"If ye died with Christ from the
rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, do ye subject
yourselves to ordinances, handle not, nor taste, nor touch (all which things
are to perish with the using), after the precepts and doctrines of men? Which
things have indeed a show of wisdom in will-worship, and humility, and
severity to the body; but are not of any value against the indulgence of the
flesh." (Col. 2:20-23).
"If then ye were raised together with Christ,
seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of
God. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are
upon the earth. For ye died, and your life is hid with Christ in God." (Col.
"The doctrines of men." Let that clause
govern the other part of the two previous verses. Verse 3 of chapter 3 stands
over against the first part of verse 20 of chapter 2: "Why, as though living
in the world...." That does not mean just having your location in the world;
it means something more than that. Over against that: "Your life is hid with
Christ in God." Your life is not in the world, your life is in Christ.
Those verses form the very best foundation we
could have for the meditation to which we are being led. We shall gather up
certain things which we find running through the whole of the Scriptures, and
what we find throughout the Scriptures is, for our present purpose, an
1. An Abiding Antagonism and
Clash between God and this World.
I think that needs very little
enlarging upon for the moment. Anyone who has any grasp of the Scriptures will
be able instantly to recognise that that is so. From Cain—the man of the
earth—right on through the whole of the Scriptures, you are brought to
recognise that abiding antagonism and clash between God and this world.
2. An Abiding Expression of that
Antagonism between that which is Spiritually Related to God and this World.
Anyone, any company, or anything
spiritually related to God is found to be in the expression of that antagonism
and that clash between God and this world, and that very relationship to God
spiritually involves in the clash, involves in the antagonism.
3. A New Constitutional Affinity with this
World is Seen to be in Man's Nature,
gravitating toward the world, like the point of the compass to the magnetic
North. There is that which is in the very nature of man now as fallen which
has an affinity with this world, and gravitates towards it, and the Scriptures
reveal that that gravitation is of an inveterate character.
May I stay to make a parenthesis? No
one is thinking that when I use the word "world" I am just meaning the
geographical sphere. You understand that the word "world" is a very much
bigger word as we use it spiritually than this geographical sphere. We use
that word in its fullest meaning—an order of things here separated from God,
organised and controlled by the evil one. That is the full meaning of "kosmos."
4. A Spiritual System of Intelligence
as revealed by the Scriptures to be
bent with all its might upon maintaining that affinity, and that relationship
between man and this world.
5. Spiritual Death is the Law which
Governs that Relationship,
and is the mainstay and master-hold of that system of spiritual intelligences.
Let me repeat that: spiritual death is the law which governs that
relationship, the relationship between fallen man and this world; and
spiritual death is the mainstay and master-hold of those spiritual
intelligences which are out to maintain that relationship between fallen man
and this world.
6. To Sever that Bond, to Destroy that
Affinity, to Introduce a Counter Law of Gravitation, is the Essence of the
Work of Christ.
If you get that, you get the heart of
everything. That will explain everything. The work of the Lord Jesus in coming
from heaven and fulfilling His mission here is, in its very essence, the
severance of the bondage of man to this world, the destroying of fallen man's
affinity therewith, and the introducing into man of another law, which
counters man's gravitation toward this fallen world; another law of
gravitation, which is not world-ward spiritually.
7. This Severance, this
Introduction of the New Spiritual Law of Heavenly Gravitation, is always
Marked by the most Intense Conflict at Every Stage and Point.
It is always fraught with deep spiritual suffering. You will never
emancipate a people spiritually from this world only by intense conflict and
through deep suffering.
8. The Method is that of
Going into Death in Order to Destroy Death, and being in the World in Order to
Overcome the World.
That is an outline, and if you were able to sit down with that prayerfully
I am sure you would see that you have touched something which is of primary
importance. Within the range of that everything with which you and I as the
Lord's children have to do is gathered up.
Now I am going on to take up one point. The
work of Christ, the Cross in the work of Christ, and the purpose of His
coming. That again is gathered up into eight things.
The Effect of Christ's
Firstly. To once and for all register in
an absolute and pre-eminent way that collision, that mutual antagonism between
God and this world. Christ's coming into this world, and Christ's work
in this world in a way unparalleled, unprecedented, registered,
made manifest, dragged out into the light, threw up into clear relief that
fact, that there is a mutual antagonism between God and this world. You can
trace it through the Old Testament. It is quite clear there, but it is more or
less local or localised in the Old Testament. When you come to the Lord Jesus
coming into this world you have the universal factor, a universal Person set
down in the midst of the universe, and universal forces focussed upon Him. And
because of Who He is, because God is there in Christ, because this is no mere
man, as in the case of the Old Testament, because this is "God with us";
you find that from the very commencement of His career, His course, His time
here on the earth, there broke out that smouldering volcano of antagonism;
first through Herod, and then by another, and another, and another means,
until in the end it seems that everything has conspired and converged to cast
Him out of this world, as having no place in it, as being a menace to it.
Demons betrayed secrets, the full explanation
of which is not in the Word of God: "Art Thou come to destroy us before our
time? I know Thee Who Thou art, the Holy One of God": betraying deep mysteries
concerning the destiny and the doom of that spiritual world, that world of
spiritual intelligences. Men and demons worked together, and this hate showed
itself. What a great deal He had to say Himself about it, and to what lengths
He carried it, into what realms; right into the heart of Judaism and its
spiritual, its religious citadel, the Scribes and the Pharisees. "Ye are of
your father the devil"; "the works of your father ye do"; "Ye are from
beneath; I am from above"; "if ye had known the Father ye would have known
You see, He carried it right there into the
highest realm of religious life as this world knew it; and finding there this
deep-rooted antagonism, and dragging it out, making it impossible for that
thing to go on hidden, until at last, stung by His presence, it broke loose
and from that realm came His doom, so far as His course here on the earth was
concerned as a man. Oh yes! everywhere this universal focal point; God in
Christ making manifest as never before—not locally but universally, not merely
on the earth, but in that spiritual realm—that there is a clash, a deep-seated
and terrible clash between God and this world. And His coming was for that
purpose. It is important for us to realise that it was necessary to expose
that thing. It was essential that that thing should be dragged out, but, oh
that the people of God had sufficiently recognised and grasped and apprehended
Oh! beloved, you and I, before we are
through, will see the utter impossibility of that contradiction called "a
worldly Christian," "a worldly Church." If we do not see that now, well, the
Lord help us! The very coming of the Lord Jesus into this world was, firstly,
to manifest, as had never been manifested before in a universal way, that
there is, right at the very heart of things spiritually, an antagonism between
God and this world; and that world can never be reconciled to God. You have to
use the word "world" in another sense when speaking of reconciling the world;
that is a more limited usage of the word, but that world of which we are
speaking is beyond reconciliation. We shall see that as we go on.
Secondly. His coming was, while to
register in an absolute and pre-eminent way that mutual antagonism, to
rescue an instrument from this world, to secure an instrument in this
world for this age, embodying that antagonism. Do you get the force of
that? Did Christ come, first of all, to make the antagonism absolutely
apparent? Yes! Then equally He came to secure an instrument in this world, for
this age, which would embody that antagonism. That is, the instrument which
Christ secures in this age, in this world, is going to be an age expression of
the antagonism between God and this world. That means that if you and I are a
part of God's instrument in this world, resultant from the work of the Lord
Jesus in His Cross, you and I are going to be the embodiment of that
antagonism; that is, there is going to be something about us which can
have no compromise with this world, and which for ever stands in a position
similar to that which the Lord Jesus occupies in relation to this world in the
spiritual antagonism. And that instrument is going to feel the antagonism
which He met, and is going to be conscious that this place, this world, is by
no means a place of rest and abiding. "In the world ye shall have
tribulation...." To get rid of that is to undo the work of the Lord Jesus; to
try and get popularity in this world for Christianity, to escape the world's
bitterest antagonism, is to counter all that the Lord Jesus came to do.
Now that is a terrific thing to say, but it
is true. I made a note in my Testament from Martin Luther. Martin Luther had a
pictorial way, as you know, of presenting truth, and he did it both for the
devil and for the Lord. Martin Luther, speaking about Matthew 5:10-12 pictures
the disciples of the Lord, the believers, arriving at the gates of heaven and
being met there by the Lord Himself; and one of the questions which He asks
each one who arrives, with which He interrogates every professed disciple is
"Wert thou an abomination to the whole world,
as I and Mine have been from the foundation of the world?"
Well, the Lord's coming was to secure an
instrument in this world for the age which would embody that mutual
antagonism between God and this world. You see your calling, brethren. Does
that explain something? I think it explains a lot. The writer of the Letter to
the Hebrews has a way of putting it: "Of whom the world was not worthy." That
is his verdict on the whole matter.
Thirdly. His coming was to destroy
for such (that is, such instrument), that law of death. Note: firstly, to
bring out into the clear light, that which He Himself was, the reality, the
depth of that mutual antagonism between God and the world. Secondly, to take
out of the world a people for Himself, yet to be in the world for the age as a
representation of that antagonism. Then, thirdly, to destroy for such that
law, that mainstay, that master-hold of the powers of evil, to destroy him
that had the power of death and to deliver them; to destroy the power of death
for His own. He came to do that. It would be impossible for us to live here on
God's side and on God's behalf, to meet all that antagonism of hell to God,
unless Christ had accomplished the destroying of that master-hold of the
Beloved, you and I are becoming more and more
conscious, are we not—many of us are—that the only possibility of staying in
this world and on the earth is by the life which is triumphant over death, and
unless we know more of that, this place is going to be impossible spiritually.
Is that not true? It is! There is a real spiritual world, with which we are in
touch, but which we so dimly understand. What is the spiritual experience of
those who are really going on with God? It is, on the one hand, of an
intensified consciousness of death, and, on the other hand, a growing emphasis
on the power of His resurrection. Is that true? I do not think there is any
doubt about it. And this is not something which touches merely the spiritually
aged and fully matured. I believe that the Lord would teach the younger folk
this thing; those of you who would, perhaps, think that you are not old enough
to understand and enter into these great spiritualities.
I believe the Lord would teach you that you
can know deliverance and victory in the realm of death by coming into a full
apprehension of Him as your life, and, while the phraseology, the terminology
may be difficult for you, the experience may be as clear and as simple as
anything could be. The fact that those, who are children of God—whether mature
or immature—are children of God brings them into experiences which they
might never have if they were not the Lord's children. The Lord does not save
from going into those experiences, but in them draws out to Himself by a
strong taking hold, when something very critical is threatened, and then
Himself comes in, and it is something which is above what man can do, and they
have learned their lesson. They have discovered it is possible to live in this
world, where death reigns, and to know victory in Christ by taking hold of Him
as their life. He came that for His own He might destroy that law of death by
which the god of this world, the prince of this world, holds in bondage his
own, and by which he operates against the saints to try and bring them back
into bondage, the bondage of death.
Fourthly. His coming was to
set up in His instrument, redeemed from the world, that counter-law of
a heavenly life, to introduce something else into their constitution. The
constitutional law of the unredeemed from the world, of those who are of this
world, is bondage to the world. They see nothing beyond the horizon of this
world, and all the time the world holds them and carries them on. The tides of
worldliness carry this world on, and to try and stem those tides is an
impossible thing until something has happened by which there comes about the
realisation of this: "Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the
world"; the introduction of that which is an adequate countering to the mighty
gravitating affinity in man's nature toward the world. He came to set that up
in His own, and here that big difference is recognised, which has been so
often pointed out, that if you really do become begotten of God, born from
above, there is put into you the life of God. You do not have to give up the
world, there is not a struggle to break with this and that and something else,
and you never have to sit down and say, I suppose now I am a Christian I have
got to give up this and that, and I must not go here and I must not go there.
You never have that sort of thing at all; you find a counter-gravitation, you
find that something else has come in which has made that kind of gravitation
comparatively weak; now your heart is in other directions, drawn to other
things. You may test your spiritual life by that.
Now, young people, let me say a word to you.
Perhaps sometime in your superficial thinking and imagining you think the
world has a better time than you do, and that you would like to have a little
more of what the world has. I put it to you, make up your mind to go and have
it. If you are a true child of God, start off, and see how far down the road
you get. You will not get there; you will turn round and come back. What is
the matter with you? Well, something has happened in spite of your thinking
and your imagining and those superficial feelings—many of them perhaps the
fruit of the severe time which you have because of spiritual antagonism. In
spite of all that you cannot go very far in that way. You know the parable of
the squirrel; you know that the gravitation is upward. Although you might just
jump down to get a nut, it is not your place. The Lord came to do that, and it
is the strategy of the Lord never to say that you must not go there and you
must not do this. He puts something into you—a counter-gravitation; a mighty
work, which the Lord has accomplished.
Fifthly. To gather out from the world
spiritually a people for His coming Kingdom; not to take them away from
the world. That would be very nice, but He would take them out from the world
spiritually, so that He has here in the world His Kingdom spiritually
represented by them. And He is gathering out from the nations spiritually now;
a spiritual out-gathering, detachment, a people for that coming Kingdom. He
came to do that, and He has made it perfectly clear that His Kingdom is not of
this world, that His Kingdom is not of things seen and handled. "I would have
you know, brethren," said the apostle, "that flesh and blood cannot inherit
the Kingdom." His Kingdom is now a spiritual thing in the hearts of those who
have been taken out of the kingdom of darkness and translated into the Kingdom
of the Son of His love. That is a thing already done. A day will come when He
will translate them from this world while He deals with the rest, and purges
this world and makes it fit for the habitation of saints, without any
antagonism. He came to do that. He is doing it. We know it in our own hearts.
That is exactly what has happened with us. We are not of the world. Our life
"is hid with Christ in God." We look for a Saviour.
Sixthly. The whole course of spiritual
experience is progressive detachment from the world and attachment to Christ.
It is a course of spiritual history. It is a progressive thing; not that in
the very commencement of our spiritual life we were not severed from the
world; we were fundamentally and originally separated from the world, but you
and I know quite well our experience has been all in the direction of this
world becoming less and less and less, and Christ becoming more and more and
more. "Whom, having not seen, we love." "Where our treasure is, there our
heart is also." We know something of the words which we have read: "If ye then
be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is...."
"Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth." We know
that that is going on in us.
Seventhly. The death, resurrection and
ascension of Christ, and the gift of the Holy Spirit are the basic factors in
this work of Christ. I am only going to mention that, because they will
occupy us a good deal more later. Let me repeat it. The death, the
resurrection, the ascension of Christ, and the gift of the Holy Spirit are
the factors, the basic factors, in this work of the Lord. His death is
basic, and we are told that His death is to be entered into by us in faith.
"Ye died...." That means we were crucified to the world and the world unto us
in Christ. The resurrection of Christ is a basic factor in this work. It means
we stand on resurrection ground, and are outside of the world. He never
appeared personally to the world again after His death. He will one day, but
He has not done yet. So far as this age is concerned He is not on that level
at all. He is outside of the world, and for the age all His own, standing with
Him in resurrection, are there spiritually. His ascension means that
everything now for this age for His own is heaven-ward and not of this world.
The anointing of the Holy Spirit will lead us progressively, ever more and
more, away from the world to Christ, revealing His things. These are the basic
factors in this great work which He has come to do.
Eighthly. The Church is called to be the
collective embodiment of all that truth. The Church is called to be the
collective—the corporate, if you like—embodiment of that full, absolute
antagonism between God and the world. I realise that is a tremendous thing to
say in the face of what is called the Church, in the face of what we know to
be associated with what is called the Church. One hesitates in the almost
hopeless situation that immediately confronts you when you raise the standard
like that. Are we to conclude that what is called the Church is not the
Church? At any rate, let us challenge ourselves on that. We can do no more
than proclaim the truth and seek that it shall be realised in ourselves. It is
not for us to go out and denounce or to judge, we must proclaim; but, oh!
beloved, it does raise some very serious questions for many of the Lord's
people; to be in any way entangled with that thing, that awful thing
spiritually, against which God as in Christ has been revealed to be so utterly
set; to be entangled in that through religion, through Christianity, through
what is called the Church! You know quite well if you stand on that ground you
will meet the antagonism of the scribes and pharisees. Do not misunderstand me
in the using of those words; I only mean in the official religious realm.
The Church is called to be the corporate
expression of that antagonism, of that impact, by which Christ has destroyed
the power of death, and living in the power of His resurrection. The Church is
called to reveal in itself that it is not of this world, and that it is
moving steadily further and further away from the world, because Christ is
becoming more and more its life; to be the embodiment of all that is meant by
the death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, the ascension of Christ, and
the gift of the Holy Spirit. There is no doubt but that that is how it was at
the beginning. Are we to say that that is gone for ever, that that can never
be? No, we cannot say that. We may have to come within a very limited realm,
but I verily believe that when the Lord comes, and there is that blessed
movement toward Himself of the Overcomers, He will have in them the embodiment
of all that. They will represent all that.
For myself I cannot see translation possible
on any other ground. Is the Lord going to translate this world to heaven?
Never! If you are spiritually bound up with it—when I say spiritually, I mean
in heart bound up with it, a heart link—I do not know what will happen. It
seems to me to be so distinctly contradictory to the law of Christ's work. The
work of the Lord Jesus marks the utter detachment from this world, and the
consummation is simply the crown of that which has already taken place
spiritually, the seal upon what has been done spiritually. That is how I see
it, but I know the many difficulties that come up there.
Now let us close, so far as this broad survey
is concerned, by just putting our finger upon one or two points. Do you see
now why there must be no personal interests on the part of the people of God?
What are personal interests? They are worldly in essence, in nature. It is
what Paul spoke of when he said: "All seek their own, not the things which are
Jesus Christ's." That personal element runs out into so many directions, and
is so imperceptible in many things, that only the Lord can bring it to light
and destroy it. Do you see, on the face of it, why there must be no personal
interest, that there must be such an utterness of abandonment to the Lord's
interests, and that anything else than that is a spiritual link with this
world? The enemy can come in and destroy your testimony if you have any
personal interests, even in the work of the Lord. Deeper than we recognise
there are those things which represent our like and our dislike, our want and
our not want, our going to have and our not going to have; all of which give
rise to suspicion of others, and then suspicion moves silently and
imperceptibly on to jealousy, and jealousy on to a breakdown in fellowship, a
strain. Tracked right down to its source it was some personal element,
wanting it as we want it, wanting it ourselves, not the utter emptying of
self; and in the long run, sooner or later, the enemy has made an awful havoc
because there was his link. Do you now see why? When the Lord really gets a
complete mastery of the life, He works to have everything carried on to
resurrection ground. That is, He takes everything through a depth and a death,
where we lose it, and then in a deep crisis, in which we are brought to the
point of in heart letting that go to God; not reproaching God, not rebelling
against God, not refusing to accept God's wav, but where we come to the place
where our heart is one with the heart of God over that matter, then so often
the Lord gives that back; but it has come back in a new realm. It has gone
through death and it comes back by resurrection, and there is something in it
now which is not of this world. It is not a time thing, it is not merely an
earthly thing, it is not merely a natural thing; there is something about it
now which has God in it. It is on resurrection ground, and the world factor in
that has been destroyed. Now that is a true spiritual law. Do you see why the
Lord must have it that way?
Let me put that in another way. This is why
everything must be brought through to the place where it is wholly for God.
Everything has got to be wholly for God. The apostle had something to say
about the shortness of the time, and those who had wives being as those who
had none. Do you think he meant that literally? Ignore your domestic
responsibilities; ignore something which was of God; ride rough shod over it
for what you call spiritual things? Never! A thousand times, never! What the
apostle meant was this: you have got to hold everything in the light of God's
interests, and if you are holding domestic relationships, or anything else
here on this earth, on a natural level, where they are for yourself, for time,
and for what they mean to you merely in this life—and that is the range of
things—well, that is wrong. Everything has got to be held for God, in the
light of the Lord's interests. Why? To have that link with this world and the
natural life absolutely destroyed, so that the power of spiritual death cannot
operate there. Do you not know, beloved, when you as a believer, as a
spiritual person, or I, touch things naturally we touch spiritual death? Have
you no experience of that? The power triumphant over death is in having
everything wholly for the Lord and not for ourselves, not for this world, not
for this life. Everything has got to be held for the Lord.
It is so easy to sing hymns of consecration.
We can sing about being all for the Lord, and having everything for the Lord,
and we can answer to such challenges, but now let us face it. Are we
holding everything for the Lord? Have we got something which, if we would
only let that go, would in some other life give the Lord larger interests? Are
we taking this attitude: now, while this thing means much to me, while in a
natural way I have deep sentimental ties with this, and it is not easy to let
things go; nevertheless, if the Lord is going to get more by my letting go,
giving up, well, that is the thing that counts, that is the thing that
matters. That is holding things for the Lord. Are we holding things for the
Lord? If we are holding things for ourselves, if we are holding things in this
life before those heavenly interests of the Lord we are opening the door to
spiritual death. We cannot grow spiritually, we become earth-bound, our
spiritual progress is delayed, if not utterly arrested. Everything must be
carried over on to resurrection ground, and be wholly for the Lord, wholly for
heaven. "Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth."
There is so much bound up with this.
Now do you understand the meaning of
suffering? I ask you, those of you who have suffered as the Lord's children,
what has been the effect of your suffering; that is, inasmuch as you have not
been persistently rebellious and hard because of the suffering, but inasmuch
as you have sought to be one with the Lord in your suffering, what has been
the effect of it? Answer me: has it been to make this world much less and the
Lord much more, the things of heaven much more? Is that not true? This
world has lost its grip, perhaps its charm, its hold. The things which are
above have become far more to you through your suffering. Well do you see the
meaning of suffering; what the Lord is doing? Why does the Lord empty us out?
Why does He pour us out to the last drop? Just so that He can pour in, that is
all. Just so that heavenly things may take the place of natural, earthly
things. The Lord permits His people to suffer in order that that gravitation
world-ward might be weakened, and that that power of death might be destroyed;
that they may become a heavenly people, living by a life which is His own
life, and which it takes full spiritual intelligences to appreciate.
I mean this: here are two possible courses;
the Lord to come in in such a mighty fulness of His own life as the risen
Lord, that the individual should never for one moment give the slightest hint
that they know anything about death; be always so triumphantly aglow,
throbbing with vitality, as though death had never existed for them at all.
That is one possibility, or one alternative. What do you suppose would be the
reaction to that? I think I can tell you. The natural man would simply say:
What a marvellous constitution that man has! Why, if I had digestive organs,
like him it would be heaven on earth! What a tremendous capacity the man has?
They talk about the man, put that sort of thing down to nature. There is the
alternative to that. Paul, moving about with infirmity, speaking about knowing
weakness, despairing of life. Surely that is not to the glory of
God—despairing of life! All this talk about weakness and infirmity and
despairing of life! Why, where is the resurrection in that? Where is Christ
triumphant over death in all that? Spiritual intelligences know! They know
quite well that if that man were left alone without God he would be dead in
five minutes, that he really ought to have been dead a score of times. If hell
could have had its way he would have been finished up long ago, but hell has
not had its way. All the powers of death have not had their way, and the man
has come to the time when he is able to say: "I have finished the course." No
broken column there; no life cut short by the devil there, much as he has
tried; no purpose frustrated by hell there. "I have finished...." I have not
stopped half way or three quarters of the way; I have finished! Can you see
the tremendous implication of that? The background over against which it is
That is the testimony of Christ triumphant,
but you cannot recognise that with the human mind; you need a full spiritual
intelligence to grasp that. It is only principalities and powers who are able
adequately to register the power of His resurrection. They recognise it, they
know. So the Church goes on in suffering, in weakness, in infirmity, "in
deaths oft"; but the Church will finish its course, the issue will be that the
full measure of that law of death operating in this world was taken by Christ
in His Church and triumphed over. He is doing something through our weakness.
We do not see it, we do not feel it, we very often forget all about it in the
presence of the suffering, but He is doing something; that now unto the
principalities and powers in the heavenlies should be displayed this
manifold wisdom of God. That is the meaning of suffering; the raising of a
heavenly testimony: getting us away from the world, and making us live by a
life which is hid with Christ in God.
Do you see the utter impossibility of being
all the Lord's and having any kind of heart association with this world? That
ought to come home to us in a new way.
First published in "A Witness and A Testimony"
magazine, Jul-Aug 1934 Vol. 12-4