Spirit, the life of
Him who spoke the word from His Cross. So it is not possible to preach
the word of power without one's self being identified with Him who
spoke from His Cross. That might explain many things in the past
We are living through very difficult days. In Denmark, at least, the
darkness is very, very heavy, and we have experienced that nothing of a
superficial, easy-going Christianity can really bring true help. We are
not fighting against flesh and blood, but are involved in some measure
in a cosmic warfare, and we do not want only to touch the brains of
men. We want really to touch deep down in human lives. As we have
ourselves experienced the power of that word, not given us with very
great manifestations, but in truth and in the spirit, then we know out
of our own experience what to do. We want to be identified with our
crucified Lord and Saviour. We want -- I have to say this carefully,
but I must say it -- the sufferings which come out of obedience. We
want, in days such as these, fully and truly to avoid the popular and
to accept the truth. Therefore, my dear friends, we are not looking for
signs, nor do we want the wisdom of this age, but the power of the
Cross is the thing that we are seeking.
I guess that we are gathered here together during these days for this
very reason. I have been to many conferences during the past twenty-one
years. I save sponsored many myself. I have forgotten most of what has
been said in all these conferences. Very much of it was very wonderful,
as far as the emotions were concerned, but what has been left with me,
what has stood the test of time and trial, what has kept me in the true
fellowship of the Lord's saints, was the preaching of the Cross.
And, as I started by saying, it has been wonderful [126/127]
to come back now and to look back over twenty-one years with some of
The word of the Cross that goes forth from the mouth of the Lord has
never returned unto Him void, and so I suggest that we, during these
few days, seek the Lord's face together, asking Him to renew all of us,
especially those in the ministry of the Word, that we, in our
generation, can bring the word of His power so that, if we meet again
in twenty-one years, we shall see then that that word of the Cross was
effective and powerful, that it gave us new revelation, a new sense of
fellowship, and was so powerful that it brought us through the coming
twenty-one years with all their trials and sufferings. It shall be
done! - P. M.
A message given by Mr. W. E.
Thompson at the conference in Aeschi, Switzerland, 1969
A SAFE STRONGHOLD
"And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick,
and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had
they for mortar. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city, and a
tower, whose top may reach unto heaven, and let us make us a name; lest
we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth" (Genesis
"Now I Paul myself intreat you by the meekness and
gentleness of Christ, I who in your presence am lowly among yon, but
being absent am of good courage toward you: yea, I beseech you, that I
may not when present shew courage with the confidence wherewith I count
to be bold against some, which count of us as if we walked according to
the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to
the flesh (for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but
mighty before God to the casting dozen of strong holds); casting down
imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the
knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the
obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:1-5).
WE are conscious in these days here that we are dealing with things
that are in considerable contrast to the Christian world outside. It is
the contrast between the heavenly and the human; the contrast between
that which is born of the flesh and that which is born of the Spirit;
the contrast between the word of the Cross, the Word of God, and just a
message from man. If you read some Christian magazines you will find
that you can buy sermons for ten shillings each, while if you pay
twenty shillings you are guaranteed to start revival! There are many
people who do not have the word of God and have to buy these sermons.
We have also seen the contrast between knowledge about God and
knowledge of Him Himself, and tonight I want to consider
something of that which is arrayed against the knowledge of our Lord
Jesus Christ, that which robs us of the knowledge of Him.
THE BUILDING OF CITIES
We read in Genesis 11 of the activity of man at, I believe, the
pinnacle of his powers, the total of human ingenuity: "Let us build us
a city, and a tower." Now cities are phenomena which are quite foreign
to the ways of God. A city is some thing more than a concentration of
people, and more than just a centre for essential services, such as
hospitals, fire stations, and all the rest. A city is the centre of all
man's human powers, and the development of cities in the world today is
a very significant feature. The number of people living in cities has
increased ten times during the last hundred years, and all across the
world cities are increasing and growing at an alarming rate. In India,
where I have served the Lord, the growth of cities is out of all
proportion to the growth of the population, and these cities are the
centre of every kind of wickedness that you can imagine. These great
cities are places where ideas are manufactured to brainwash the minds
of millions. You do not find an advertising agency in a village! Cities
are places where it is becoming increasingly difficult for a Christian
to survive, not merely because of noise and people, but because they
are the strongholds of Satan. He has deceived men into thinking that
their learning in the cities, and their technology is going to help
them to reach heaven.
If we are really concerned with the knowledge of God I believe that we
must take serious account of this fact. A characteristic of human
nature is to build, and it is this characteristic that has hindered the
work of God. Even when our Lord Jesus Christ [127/128]
took some of His disciples up to the mount with Him and revealed to
them something of His glory, gave them a glimpse of an opened heaven,
what was their reaction? 'This is tremendous! Let us build! Let us hold
on to this thing!' And that has been happening all down the history of
the Christian church. God works, God reveals Himself, God opens heaven,
and man says: 'We must make something of this!' That explains all the
ruins that we have of Christian movements in the world today. This is
the mind of man, human, and quite contrary to the Spirit of God.
STRONGHOLDS OF WORSHIP
Associated with the cities of Old Testament times were the centres of
religious worship, and in those cities there were what were known as
'high places'. These were strongholds of the worship of a heathen god.
As I have been reading through the books of Kings and Chronicles in
recent months I have been greatly struck with the Divine comment on the
life of many kings. These were good men who carried out considerable
reforms during their reigns, and of whom it could be said that they
"did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord". However, they fell
short in one thing. In 2 Kings 12:2 and 3 we read of King Jehoash: "And
Jehoash did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord all his days
wherein Jehoida the priest instructed him. Howbeit the high places
were not taken away." The same was true of King Amaziah, for in
chapter 14:4 we read: "Howbeit the high places were not taken away."
And that was true of many of these kings. They went so far, but there
was something that hindered their complete obedience and yielding to
God -- "the high places were not taken away".
IMAGINATIONS OF THE MIND
What are these high places? What is it that lies behind the city? It is
the imaginations of man. These are the things that are exalted
against the knowledge of God. Where are our strongholds? What is it
that really prevents us from knowing the Lord as we want to know Him?
The Apostle Paul puts his finger upon the answer: "... Strongholds
casting down imaginations." This is what lies behind so much of the
false religion that we find around us. What is it that lies behind that
which is against God? Before we see the answer which applies to us
there in 2 Corinthians 10, I want to turn to Ezekiel 8, where I believe
we get an important link between what we are trying to say this evening
and what our brother is saying in the mornings.
Here in this chapter we find that Ezekiel is taken on a journey to
Jerusalem. There were no newspapers or television in his day, but God
does not depend upon them to inform His servants. He took Ezekiel in a
vision to the temple in Jerusalem, and said (in verse 6): "Son of man,
seest thou what they do? even the great abominations that the house of
Israel do commit here?" I suppose Ezekiel looked at the temple and
thought that it seemed perfectly all right. From an outward point of
view everything seemed to be going on in a right way. The people were
going through all the motions of their religion, but God said to
Ezekiel: 'Come here! There is something for you to see beyond this',
and God brought him right near to the wall of the temple. In verse 7
Ezekiel said: "And when I looked, behold a hole in the wall." Then God
said to him: "Son of man, dig now in the wall", and as Ezekiel picked
away at the plaster a door was suddenly revealed in what had seemed to
be a very nice wall. He opened the door and went in -- and what did he
see? We read in verse 10: "Behold every form of creeping things, and
abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel." And what
does all that mean? We find the answer in verse 12: "Then said he unto
me, Son of man, hast thou seen what the elders of the house of Israel
do in the dark, every man in his chambers of imagery?" What are "the
chambers of imagery"? The world of thoughts, the imaginations of the
mind. And what do we find there? We find that of which we read in the
first chapter of the letter to the Romans. They turned their backs on
the true God and in their imaginations they created a god -- "and
changed the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image
of corruptible man, and of birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping
things" (verse 23). And so we see these "high places" behind the facade
of man's religion.
What about our own imaginations? What about our own thought life? I am
sure that this is where the difference is felt between living in a city
and living in a village! How silently and imperceptibly our minds are
captivated and become strongholds, high places, exalted against the
knowledge of God!
"THE WEAPONS OF OUR WARFARE"
This is the battleground! This is where the battle must be won if we
are to increase in the knowledge of God! Paul was one who could testify
to victories in this battle. Here in 2 Corinthians 10 he is contending
with men who war according to the flesh. There [128/129]
is a conflict, for there are people who are opposing Paul in his
ministry and in his apostleship. There are men who are trying to
discredit him as a servant of God. Does Paul use their methods? No, he
does not war according to the flesh. He intreats "by the meekness and
gentleness of Christ", and that is the exact opposite of human
achievement! This is the word and the work of the Cross. Paul meets
these men, but not with carnal weapons. His strongholds are not human
resources and strength, but the knowledge of God, for he has removed
everything that is against the knowledge of God. In Philippians 3 we
find out what Paul's 'high places' were.
The first was his race: "Of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of
Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews." Was that a qualification for the
knowledge of God? As far as his personal conduct was concerned, he was
a Pharisee, and was as religious as anyone could be. That was a high
place to be destroyed! As far as his knowledge of the law was concerned
he was wellnigh perfect -- but he cut all that off. He removed all
these high places that were against the knowledge of his Lord.
What is it that is hindering us from having that kind of knowledge of
our Lord? Has God put His finger on any high places in our
imaginations? Are we seeking to build some great thing? We can say:
'Well, yes, but it is for the Lord.' It is amazing what we can actually
do and justify as being for the Lord, when really all it is is some
great thing for ourselves! But it hinders us from the knowledge of our
Lord. Do we know how to bring every thought into captivity to the
obedience of Christ? When we begin to do that we find what the battle
for the mind really means! Is our stronghold a stronghold of our own
imagination, or is it a stronghold that is the city of God?
I want, in closing, to call your attention to that kind of
stronghold in Isaiah 26:1, where we have these words: "We have a strong
city." In the middle of verse 3 we read: "Whose imagination is stayed
on thee: because he trusteth in thee." This is the strong city! The
knowledge of our Lord is perfect peace; the knowledge of our Lord is
perfect strength; the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ is victory.
May we know what it is to remove every high place that robs us of that,
and may we have that knowledge, for His Name's sake! - W. E.T.
FOR BOYS AND GIRLS
GUARDING THE TREASURE
THE Finnish merchant was at Helsinki Airport waiting to take a plane to
Milan in Italy when he was met by an official who asked him if he would
do a favour for the sake of his country. The favour would be to take a
parcel of valuable glassware and keep it carefully on his lap during
the whole flight. Although not wanting to have the bother, he was a man
who was always ready to serve his country, so he said 'Yes'; but he was
very inquisitive to know the meaning of this unusual request.
He looked around and found that other passengers were being asked the
same question, and it seemed that they also were agreeing, as they,
too, were being issued with parcels of various shapes and sizes.
The explanation was that a Trade Exhibition was being held in Milan and
that Finland had planned to display the superb glass articles made by
one of its great artists. Everything had been arranged in good time,
and the artist had provided some of his very best workmanship. It had
been crated and sent off to Italy, but, alas! when the packing cases
were opened it was found that the precious objects had been smashed to
At first those responsible were in despair, but they appealed to the
artist in Finland to know if there could possibly be any replacements.
The specimens of his work which had been broken were the only ones
available, so at first the artist was also near to despair, and then he
suddenly had an idea. He had made similar works of art as presents for
his friends, and if they could only be collected from the various
homes, they could take the place of the broken exhibits, that is, if
the friends were willing to lend their precious treasures.
The telephone wires hummed as he called to one and another and
explained the urgent situation asking them to be so kind as to lend
their glassware for the Milan International Fair. Each one of them
gladly responded, not only out of regard for their artist friend, but
also for the honour of their beloved Finland. [129/130]
So the articles were assembled and each carefully wrapped, but then
came the problem of how to get them safely and quickly to Milan. It was
a double problem: first, how to avoid breaking anything this time, and
then also how to get them there in time for the opening day.
The artist and his friends appealed to the Government, and someone
there had this idea: Why not ask patriotic Finnish air travellers to
carry them by hand? So this was why the merchant and his fellow
passengers found themselves sitting in the plane, each with a precious
parcel on his lap.
The idea proved a great success. All the beautiful glass objects
arrived safely, and just in time for them to be taken to the
exhibition, arranged and displayed, so that they were ready for the
At first it seemed a trouble to the Helsinki merchant, and he was far
from pleased to be asked to carry his parcel, but soon he realized that
it was, in fact, a privilege. He found, too, that it gave him many new
friends. He was no longer a separate and lonely passenger, but one of a
party all sharing in the excitement of their task. They were drawn
together by the special parcels which they carried, and in the end they
all rejoiced together over its success.
Christians should also be drawn together by the privilege given to them
of carrying something precious on life's journey. What we carry is the
honour of the Name of our Lord, committed to us to be watched over and
kept for Him until we finally hand it over to Him on the great Day of
His appearing. Timothy was told: "Guard the treasure put into our
charge, with the help of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us" (2 Timothy
I am sure that those passengers were extra careful of every movement
when they embarked and travelled, and then as they landed. This was no
ordinary journey for them. And for us, like Timothy, if we are true
lovers of the Lord there is nothing in life which is ordinary. Wherever
we go we are privileged to bear about the great treasure of the honour
of His Name. - H. F.
"THE LORD IS IN HIS HOLY TEMPLE"
Reading: Habakkuk 2:2-4, 20; Zechariah 2:1-13.
Do you notice the similarity between the last verses of the second
chapters of those two prophecies?
"But the Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth
keep silence before him" (Habakkuk 2:20).
"Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord; for he is walked
up out of his holy habitation" (Zechariah 2:13).
WHERE is the Lord? That is a most important question! Where is the
Lord? Now, seventy years of history lie between these two prophecies,
perhaps even more, because Habakkuk's prophecy was anticipating the end
of the captivity. He had a vision; indeed, he had something so plainly
set before his eyes that we hardly need to call it a vision. He lived
in the midst of circumstances which can only be described under one
word -- destruction. You know how he saw the falling to pieces of his
land and of his people, and how that -- far from being comforted in the
sense of any suggestion that that was just a temporary thing that would
not go very far -- he was told by the Lord that the Chaldeans, that
bitter and hasty nation, were to sweep like a flood over the whole land
and destroy it. And you know how he finished his prophecy with those
verses that we like to quote, that, though the fig tree shall not
blossom nor fruit be in the vines, and everything is going wrong, yet
we will still praise the Lord. We need to remember that, when Habakkuk
said that, he was not talking about a remote contingency that might or
might not happen, but that all these things were going to happen. 'This
is happening before my eyes, but though it happen as a certain, sure,
inevitable course of events, I will rejoice in the Lord!' Habakkuk was
given a vision from God that there was that which was yet to be: "For
the vision is yet for the appointed time, and it hasteth toward the
end, and shall not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will
surely come, it will not delay."
We have read one of the chapters of this book of Zechariah which speaks
to us of the partial and immediate fulfilment of that promise. The
vision has come; the Lord is at work; glory, blessing and fruitfulness
are to dwell in the land. There is restoration and so the picture is
painted in rosy language. There are beautiful portions in this
prophecy, speaking, of course, of something far more than Zechariah
actually saw, but speaking, in the first place, of what the Lord was
doing there, so that he, all those years afterwards, was living in [130/131] the fulfilment of the things that had been
promised, and he, and those of his day, had ample reason to know that
the Lord was in His holy temple. After all, in spite of the captivity,
in spite of the destruction of Jerusalem, in spite of the long, dreary,
terrible years of scattering and the apparent ending of all things, the
Lord has returned and is working; things are happening and glory is
back in the land. The people are there, and the house of the Lord is to
be built, so he could say: 'It is all right! After all, the Lord is in
His holy temple!' But the remarkable thing is that, years before that,
with nothing to see, no sign of glory, everything seeming to contradict
the promises of god, and surrounded by devastation and destruction,
Habakkuk could say the same thing: 'It is all right! The Lord is in his
I trust that I shall be able to impart something of what has come to my
own heart as to the need and the blessedness of maintaining the
testimony here on earth that the Lord is in His temple and is supreme.
As we have said, Habakkuk only saw destruction, Zechariah was seeing
construction. When Zechariah saw things happening he could say: "The
Lord is in his holy temple", and so could we and so could any man. But
when Habakkuk saw nothing happening, but rather the reverse, he could
still say: "The Lord is in his holy temple", and for seventy years at
least, so far as Jerusalem and the people there were concerned, with no
visible token and everything seeming to be contradictory, a strain was
placed upon their faith as to whether after all the Lord was in His
holy temple -- but He was! In the end it is proved that He was.
GOD IN THE WORK OF DESTRUCTION
And so we must believe that the Lord is just as much in His place of
heavenly government during events of destruction as He is or will be
during the subsequent events of construction. The nations were having
it their own way, the Chaldeans were over-running everything, catching
men in their nets and destroying the places that were sacred to the
people of God, and there was no answer from heaven. The fig tree
literally did cease to blossom, there was no longer any herd in the
stall, and the whole possibility of tragedy that could be became true.
What was happening? Had God withdrawn? God is in His holy temple, and
even in the midst of all that was happening faith said: "Be silent, all
flesh, before the Lord!" Although they did not know it, these men of
flesh were, in a sense, bowing to the Lord in His holy temple. They
were serving the purpose of God, and through all that period of the
most terrible destruction He was in His holy temple: and faith looked
forward to the day of which Zechariah now speaks, when that Lord in His
holy temple (using a human figure of speech) would wake up out of His
holy habitation and begin His work, begin to build things, to fashion
them according to His own mind and have His will done. That did not
mean that He had been asleep and indifferent during that whole time.
The whole process of destruction that had been going on was under the
eye and the hand of God. God was in His holy temple. There was nothing
to see; in fact, everything contradicted it; but there was a day in the
future when He would begin to build up that which was after His own
mind, and that day would he possible because previously he had used the
forces of destruction to prepare the way for Himself, and all through
the time He had never for one moment relinquished His hold of things.
The children of Israel were scattered to the four winds. There was a
terrible captivity in the land of the north, but Zechariah discloses
the fact that this was not something that Nebuchadnezzar did. God did
this. "I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heaven"
(Zechariah 2:6). God is in His holy temple! As those poor people
marched away into captivity, weighed down by their sad circumstances
and hopeless future, and not less weighed down by the knowledge that it
was the just retribution of their failure and unfaithfulness that
brought this about, God was still in His holy temple, and the marvel of
it was that, in spite of all their unfaithfulness, His hand was upon
them and the purpose of good concerning them was still in His heart. 'I
scattered you', He says. 'I led you away into captivity'; and then He
says a remarkable thing concerning these who are among the nations
being spoiled: "He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye"
(Zechariah 2:8). They were a failing, unfaithful, rebellious people,
upon whom the hand of God had come very heavily because of their sin,
but concerning them, away in captivity, it was just as true: God was
still in His holy temple.
That does not just mean that God exists, but that He, in the fullness
of His love and purpose and power, is controlling things for His own
glory. So great is His love that, through all the darkness of the
seventy years of captivity, through the apparent hopelessness and lack
of any prospect of brightness, when they might have been cast down to
the depths and felt: 'Well, God is in His holy temple, but that is a
God far off and finished with us because of our sins', through all that
dark period it was still true that he that touched them touched the
apple of His eye. In all their afflictions, God was afflicted. It was [131/132] hurting God as much as it was hurting them.
He was still in His holy temple.
I am sure that a good deal of the atmosphere that surrounds the book of
Habakkuk is right up to date and true concerning us and the Church
today, and that the destruction that we see in the world at present is
something of the same kind of thing that he faced. And I am sure I
speak the truth when I say that in personal lives there are often such
periods when it seems that everything is going to pieces. If the Lord
were doing great things in a manifest way, saving men and gathering
them together in companies, even though under persecution, yet
manifesting His presence and power, it would be very easy to say: 'The
Lord is in His holy temple. Look what is happening!' But when none of
those things is happening, but rather the reverse, what are we going to
say? Well, Habakkuk will tell us still to say: "The Lord is in his holy
temple!" And so with our own individual lives, when things are moving
and the Lord is doing something with us and for us, and all kinds of
things are happening which are expressed in these chapters of
Zechariah, we are full of confidence. It is all right! The Lord is in
His holy temple, and if the devil and all his legions are against us,
well, it is all right, for the Lord is in His holy temple. He is doing
something and building something.
GOD IN THE WORK OF CONSTRUCTION
Ah, but that building work that the Lord was able to do after all those
years was something that resulted from a period of destruction, and it
may be that to make a clearance and a way for Himself to fashion that
which is after His own heart, the Lord may have to lead us through a
period which is comparable to that of which Habakkuk speaks, when the
only signs are signs of desolation, signs of loss and signs of failure.
What are we going to do then? Habakkuk says: 'I will rejoice in the
Lord! I cannot rejoice in what He is doing for me. I cannot rejoice in
what I am doing for the Lord, for it seems that I am doing nothing, but
I will rejoice in the Lord. He is still in His holy temple!' And the
inference of that is that God knows what He is doing. 'I do not know
what He is doing, but I do know that, if faith will abide firm, if the
righteous one will live by faith, there will come a day when I shall be
able to say: "The Lord is waked up out of His holy temple. The Lord is
doing things, for the time has come for Him to build!" When that time
comes, well, then, everything will be fitted according to His working.'
Surely the need is for this assurance as to where God is! Not just
that: "God's in His heaven, all's right with the world", but that He is
in charge of every circumstance. In all the power of Divine love and
purpose concerning His people, He is still in His holy temple.
Then there is the added thought that the Lord's activities in this way
-- destruction in order to build -- are always activities that have in
view a larger and a better thing than was before. Do you believe that?
Will you believe it for your own personal life, for your assembly, for
the Church? We have seen a good deal of what Habakkuk saw --
scattering, breaking up, loss of power and loss of prospect. By faith
we must say: 'No! This is not just an accident. This is but a phase of
Divine activity. Things have not got out of hand, for God is in His
holy temple!' Can faith go on to say: 'The end of this is going to be
There is a young man, though I do not know quite who he is, with a
measuring line. I know that in other prophecies the measuring line
represents the Lord Himself taking note and putting His own standard
beside things, but the thought that seems to me to be given here is
that this young man was rather precipitate in wanting to measure
things. It brings to my own heart the thought of the old folk who wept
because the old temple was so much more glorious than the new one. This
young man is anxious to know what the size of Jerusalem is going to be.
'It used to be a very strong city, but let me measure it and see what
it is now!' And the angel says: 'Just a minute, young man! Jerusalem is
going to be inhabited as a place which has expanded beyond its walls.
It is going to be so large, so expansive, so full of people, yes, and
so strong, that your little measuring line will not touch that which is
to be afterward!' God's "afterward" is always something bigger than it
was before. As to the walls, they were measured in the past. Now the
walls shall be the Lord Himself "a wall of fire" -- and you cannot
measure fire. This is something beyond measure, something bigger,
something in the power of resurrection, something after a different
order from what ever was before. The Lord will be the walls, "a wall of
fire round about"! The inhabitants shall be without number, multitudes
of men and camels. Solomon's temple was a fine one, but is it possible
for the preciousness, the beauty, the glory, to be any better? "I will
be the glory in the midst of her." Do you catch the thought? God's
permission of destruction, and that long period of barrenness which
seems to be endless, until Zechariah is forced to cry out and ask:
'Lord, after seventy years, is it not time to begin to move?', has not
been without usefulness for the end in the purpose of God, and the end
as it shall [132/133] be is something far more
beautiful and wonderful, and far bigger than ever was before. He is the
Lord of resurrection, a new order of things, new glory. "I will be a
wall of fire round about and I will be the glory in the midst" -- God
is waking up out of His holy habitation.
It takes real faith, tried faith, almost desperate faith to wait for
God to wake up out of His holy habitation. When the Lord said to
Habakkuk: "The just shall live by faith", Habakkuk took up his
position: 'God is in His holy temple, and whatever happens, I will
trust and rejoice in Him!' I do not know whether he lived during those
seventy years, but he was embarked on a very difficult course and he
had to wait and wait. But what a reward for those who waited! 'The
vision will not delay; it will surely come.' And if you read asking
whether it was worth waiting for -- well, read the chapters of
Zechariah! Yes, blessed be His Name, it was! "God is in his holy
A FAITH MATTER
There is something more to say in conclusion, and it is this. This
matter of God dwelling in the midst of His people is for us a matter of
faith, and a matter about which we must be quite settled. We must be
sure that God is in His holy temple, not merely in the sense of being
in heaven and far above all, but in the midst of His people. I know
that this diverges somewhat from what I have been saying, because there
was a sense in which the vision was only completed when God came down
to dwell in the midst of His people, but the secret of the whole book
is the Lord Himself dwelling in the midst. For us these two visions
overlap in a sense. The vision has already been realized for us, and
God has already done His work and does dwell in the midst and that
becomes for us a matter of real faith. I have been struck by the fact
that in Old Testament days and in New Testament days the conduct of the
Lord's people was governed, not by the thought that if they behaved in
certain ways the Lord would come and dwell with them, but rather that,
because the Lord was in their midst, they must act accordingly. 'God is
in the midst. Therefore I must do certain things in a certain way.'
But when I take up the New Testament and turn to a church such as that
at Corinth, where there are all kinds of disorders, I expect the
Apostle to take this line: 'Well, you are a poor lot of believers! Do
you think the Lord is coming to meet with you? Put your house in order
and then the Lord might come and be in your midst!' I do not find him
talking like that, but rather, in spite of what he has to deplore in
their midst, not only being himself convinced that since they are the
Lord's the Lord is among them, but trying to get them to see it. If
only they can see it and know it spiritually, he believes that will
solve all their problems. Take, for instance, 2 Corinthians 6:16: "Ye
are the temple of the living God." He does not say: 'You ought
to be the temple of the living God, and you may be, given certain
circumstances.' No: "Ye are the temple of the living God, as
God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be
their God, and they shall be my people." Now he goes on to say:
"Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate." The first
letter is altogether taken up with exhortations to change behaviour,
attitude and conduct, and this fact is stated as something to be
apprehended, to be laid hold of: 'God is in the midst, and many
of your problems will be solved if, in the power of the Spirit, you
could believe that.' If, in the depth of heart consciousness and
conviction, for personal life and for assembly life when we are
gathered together, faith would lay hold of this fact: 'The Lord is in
the midst!', many problems would be solved.
Well, I have sought as the Lord has, I trust, enabled me, just to bring
this little emphasis to you: God is in His holy temple. Sometimes that
means there needs to be a work of destruction, but He is just as much
in His holy temple and He loves us just as much, and we are just as
much the apple of His eye. But faith may wait expectantly for a time of
construction when God wakes out of His temple. What a blessed day that
is! What blessings have come to our lives, what blessings shall we yet
know, and what blessings, in the mercy of God, shall God's people know,
when He is a wall of fire round about and He is the glory in the midst!
- H . F. [133/134]
THE MISSION AND THE MESSAGE OF JESUS
6. IN THE LETTER TO THE ROMANS
IN this series of messages our object has been to reemphasize the true
nature of Christianity, and we have gathered that into three things --
the mission, the meaning and the message of Jesus Christ. In the four
Gospels we found the foundation position of Christianity, and in the
book of the Acts we saw that position preached by the Apostles and the
scattered believers. There that position was demonstrated by the Holy
Spirit by signs and wonders -- what the New Testament calls the
'powers', that is, the many aspects of the power of the Holy Spirit.
And it might be as well for us to note that that was the object of the
Holy Spirit's working at that time -- to demonstrate that the message
was true, to give evidence of the truth of the foundation of
Christianity. My own conviction is that the signs and wonders relate to
beginnings, to the foundation position. They do not belong to the later
development of spiritual life, but to the elementary stages of
Then in the book of the Acts the position proclaimed was accepted in
various degrees. What was proclaimed was received with varying degrees
of understanding. Some received the message very earnestly, with a
whole-hearted committal to the position, and among these were the
Thessalonians, the Ephesians and the Philippians. These, and those like
them, made a very whole-hearted committal to the Lord, but the response
of some was a compromise between Judaism and Christianity. Their
attitude was that Christianity was only a plus to Judaism, and they
very largely remained Christian Jews. Thus they had failed to recognize
the true nature of Christianity. There were others who made a response,
but with a compromise with paganism, that is, they brought over their
paganism into Christianity. Of these the Corinthians are an example.
Now the letters of the New Testament were intended to explain and
reaffirm the true nature of Christianity, on the one side to correct
the misunderstandings, and on the other side to recover from
declension. Such were the letters of John.
This is the way in which we should read the New Testament: A
fundamental position made clear -- that is the Gospels. A fundamental
position demonstrated -- that is the book of the Acts. Then there
follows the section dealing with fundamental experience. The position
is not enough: the experience must follow. So the later part of the New
Testament has to do with the basic experience of the position, that is,
the true nature of Christianity in spiritual experience. I will not go
back over the Gospels, but let me illustrate from the Gospel by Matthew.
We have seen that the message of the Gospel by Matthew is the absolute
lordship and authority of Jesus Christ. Now many people believed that
as a doctrine, and accepted that as a position at the beginning of
their Christianity -- as far as they understood it -- but there can be
a very great difference between believing that Jesus Christ is
Lord and experiencing that truth. Many of these letters in the
New Testament show that the people accepted it as doctrine but did not
We are now going to look at the letter to the Romans, for this is a
very clear example of what I have been saying. It is the foundation of
Christian experience, a correction of misunderstanding and an
explanation of the true foundation of experience.
RIGHT STANDING WITH GOD
Many definitions have been given to this letter. The disciples of
Luther and his school have their own name for it. The reformers always
called this letter to the Romans by one name, and most of you will know
what that is, but I am going to use one title for this letter. It is a
phrase found in a later translation: "Right standing with God" -- a
position which is absolutely acceptable to God. Everybody will agree
that it is essential to true spiritual experience! That is not only the
position of the New Testament -- it is the issue of the whole Bible.
Before God can do anything in any life there must be a right position
with Him. You will remember how often in the Old Testament God had to
stand back from men until they got into a right position with Him, and
that is brought out so dearly in the New Testament. It decides
everything as to whether God is going on with us and we are going on
with God. If God is not going on with you, then examine your position
in relation to God. He is waiting for something, and that is your
adjustment to Him.
Let us take a very simple example in the Old Testament. You remember
the Prophet Elijah. After that great event on Mount Carmel Jezebel, the
queen, threatened his life. Now we are not going to blame Elijah, for
if we do we shall be blaming ourselves! Jezebel threatened his life,
and [134/135] then Elijah fled for his life. He
fled to try and save his life. The next thing we see is Elijah under a
juniper tree and saying: 'Lord, take away my life.' What does the Lord
do? Does He get under the juniper tree with Elijah and say: 'Poor
Elijah, I am so sorry for you!'? No, He stands outside and says: "What
doest thou here, Elijah?" In effect, the Lord said: 'I am not going to
get under juniper trees, Elijah. That is not the right position with
Me. If you, Elijah, want Me to go on with you, get out from under your
juniper tree. I am not coming on to your ground -- you must come on to
Mine!' The juniper tree is a cul-de-sac, and the Lord does not believe
in those things. We must be in a right standing with God if He is going
on with us. That is the message or the letter to the Romans.
THE REPRESENTATIVE OF THE HUMAN RACE
As you know, the first five chapters of this letter are divided into
two sections. The first section has to do with the pagan world, and the
second section has to do with the Jewish world, and at that time these
two sections comprised the whole world. The Holy Spirit, through the
Apostle Paul, shows that both sections -- that is, the whole human race
-- are not on good standing with God. The whole race has fallen out of
God, and it is in that context that the mission, meaning and message of
Jesus Christ are presented in the New Testament. It is in that
relationship that the Lord Jesus is introduced, and He is introduced as
the representative Man. You will see in chapter 5 how He is connected
with Adam, and in chapter 4 He is connected with Abraham. He is of the
seed of Abraham. Adam represents the human race as a whole, and Abraham
represents the human race in Israel, but all are gathered together on
to this ground: Not one man is found to be in right standing with God.
The statement here is: "There is none righteous, no, not one"
From chapter 5 we move into chapter 6, [135/136]
and I advise you to remove the chapter divisions. Chapter 6 is not a
new chapter, but is the continuation of chapter 5. In chapter 5 all men
are dead, which is how God views the human race. 'In Adam all died',
and the argument here is that it is the same with Israel. Israel is a
part of the human race and is included in this position: 'all are
dead'. What is it that we come to immediately we begin to read what is
chapter 6? It is a baptism. And what is this baptism? Well, of course,
it is the baptism of the Lord Jesus, but what does that mean? Jesus is
the representative of the human race. He is the Son of Man. Why must He
be baptized? That is, why must He die and be buried? Because He is
taking the place of the whole human race. The Cross of the Lord Jesus
is a demonstration of the fact that all men have died, and the Apostle
Paul says here that when Christ died all men were represented. The
Cross was a universal baptism. Perhaps you would think that I was
preaching heresy if I were to say that every unsaved person has been
baptized, but please understand me. All men have died in the death of
the Lord Jesus, so it is the whole world that has been baptized in the
Cross of Jesus Christ. In the death of Christ the whole world is dead in
the eyes of God , but, although all men have been baptized in the
death of Christ, all men are not raised in the resurrection of Jesus
Christ. The death is universal, the baptism is universal and for the
whole race, but the resurrection is selective. On resurrection ground
only one Man in God's universe is in right standing with God. You
remember how, after His baptism the heavens were opened and a voice
came out of heaven saying: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well
pleased" (Matthew 3:17). God did not say: 'This is My beloved world. In
it I am well pleased.' On resurrection ground only One is in right
standing with God.
This, then, is the message of chapter 6. To be in right standing with
God men have to say: 'His death was my death. When He died I died. That
is my natural position in the sight of God.' But then, secondly, men
have to say: 'His resurrection was my resurrection.' You know the
simple words of Romans 6:5: "If we have become united with him by the
likeness of his death, we shall be also by the likeness of his
resurrection; knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him."
To be in right standing with God demands that we shall be, by faith
in Jesus Christ, dead and raised. We have to accept His death as
our death. The world will not do that, and Israel would not do that.
Therefore the world and Israel remain dead in the sight of God, and it
is only those who have accepted that by faith and have then taken their
position in Christ risen who are in right standing with God. It is only
with such people that God can go on.
And remember that this is not only an initial position; it is an
abiding principle. Paul said: "Always bearing about in the body the
dying of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our
body" (2 Corinthians 4:10). In effect he said: 'I die daily. Every day
the Cross of the Lord Jesus has a meaning in my life.'
THE POSITION ESTABLISHED
Now let us go on with this letter. Chapter 6 shows the position of
spiritual experience. We move on, without dividing into chapters, and
presently we come on to what is shown as chapter 8, and here we find
what has happened in chapter 6. A great divide has been made.
First, the position is established: "There is therefore now no
condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus" (verse 1). All
the condemnation has been exhausted in the death and burial of Christ.
To those who by faith are in Jesus Christ risen from the dead there is
no more condemnation. I wish we knew the truth of Christianity! If
there is no condemnation, then we must be in right standing with God!
There is no controversy between God and us. Do you not see how
important it is for us to recover the true nature of Christianity?
There are many Christians who live out their lives under condemnation.
Even when they pray they bring their miserable selves to the Lord, and
say: 'Lord, I am no good. I am a miserable creature!' And what does the
Lord say? Well, sometimes He does not say anything at all. If He did
say anything, it would be: 'I told you that two thousand years ago in
the Cross of Jesus Christ. I knew more about you then than you know
about yourself, but if any man is in Christ Jesus there is no
But the Apostle goes on with a provision. He uses this little word:
"Who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit" (verse 4), that
is, those who walk on the ground that they have died with Christ and
risen with Christ. The great divide has been made by the Cross between
flesh and spirit. What do we mean by that word 'flesh'? The flesh is
the self-life: my will, my desires, my ideas,
anything that is just me .' If you know anything about
yourself, you know that you are not good, and you will agree with the
Apostle Paul, who said: "I know that in me, that is, in my flesh,
dwelleth no good thing" (7:18). The flesh is the self-life in any, or
all, of its forms. So that this statement in verse 4 of chapter 8 could
be: 'Who walk not after the self-life.' 'I am going to have what I
want. I am going to take the way that I want to take.' The self-life
has very many complexions.
Now these people do not walk after the flesh. It says: 'They walk after
the spirit.' What is that? That is the God-life -- not the self-life,
but the God-life. Now it is: 'What God wills, what God
desires. It is God's thoughts that I want.' There is no
condemnation if we walk the God-life.
What does this word 'walk' mean? Well, we are on a spiritual journey.
That comes out a little later. We are on the journey of a new nature,
and on this journey there is a new discipline. The journey is not
geographical, but from what we are in ourselves to what we are in
Christ. You know, you can shorten that journey, for you get there
sooner or later according to this discipline. What is the end of the
journey, of this spiritual walk? Now that comes out at the end of this
chapter 8: "Whom he foreknew, he also foreordained to be conformed to
the image of his Son" (verse 29). That is the end of the Journey.
There are two conformities here in this letter. In chapter 8 it is
"conformed to the image of his Son", and in chapter 12, verse 2 it
says: "Be not conformed to this world". 'Be not conformed to this
world, but be conformed to Christ.' That will determine how quickly you
are covering the journey and how quickly you are getting to the end!
Those who are conformed to this world are making very slow spiritual
progress, but those whose hearts are wholly set upon being conformed to
Christ make very quick spiritual progress.
You can see these two kinds of Christians. I can see today many young
Christians who have started on the journey but have either come to a
standstill or are making very slow progress, and when I look to see why
it is I see that it is because they are taking the fashions of this
So the true nature of Christianity is to be conformed to the image of
God's Son. That demands our acceptance of His death as our death, and
demands that we live on the ground of His resurrection. It also demands
that we do not live the self-life, but that we do live the Christ-life.
The life of the Lord Jesus is to be reproduced in us by the Spirit, and
that is what it means to "walk after the spirit". It does not say:
'Stand still', and it does not mean: 'Take a first step.' It means:
'Keep on walking and do not allow this world to stop you going on with
Well, that, in brief, is the message of this letter to the Romans. This
is the foundation of Christian experience. You have accepted the
foundation position; now accept the foundation experience, and that
foundation is standing in right position with God, seeking His grace
that in every day, and in every thing we are in good standing with God.
On that ground we shall reach the goal -- conformity to the
image of His Son.
I do not think that there is anything to be desired more than that.
What is the greatest desire in your life? Is it not to be like your
Lord, and that all that is true of Him shall be true in you? May the
Lord help us to understand!
Now go back to your letter to the Romans and read it again in the light
of these words: 'Being on right ground with God.' It is the letter of
an utter committal to God in Christ through the Cross. [136/137]
THE ESSENTIAL NEWNESS OF THE NEW
Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:1-21.
"For the love of Christ constraineth us ..." (verse
"... that they which live should not henceforth live
but unto him ..." (verse 15).
THOSE are the two fragments which will govern our meditation: "... the
love of Christ constraineth us ...", "... henceforth ... unto him".
Although these words were penned long after the day when the Apostle
was apprehended by Christ Jesus, they clearly reach back to that
beginning of things in his own experience, and they form, moreover, a
very fitting introduction to his own life; for as we know his life now
in a considerable fullness, we are able to see how true it all was to
these words. There is a sense in which we can say that these words are
a summary of the life of the Apostle Paul. "The love of Christ
constraineth us", "not henceforth ... unto themselves, but unto him
..." Those sentiments very truly govern the life of this man from the
day when he met the Lord to the day when he laid down the earthly task.
What was true in his own case he sought to press home upon all others,
that it might be equally true of them. He binds others with himself. He
says: "... the love of Christ constraineth us ...", "because we
thus judge ...", "that they which live ..." Whether he had
certain people definitely in mind when he thus wrote, we do not know.
Possibly this was not the case, and that his use of the plural here is
just the expression of his own great longing that it might be true of
all the Lord's people. He knew himself to be so truly governed by that
constraining love, and he would not that his own case should be
exceptional, but that the passion of every heart might be summed up in
the declaration: "the love of Christ constraineth us", "henceforth ...
I feel we are perfectly justified in taking these words as representing
the Lord's will for us, as setting before us the standard which the
Lord would have to be true in our own case, that we also should say
with the same depth of reality: "... the love of Christ constraineth us
...", "henceforth ... unto him", not unto ourselves.
If you look at the whole paragraph again, you will see that this is
related to the Cross on the one hand, and to ambassadorship on the
other. Mark the statements: "... one died for all, then were all dead":
resultant from that: "... unto him ..." -- "that they which live should
not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them,
and rose again" (verse 15, A.V.); "We are ambassadors therefore on
behalf of Christ ..." (verse 20, R.V.). You notice the significance of
that word "therefore" -- "We are ambassadors therefore on behalf of
Christ ..." That is what it means to be "henceforth unto Him", and the
place of the Cross here is, quite clearly, the settling once for all of
all matters of interest which are apart from the interests of the Lord
Jesus. That death with the Lord Jesus was a death in which all our own
personal interests, of any and every kind, were for ever buried, and
the interests of the Lord Jesus became pre-eminent, pre-dominant, the
one passion of our living being "henceforth ... unto him ..." How? "We
are ambassadors ... on behalf of Christ." The Cross means that the Lord
Jesus becomes the real passion, concern, dominating interest of a life
which has been crucified, which has died to all its own interests, because
of His love. "The love of Christ constraineth us ..."
THE CROSS AND TOTAL ABANDONMENT TO THE LORD
This says to us in very clear terms that the Cross represents a total
abandonment to Christ. We may have heard that many times. It does not
concern me very much how many times I have said it or have heard it.
What does concern me is that we should be there. I am tremendously
burdened, and there is a strong and deep longing in my heart that what
is here should, in spirit and in truth, become true of us all, that we
should be able to say with the same depth and reality as did the
Apostle: "The love of Christ constraineth us", "henceforth ... unto
him", "we are ambassadors ... on behalf of Christ."
That, then, calls for the same utter abandonment to Him as obtained in
the life of this ambassador. That calls for the same meaning of the
Cross in our case as in his, complete death to all interests save the
Lord's; life only, altogether, for Christ. That is how ambassadors are
made. Ambassadors are not officials, appointed on official grounds. The
ambassadors of Christ are such because Christ's interests are
paramount, are predominant in their hearts; for when we say: "the love
of Christ constraineth us", this is a heart matter between the Lord
Jesus and ourselves. So that, on the one hand, it is the Cross and
total abandonment to the Lord, and, on the other hand, it is [137/138]
THE CROSS AND A PASSION FOR THE INTERESTS OF THE LORD
Paul was an exemplary ambassador. One thing which he was often found
saying was: "I am ready ..." Far away from needy saints at Corinth he
would write and say: "I am ready to come to you" (2 Corinthians 12:14).
He was ready to make long, tiring, difficult and perilous journeys in
the interests of Christ in His people. Journeys were more difficult in
Paul's day than in ours, and involved a good deal more than do journeys
nowadays. But he said, with a real concern for their spiritual
wellbeing: "I am ready to come to you."
To far-off Romans he wrote: "I am ready to preach the gospel to you
..." (Romans 1:15). From his prison in Rome, where he had fulfilled his
readiness to preach to them also, he wrote at the last to his son
Timothy: "... I am now ready to be offered ..." (2 Timothy 4:6). To
those who sought to dissuade him from going into the very lion's mouth
at Jerusalem, he said: "I am ready ... to die at Jerusalem for the name
of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 21:13).
That readiness had a considerable background. If it were put to us we
should, in a sense, say that we were ready, but I wonder if we are
ready! Readiness means more than being willing. Most of us would
respond and say: 'Well, if the Lord wants it, I am ready!' But are we
ready? What constituted readiness in the case of the Apostle? With all
our readiness it is just possible that before we got very far we should
be stumbled, we should stop short, and the reasons might be various.
Let us face this quite definitely. It is not necessary to press the
question of an ambassadorship to a foreign country on some bit of
public service. Ambassadorship relates quite as much to the place where
we are in our life now. It relates to the business place. It is
wherever we are that our ambassadorship is to hold good. Now then, are
we ready? Are we thus ready, with this passion for the interests of the
Lord Jesus, so that there we are found utterly abandoned to Him
to secure those interests? It is strange that while so many are
prepared to join with others in an open-air meeting, to preach the
Gospel to the unsaved, and are prepared even to stand out on a cold
night with a group to do so, the very same work is to be done around
them every day in their business place, and they are not touching it.
It is exactly the same work. There is something about an open-air ring
and a platform and preaching out to the unsaved which is more
romantic, and in which you can feel far more bold, than when you stand
alone in your business place, or place of daily calling. The test comes
as to whether it is that aspect of Christian work which is more or less
public and official, and puts you in a place of advantage over the
others, that draws out your zeal, or whether your passion for Christ is
continuous wherever you are. The ambassadorship is not for platforms,
for meetings, for public occasions; the ambassadorship relates to all
places, all times, because it is constituted not by an appointment, or
an invitation to preach, or an official position, but by the love of
Christ. "Henceforth ... unto him"; not on special occasions,
but on all occasions. Are we ready?
Paul took charge of the ship's company, and made himself responsible
for the spiritual interests of the men on the ship. Wherever he was, in
his prison, in his travels, in his journeys, and his sojourns, he was
all the time bent upon the interests of the Lord Jesus with concern and
eagerness. That was one aspect of his readiness, and is perhaps the one
of most general application and challenge.
There are other aspects of readiness. The readiness of Paul was
constituted by his having settled, once for all, his own personal,
spiritual problems. You never find Paul tied up in the knots of
personal spiritual problems, going round, and round, and round, and
never getting anywhere because his own spiritual problems are all the
while bothering him. Paul had that matter settled at the beginning.
He got over that fence, and went away into Arabia, and when Paul said
he was ready, it meant that he was at leisure from himself spiritually.
No man is ready, in this sense, who is not free from himself
spiritually. We do not mean that every question that can ever come to
us has been answered, and every problem has been solved, but that we
are so utterly abandoned to Christ that we know quite well that, if we
go on with the Lord, sooner or later all those things will solve
themselves. Our business is to go on, and get free from
ourselves spiritually. Those who are self-occupied in a spiritual way
are the unready, the unprepared. Why not relegate your 'locking-up'
problem to a place where you trust the Lord to deal with it when He
pleases, and get on with the business of the Lord and with His
interests? Recognize the desperate need that there is spiritually in
this world, and give yourself to it? I venture to say you will come
back to your pigeon holes and find your problems all solved. You will
come back and find that that thing which was laid on the table for the
time being has looked after itself and is no longer a problem to you.
While you sit there with it all, the Lord's interests are being
suspended, and you, in the meantime, are getting nowhere at all.
Abandonment to [138/139] the Lord in this way in
faith is the first essential, the Lord's interests becoming the
predominant thing, the passion of your heart. There is nothing like
that abandonment to the Lord for solving personal problems. Christ
becomes the Emancipator when we abandon ourselves to Him. That is
Another aspect of Paul's readiness was that he had counted the cost.
This, like the former question was settled once for all. Paul had sat
down and faced it out. He had weighed it all up. He had said to
himself: 'Now, I have a name for being such-and-such a man. I have a
reputation, I have a position, and I have influence. I am known to have
taken the line which I have taken without any reservation at all.
Having taken that line in the manner that I have, I have gained a
position. That position represents a great deal. I know quite well what
all my friends, and all the people who, from my present standpoint, are
most worth considering, think about the other line of things, of that
course which lies before me now. I know what they think. I know their
attitude. I know how they treat people who go that way. I know quite
well that it will cost everything. It means reputation, position,
influence, all gone, and, more than that, that those who are now for
me, who have been on my side so strongly, will become my bitterest
foes. I know that it may involve my being cast out of public life and
out of domestic life. I know quite well that what they did to Jesus of
Nazareth they will not hesitate to do to me, but my life goes with
this.' He had weighed it all up from every standpoint, put it all in
the balances, and settled it once for all. 'If I take this course, I
have nothing to expect from this world but complete antagonism. From
all my friends I have nothing to expect but the loss of all
things.' That is how Paul put it. He had settled the cost, so that
later on, when things began to work out as he had anticipated, he was
not stumbled in his course. He did not come to a standstill in order to
go over the whole matter again. He went on. All those matters had been
dealt with, and were behind him. So often we are arrested because we
come up against the cost of things, the price to be paid, and we find
that we are not ready for that. "I am ready to die ..."; "I am ready to
preach ..."; "I am ready to go ..."; "I am already being offered, and
the last drops of my sacrifice are falling." (That is the literal
translation of the words to Timothy.) Paul pictures himself as a
drink-offering being poured out for his Christ. That is abandonment to
Christ. That is passion for Christ's interests. That is the meaning of
the Cross -- "henceforth ... unto him ..." Dead to self, and all else.
This is a challenge to us. Are we ready? Are we so detached from self,
the world, and attached to Him by His love, that His interests really
are the dominating interests of our life all the time? The Lord needs
more men and women like this. Have you settled down to a more or less
ordinary kind of Christian life? Is there a going on from day to day,
and week to week, and month to month, and perhaps from year to year,
with none of this real passion in our relationship to the Lord Jesus
for the seeking of His interests here in this world? Are you watching
closely the interests of your Lord every day? Are you making sacrifice
for those interests? Yes, it may break in even upon your home life.
Sacred as home life may be, if the Lord's interests should challenge
even that, are you prepared -- nay, not only prepared, but ready in
this positive sense? I do not mean that you will never feel the matter
press upon you. I have no doubt that Paul very often felt the drain,
the weariness the cost, but there was never any question, never any
hesitation, as to what course was to be taken. "I am ready ... !" Oh,
do hear the Lord, the Spirit's call to your heart for this abandonment
of the true ambassador of Jesus Christ! Do not regard ambassadorship as
being for those special people who go out on special commissions.
We started by pointing out that Paul sought to bring the whole company
of believers into this state of concern with himself. To these
Corinthian believers he said: "... we beseech ..."; 'we entreat'. We
are all called into this position as ambassadors. Paul had a longing to
see the interests of the Lord Jesus served at all times.
Are you ready to let your home go somewhat if His interests call? Are
you ready to let your worldly prospects go if His interests call? Are
you willing, in following out His interests, to lose the good opinion
of your friends, the esteem of others, your reputation, the loss of
everything, so long as the Lord's interests are served? Are you holding
everything here in this world, everything -- position and
everything else -- in the interests of the Lord? Are you sure that you
are using all that you have for the Lord? Are you using your home? Are
you using your business opportunity? Are you using your means? Is
everything for Him?
I am aware that this is nothing more than an appeal to your hearts.
There is not a great deal of profound teaching here, but I feel this is
what is needed: a people of this sort who really do and can say, with a
true, conforming background: "The love of Christ constraineth"! No
longer unto ourselves, but unto Him! "We are ambassadors ... of
Christ ...!" Those who stay at home, and continue [139/140]
in business and in the home life should not be any the less ambassadors
than those who go abroad. There ought to be in us the spirit of: "I am
ready to preach ...", "I am ready to go ...", "I am ready to die ..."
'I am ready in this full sense of readiness, with the result that
everything is held so loosely that it will not be able to keep me back
from serving the Lord's interests.' Everything is regarded solely in
the light of how it can serve the Lord, and if it cannot serve the
Lord, then we have no personal interest in it. If we are obliged to be
in any given thing as in this world, well and good, but our hearts are
not in that for any personal interests at all. Our hearts will
only have to be in it in so far as it is our duty. We will do what is
our duty with all our might, but the connection must serve the
interests of the Lord Jesus up to the hilt, as far as that is possible.
That is the attitude toward life which is called for. It is possible
that this spirit, this element, this real concern and passion for the
Lord, may have dropped out of the lives of many.
Ambassadors are not ambassadors because they have been appointed, but
because "the love of Christ constraineth". We are not ambassadors of
churches, congregations or assemblies; we are ambassadors of Christ.
The Lord write this in our hearts!
A concluding message given by Mr.
Sparks at the Aeschi Conference, 1969
THE TRAGEDY OF THE UNFINISHED TASK
THIS evening we move in thought into the Book of Judges -- and how very
different it is from the Book of Joshua! I think the Book of Judges is
the most terrible book in the Bible! And why is it such a terrible
book? Because it is the book of the unfinished task.
In the Book of Joshua the people of Israel went into the land, and had
a wonderful history of victory after victory, moving more and more into
God's full purpose. Then, before they had finished the work, they
settled down. In the last chapters of the Book of Joshua we see the
people just settling down before the work is perfect. They had heard
the great call of God. God's purpose had been presented to them and
they had made a response to it. They had moved so far, and then, before
it was all finished, they settled down. The Book of Judges follows, and
that is the book of the tragedy of the unfinished work.
None of us will say that there is nothing like that in Christianity
today! There are many Christians who make a wonderful beginning. They
see the vision of God's great purpose, and certain words in the New
Testament make a great appeal to them, such as: "Called according to
his purpose" (Romans 8:28). That is a wonderful vision! "According to
the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord"
(Ephesians 3:11). Such a thought makes a great appeal to these people
and they make a heart response. They go on so far, and then many stop
too soon. They lose the vision; they lose the inspiration; they lose
the sense of purpose; they lose the energy to go on, and of some we
have to say: 'Something has gone out of their faces. What was there
with them once is not there now. They were so positive once, so
occupied with the heavenly calling, but something has happened.' These
people may not be altogether conscious of it, and they would not tell
you that something has happened, but it is quite evident that something
has happened. They have just lost something, and you
do not get the response now from them that you once got. They are not
so interested now as they were. The heavenly vision has gone out of
their lives. That is true of many Christians, and it could be true of
all of us.
And the Book of Judges is our instructor in this matter. What I say now
is not in judgment -- although it is from the Book of Judges !
I have a very great deal of sympathy with these people. Oh yes, I know
how wrong it was, and how this book spelt the failure of these people.
I know how sorry the Lord was about it, but from my own experience I
cannot help being sympathetic, for I think I understand.
WEARINESS IN THE BATTLE
Why did these people stop short of finishing the job? I think that very
likely it was because they became weary in well doing. The battle was
long drawn out. It was spread over years and was very exhausting. No
sooner had they gained one victory than they had to start fighting
again. They did not have much rest between one battle and the next one.
It was a long drawn-out warfare; they got weary in battle, and in their
weariness they lost the vision, they lost heart, and they lost the
I am so glad that with all the strong things that the New Testament
says, it says some very kind and [140/141]
understanding things about this: "Let us not be weary in well-doing;
for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not" (Galatians 6:9);
"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, ... your labour is not vain in the
Lord" (1 Corinthians 15:58); "God is not unrighteous to forget your
work and labour of love" (Hebrews 6:10). What a lot of things there are
like that! And Jesus said to His disciples, who were being brought into
the battle: "Let not your heart be troubled!" (John 14:1), while we can
hear the Lord's words to Joshua: "Be strong and of a good courage; be
not affrighted, neither be thou dismayed" (Joshua 1:9). Again, the Lord
Jesus said to His disciples: "He that endureth to the end , the
same shall be saved" (Matthew 24:13).
These people in the Book of Judges were discouraged by weariness -- and
we are all capable of that! Sometimes it is not easy for us to give up
-- or perhaps I ought to say that it is not difficult for us to
give up! -- because we do not want to get out of the battle, and yet,
at the same time, we do want to get out of it. The battle is inside,
and even so great a man as the Apostle Paul had that battle. He said:
'I really do not know what to do! I have a strong desire to depart and
be with the Lord in order to get out of the battle, and yet I know that
duty to the Lord would keep me in the battle. I do not know whether to
give up or to go on!' I say that that is a possible temptation to every
Christian, and the Lord knows all about that! The New Testament is full
of understanding things about it.
The first reason why these people settled down too soon, then, was
discouragement. It was not because they had had no victories -- they
had had many -- but because they said: 'There is no end to this battle!
It looks as though we shall never finish!' So in weariness and
discouragement they settled down too soon.
I feel sure that this Book of Judges recognizes that. Every time these
people stirred themselves again they found that the Lord was very ready
to go on with them. This book is a picture of an up-and-down Christian
life. One day these people are down in despair, and another day they
are up in victory. It was that kind of Christian life which was always
up and down, but when they turned their faces to the Lord they found
that He was waiting for them. The Lord had not given up. He was always
ready to go on. I think that is the first great lesson in this Book of
THE LOSS OF HEAVENLY VISION
But what was the effect of this loss, of this stopping too soon? It was
the loss of vision. They only saw the things that were near and lost
sight of God's eternal purpose. They lost sight of what Paul calls the
"prize of the on-high calling" (Philippians 3:14). Now this sounds like
a contradiction, but they lost sight of the things that are not seen!
You say: What do you mean by that? That is nonsense! How can you see
the things that are not seen?' Paul says: "The things which are seen
are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2
Corinthians 4:18). They lost sight of the things which are eternal
because they were looking too much at the things which are seen. They
lost the heavenly vision for they became satisfied too soon. It was all
good so far, but the good became the enemy of the best.
The first thing that happened, then, was the loss of the heavenly
vision. It works both ways. If we lose the heavenly vision we settle
down too soon. If we settle down too soon we lose the heavenly vision.
And what do we mean by settling down too soon? We mean: losing the
warring spirit. In this Book of Judges the Philistines resorted to a
very subtle strategy: they took all the weapons of war away from
Israel, and all that they had left was one file to sharpen their
agricultural instruments, so that every farmer in Israel had to take a
journey to the blacksmith to sharpen his farm instruments. All the
sharp instruments had been taken away and the spirit of war was
undermined. The Philistines had made it impossible for Israel to fight
and you know that there is a very big Philistine about! The strategy of
this great enemy of the inheritance is to take the fighting spirit out
of us. Oh, what a lot of mischief the Philistines have done to
Christians! What about our prayer life? There was a time when we were
mighty warriors in prayer. We fought the Lord's battles in prayer. What
about our prayer meetings? Where can you find the prayer meetings now
that are out in spiritual warfare? Yes, we ask the Lord for a hundred
and one things, but we do not battle through to victory on some
situation. There is some life in terrible bondage, there is some
servant of the Lord having a hard me, and there are many other calls
for battle, but where are the prayer groups who take up these issues
and will not give up until they are settled? The warring spirit has
gone out from so much of the Church. That is a clever strategy of the
devil! Lose the spirit of spiritual battle and you will stop short of
finishing the work.
THE SPIRIT OF THE WORLD
The next thing that caused these people to settle down too soon was the
spirit of the world getting [141/142] in amongst
them. What is the spirit of the world? It is the spirit of: Have a good
time! Let us have a good time! Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we
die! And these people of Israel looked at the world around them and, if
I understand it rightly, they said: 'These people do not have all the
hard time that we do. Our life is a life of continual battle. They do
not know so much about that, but they believe in having a good tine.' I
think that is how it was at this particular time. Of course, up to this
time Israel had given the people round about a bad tine! But Israel had
lost the fighting spirit nosy and the world was having a good time
because the Church was no longer fighting it. Instead of fighting the
world they made friends with the world. They made the world their
friends, and so they did not finish the work. Compromise is a dangerous
thing to the inheritance! Trying to be on good terms with the world and
having an easy time will result in our losing a large part of the
RECOVERING THE FIGHTING SPIRIT
But let us finish on a better note. As I said before, God did not give
up, and whenever the people took up the battle again and turned again
on the Lord's side to fight the enemy, they found the Lord waiting for
them. So we have the story of Deborah, the story of Gideon -- and dare
I mention Samson? However, although Samson was a poor sort of man, if
only the Lord gets a poor chance, He will take it. You may not think
much of Samson -- but do you think better of yourself? We are all poor
creatures! We have all been discouraged, We have all been tempted to
give up, we have all stopped too soon, we have all been weary in
well-doing, but take the sword of the Spirit again! Take up the battle
again, and you will find the Lord is ready and waiting for you.
Gideon -- Deborah -- Samson -- and all the others. But I think there is
one who is better than them all -- do you remember that beautiful
little Book of Ruth? Everybody is charmed with that book! What a lovely
book of spiritual recovery it is! What a picture of the Lord's
patience, the Lord's readiness to take advantage of every opportunity!
How does that book begin? "And it came to pass in the days when the
judges judged ..." The Book of Ruth was in the times of the Judges,
which until then was the most terrible time in history of Israel, but
God was ready to change the whole picture. There are the two different
pictures: the Judges and Ruth, but both were in the same period. Do you
see what I am trying to say?
Dear friends, we are in a great battle, and it is long drawn out. We
can get very weary in the fight. We can become discouraged and give up
too soon. We may have to stop before the work is finished. That is
always our temptation, the tragic possibility in the Christian life,
but the Lord does not give up. He does not faint, nor is He
discouraged, and if we will turn again to Him, rise up again, recover
our fighting spirit and continue to fight the good fight, we shall find
the Lord is ready every time, and He is always wanting to help us to
fight to the end. He will help till the day is done!
We acknowledge with gratitude the following gifts received from the
30th July to the 30th September, 1969:
Aberdeen £1; Bideford £1 1s.; Bintulu, Sarawak £1;
Bridgend £2; Brighton £1 5s., 10s.; Bristol £3;
Bromley £6, £6; Chatteris £2; Chichester £2
2s.; Coventry £15; Deal £3; Eastbourne £1, 10s.;
Edinburgh £1 3s., 10s.; Enfield £1; Felixstowe £1;
Grimsby £1; Hastings £5; Heathfield £1 8s.; Hounslow
£1; Kedgaon, India £5; Lindfield, New South Wales £1;
London N.6 £5; S.E.4 £5; S.E.15 £2; S.E.23 10s.,
10s., 10s., £2, £5, £5; S.W.1 10s.; Macclesfield
£1; Newcastle-on-Tyne 10s., 10s., 10s.; Newlyn £1;
Nieuwvliet, Holland £5; Port Jervis, New York £1 0s. 10d.;
Pretoria, South Africa £20; Rivera, South Africa £5; Sale
£1; Simmozheim, Germany £2; Surat, India 5s.; Surguja
District, India £2; Tampo, New Zealand 5s.; Timperley £1;
Tonbridge £3; Twickenham £2 10s.; Warrington £5;
Wolverhampton £1; Zeist, Holland £1. Total: £143 19s.
Arnold, Maryland $5; Ashland, Virginia $6; Beaumont, Texas $10.62;
Bellingham, Washington $5; Birmingham, Alabama $10, $30; Brooklyn, New
York $25, $5; Colorado Springs, Colorado $5; Dallas, Texas $10, $25;
Fort Worth, Texas $10, $5; Goias, Brazil $10; Greencastle, Pennsylvania
$5; Indianapolis, Indiana $5; Jacksonville, Florida [142/143]
$10; Langley, Virginia $40; Louisville, Kentucky $10; Martinez,
California $15, $25, $38; Minneapolis, Minnesota $5; New York, N.Y.
$25; Norfolk, Virginia $40; North St. Paul, Minnesota $10; Oslo, Norway
$3; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania $10; Redlands, California $25; Tucson,
Arizona $3; Warrenton, Oregon $5; Wenonah, New Jersey $5; Woodland
Hills, California $10. Total: $450.62.
Galt, Ontario $5; Murree, West Pakistan $1.25. Total: C$6.25.
Montpellier, France Fcs. 100; Mulhouse, France Fcs. 10; Nimes, France
Fcs. 150. Total: French Fcs. 260.00.
Aeschi, Switzerland Fcs. 20; Brenzikofen, Switzerland Fcs. 13; Chatou,
France Fcs. 15; Glarus, Switzerland Fcs. 20; Gümligen, Switzerland
Fcs. 10, Fcs. 10, Fcs. 20, Fcs. 10, Fcs. 10; Karlsruhe, Germany Fcs.
20; Lausanne, Switzerland Fcs. 30; Paris, France Fcs. 20; St. Gallen,
Switzerland Fcs. 20; Schlieren, Switzerland Fcs. 20; Zeist, Holland
Fcs. 20; Zetten, Holland Fcs. 50; Zürich, Switzerland Fcs. 20.
Total: Swiss Fcs. 328.00.
MOTTO CARD 1970
The wording of the new motto card will be:
"Is anything too hard for the Lord?"
"There is nothing too hard for Thee"
"All things are possible" Mark
"That we should ... trust ... in God"
2 Cor. 1:9
Large size -- 9d. each (8/- per dozen)
Postage and packing -- on one card: 6d.; up
to a dozen cards: 1/2
Small size -- 4d. each (3/6 per dozen)
Postage and packing -- up to a dozen cards:
4d.; up to 3 dozen cards: 6d.
The postage on cards sent overseas is a little higher
than the above rates.
1969 BOUND VOLUME
The bound volume of the 1969 issues of A Witness and A Testimony
with light blue art paper cover will be available by the end of the
year. Price 5/- ($0.70) per copy, plus postage 1/- ($0.10). [143/144]
WITNESS AND TESTIMONY LITERATURE
The books and booklets listed below can all be ordered
by post from the addresses given at the end of the list. More detailed
information about the literature is available on application to the
Witness and Testimony office in London.
|By T. Austin-Sparks
|THE STEWARDSHIP OF THE MYSTERY
| Vol. 1 ALL THINGS IN CHRIST
| Vol. 2
||(Art paper covers)
|WHAT IS MAN?
|THE ON-HIGH CALLING or COMPANIONS
| OF CHRIST AND OF A HEAVENLY CALLING
|DISCIPLESHIP IN THE SCHOOL OF CHRIST
|GOD'S REACTIONS TO MAN'S DEFECTIONS
|WE BEHELD HIS GLORY (Vol. 1)
||(Art paper covers)
|WE BEHELD HIS GLORY (Vol. 2)
||(Art paper covers)
|RIVERS OF LIVING WATER
|THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO PAUL
|WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A CHRISTIAN
|FUNDAMENTAL QUESTIONS OF THE
| CHRISTIAN LIFE
|THE GOLD OF THE SANCTUARY or
| THE FINAL CRITERION
|THE CITY WHICH HATH FOUNDATIONS
|THE RECOVERING OF THE LORD'S
| TESTIMONY IN FULLNESS
|THE SCHOOL OF CHRIST
|THE SPIRITUAL MEANING OF SERVICE
|THE SIGNIFICANCE OF CHRIST
|IN TOUCH WITH THE THRONE
| (Some Considerations on the
|THE CENTRALITY AND SUPREMACY OF
| THE LORD JESUS CHRIST
|GOD'S SPIRITUAL HOUSE
|HIS GREAT LOVE
|UNION WITH CHRIST
|THE MORE EXCELLENT MINISTRY
| (Incorporating Union with Christ
| The Ministry of Elijah and Stewardship)
|CHRIST -- ALL, AND IN ALL
|CHRIST IN HEAVEN AND CHRIST WITHIN
|"I WILL OVERTURN"
|THE SUPREME VOCATION
||or 5/- per dozen
|A GOOD WARFARE
||or 5/- per dozen
|WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN?
||or 5/- per dozen
|THE BLOOD, THE CROSS AND THE
| NAME OF THE LORD JESUS
|THE ARM OF THE LORD
|CHRIST OUR LIFE
||Free of charge
|By H. Foster (Booklet)
|THE REALITY OF GOD'S HOUSE
|By Various Authors
| (Each volume contains a number of
separate messages )
|THE WORK OF THE MINISTRY
| The three volumes, when ordered
|For Boys and Girls
|By G. Paterson
|GOSPEL MESSAGES FROM THE ANTARCTIC
| (170-page cloth-bound book.
|By H. Foster
| (All with illustrated art paper
|READY FOR THE KING (48 pp. Illus.)
|ON WINGS OF FAITH (52 pp. Illus.)
|BURIED TREASURE (48 pp. Illus.)
|OPENING IRON GATES (40 pages)
|Published by SURE FOUNDATION
|By DeVern Fromke
|THE ULTIMATE INTENTION
|UNTO FULL STATURE
Printed in Great Britain by Billing and
Sons Limited, Guildford and London [144/ibc]
[Inside back cover]
A WITNESS AND A TESTIMONY
The six issues of the magazine, bound together, to form a volume with
light blue art paper cover, are available for the following years:
1956, 1959, 1960, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969. Price per volume
(1 year): 5/- ($0.70).
Certain back issues of the paper are also available and will be sent to
those who desire them at cost of postage only. Please indicate the date
of the issue(s) required.
POSTAGE AND PACKING: For postage and packing please add
the following to the total amount of the books ordered:
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Orders for literature and requests for "A Witness and A Testimony"
should be addressed to:
WITNESS AND TESTIMONY LITERATURE TRUST,
39 Honor Oak Road, London, S.E.23, England.
Telephone: 01-699 5216/4339
Witness and Testimony literature can also be obtained from:
|P.O. Box 68505,
||1505 South Westmoreland Avenue,
|Indiana 46268, U.S.A.
||California 90006, U.S.A.
|Convocation Literature Sales,
||Evangelical Literature Service,
|1370 Ray Street,
||(Mr. Donald J. David),
||158 Purasawalkam High Road,
|Virginia 23502, U.S.A.
||Madras, 7, India.
[Back cover is blank]