"A Candlestick of Pure Gold: of Beaten Work" Exodus 25:31

"The Testimony of Jesus"
Revelation 1:9

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January -- February, 1971 Vol. 49, No. 1


Switzerland, 1970



OUR basic passage for these messages is 2 Corinthians 3:3: "... being made manifest that ye are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not in tables of stone, but in tables that are hearts of flesh".

We have seen that the Holy Spirit is writing a spiritual life of the Lord Jesus in the hearts of believers, and we proceed now with this spiritual biography.


When a biography is being written of some important person, we always want to know their beginning -- something about their birth, their home and their country. That is very important to us where the Lord Jesus is concerned, for what we are trying to see is that what was true of Him the Holy Spirit is seeking to make true in us. His beginning has to be our beginning; His home has to be our home; His country must be our country. All that was true of Him at the beginning has to be made true of us, that is, in a spiritual way.

Now, when we open our New Testament, we have the biography of the earthly life of the Lord Jesus in three of the Gospels, and two of those Gospels tell us of His earthly beginning and birth. They give us His genealogy, tracing Him right back to the beginning of man on the earth. The third Gospel gives us the beginning of his ministry, but has nothing to say about Bethlehem, nor His earthly mother, nor His home. It just begins with the ministry of the Lord Jesus, when He was thirty years of age. But the fourth Gospel ignores all that. It has nothing to say about Bethlehem, nor about Nazareth. It says nothing about David, nor Adam, but just leaps right back over all earthly history and takes us into eternity before time was. You know that I am speaking about the Gospel by John, which begins with that dateless time before the world was, and shows us that the Sonship of the Lord Jesus was not a thing of time only, but [1/2] that it was eternal and supernatural, and not natural. John describes it in this way (and he includes us with the Lord Jesus in this matter): "... which were born, not of bloods (that is, the blood of Joseph and Mary), nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:13). Born of God! When was the Lord Jesus born of God? Not at Bethlehem only, but away back there before time was. And the wonderful thing is this: that the deepest truth in the life of a child of God is that he or she is not a child of time, but a child of eternity, born from above -- not in Bethlehem, nor in Switzerland, nor England, nor Germany, nor in any other place here on this earth -- but born from above. That is a supernatural act of the Spirit of God.

What does it mean to be born? It is to receive life. If, then, we are born from above; if ours is a supernatural birth, then the link with the Lord Jesus is the link of eternal life.

We must get hold of this! You may think that when you were born again it was in some place that you can mention, but that is only something to do with this earth. You were not really born again on this earth. You were born where the Lord Jesus was born. You were not really born on any date which you can mention in the earthly calendar. You were born in eternity. Your home is not here at all. Your home is outside of this world and outside of time. In this matter we, like the Lord Jesus, are born with eternal life.

This is a very wonderful thing. If the Bible is true, it is a very wonderful book. If Christianity is true, it is a very wonderful thing. We are so familiar with these things about Christianity that we have lost something of the wonder of it all. I think we need to sit down with our Christianity again and really think about it in this way: the Holy Spirit is reproducing what was true of the Lord Jesus in us, and the beginning of His history and the beginning of our history is in eternity.

You ought to look up all those references to "before the world was", "before times eternal", and see us in the mind of God away back there! "Whom he foreknew, he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son" (Romans 8:29), and the first thing in that image is the eternal life which is in Him. So John begins his Gospel with: "In him was life" (John 1:4), and later in that same Gospel Jesus will say: "I am come that they may have life" (John 10:10). In both of those statements it is taken for granted that no one outside of Jesus Christ has that life. If they already had life why should He come from heaven in order that they should have it?

This is very elementary, I know, but we have not got very far yet. This is the beginning of the biography of Jesus Christ which is being written by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers. Of course, it is very simple when you come to think about it. It is very wonderful, very profound, but very simple, for the very first thing that a newly born again child of God realizes is that something has happened which makes him know that he does not belong here any longer. He has a new home, a new nativity, a new genealogy, and it goes -- not back to Adam. Thank God for that! -- but back, past Adam, into the eternity of Jesus Christ. You understand that I am not talking about the deity of Jesus Christ, but about His Sonship, and I said before that that Sonship relates to humanity. I am not going to argue that out now, but the purpose of God in creating man was to bring Himself into the relationship of Father and children, and by childhood to sonship. That is another thing I am not going to argue about! I think that will come out as we go on.

So we begin the biography in eternity. I wonder if you are aware of that! We have a hymn which says:

"I am a stranger here, within a foreign land,

My home is far away, upon a golden strand."

As we go on our life-journey we do find that we are getting further and further away from our natural birth, further and further away from this world, and we are becoming more conscious of our heavenly relationship.


I want to look at two or three fragments of Scripture:

"For if, by the trespass of the one, death reigned through the one, much more shall they that receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, even Jesus Christ. So then as through one trespass the judgement came unto all men to condemnation; even so through one act of righteousness the free gift came unto all men to justification of life" (Romans 5:17, 18).

"... in hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before times eternal" (Titus 1:2). That life, then, links us with what is eternal.

"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of the life which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 1:1).

Now I want to say one or two quite important things at this point. This that is called eternal life is the factor which determines everything in history [2/3] and destiny. Not religion, nor ritual, nor orthodoxy, but life determines history and human destiny. It governs everything. The Bible is God's Book of world history and human destiny, and it is wonderful how universal the Bible is. It comprehends the whole human race, it governs the destiny of all the nations which make up the human race, and it contains the principles of destiny. And the centre of the Bible, from the beginning to the end, is this that is called eternal life. It is the all-governing factor.

Life determines whether God is present or not. The question, down to the smallest detail, is a question of life. Begin with the individual and the individual's personal experiences. If we understood rightly we should know that this matter of life is governing our personal experiences. We are individually involved in this great governing matter of life, and that determines whether God is with us. The same is true of any company of God's people, or any company of religious people. The thing that determines whether God is there is this matter of life. God is the source of life, and He cannot be present and life not be there. That, surely, is a very searching thing for our assemblies! Thus, in every sphere, this question of life governs.

Now we are going to look at the Bible along three lines. The earthly life of the Lord Jesus was divided into three sections, and each one of those sections has to be repeated in the life of the believer. First, there was His birth and infancy; secondly, His childhood; and, thirdly, His manhood. These are three distinct sections in the biography of Jesus Christ, and the whole Bible is divided into those three main sections. The issue in each of the sections is life.


The first section is what we call the time of the antediluvians, that is, the people before the Flood, and the great antediluvians were Abel, Enoch and Noah. That was the infancy of the people of God, of the Divine biography which was being written by the Holy Spirit. That infancy is marked by very simple things, as one would expect. We do not expect very much when we are dealing with babies, and here we have, in that particular period, the babyhood of the people of God.

One simple thing governed the babyhood of the race, and it is the characteristic of all spiritual babyhood. In doctrine we call it 'Justification by Faith'. I am afraid I am rather tired of that phrase, for it sounds so theological! Justification by faith is the mark of spiritual infancy, the beginning of spiritual history, but I think some of the music has gone from that phrase. What is justification? Another word used is, as you know, righteousness. But what is righteousness by faith? I love a certain translation, which translates that word 'righteousness', or justification, like this: 'Right standing with God.' Is that not lovely? 'Being in right standing with God.' Is not that what the whole world is craving for? Is that not what the whole human race longs for? Is that not what we all desire more than anything else? God, being what He is, so perfect, so holy, so particular, is it possible that you and I, being what we are, should be in right standing with Him?

You know, in business that is a very important thing. In the commercial world, if one business is asked to do something for another, they look at their books to see what transactions they have had with them before, and they say: 'Are they in right standing with us? Have they paid all their accounts? Are they in our debt'? Are they on good terms with us? Are we quite satisfied with them? Can we trust them? Can we commit our business to them?' It all depends upon whether they are in right standing or not.

That is how it is between humanity and God. So far as humanity is concerned, God may very well ask: 'Are they in right standing with us? Are they in debt to us? Have they been right in their business transactions?' That is all gathered up into one word, so far as God is concerned: 'Are they in the Lord Jesus? If they are it is all right. All the debts are paid and all the business is clean. We can go on with them. We can commit our interests to them.' That is right standing with God, justification by faith, righteousness by faith. Now you notice what Paul said in that passage in the Letter to the Romans which we read. What is the basis of the New Testament? Life because of right standing with God. That is wonderful! Can it be true? Brother, sister, worried to death about yourself and how God looks at you, worried because you think that God looks at you as you look at yourself, here is this wonderful word which is the beginning! The antediluvian just received life on the basis of right standing with God. That is all!

What about Abel? Do you think that he was a perfect man? But the whole of Abel's life is gathered up into one thing: he believed God, and he knew that he was in right standing with God. (Hebrews 11:4.)

What shall we say about Enoch? I think he was a very wonderful person. If you read the chapter in Genesis where Enoch is mentioned you find that it is all about people who are dying because of sin. [3/4] This one lived so many years and died, that one lived so many years and died, and you are ready to go on with the whole miserable story -- but it is interrupted. It just says, in Genesis 5:24: "Enoch walked with God -- he was in right standing with God -- and he was not, for God took him." Then you go back to more of the miserable story, until you come to Noah.

The whole earth was full of iniquity. The heart of every man was evil, but there was one man and his family which stood on one ground only. Noah, says Peter, was a "preacher of righteousness" -- a preacher of right standing with God. The whole world was not in right standing with God, so it had to die, but Noah and his family, who were in right standing with God, were saved from death and from judgment.

Did I say that this was infancy? I think there are a great many Christians who have not got further than infancy yet! However, it is a great thing to have got that far!

The Corinthians had not got beyond Noah, for Paul said that they were still infants. They were the Lord's, because they had apprehended the truth of justification by faith, but the biography stopped at that chapter. They were still in infancy long after they should have gone on into the next chapter.

Do you see the point that I am trying to make? It is that God has ordained the whole history of humanity upon this basis of life, and the beginning of it is on the ground of right standing with God.


The second stage in the life of the Lord Jesus on this earth was His childhood, His boyhood. We have not a great deal about His boyhood in the New Testament. There are only one or two things said about it, but it was a long period, and we cannot believe that it was an empty period. It does say that He "grew in stature, and in grace with God and men" (Luke 2:52). He grew in right standing with God.

The second period of the spiritual biography of Jesus Christ is much fuller than that, indeed, it occupies practically all the rest of the New Testament, for it is the period between being born and being perfected. It states that He "was made perfect" (Hebrews 5:9). What does that mean? It may create a problem for you in that He who was without sin, whom we think of as being perfect, should have to be made perfect, but, of course, our idea of the word 'perfect' is not the New Testament idea. The New Testament meaning of the word 'perfect' is 'being made full, or complete'. While for us it may mean being made different in nature, it was not that with Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit was working upon that which was not yet complete to make it complete.

I wonder if I am going to get into trouble over what I am going to say now! I am going to ask those of you who have been saved for, say, sixty years: 'Are you better in yourself today than you were in the beginning?' I have been saved for sixty years and I think I am a great deal worse today than I was when I was saved! Does that sound terrible? But you know what I mean -- I am no more perfect today than I was sixty years ago. If you are speaking about my human nature, what I am as a child of Adam, well, old Adam is as troublesome to me today as ever he was! And yet, something is happening in us. I sometimes say: 'Well, I may be pretty bad today, but the Lord alone knows what I would have been if He had not saved me!'

This is the period from infancy to manhood. I believe that the Lord Jesus had many a temptation and many a trial during those thirty years. We just have a little glimpse of his home life, in that He had some brothers and sisters, and, you know, brothers and sisters can really put you on the spot! I had some brothers and sisters and I was not the eldest of the family! So they were often a very big trial to me. Jesus had some brothers and sisters and we are told that His brothers did not believe in Him. It is not easy when people in your own family do not believe in you. 'Oh, he thinks he is somebody! He has a lot of strange ideas, but we will knock all that out of him!' Is that not the way they talk? Jesus was not without those difficulties and trials, and that lasted for thirty years. I do not know how much Mary told her other sons and daughters about Jesus, or whether she still kept it all in her heart, but they could see that He was different, and that was enough to provoke opposition.

Well, I need not say more. The period of boyhood was a period of discipline, a period of learning, a period of education. The Old Testament has that period and it is quite a long one, for it is the period of the Patriarchs.

Who are the Patriarchs? Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Moses. Do you not see what a period of education that was? God had these men in His school and He was teaching them the laws of Divine life. Visit Abraham at school and see what he is learning about the laws of Divine life! Was Isaac at school? Was he learning the great laws of Divine life? Let me put that in another way. Was Isaac being taught the principles of resurrection life? You know, we have some wrong ideas about [4/5] these men, and we often think that Isaac was a little boy and Abraham could pick him up and put him on the altar. From our standpoint he was a grown man at that stage, not even a teenager. He had grown to have a will, a mind and feelings of his own, and he could have resisted his father. He could have rebelled against him. He was in a hard school, for he had to surrender everything to death in order that he might learn the law of resurrection life.

From Isaac we go on to Jacob. Need we say anything about Jacob? Was he at school? He was in a very hard school indeed! The discipline in Jacob's life was very severe, for God put him through it. However, he came out all right in the end and became the father of the nation, of the twelve tribes. That was resurrection! That was life out of death! That was victory out of adversity!


Now you are wondering what the next phase in the Old Testament can be! Well, of course, I leave out a lot, and come to the phase of the Prophets. That is really a longer phase than the part of the Old Testament which is called the Prophets, for Samuel was a Prophet. You go through the whole school of the Prophets, and when you listen to them what do you hear? Can you hear the Prophets? They are crying, they are groaning, they are in pain. What is all this about? It is the travail of life. It is the mature, the manhood phase of the Old Testament.

That phase -- the travail of life -- began immediately Jesus moved from the Jordan. The battle for life began then and from then on to the Cross it was the travail of life. This great thing called 'eternal life' has entered into a great conflict in the universe, and Calvary became the centre of the whole universe. It was not just something that happened in a small place called Palestine, just outside Jerusalem. It reached out into all the world, and then it reached beyond the world. Calvary was a great cosmic battle. Paul says that He stripped off principalities and powers in His Cross (Colossians 2:2). It was the great travail of life.

Now, dear friends, this ought to help us to understand what the Holy Spirit is doing with us. I do not want to discourage young Christians, nor do I want to cast a shadow over your growing Christian life, but I must say this: the further we go with the Lord, the longer we live with Him and the closer we walk with Him, the more intense becomes this travail of life. Is that true? What do you know about that? We have sometimes said, when we are having a very difficult experience: 'It does not get easier as we get older!' You would think that, having walked with the Lord for so many years, He would let us have a little easier time at the end, but He does not do so. Does that explain something? Things are getting more difficult and sometimes the devil says: 'Ah, this is because the Lord is not with you. If that great Lord that you believe in was with you, you would not have these troubles!' That is exactly what the devil said to the Lord Jesus when He was on the Cross. 'Your Father has left you. You are suffering like this because He has given you up.' You see how the devil twists things! But spiritual maturity involves intensive conflict.

I have said that the third period in the Old Testament, that of the Prophets, is the travail of life. How the Prophets are suffering to bring back that Divine life in fullness to the people of God! Yes, the Old Testament closes -- but what are you going to say about closing the Old Testament? It closes in tragedy, in hopelessness? Not at all! It closes in order that the New Testament may open, and what does the travail work out to in the New Testament? A new history begins. Out of the travail 'a child is born, a son is given', the Old Testament is lifted up on to the heavenly plane, and the Holy Spirit begins all over again in the spiritual realm. He begins with our new birth, takes us on into the period of spiritual growth, where we learn the laws of spiritual life, and then on into the travail of life that the Kingdom should come, and we are called upon to share this part of the biography of Jesus Christ -- "If we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him" (2 Timothy 2:12). And what was the suffering of Jesus? It was the travail of His soul that He should see His seed, prolong His days and be satisfied. That is what He is doing in us now by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is working toward that end -- that He should be satisfied, and we shall be satisfied when we awake in His likeness.

(To be continued) [5/6]

Switzerland, 1970


[Poul Madsen]

"I believed, therefore have I spoken: I was greatly afflicted: I said in my haste, All men are liars" (Psalm 116:10, 11).

"We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you" (2 Corinthians 4:13-14).

PAUL'S situation was extremely difficult. He felt weak in body; he was pressed even beyond measure. There were many enemies and trouble on every side, but he had one thing which made the outcome of that difficult situation quite different from what could have been expected. He had, as he says, "the spirit of faith", which means the spirit of reality, of real reality. I shall come back to that later.

He goes on to say: "according as it is written", and this is one of his favourite expressions. You find it in 1 Corinthians 15:3 and 4, where it says: "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures ." What does that mean? It means that it was according to the fixed, eternal will of God. It is something that is real because God decided from eternity that this should be, and when Paul says here that we have the "same spirit of faith, according as it is written", he is relating himself and his present situation to the eternal, fixed will and plan of God. His situation is no accident, and Paul considers it in the light of this real reality. He is saying: 'God has a plan and I am connected with that plan. God moves through history according to the Scriptures and now I, in some mystical way, am connected with God's movements through history. God is fulfilling His plan. I am in difficulties but God is moving and I am with Him. I have the spirit of faith, faith according to the Scriptures, according to what God has planned from eternity.' As we have this same spirit of faith, we are allowed to quote the Scripture which was in Paul's mind. He does not quote it himself, but we read it: "All men are liars" (Psalm 116:10-11). This is according to the Scriptures and it is reality -- all men are liars.

It means this: All men's ideas about Paul and his situation were lies. All that they thought, said and planned about Paul in his difficulty was a lie. Perhaps they said: 'Poor Paul!', but that would have been a lie, because he was not poor at all. They might have said: 'This is a hopeless situation!' That would have been a lie, because the situation was not hopeless. They might have said: 'Paul's work has led to nothing!' That would have been a lie. They might have said: 'May we come and comfort you, Paul?', and their comfort would have been a lie. They might have come and said some positive things to cheer him, but that also would have been a lie. All that comes from men -- their ideas, their plans, their words -- is an illusion. It is in darkness, without any connection with reality, and therefore it is all lies.

Paul has the spirit of faith and therefore he throws all these lies off from himself, that is, he throws off men's way of thinking about his situation, and the human way of commenting upon the situation. He throws all this off and stands in the spirit of faith in close connection with reality, with God. He says: "knowing", and when people speak of knowing, then you feel that they are speaking of reality.

What does Paul know? He knows that God raised Jesus! That means everything to Paul. When he says that God raised Jesus, I know that many -- perhaps you among them -- would say that that cannot be proved and it is only a matter of faith. That is true. It cannot be proved in this world. Why not? Because it is so real, and in the world of lies and illusions that which is really real cannot be proved. The reason why it cannot be proved is that it is the truth. As I said, this world is in darkness and all the ideas of men are illusions. In such a world only illusions can be proved. Reality and truth cannot be proved, and the life of faith is the life of reality. It needs no proofs and it cannot be proved. It is the same with truth. Truth has no entrance into the world of illusions. Jesus said: 'Because I speak the truth you do not believe it.' He did not say: 'In spite of my speaking the truth you will not believe.' Truth and reality cannot fit into the ideas of men, but if we have the spirit of truth, we are in contact with eternal, real reality, and that is victory. "This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith."

Paul was in difficulties and disappointments, weak in himself, and he had many enemies, but in the midst of it all he was kept quiet, confident and [6/7] strong, because all that he was outwardly was not the real thing. The real thing was: 'I know Him who raised Jesus from the dead. I am one with Him and therefore nothing can spoil me, for He will also raise me. Nothing can harm me. My enemies cannot, disappointments cannot, seeming failures cannot, bodily weakness cannot, death cannot and Satan cannot. Nothing can, because I am one with Him who raised Jesus from the dead.'

He goes on further. Not only does he say that nothing can harm him, but also that nothing can spoil his work: "Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus ... shall present us with you." And "you" means his work. To the Corinthians he said: 'You are the seed of my apostleship, whether you know it or not, whether you acknowledge it or not, whether you are with me now or not. I have worked in the name of Him who raised up Jesus from the dead and nothing can spoil that work, because I know the One who is raised.'

Do you say that? I would be very surprised if there were not quite a number of difficulties represented among you, personal difficulties, difficulties in work, difficulties in the Church, or difficulties with other Christians. Are you in contact with a risen Saviour? Do you have this spirit of faith which says: 'As it is written'? Do you feel and know yourself just now in contact with the movements of God through the history of men? If you do, nothing can defeat you. You are not proud and you are not strong in yourself, but nothing can defeat you. Perhaps you have no difficulties now, but I should be very surprised if you do not have some at least in future days. We have, in these days, been reminded of the importance of not fighting our circumstances, but trying to understand their meaning and purpose. I take up this thread and advise you not to speak as a liar. Do not say a word until you can speak in the spirit of faith. If you learn that lesson, you will be able to go on with Paul on a triumphant note. We all know his glorious words: "All things work together for good to them that love God" (Romans 8:28), but that is not enough. All things must also work together for good for those among whom we work. It would not be enough if we ourselves came through triumphantly, but our work was spoiled. Therefore Paul says: "All things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God" (2 Corinthians 4:15). This is a triumphant note, and something far bigger than we are accustomed to. I myself would feel very sorry if some day I had to say: 'All things worked together for good to me , but my work was spoilt. The enemy was triumphant there and the difficulties were too great.' 'No!' says Paul, 'Never!'

The emphasis of the so-called 'Holiness' teaching is that the goal of everything is personal holiness, coming through yourself, but that is only half a truth. I do not want to come through by myself only. I want my work to come through also! Satanic opposition and death in our own bodies will never spoil our work, provided we are in contact with reality. What is reality? It is God, and He never suffers a defeat. He uses all His enemies; they run His errands and they are His servants. Having the same spirit of faith, we are connected to the living God, to His eternal plan and to His strong purpose; and therefore all things work together for good to us. 'It all happens for your sakes that the thanksgiving might redound to the glory of God.'

But this is not enough for Paul. He has the spirit of faith and goes on to say (in verse 17): "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." Not only do we ourselves come through and not only is our work being brought through, but through eternities all our difficulties have accomplished a very real weight of exceeding great glory. Can that be proved? Not in the world of illusions! There you will fight your difficulties and try to get rid of them, but in the world of reality where God reigns and where the spirit of faith prevails, it can be proved.

Paul has been speaking of his very heavy difficulties which in chapter 1 were too great for him and he could not carry them. Now he calls them 'light' and says they are 'but for a moment'; and yet they had lasted all his life! What has happened? He is in contact with God and is just filled with the spirit of faith, so that he now speaks a language which anyone without that spirit cannot use.

I think I may already have told you about my great friend, Pastor Fjord Christensen in Denmark. A lady once came to him and said: 'My sufferings and afflictions are so heavy and they have lasted for so many years.' He only replied: 'Have you become a liberal theologian? The Bible says that afflictions are light and only last for a moment.' She spoke as a liar, but he spoke as a man of faith. Which of them was speaking the truth? He was and the lady accepted it. The truth made her free and she was brought back into contact with reality.

This is the victory! This is just the other side of the Word of the Cross. We accept everything without fighting it and turn it, through the spirit of faith, into something of real value for ourselves, [7/8] for those among whom we work and for eternity. That is a wonderful thing! That makes life much more interesting and gives us a completely different note when we speak, when we pray and when we sing. That is the Gospel, a message of real joy, not illusionary joy, but real joy. That means lasting joy, joy that cannot be taken away because it is founded on God Himself and therefore is strong, masculine and real. And that joy is for us.

But we must come out of the world of illusions and lies. We cannot remain in our own way of thinking and speaking. If you read one of the famous books of history, such as Toynbee's History of Mankind, you will never find the most real event in the history of mankind mentioned there. The most real thing, and the thing of most value, was the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but the historians never write about it. They write about the Greeks, the Persians, the Romans, and the British, but they never write about the resurrection of the Lord. Why not? Because this real thing does not fit into their philosophy and their way of thinking.

What I have said does not fit into our way of thinking as natural men and women. It does not fit into our feelings and emotions, nor into our philosophy of life. The only way to accept this word of God is to get out of our way of thinking and out of our philosophy of life. We cannot harmonize these two ways of thinking and speaking. Because it is truth and because it is real, it cannot be accepted by the natural man. We have to have a new conversion and really turn away from our way of thinking, speaking, feeling, advising and comforting one another, and get to terms with the Lord, having a fresh encounter with Him who is real. We have to refresh our spirits with the spirit of faith. Then a new light is thrown upon everything and we can smile and laugh where we used to weep.

Perhaps you will say: 'I am so weak, so small and so weighed down!' My answer to that is: 'Never forget that the greater the importance and the more far-reaching the work is to which the Lord has called you, the lesser and smaller and weaker the vessel must of necessity be.' The weaker and smaller and lesser the vessel, the greater is the knowledge of reality, the knowledge of the spirit of faith and the knowledge of Him who raised Jesus from the dead. Such a vessel can speak the word of faith which names 'the things which are not' as if they were. That word is creative; it creates light out of darkness, hope out of fear, and victory out of what might seem to be a defeat.

This is life in the Spirit. It is the life of faith which the Lord has bought and given to us. - P. M.

Switzerland, 1970


[W. E. Thompson]

Reading: Ezekiel 13:8-16; Matthew 5, 6, 7.

WHEN the monsoon begins in India -- and you have to experience a monsoon to understand what a stormy wind can be like! -- the heavens turn on the taps and the water seems to come down all at once. Then, after the first storm is over and you go through the streets of the cities, you will find that houses have fallen down here and there, and not many years ago a very large building collapsed completely. What is the reason for this? It is because inferior materials are used in the buildings. While the sun is shining and the weather is dry the houses look very nice. They are plastered up and look quite solid; but as soon as the stormy wind comes along they are subjected to the test of whether they will stand or fall. The reason why the very large building fell was that it was just like this wall that we have read about in Ezekiel 13. There was only just a little cement to a very large amount of sand, which meant that the cement was not strong enough, not being made according to the correct proportions, and the whole thing collapsed. It only needed the stormy wind to prove of what sort it was.

I believe that in many areas today the work of God, and the people of God, are being subjected to the stormy wind, and if we have not experienced it yet, God tells us that it is coming. There is a fiery trial that is coming upon us. Very serious days are coming in the world as the end of this age [8/9] draws near -- and I am sure that if our eyes are open we are aware that the end is drawing very near.

We are building in three ways. First, we are building the house of character, and that is what these chapters 5, 6 and 7 of Matthew's Gospel are about. Secondly, we are building houses of families, and to build a family is the ordinary, normal course of human life. Then, of course, we are building together in the Church of God. We are the household of God.

The kind of building that we are making is vitally important, because in each of these areas there is going to be a testing of what is true and what is false, of what is real and what is just a facade. We are going to experience as individuals, as families, as churches, something of the stormy wind.

Let us clear up one thing concerning this stormy wind before we go further. It is not the work of the devil, but is sent by God. We read in this chapter in Ezekiel: "Therefore thus saith the Lord God; I will even rend it with a stormy wind in my fury" (verse 13), and in the prophecy of Jeremiah, chapter 25, verse 9, we read very strange words: "Behold, I will send and take all the families of the north, saith the Lord, and I will send unto Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will bring them against this land and against the inhabitants thereof, and against all these nations round about; and I will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, and an hissing, and perpetual desolations." If Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, and the Assyrians were instruments in the hand of the Lord, then so are the nations of the earth today. Do we read our newspapers and say: 'The devil is winning!'? or do we recognize the sovereign hand of God in the course of human history, knowing that God is working all things after the counsel of His will -- and that includes the communist regime of China, the chaotic conditions of India and the Arab-Israel war. Do we not read that it was 'the Spirit' who drove the Lord Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil? So I believe that we must recognize that the stormy wind is sent by God, who is in control of this universe, although, of course, the agency is the devil and all his works. And the stormy wind is sent to test.

Now let us notice the point at which the testing comes. These people in Ezekiel, when they were plastering this wall with untempered mortar -- whatever that may be! -- were just covering up the cracks with cheap plaster. They were building with inferior materials. The sun was shining and everything went on all right day after day. They may have gone on for a very long time, and it was not until the house was completed that the stormy wind came.

There is a similar example of this in Matthew 13 in the parable of the wheat and the tares. We read in verse 26: "But when the blade sprang up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also." Then God says something quite strange: "Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather up first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn."

You see, the point of weakness is not a sudden thing. It is not in the crises of life that we are made. The crises just reveal what we are, what has been slowly built up over a very long period, and when the stormy wind comes it is too late to do anything. It is no good trying to build up the house suddenly when the stormy wind comes and knocks it down. It was too late to separate the tares and the wheat when they had grown to a certain height. The point is that we must watch the beginnings, and be very careful about the dangers of small things. When the seed is small it is very difficult to identify one kind from another, and because things are small there is a tendency for us to disregard their importance. I suppose those men who were building the wall in Jerusalem said: 'Well, there is only a little bit of cement, but that does not matter. No one will see.' When we see small things we must recognize that they have an essential nature, and they have a potential. We must not be deceived by them. Do you realize that Mao Tse Tung was once a little baby on his mother's shoulder, being cuddled by everyone who saw him? We see our pretty little baby boys and girls and we think they are something quite wonderful, failing to take account of the potential that there is in a human life. Children will play with a cuddly little bear, but what is the nature of that bear when it is fully grown? You see, there is a certain delusion about things when they are very small. We shall see the spiritual meaning of this as we go along, but it is vital for us to recognize the beginnings, the foundations. Although the seeds may look very much alike, they differ fundamentally in their nature, and, of course, the outworking will be a vital difference in their fruit.


I have said that we are building the house of our character. How many young people, brought up in good Christian homes, have gone either to university or into the army and found that their whole [9/10] lives have been subjected to a testing which they never thought possible? Some have been destroyed because somewhere in their lives there has been 'untempered mortar, and not the real thing. It is vitally important that we build with the right material and that there is reality about the very foundation of our lives.

Ezekiel was a very interesting case in point. As a young teenager he was uprooted from his home and transported hundreds of miles away to the deserts of the Euphrates, and there, as a young man, he was in a refugee camp. He could have said: 'Well, all that I have heard about the God of Israel does not make much sense. What does all this religion mean if this is what it leads me to? What does the business about the house of God, which was to be "exceeding magnifical, of fame and of glory throughout all countries", mean if it has come to this?' As a young man he had everything against him, and all that could have destroyed his faith and vision, but he was a man of character. I am looking forward to meeting Ezekiel in heaven, for to me he is one of the most interesting characters in Bible history! He was a man with a great passion for the house of God, a man whose heart was moved at the destruction of the temple of God, a man whose life was governed by a very strict self-discipline, and a man who was careful and punctilious in all his ways of life. And all this did not happen overnight! In Ezekiel 4:14 we have a clue to his upbringing: "Ah Lord God! behold, my soul hath not been polluted: for from my youth up even till now have I not eaten of that which dieth of itself, or is torn of beasts; neither came there abominable flesh into my mouth." In other words, Ezekiel had observed the Word of God. Here was a life that was built upon the Word of God, that sprang from the true seed, so when he faces a crisis he was able to stand. Read the prophecies of Jeremiah, and the books of the Kings, and see how many lives were built with 'untempered mortar' and fell!

Our Lord Jesus Christ gave us a tremendous manifesto in those three chapters in Matthew! That is the foundation word of His Kingdom, and He finished by saying: "Every one therefore which heareth these words of mine, and doeth them, shall be likened unto a wise man, which built his house upon the rock." If we are going to build up a character we must know what these words of our Lord Jesus Christ are, but, like the seed, it is very hard to distinguish one from the other, for the devil is very clever at quoting and mis-using Scripture. It is a case of reading and obeying the Word of God, day by day.


I said that we are building a house which is our family, and that is the next unit in God's creation. God has made us as individuals, but He has not left us as a lot of isolated individuals. He has placed the 'solitary in families', and the family is the constituent unit of both the Church and the nation -- and if the enemy is attacking anything today he is attacking family life! In doing so he is destroying both the Church and the nation. Analyse some of the weaknesses of church life and testimony, and you will find that they all boil down to something wrong in the family. Let us be really frank, honest and practical about this! How many really happy Christian families do you know? I guess that there are very few. As I move around -- and I move around quite a lot -- I find very few solid, happy Christian families. But a family is not built overnight. It takes years, and it takes all that God can give us.

The principle of the family goes right back to Genesis 18, where we get a very interesting clue as to why God chose Abraham: "... seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him" (verse 18). Why? Look at the next verse: "For I have known him, to the end that he may command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgement; to the end that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him." That is something which I think we sometimes overlook: that in the call and life of Abraham God placed such tremendous importance upon the way in which he ran his family. In other words, if he could not control his family he could not control a nation. If his example in his family life was not good, then it could not be the testimony for a great nation.

Is that not echoed in Paul's first letter to Timothy, where he gives instruction concerning church leaders: "The bishop therefore must be without reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, orderly, given to hospitality, apt to teach; no brawler, no striker; but gentle, not contentious, no lover of money; one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity" (3:2). Let me ask a question: Why are there so few real church leaders? Because there are so few who can stand up to the testimony of Abraham and the bishop of 1 Timothy.

Well, how do we build the family with the right material? We look at the letter to the Colossians. After Paul has spoken about the pre-eminence of [10/11] Christ, the headship of Christ, and the wonders of the risen life with Christ, he comes down in chapter 3 to such matters as wives, husbands, children, servants and masters, and the little section from 3:12 to 4:1 concerns the family. In verse 14 we read about the cement, the stuff that sticks the family together: "Love ... the bond of perfectness." Of course, we have to look at the two previous verses to understand what that means.

How is the problem of Christian homes with non-Christian children solved? How is the question of how much pop-music to allow the children answered? What is the answer to the question of whether eighteen-year-old girls should be allowed to stay out until three o'clock in the morning? These are real problems, not imaginary ones, and are the cause of a home being happy, or of being utterly miserable.

Of course, we must face the fact that it is possible to have non-Christian children. They must have their own experience with God, and we parents cannot impose a faith upon them, but we do not allow the children to dictate as to what is done in the home. We 'let the Word of God dwell richly amongst us, and we admonish one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs' -- not with microbe dissonance that they call music! No, the answer is here in this chapter, and what we do we 'do in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him'.

Of course, when all this is done in the right spirit, there is joy in the home.

Then comes a long list of instructions, and it begins with wives. I wonder why Paul always begins with the wives! The answer is that they are the most important factor in the home. Who spends the most time with the children? Is it not the mother? Go back to the Old Testament and read the history of the kings: '... began to reign over Judah, and his mother's name was ...' It was the mother who had all the influence and, of course, most of the troubles began with wives! And that goes right back to Adam's wife. But there is nothing more solid than a wife in right relationship to her husband.

Husbands are to love their wives and "be not bitter against them." I know that some wives are in a very frustrating situation when they can see a bit more than their husbands can, but if they are good wives they will know how to influence him, and if they are right they have God on their side.

"Children, obey your parents", but, against that, fathers are not to provoke their children. I think that we must be very careful about imposing our will in matters that are trivial. I know of one home that is almost ruined because of the imposing of silly rules, and good children are being provoked into doing things they do not want to do.

There are not many homes these days that have servants -- except the kind that you switch on! And they do not answer back! -- but there are ways in which the servants can build the home. We read that the nurses of Jacob and Isaac had a great influence upon the children.

So, as there are few servants, there are few masters in these days. We may not have servants directly under us but there are many people with whom we come in contact in our daily domestic life. I remember that not long ago I was very irritated with the milkman, for he just did not do what he was asked to do, but after a while I learnt from my wife that he had a sick wife and did not know what to do. He had come out and left his home in a chaotic condition. However, my wife talks to the milkman and all the other 'servants', and is able to show something of Christian grace.

Now, when all these things go into the building of the family, and the house is built on God's Word, then there are no storms that can destroy it.

We must leave the building of the house of God, the Church, for time is against us, but read the third chapter of the first letter to the Corinthians. What is needed for building? The testing that is coming to the house of God, for then it will be revealed whether it has been built with 'untempered mortar', or with gold, silver and precious stones.

Oh, may the Lord help us to build that which will glorify Him! - W. E. T. [11/12]



[Harry Foster]

ORANGE trees do not grow wild. Yet once in the forest of Amazonia we found an orange tree loaded with fruit. It was on a river bank, many miles from all human habitations, and so remote that we had been in that region for some years and had never seen it. Year after year it must have blossomed, become fruitful, and then dropped its over ripe oranges on to the ground to rot and decay there.

It seemed almost a miracle that we found the tree, for none of the Red Indians among whom we lived had ever mentioned it. Either they had never come across it in their wanderings, or else they had despised it as useless.

To us it was a real miracle, for we had had to exist for months on the same dry and uninteresting food, and we were badly in need of something sweet and fresh. At that time I was a sick man, weakened by much fever and suffering from undernourishment. Nothing could have been more welcome and more suitable to meet our needs. We piled up a great heap of the green and gold oranges in our dug-out canoe, and paddled it triumphantly back to our mud and palm leaf house.

For days and days we enjoyed the refreshing fruit, sometimes eating the segments and sometimes just sucking the juice. Those oranges were the best that I have ever tasted. Not only that, their vitamin C content had a big part in giving me better health. From that time forward I got steadily better and even began to put on a little weight.

Our first thanks, of course, went to our Heavenly Father who had guided us to discover the golden treasure, but then we started thinking gratefully of the unknown man who had made it possible by planting the first seed. Nobody knew who it was. At some time or other -- long before we first went to work for Christ in that jungle region -- some traveller had passed that way in his canoe and had rested, or, perhaps, passed the night at that spot. He would have tied up his hammock under the trees and probably sat up in it eating and enjoying the sweet freshness of an orange. Then it may have occurred to him to plant one of the pips and from that simple planting had come a tree, and not just one more orange, but whole loads of them. We ourselves had a canoe load, and nobody knew how many thousands had already been wasted.

As I have said, orange trees do not grow wild in the Brazilian jungle. A seed must have been taken to that place and planted there. God did the rest. His rain made the seed to sprout and His warmth made the tree to grow. When the flowers came out His insects must have fertilized them, and then when the fruit was formed, it was His sun which ripened it. A man planted. God blessed the seed. All that we had to do was to discover where it was and help ourselves.

You and I spend our lives planting seeds. In the Bible word, we "sow". If what we sow is truly in love, if it is some act or word which has God's life in it, then later on some fruit will surely result from what we have done. We may not taste it ourselves. Indeed, that should not concern us too much, for the Christian life is not one of looking for what helps us, but of doing that which will help others. I owed so much to that unknown planter of the orange pip, and I am sorry that I cannot thank him. I owe much more to the Lord Jesus, who planted not only His words and His acts but His whole life as a seed of future help to others. Ever since His death on the Cross people have been tasting of the sweetness of God's love by finding and receiving His gift of new life. I have done that, too, and in this case I am so glad that I have been able to thank Him. He is not unknown.

It is good that you do not have to travel to a foreign land, nor do you have to search in an unfriendly forest. The fruit of Christ's sufferings are brought so near to you. "O taste and see that the Lord is good" (Psalm 34:8), and when you have tasted, don't forget to thank Him. And don't forget to go on sowing seeds of love yourself, so that others may be helped through you. - H. F. [12/13]

Switzerland, 1970


[Roger T. Forster]

"All the wells which Isaac's father's servants had digged in the days of Abraham his father, the Philistines had stopped them, and filled them with earth. And Abimilech said unto Isaac, Go from us; for thou art much mightier than we. And Isaac departed thence, and pitched his tent in the valley of Gerar, and dwelt there. And Isaac digged again the wells of water, which they had digged in the days of Abraham his father; for the Philistines had stopped them after the death of Abraham, and he called their names after the names by which his father had called them. And Isaac's servants digged in the valley, and found there a well of living water. And the herdmen of Gerar did strive with Isaac's herdmen, saying, The water is ours: and he called the name of the well Esek; because they strove with him" (Genesis 26:15-20).

"But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life" (John 4:14).

LAST time we were seeing that God is a Person, the face behind the universe. Now we are going to see that God also has a finger which He puts into the universe. He does things by 'the hand of the Lord', or, as the Lord Jesus calls it, by the 'Spirit of God'.

We also saw that the earth stands in relation to God as a book does to its author, so that as we read the book we either see nothing of God, or we see something of Him on every page; and when we look at the universe we either see nothing of God, or we find Him very difficult to avoid, because He is the Author. However, we must remember that He has a very special chapter in that book. The Author became one of the characters, for there is a chapter which is about the Lord Jesus, when God interfered with the story and played the part of one of the characters. One thing about the mystery of the Godhead is that God is a part of the book as well as the writer of it. God did this in order to speak to us -- "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us" -- so that all God had to say to us was seen in the Lord Jesus.

I want you to imagine for a moment that you have never opened the Bible in your life, nor have you heard the Christian message, but you believe that there is a God who made the heavens and the earth. Now, that God wants to speak to you. That is reasonable enough, but how would He do it? How will the Author speak to the characters of His story? Perhaps He could put words in the mouths of some of the characters, and this He has done with the Prophets. But a Prophet might be giving his own opinion, so perhaps God would speak to you with a vision, a dream, or a revelation. However, most of us, I think, would go to a psychiatrist if God spoke to us in a dream, for we would not be too sure that it was He who had spoken. Perhaps God would speak to you by the touch of His Spirit upon your spirit. He does that, when He makes us hungry for His beauty, when He makes us feel empty without Him, and when we long for love and for peace. But these may be just the movements of the chemicals in our bodies. How can you be sure that God has spoken to you? Perhaps He will speak through your conscience. He does do that, for the conscience is one of His instruments and makes us aware that He is near. But, then, some have weak consciences and others have strong, and all our consciences are affected by sin, so we differ in our judgments. How could God speak in an irrefutable way?

Well, of course, you have not opened your Bible yet! There is only one way in which God could speak to man so that man could understand, and that is if God Himself became a man and spoke man's language, lived with man's heart, thought with man's brain, worked with man's hands and walked with man's feet. That would be your language, and you could understand that word. God's message would be coming on your wavelength. It would be no good if He became an animal, or a tree. All that God has to say to us has to become a man so that we can really understand -- and that is who the Lord Jesus is.

Of course, if God were to do this -- and we Christians say that He has done it -- it would be surprising if He did not prepare the way, so, through the Prophets, through His law given by Moses, through dreams and visions and the prickings of the consciences of the wise, He has brought together a training programme. That is the Old Testament, and in it you find the people who were trained. They were the people of Israel, so that when the Lord Jesus came there was meant to be a people ready to interpret who this Man was, a [13/14] people who could understand more perfectly the message that God was speaking so that it could be carried to the furthest parts of the world. We Christians say that God has done that.

Now Socrates stated that if a perfect man came to this world, he would be executed, and we know that man's big disease is always to throw God out. So it would not be surprising, in fact, we would expect that if God were to speak to us in a man, we would execute that man. So Jesus died. But God must have something to say to us about death, for, after all, that is man's biggest problem. Therefore we would expect this man to rise again, for God is speaking to us about our biggest problem when He comes to speak to us in this man. So Christ rose again.

You might have thought about all that without opening the Bible, if you started with the assumption that God wants to say something to man. The picture is reasonable, not difficult to work out, and it is what you would expect to happen -- and it did happen, and the Spirit of God helps us to see the it happened in Jesus.

Then comes a surprising thing, and something that I do not think you would ever have though of. You would realize that God would want the message to go through the world, so you would expect it to be put down in a book. It was, in the New Testament, but God has done something even more than that. So that this message of Jesus, God's Word to man, might spread into every generation of this earth, invade every country of this world, be understood in every culture that exists and be seen in every colour of skin that there is, God has taken the Spirit of that message and has poured that message into His people. The Spirit of God, the Spirit of Jesus, living in every Christian, begins to write the story all over again, as we have been considering in our morning sessions.

The Spirit of God, writing on the spirit of our inner man, does not start with us in Bethlehem, when we are born again. He does not write out the compassion of the Lord Jesus towards those who were leprous, or who were in sin, but writes out Christ as we visit a sickbed, or as we help a person in need. The Spirit of God does not write 'Golgotha' across our spirit, but writes of the place where there was a crisis in our heart before God and we found that we were crucified with Him, and then began to discover the power of resurrection. The story of the Lord Jesus, God's message to man, is being written out many times in many Christians, so that His message might go throughout the whole world. We do not have to travel back two thousand years. We do not have to go to Galilee. God's Word is being breathed out of men's lives, so that the whole world can know what He has to say.

This is the finger of God writing the story in your spirit, the Spirit of God reproducing the life of the Lord Jesus in your life, so that all the world might see and understand, and know. God is still speaking to man in man's language.

Now, we all know that so much of the Christianity that we meet, and that we live with, seems to lack that vital touch of God's Spirit. It has not the same freshness that there is in the story of Jesus. It is not springing and bubbling up like the life of Christ across the pages of the Gospels. It does not attract by being something satisfying, but appears to be dry. How can our Christianity be living Christianity? How can our dry experience become vibrant and fresh? Have we somehow reached the experience of Genesis 26 where, if you remember, the wells that Abraham had dug had been filled up with earth and life was no longer springing forth from them? We were reminded this morning that Isaac teaches us about resurrection, and he does so, not only in his experience on Mount Moriah, but all the way through his life. There was a resurrection spirit when he touched those dried-up wells that his father had dug, for those wells re-lived. The Spirit of God began to flow again. I want, therefore, that we should think about Isaac in order to get a clue as to how our Christian experience can go on living in the vibrant, refreshing life of the Holy Spirit.

First of all, I want to point out three things.

Isaac had an experience of resurrection on the top of Mount Moriah. This was an historical fact, an event written in his history which could not be altered. And that is true of one aspect of Christianity, for it is something factual, something that happened two thousand years ago. God became man, dwelt amongst us, died on a Cross, and rose again. Those are things that happened, and they cannot be altered.

Then in Genesis 25:11 we read that Isaac dwelt by the well Lahai-roi. That was where he was meant to live and experience continuously the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit, for by this time he had come to understand that resurrection was God's interpretation of that event on Mount Moriah. And that is the second thing about Christianity. Not only is it an event in history, but it is an event which has been interpreted to us. God gives us an understanding of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ through the Scriptures.

The third thing is that these facts -- what happened as an event and what is understood from the Scriptures -- have to be made our continual experience [14/15] by the Holy Spirit. Christianity is not just facts; it is more than that. It is not just facts interpreted, preached and explained; it is more than that. Christianity is the facts interpreted and applied in a living twentieth-century way to twentieth-century people, and these facts are being written all over again in your heart and mine by the Spirit of God.

I wonder if this is an explanation of why our Christian lives are so dry! We concentrate on all the facts. We can explain the Christian message very reasonably and rationally. We can demonstrate the evidence for the resurrection of our Lord Jesus. We are very good at explaining the 'Gospel', but that is not the whole thing and has not reached the end to which God is aiming. We think we need more Bible Study, and so we get a lot more teaching, interpretation , but we still are not really alive or fresh. If we are quite honest, as time goes on we begin to get a little bored, even a little tired of the Bible, for we have heard too many doctrines, and yet, somehow, we are not alive to God. We have to get those wells unearthed!


I wonder why Isaac began to experience famine in his life when he was living by the well Lahai-roi! That is the well of the God who lives and sees, who was there in order to be continuously bringing to Isaac that fact of the resurrection that he had experienced on Mount Moriah, and to explain and interpret that experience in his daily life. But Isaac began to be hungry and dissatisfied. There was a famine in the land (Genesis 26:1), and Isaac wanted to find some answer to this lack of food and water.

Now I am going to speculate. It does not say in the Bible that this is the reason, but I wonder if the famine began in his experience because of something in his history. Just to help you to come along with me in this speculation, I want to point out that, although there was still famine in the rest of the country, when Isaac was back in a right place with God he had plenty of water and good crops. So perhaps there was a reason why he lost that experience of the living, seeing God.

Isaac and his wife were for some while without children, so in Genesis 25:21 we read: "And Isaac intreated the Lord for his wife, because she was barren: and the Lord was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived." That is good! Isaac must be living by the well, for that is resurrection. Then we read that Rebekah found that the children were struggling within her, so she sought the Lord as well, but on her own, and she had a revelation. The Lord told her that she had twins, but they were struggling because the nation of the elder would be serving the nation of the younger. From that Rebekah understood that God had chosen the younger of the twins, but Isaac would not believe it. In verse 28 we read that "Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob.' I think I can see some earth dropping down into the well Lahai-roi! Perhaps things were not quite as they should have been at home. I am sure Isaac must have said to himself: 'Why does that wife of mine keep on about the younger son? It is the first born that matters ... Now, listen, my dear. That elder boy is the one that matters. It was my prayers that brought those boys into being.' And she would have replied: 'No, you have it all wrong. I had a vision from God and it is the younger boy.' 'Oh, women's tales! They expect us to believe any old dream!' All this could have been saved if they had prayed together, and if there had been a common spiritual life. It is all very well to talk about our unity as believers when two believers in the same home are not sharing the same spiritual life!

I once met a man who separated himself from every company of Christians with whom he had met, and now he breaks bread every Sunday morning with his wife -- and I am not too sure about the spiritual unity there! That is not the Spirit of God, for He is the unity of God's people. If we want to stop that work of the Spirit we start dropping some earth down the well -- not very muddy or dirty earth, and not too much rubbish, but just good, honest earth -- and the Spirit of God is repressed in our hearts.

I will tell you why I think my speculation may be right. The time came when Isaac said to Abimelech, the Philistine king: 'Rebekah is my sister.' Isaac had not told the truth because "he feared". Ladies, if your husband did that, you should conclude that he was not the world's greatest lover! Indeed, it would be a very wrong thing to do, for it would be exposing you to danger. It was expedient, true enough, and Isaac had learnt this trick from his father Abraham, but that in no way exonerated him and when God brought it out into the open so that it could be dealt with (and that is the terrible thing about the God of resurrection! He will bring things out into the open eventually if we will not bring them out, and it is sometimes to our shame and humiliation to have to admit to Him that things are not right in our home and in our hearts), and it was dealt with, Isaac's crops began to grow. The Philistines did not have good crops. They still had [15/16] the problem of famine, which is not surprising, for they were the ones who had filled up the wells which Abraham had dug. They had gone around with a lot of earth and had dropped it into the wells so that they could not spring up. How did they do it, and what did it mean?

Who are these Philistines? They always bring famine to the land because they are the sort of people who live in God's things, but do not know the living experience of His Word. They come into Canaan by their own route and are not led, as were the children of Israel into Egypt, and Abraham from Ur. They have no exercises in the wilderness, know no crossing of the Jordan, but come along the coast. They hate God's Word to be sharp -- when they were in control of the children of Israel they would not allow them to sharpen their swords. They like the truth of the ark and keep it in their temple so that they can bring it out at special times, like an Armistice Day parade. They are the sort of people who make a lot of men, especially big men -- and Goliath was one of their biggest. The Philistines are people who handle the things of God -- but God is not handling them. That finger of the Lord is not able to spring in their life and write a story. What was it they dropped down the wells to keep the Spirit of God at bay? Again, can I suggest this? I do not think it was rubbish, nor was it dirty, but just earth -- and earth is important. If there is no earth there is no well, for there must be something round the hole so that the water can come up the hole, but the earth that the Philistines put into the wells was earth in the wrong place. There must be earth in a well, and we must have the historical facts of Christianity. We have to have the earth of facts that happened on the earth in the earthly body of the Lord Jesus. We must have the earth of doctrines, formulations of truth, and interpretations that come through the mind, but that, too, is the earth. It goes through a brain which is earthly.

Now put the earth in the right place. It goes at the bottom of the well and up the sides, but not right in the middle where there has to be a hole. There is nothing earthly there! There is a spirit there, with our body of earth around it. There must be earth in order to have human beings; there had to be earth for the body of the Lord Jesus, and for the Prophets to be able to speak and for the Scriptures to be written; but there is the unseen Spirit of God who writes on our hearts and who springs up in everlasting life whenever we make room for Him in our spirits.


Isaac helps us to see how to keep the hole clear. The Philistines tell him to leave, so he moves on and digs out one of Abraham's wells that the Philistines had stopped up. Isaac knows the secret now! In his own family life he has learnt to pray together and to be in unity. Do you think it is only by chance that we read in Ephesians v: "Be filled with the Spirit ... wives, submit to your husbands ... husbands, love your wives"? That is one of the ways to keep the hole open to the Spirit of God! God has put His finger on something in the earth, so Isaac digs out the earth. Then the Spirit of God begins to flow and Isaac is refreshed. No doubt rivers of living water flow out of Isaac's life, so it is not very long before the theologians -- I mean, the Philistines -- arrive, and they want to know what is going on. They see there is something that they have not got, so they try to take it over, and say: "The water is ours." Is that not terrible? 'The Spirit of God is ours! He belongs to us, not to you. We are the spiritual people.' Sometimes this is expressed by just a look on the face, or in a word, but if this is our attitude towards the Spirit of God it can easily be seen. 'God's Spirit belongs exclusively to us. We are first-class, and you are second-class.'

Is it not beautiful that Isaac just moved on? 'I am only too pleased that you want the things of the Spirit! We are not going to fight about it.' He called that well 'Contention', and then left it.

As I pointed out, in Ephesians v it says: "Be filled with the Spirit." How? "Submitting yourselves one to another." We will not be filled with the Spirit if we are contentious, if we are disputing and arguing with one another about the Spirit, or if we are claiming Him for our personal possession and not wanting anyone else to have Him. That contention represses the flow of the Spirit of God.


So Isaac moves on and digs another well, and out flows the Spirit again. Once more the Philistines are interested, and that is not surprising, for they have been thirsty for a long time. So they claim the well. Isaac called this one 'Hatred', because of the anger and the opposition which had arisen by reason of his spiritual experience and blessing. Perhaps he decided that if he stayed there he would not be able to give thanks to God. How can you if you are arguing, and when you are in conflict with, and hating, others? But if we would be filled with the Spirit we must 'give thanks always for all things unto God". [16/17]


Isaac moves on and digs a third well. He called this one "Rehoboth", and said: 'We shall be fruitful now.' He knew that the Spirit of God was given to bring forth fruit: "Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and self-control." This time the Philistines did not come, for they are not interested in the fruit that the Spirit brings forth. They are only interested in the Spirit Himself. They kept the other two wells, and this is the terrible thing: God lets us keep the Spirit's workings even if we are not interested in the fruit of the Spirit. Balaam had visions in the Spirit, Samson did mighty exploits in the Spirit, Saul prophesied in the Spirit even while he was chasing David with hatred, Judas did all the works of the Spirit (or the other disciples would soon have found him out), men and women may demonstrate miracles and prophesy in the Spirit -- and the Lord Jesus will say: 'Depart from Me! I never knew you.' The workings of the Spirit are dangerous, not because of what they are in themselves. They may be necessary for the work of God, but they are dangerous because we deceive ourselves with them. We claim a unique experience of the Spirit ourselves: 'This water is ours!' We are not interested in the fruit, but only in the sayings and manifestations. God allows that, and we delude ourselves as to our spirituality. Spirituality can never be understood by the manifestations. You might be very spiritual, or you might have no spirituality, but God will let you have the workings of the Spirit. The Philistines could take those workings for themselves, but it was in Rehoboth that the fruit was brought forth.


There is one more well. King Abimelech came to Isaac and said: 'I can see now that God is with you. Come, now, let us make a covenant!' and they did. On that day water sprang out of the well of Shebah -- "Beer-sheba", which is the well of the oath. As they were there together the Spirit of God was flowing forth. Is there ever a place to separate on these sort of issues? I suppose that if we are pushed out, as Isaac was, we have to go, but God's heart is towards all His people, even the Philistines, the theologians. They can see that Isaac has what they need. Our unity is the unity of the Spirit, and the Spirit is for all those who belong to the Lord. There is never an exclusive movement of the Spirit of God. I believe that when the Lord Jesus prayed: 'That they also may be one in us, that the world may believe", it was partly for this purpose -- that when we express our unity in the Spirit, the Spirit of God can flow out to the world and all men can see that God is with us.

Is the Spirit of God writing the story of Jesus in our hearts? Or are we still content with facts and theologies? Here are the clues: right relationships, especially in the home, giving thanks in all things, submitting to one another, and, added to all that, praising God, as Isaac did in that third well, when he said: 'Now, thank God, we can bring forth the fruit!', for they were free. Spirit-filled men will go out to all God's people, and, on the basis of the unity of the Spirit, God will go out to all the world. - R. T. F.


Chapter 6


WE have said enough to make it abundantly clear that there is an age-long battle for spiritual life, and that, if that life can be arrested in its manifestation, its expression, it will be so arrested. There is a great power and force working by the instrument of spiritual death to quench the testimony of the risen and ascended Lord within the individual believer, and within the Church as the Body of Christ. The individual believer and the Church are together in that battle for the manifestation of that life of the Lord. The issue is not as to the forfeiture of Divine, eternal life, nor as to whether Satan can take that [17/18] life away from us, but as to the keeping of it from its full expression in believers individually and in the Church as a whole. That is the battle in which we are more or less engaged and concerned, according to the measure of our spirituality and our utterness for the Lord. What is true of the individual, then, is true of the whole Body.


I think we can best get to the inside of this matter by noting the contrast between the first letter to the Corinthians and the letter to the Ephesians. By this means we shall be greatly helped in understanding the nature and realm of the battle for spiritual life. There are many practical suggestions and presentations in these two letters by which we can be governed in this matter. To begin with, let us note the realms in which these letters stand; for undoubtedly there is a great difference between them in this respect. We are familiar with the governing clauses of the letter to the Ephesians. The phrase "in the heavenlies" is one of its dominating notes. We know quite well as soon as we take up the letter to the Ephesians that we are in the realm of the heavenlies. A great emancipation has taken place, a great lifting out, a great extrication, a great separation. One whole world has been left behind and another has been entered in a spiritual way, where things partake the utterness of the Lord, where the Lord is seen in a full way as Sovereign Head over all things to the Church. Here there is nothing fragmentary, nothing partial, nothing imperfect, but everything is viewed as complete, full and final, and as linked in a perfect way with the Lord in heaven. Here all the expressions are heavenly expressions. It is a realm, and the testimony is there seen in true heavenly character and vigour. We mean that the testimony is operating in a heavenly realm. It is in those ultimate relationships which are spiritual, with forces and intelligences which are supernatural, which are more than human, and more than the forces and intelligences of this earth, that the testimony is seen to be operating. The testimony is reaching the ultimate ranges of this universe, is touching principalities and powers, world rulers of this darkness, spiritual hosts of wickedness. It is there that something is being registered. It is back there that the testimony is being established fulfilled and expressed.

We cannot get further back than that. It goes behind everything seen, everything handled, everything known here, and it touches that realm which is responsible for all that is going on here.

Turn to the first letter to the Corinthians, and see into what a different realm you enter. You find very little that is heavenly there. You find that immediately you begin to move into this letter you are touching the earthlies, mundane, natural things -- and what a mass of such things there is! There is none of the atmosphere of the heavenlies here. You find yourself down in somewhat sordid things, even amongst the Lord's people. Sordid is not too strong a word in some connections. You are having to deal with all the unpleasantness, all the wretched aspects of mixture and spiritual weakness and immaturity, and be occupied with things which you would fain sweep aside and have done with. You feel as you move here: 'Oh, that we could get out of this realm of things; divisions, schisms and quarrellings, lawsuits and whatnot! How earthly it is!' It is another realm altogether, and because it is so earthly, because there is such an absence of the heavenly, you are not surprised that the testimony is so poor. You can find here no trace of registration upon spiritual forces. If you read this first letter to the Corinthians from an entirely spiritual standpoint, you have to say that the situation is rather one where the evil forces have gained an advantage than of their having been overthrown. You have to admit that the enemy is running roughshod here amongst the saints. He seems in some things to be having his way altogether, and carrying things into a realm which it is a shame to speak of even in the world. Yes, it is true that the enemy is no defeated foe, so far as these believers are concerned, or so far as the situation in this letter is concerned. He is having too much of his own way, simply because they are so much on the earthly level of things.

That speaks for itself, does it not? The testimony, for its real value and effectiveness, demands that the Lord's people, the Church, be a heavenly Body. It demands that! It is clear that these believers at Corinth had come into a very small measure of the power of His resurrection, simply because they had not entered into the meaning of His death, His Cross. It is a sad and painful reflection that the Apostle should have to remind them of the opportunity that had been theirs by what he says in the opening section of this letter: "And I, brethren, when I came unto you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom ... I was with you in weakness and in fear, and in much trembling. I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." That had been Paul's attitude and message and aim when he went to Corinth some considerable time before he wrote the letter. Now, his having been amongst them, [18/19] stressing, emphasizing Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and nothing else, and then much later writing such a letter, exhibits the fact that they had not learned that for which he had been there!

If there is a living apprehension of Jesus Christ, and Him crucified, you will not have divisions like this, nor schisms, fornication, and all these things. They had missed the meaning of the Cross. They had failed to apprehend the message upon which the Apostle had laid such undivided and such exclusive stress in his presence amongst them. And if they do not know the meaning of the Cross, how can they know the meaning of the resurrection? How can they know the power of the resurrection? And if they do not know that, then how can they know the power of that resurrection-life registering the impact of the risen, living Lord upon spiritual forces? You can never undo divisions among the saints by bringing saints together to discuss their differences, and to ask them to make them up. The only way in which such things can be dealt with amongst the Lord's people is to get down on your knees and deal with the forces behind. The power of the enemy behind that thing has to be broken. You can never patch up a situation like that, because it is devilish.

What is true in the matter of divisions is true in every other matter in this letter. It is the enemy behind who is ultimately the occasion of all this disorder, and there is nothing but the impact of a risen, ascended, sovereign Lord against the enemy behind which will make for a better state of things. All this is made very evident in Corinth. They could not register that impact upon spiritual forces because they were not in the right realm. That is a heavenly realm of activity and they were on the earth, amongst the earthlies. The realm makes a lot of difference to the testimony.

If you are trying to operate in the power of the testimony of the ascended and reigning Lord, and are living an earthly life, you are going to be absolutely worsted and proved completely insufficient for the situation. If we are really going to have the coming through of the power of His throne, then we must be severed in a spiritual way from this world, from this earth. We must be, in a spiritual sense, a heavenly people seated together with Him in the heavenlies, blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies, and so on. The realm is important for the testimony's functioning.

It is to this testimony that we are called. This is not some ideal impossible of realization. This is not something presented as a high level of truth. This is the thing for which the Church is constituted. I do not believe, as some people seem to believe, that the Church in Corinth and the Church in Ephesus are two different Churches. There is a teaching which says that the Body in Corinth is not the same Body as that in Ephesus. I do not believe that for a moment and I do not believe that the Corinthians there called for anything less than the Ephesians. It is the same calling. The Corinthians were as much called to a heavenly life and heavenly testimony as were the Ephesians, or any others. It is a matter of whether we accept the meaning of the Cross to bring us through into the power of His resurrection, and that will determine how far we shall be the expression of that ultimate power of the enthroned Lord.

That "realm" question touches any number of contingencies. It raises the whole question of whether we are living on an earthly level; whether we are officially bound up with something which, after all, is only earthly in its constitution, even though it be of a religious kind. All such questions as these are raised, and with them the issue as to whether we are out with the Lord in an emancipated, free, and clear way as His heavenly people. We are content to leave it there for the time, and you can ask the Lord to show you what it means in a fuller explanation to your own heart.


Running parallel with the realm is what we may call the range of things; not so much the dimensions as the values, the qualities. Turn again to the Ephesian letter, and note some of the great words that are found in it. There are some wonderful statements, and phrases, and terms. "The exceeding greatness of his power", "Strengthened with all might by his Spirit in the inward man", "Able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us " -- the power that worketh in us is capable of enabling us exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think -- "Raised him ... and made him to sit at his own right hand in the heavenly places far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion ... and gave him to be head over all things to the church ... the fulness of him that filleth all in all." Pick out all these transcendent, superlative things in the letter. Do not regard them just as words, just as oratory, but mark the tremendous range of value and calibre represented by these things. You have nothing to compare with them in the first letter to the Corinthians. If you turn to the chapter in that letter which perhaps carries you farthest in thought and revelation, the fifteenth chapter, you will find [19/20] you are, after all, only dealing with resurrection, and that, the resurrection of the body; great and glorious things, it is true, as to the nature of the resurrection body. But when you have your resurrection body you are only then entering upon the great realm of the eternities. It may be a marvellous thing for this corruptible to put on incorruption, and I am quite sure we shall think it is a marvellous thing when it happens. It will be a glorious thing when the final touch of death with regard to our bodies is swallowed up victoriously. But we are only started on the career which is presented to us in the letter to the Ephesians for the ages to come. There are very vital things in the first letter to the Corinthians but in the range, in the depth and the height, the length and the breadth, so far as spiritual value is concerned, there is no comparison. Even when you deal with the Church, the Body, in 1 Corinthians 12, you are largely dealing with it from the side of its expression here. When you deal with it in the Ephesian letter you are carrying it higher, away from conditions where it is necessary to say such a thing as this: "One member cannot say to another, I have no need of you." How that reveals what had been the spirit of things at Corinth, and what an earthly level had obtained there! The Apostle, it is true, is giving an unfolding of spiritual relationships, but it is of such a kind as is largely occasioned, if not wholly, by spiritual disorder among the saints. But when you come into Ephesians 4 and touch the truth of the Body there, you are breathing an altogether different atmosphere.

Pass on to Ephesians 5:32: "This mystery is great: I speak in regard of Christ and of the church." You are carried away into the great mystery of the Body. That is something deeper. What is the explanation of this difference? It is not that they are two different Churches, nor that they represent two different callings. It is that there are two different levels upon which they live. If all these wonderful things presented in Ephesians, these mighty, weighty things are elements of the true testimony of Jesus, then they belong to a place where the earthlies are left behind. To put that in another way: you have to leave the earthlies if you are coming into the realm where those mighty forces are operating.

Would you know the exceeding greatness of His power which is to usward who believe? You cannot if you live on a Corinthian level, if you live on a natural, earthly basis, even as a Christian. Do you want to know the fullness of Christ? Do you want to become in a related way the fullness of Him that filleth all in all? You can never be that if you live spiritually at Corinth. The testimony is a mighty thing. It is a thing fraught with these massive elements and features of the risen and ascended Lord. There will be a universal expression of that fullness in the ages to come, but even now we are to partake of it. It is to be known and set forth now in a spiritual way in the life of the Church, but the Church has to come out on to the ground which is presented in this letter to the Ephesians. I am not saying that the church at Ephesus was on this level. It may or it may not have been. But it seems perfectly clear that the Ephesian saints were in a position to have such a revelation given to them, and the Corinthians were not. The Corinthians were not ready for it. But if Paul's visit to Ephesus and the results are indicative of anything, they do speak of thoroughness there. They brought their books of magic and made a great fire of them, and their price was considerable. They sacrificed everything to the fire because they had found a new mystery, a heavenly force which was more than the force of the magicians, the occultists, the spiritists, something far above all that. They had discovered Christ, and at great cost they let all else go, and that prepared the way for a wonderful revelation to them. Paul was able to say to those Ephesian elders: "I shrank not from declaring unto you the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27). You can never declare the whole counsel of God to any company of people unless they are ready for it. He had a clear way at Ephesus, and on their part it represented a spiritual position of abandonment of earthly connections, relationships, interests, and religious systems.

We focus our attention for a few minutes upon some of the more specific reasons and causes. These have been included in our general survey, but we now mention them particularly.


1. The Place of Man

Look at these two, and focus your attention upon one word, or one title, one designation namely, that of 'man'. What was the place of man in these two different assemblies? In Corinth man, as such, had a very large place. The Apostle says: "I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, as unto babes in Christ ... for whereas there is among you jealousy and strife, are ye not carnal, and walk after the manner of men? For when one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not men?" (1 Corinthians 3:1, 3-4). Is it not man, as such, that is very much in [20/21] view? Man was coming into view to the obscuring of Christ. All the way through that letter natural elements in man are being dealt with. Whatever it is, at whatever point you touch this terrible trouble that engaged the Apostle, you are touching some expression of man in himself, some dispute, for example, though over what we do not exactly know. But two believers, members of the same assembly, have perhaps been in some business transaction, and there has been something not straight, something upon which they have come to a serious difference, and one says: 'All right, I will take it to court, and will fight you there!' It is man doing things as man does them. All the time it is a case of man occupying a strong place of possessiveness and forcefulness.

Turn to the letter to the Ephesians, and see where man comes in there. You cannot find him; but we find "one new man", that new man which we are exhorted to put on (Ephesians 4:24). The old man has given place to the new man. It is not the individual standing for himself that we see now but rather the individual rightly functioning in the corporate new man. It is no longer a case of so many separated individuals all thinking of their own interests, but all that individualism is lost in the one collectivity and relativity of the new man. You can almost see them growing up into Him -- "Till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a full grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13).

That word "man" is a key to the situation in both letters. How? If he is allowed to come in, there will be a state such as you have at Corinth. If he goes out, the prospects are of an Ephesian position. That is the work of the Cross. You are not surprised, then, that in the Ephesian letter fairly early you come upon the words: "... quickened us together with Christ ... and raised us up in him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus ..." All that quickening and raising presupposes a death, and that is the death of the old man, the man by nature.

2. The Place of the World

The word 'world' occurs a number of times in the letter to the Corinthians -- "the wisdom of this world", "the princes of this world". Read down those first two chapters, and see what a large place the world takes. The world and its wisdom, the world with its spirit, the world with its way, had a large place amongst the Corinthian believers. If you follow through the letter you cannot get away from it. It is the way of the world, the way the world does things, or conditions ruling in the world -- the spirit of the world -- that is continually before us. The world has a large place in their reasoning. They are even handling heavenly and Divine things with worldly wisdom.

Turn to the letter to the Ephesians and see where the world is. It is left behind and believers are seen spiritually as out of the world, though not literally so. They were here on the earth as much as ever Corinthians were, and were in the world as a sphere. They were here, and yet not here. Recall those strange and seemingly contradictory phrases in John 17: "... the men whom thou gavest me out of the world ..."; "They are not of the world." "I pray not that thou shouldest take them from the world ...". We know what is meant in a spiritual sense and there is no contradiction; in it and out of it at the same time. In Ephesians 5 and 6 those things which belong to ordered life here are mentioned. There are families; husbands and wives, parents and children; masters and servants. You say: 'Merely earthly!' No! They are the relationships proper to life here, and yet in them is the possibility of a heavenly life. All are lifted on to a heavenly level where spiritual interests govern those relationships with a view to heavenly purposes and not just earthy interests. The world, in the sense in which it is found in 1 Corinthians, is not found in Ephesians.

That explains the testimony and shows what is necessary for this impact upon spiritual forces. That can never be unless we come to the same position, with the world left behind in this sense. "Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood" -- that is the world's way of doing things -- "but against the principalities, against the powers ..." It is a case of getting behind flesh and blood, and what a much more effective wrestling that is! What mighty issues there are in the spiritual realm! How things count when we know the secret of functioning there in the power of the risen Lord! But that requires that we shall know here, in mind and in spirit, absolute separation from this world.

3. The Difference in the Order at Corinth and Ephesus

At Corinth two things, or two sides of the one thing are presented. In what the Apostle has to say you have a heavenly order brought before you. He is Indicating what that heavenly order is in the Church and is seeking to recover it, or to establish it. But over against, at least the intimation, of [21/22] heavenly order -- for the Apostle does not develop it in fullness -- there is a terrible disorder in the assembly. Read through the letter again, and see how everything is out of order. Their procedure, their government, their relationships, are all in disorder. In dealing with the causes the Apostle has raised questions and issues which have become the battleground of the Church ever since: relationships and orders, positions and administrations in the Church. All this was out of order at Corinth.

We are not going to deal with the specific points. It would take too long, and might not be altogether profitable. At any rate, it might swing us away from our specific intention at this time. Sufficient to say that the question at Corinth is largely a question of order or disorder. We must recognize that. There is nothing arbitrary about the Apostle in that letter. A false explanation and interpretation has been put upon a great deal that Paul said in that letter -- as, for instance, upon his reference to the place of the sisters in the assembly. The interpretation or construction placed upon his words has been that Paul was a woman-hater, and that he was caught up in the Rabbinical idea of women, which held they were subject and had to be kept in a place of subjection, and therefore that what he wrote in that letter was out from that mentality, that conception. Nothing is further from the truth. Nothing is a greater libel against the Apostle. The Apostle was not dealing for one moment with the question of status, of honour; he was dealing purely with a matter of order. He will not rule sisters right out of the assembly in the matter of functioning, but he will show that their functioning is relative, and that it is both right and profitable when in its place. It is a matter of order. Let that be established, and be quite clear. We fasten upon this one point to indicate what we mean.

Turn to the letter to the Ephesians, and you can discover nothing about disorder in the assembly. Chapter 4 presents the Body and its relationships established; or that part of the letter brings it mainly into view. It is a beautiful heavenly order. There is no reference to an upsetting of that order; it is simply presented as though it obtained there. There is no quarrel over it, no fighting for it; it is a statement of a heavenly order. You are in a different atmosphere altogether. The point is that the Church's testimony to the risen Lord in the power of His risen life is bound up with order in the House of God. If the Divine order is upset, the testimony is weakened, and is nullified in that measure. There is a tremendous amount bound up with order. Let no one think that the appeal for order is simply with a view to having a domination, a control, a power over others, a desire to subject people. The word 'subjection' has become anathema to a good many because they have missed its significance. It is the value of Divine order, heavenly order, expressed amongst the Lord's people that is in point; for this is so vital a factor in the meeting of the enemy. A Corinthian disorder cannot destroy the power of the principle, and world rulers cannot stand before spiritual forces when a Divine order is established and adhered to and sacredly guarded. Then there is a wonderfully clear way for the Lord to come through and meet the enemies of the Church. Very often a church is divided and broken, and crying out for victory, for deliverance, for power, for effectiveness; and if the Lord could only be heard speaking He would be heard to say: 'Set your house in order! That is the way to power. Put things right in your midst, and your prayers will be answered. You are crying to Me to give you something which you call power, effectiveness. The way to it is through the clearing up of the disorders that are among you.'

So the expression of His life demands a heavenly realm; separation from the world by the death of the old man in his natural strength and life, the constituting of things according to the heavenly pattern. This is all practical. There are no flights of thought to carry you away into ecstasies, but there is a coming down on to the practical basis of everyday things. I am persuaded that nothing touches the heart of the whole issue more than this. I am certain that the Church's defeat, and weakness, and failure in testimony today, in the first place, is because it has become such an earthly thing; because of the worldly elements that have gained entrance; because man, as man, has such a large place in it; because the heavenly order does not obtain, but a man-made order in what is called the Church. These things are as closely related to the effectiveness of testimony as anything can be.

Do you know heavenly union with the Lord? Have you from your heart abandoned this world? Have you accepted the meaning of His Cross for the putting aside of all that belongs to man as such? Are you quite sure that you are fitting in your place in the House of God, and that you are not out of your place? So far as your devotion to the Lord is concerned, are you really bent upon being in your place, and remaining in your place, and functioning there for the Lord? Are you a party to something which is not an expression of the heavenly pattern? Are you an officer of an official connection, supporting and upholding an order which is not the Lord's order? Well, you will be beaten in the general defeat of such a thing. It is bound to be defeat, so [22/23] far as the main testimony is concerned. These are practical, direct questions. The Lord give grace, and understanding, and response to what this means. I have no doubt that as you go on from now the meaning of all this will come to you in a growing way. You may not grasp it all now, but it is something laid in store. Remember, it does matter tremendously whether you are in a Corinthian condition or an Ephesian, and these are the features and the differences.

The Lord make us, if we may say it in a spiritual sense, good Ephesians!

(To be concluded)


We acknowledge with gratitude the following gifts received for the ministry of A Witness and A Testimony from the 1st October to 26th November 1970:

Aberdare £2, £2; Abergavenny £1 14s. 6d., £1 9s. 6d.; Abingdon 16s. 6d. ; Ashstead £2 1 0s.; Basel, Switzerland £1; Bath 10s.; Bearsden £1; Belfast £5; Benbecula £5; Berkhamsted 10s.; Bideford £1; Blackburn £3; Blackpool £2 15s. 6d.; Bournemouth £2, 11s. 6d.; Brentwood 11s. 8d.; Brighton 10s.; Bromley £5, £5; Buckingham 10s., £1; Burnham-on-Sea 6s.; Burnley £1; Calne £1; Chadstone, Australia £5; Chicago, Ill. £2; Chigwell 5s.; Clitheroe £2; Colchester £1 11s. 8d.; Congleton £1 5s. 6d., £20; Crawley £1; Dunmow £1; Eastbourne £5 5s. 6d.; Edinburgh £2, £1; Feltham 12s. 6d.; Glasgow £3, £50, 8s. 6d., £3, £5; Goteborg, Sweden £2; Halesowen £1 1s.; Hastings £5; Hatch End £10; Heathfield 11s. 8d.; Hemyock £3 6s. 6d.; Henley-in-Arden £2; Leamington Spa £5; Llandrindod Wells 15s. 8d.; London N.14 £2 4s. 5d., £10; S.E.3 £1; S.E.12 £5; S.E.20 10s.; S.E.21 £1; S.E.22 10s.; S.E.23 £5, £1, 6s., 10s., £5, 5s.; S.E.25 £1; S.W.18 £5 19s. 6d.; Loughton 17s. 3d.; Lydd £2; Maidstone 10s.; Manchester 9s. 6d.; Neuchâtel, Switzerland £2; Newcastle-on-Tyne £1, £10; Northwich 4s.; Oldham 11s.; Penticton, British Colombia £4 2s. 4d.; Preston 15s., £1; Rhondda £1 10s.; Rickmansworth £1; Sale £1, £3; Sevenoaks £2 7s. 4d.; Soest, Holland £10; South Shields 8s. 2d.; Stonebroom £1 0s. 6d.; Tonbridge £3; Toronto, Ontario 3s.; Trelewis £4 3s.; Tunbridge Wells 7s. 6d., £1 0s. 6d., £1 12s. 6d.; Warrington £1; West Wickham £5, £10, £3; Wimborne 11s. 10d.; Wolverhampton £1. Total: £295 18s. 0d.

Altadena, Calif. $10; Avon, N.Y. $22.50; Bergenfield, N.J. $10; Brooklyn, N.Y. $5; Butler, Ala. $20; Butler, Ga. $9.50; Collegeville, Pa. $4.50; Corinna, Maine $40.50; Crowley, Texas $8.30; Cuenca, Spain $5; Dayton, Ohio $10; Dunedin, Fla. $5; Fairfield, Ala. $10; Greenville, Mich. $6; Hastings, Minn. $0.75; Indianapolis, Ind. $65; Ivory Coast, Africa $5; Jamaica, N.Y. $10, $20; Los Alamitos, Calif. $1.80; Louisville, Ky. $10; Lynwood, Wash. $5; Martinez, Calif. $25, $47.85, $15; Millington, N.J. $5; Northfield, Minn. $1.30; Orlando, Fla. $5.35; Paris, France $5; Pelham Manor, N.Y. $10; Pinson, Ala. $20; Reading, Mass. $5; Ventnor, N.J. $16.50. Total: $439.85.

Riverton, West Australia A$2.00.
Calgary, Alberta C$3.00. [23/24]


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. [Note: There is no address page in my copy of this issue; the inside back cover and the back cover are blank. Also, note the change in monetary units from "shilling/pence" to "new pence".]

By T. Austin-Sparks    
   Vol. 1 ALL THINGS IN CHRIST   43np /$1.80
   Vol. 2 (Cloth boards) 37np /$1.60
  (Art Paper covers) 30np /$1.28
WHAT IS MAN?   37np /$1.60
  Vol. 2 25np /$1.07
   Vol. 1 (Cloth boards) 33np /$1.39
  (Art Paper covers) 25np /$1.07
   Vol. 2 (Art Paper covers) 17np /$0.75
OUR WARFARE   23np /$0.96
   CHRISTIAN LIFE   23np /$0.96
   THE FINAL CRITERION   20np /$0.85
   TESTIMONY IN FULLNESS   19np /$0.80
THE SCHOOL OF CHRIST   19np /$0.80
   (Some Considerations on the Prayer-Life)   17np /$0.75
   THE LORD JESUS CHRIST   14np /$0.58
IN CHRIST   10np /$0.40
HIS GREAT LOVE   7np /$0.32
UNION WITH CHRIST   7np /$0.32
   (Incorporating Union with Christ in Consecration,    
   The Ministry of Elijah and Stewardship)    
CHRIST -- ALL, AND IN ALL   4np /$0.15
"I WILL OVERTURN"   3np /$0.10
THE SUPREME VOCATION 3np each /$0.10
  or 30np per dozen /$1.00
A GOOD WARFARE 3np each /$0.10
  or 30np per dozen /$1.00
WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN? 3np each /$0.10
  or 30np per dozen /$1.00
3np /$0.10
1np /$0.04
CHRIST OUR LIFE   Free of charge
By H. Foster (Booklet)    
1np /$0.04
By Various Authors    
   (Each volume contains a number of separate messages )

THE WORK OF THE MINISTRY Vol. 1 15np /$0.64

Vol. 2 16np /$0.69

Vol. 3 17np /$0.75
   The three volumes, when ordered together:   45np /$1.92
For Boys and Girls    
By G. Paterson    
   (170-page cloth-bound book. Illustrated)   20np /$0.85
By H. Foster    
   (All with illustrated art paper covers)    
READY FOR THE KING (48 pp. Illus.)   7np /$0.32
ON WINGS OF FAITH (52 pp. Illus.)   10np /$0.43
BURIED TREASURE (48 pp. Illus.)   10np /$0.43
OPENING IRON GATES (40 pages)   10np /$0.43


Printed in Great Britain by Billing and Sons Limited, Guildford and London [24/ibc]

[Inside back cover is blank]


[Back cover is blank]

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