First published in AWAT magazine 36-6 1958 as chapter 4 in the book, The Arm of the Lord. In 1960 it was published by Witness & Testimony Publishers as a pamphlet.
Most of us, as the Lord's
people, would probably agree that there is at the present day a
very great need for the Lord to show His power. That might be a
personal confession: we would each say, individually, 'There is a
great need for the Lord to do something in my life - to do some
new thing, some mighty thing, in me personally, and perhaps in my
ministry.' Further, many of us would confess that such a need
exists in the circle of believers with whom we are connected and
related - a need for the Lord to move in power in a new way. But
could we not widen the field to the farthest limit, and say that
there is a very great need for the Lord to do something mighty in
the whole Church and in the whole world?
whom, then, is the Arm of the Lord revealed in this way? Before
going further with that matter, let me present a hypothetical
An Imaginary Situation
that a very complicated and serious malady has afflicted a
patient - let that patient be ourselves, or a company, or the
Church, or the world - and a doctor is consulted, who, after
serious and careful consideration, with some considerable
experience and knowledge, and no small amount of good authority,
comes to a quite definite conclusion about this matter, and says
he knows he has the remedy. He
has no question about it at all. But certain factors present him with
considerable difficulty in his desire to help.
he has to explain that his remedy is not going to be pleasant -
indeed, it is going to be painful; it will go against all the
predisposition of the patient; and it will demand real
co-operation and persistence, perhaps over an extended period,
calling for much patience and faith. Then, he meets another
thing. The patient has heard about the remedy before, perhaps
many times, and the reaction is: 'I have heard such a lot about
that cure; there has been so much talk about it. I think you are
a one-track man, who has nothing but that one thing; perhaps you
are even a crank. Can't you vary it a bit? Can't you introduce
some other line a little more palatable? Must we be tied down to
this one course?' A further objection is: 'You know, this is not
a very popular thing. Public opinion has got criticisms about
this; there are many different minds on the matter.'
are things with which he is confronted. What should he do? Should
he give way to these deterring factors and abandon the case, or
should he get on with the job? Let us look at the matter from
another angle - from the standpoint of the patient. What should
be the logical attitude of the patient in this matter? Should it
not be - 'Well, the situation is serious, there is no doubt about
that, and it is very complicated. What are the alternatives? Do I
know of any alternatives? Are there prospects or ways and means
in other directions? Ought I not to be fair and honest, and give
this a thorough trial? Do I sense the seriousness of my condition
sufficiently to make me brush aside all public opinion, all
personal feelings and reactions, likes and dislikes, and really
give myself to this matter?'
that is exactly the position in which we are. The great need in
the spiritual life of God's people is widely acknowledged. And
yet there are all
arguments flying about: that there is so much talk about this
particular thing - we have heard it again and again; that public
opinion is so greatly divided on this matter; and that this is
something that goes altogether against our grain. But does not
the crux of the matter lie, firstly, in whether we realise that
the situation is serious enough to warrant our brushing aside all
secondary considerations, and really giving the remedy a thorough
chance and test; and, secondly, in whether we have any
alternatives - whether there are prospects of this whole thing
being bettered along any line other than this?
The Only Remedy
course you are saying: What is the line? What is the remedy?
What is it that you are talking about? Perhaps you have already
drawn your conclusion. The remedy, the only remedy, but the sure
remedy, for the whole of our spiritual maladies, is the Cross -
the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is not pleasant to our
flesh, it runs counter to all our likes and predispositions; it
is not popular; Christian opinion is greatly divided on this
matter of the work of the Cross, and so on... But, after all, we
are left with our condition; we are left with our need; we are
left with the situation; and whether you realise it or not, the
situation in Christianity, amongst Christians, is a very critical
one. Take, for instance, the whole matter of divisions amongst
the Lord's people. It is a blight; it is an evil thing; it is
the working of a deep-seated disease; it is undermining the
constitution of the whole Church of God. So we could go round the
need, facing it from many standpoints; and we should find that,
without exaggeration, the situation is a serious one.
Word of God offers us this one remedy. It is fully and thoroughly
documented; it has the most established authority behind it.
Again and again, both in individual life and in collective life,
it has proved itself to be the answer. The Word of God offers us
no alternative, no prospect along any other line. The Cross is
us look again for a moment at the prophecies of Isaiah. This
section that we have been considering, from verse 13 of chapter
52 to the end of chapter 53, shows the Cross to be the remedy
for a many-sided and most complicated situation in this world.
You see here all the things that go to make up the situation.
Sin! sin! "He bare the sin of many" - the word there is
'error', 'failure'. Transgressions! - a stronger word still,
meaning 'rebellions' - "He was wounded for our
transgressions". Iniquity! - which means 'our perversity' -
"The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all."
Errors and failures and rebellions and perversities - these are
the beginning of the malady. Sicknesses, griefs, sorrows - so you
can fill in more and more details of the case from the words of
this chapter; and when you put them all together, you say: 'That
patient is in a very poor state; that indeed is a serious
outlook!' And the chapter as a whole has just one object: to show
that the Cross of the Lord Jesus is the remedy for it all, the
answer to it all. The whole thing is dealt with and cleared up by
The Exaltation and Vindication of
here we must stand back for a moment to take account of two
things. At this point a question is asked, "To whom is the
arm of the Lord revealed?" and then the rest of the chapter
is the answer to that question. That Arm of the Lord is God
coming into this situation, coming in with skill, with power,
with wisdom, with ability, to deal with it and to clear it up.
And the chapter says that the Cross is the Arm of the Lord,
coming in against this whole condition. The arm of the Lord is
against this state of things. That is the first thing.
there is something further. The arm of the Lord comes in with a
new condition, a certain, clearly-defined end in view, which is
nothing less than the exaltation and vindication of Jesus Christ.
That is our second thing. The Arm of the Lord is for that, but
His exaltation and vindication demand that the Cross shall clear
up this situation. Of course that gathers the New Testament into
it: it was because the situation was cleared up at
Calvary that Jesus was exalted and vindicated. Note that the
exaltation and vindication of Christ is in power and posterity.
Those two things bound this section. Right at the beginning
(52:13) we have: "My servant... shall be exalted and lifted
up, and shall be very high." And then, towards the end of
the section (53:10,11): "He shall see his seed... He shall
see of the travail of his soul..." In power: "very
high"; in posterity: "His seed" - in other words,
that brings matters very closely home to us, because the first
challenge of all this is as to our concern for Christ's
exaltation, and Christ's vindication. That is the issue that is
raised. Let us ask ourselves, individually, this question: 'How
much am I, personally, really concerned for the exaltation and
vindication of the Lord Jesus?' If you were asked this question,
personally, in private conversation, I have no doubt you would
say: 'I am very greatly concerned about it. Indeed, there is
nothing that I would desire and work for more than for His
exaltation and vindication. What greater thing have we to live
for or work for than this?' You would say that, I am sure. But do
we realise that the proof of our concern, and that which measures
our concern, is our preparedness to accept the Cross? There is no
way to the exaltation and vindication of the Lord Jesus other
than the way of the Cross. We shall prove whether we really are
concerned, and, if so, how much we are concerned, by the extent
to which we are prepared to accept in ourselves this work of the
Cross, clearing up every situation that is dishonouring to the
The Cross the Only Way to This
is so easy for us to talk or preach about the exaltation of the
Lord Jesus. His enthronement, His glorifying - it is wonderful to
talk about these things; and of course, this Church of His, the
Church of Christ, the Church which is His Body, is a very great
thing - the great Masterpiece of God. Yes, we like to talk about
it. But the test as to whether all this has a grip upon our
inward life is just how much we will let the Cross work in us:
for these great things - His exaltation and His Church - are not
possible of realisation, except by the work of the Cross in
is a challenge which arises at once, and it is very searching. It
will come to that, sooner or later, in any case, as we go on with
the Lord. All our language, all our talk, and all our
pretensions, will be challenged by this. The Lord will say: 'Yes
- but are you prepared to allow the Cross to work in you in this
particular matter, and in that - in that particular relationship,
in this thing about yourself, and in that thing
in your connections? Are you prepared to let the Cross
deal with those things?' The answer to that will prove
whether after all we have a concern for Christ's exaltation and
vindication. Our concern for these will be shown in our estimate
of, and our attitude toward, the Cross.
on the other hand, we take the line: 'Oh, we have heard so much
about the Cross; it is this one-track thing' - if we can take any
such attitude as that, in any way to belittle the Cross, or make
it something less than God has made it; if our attitude can be
one which under-estimates the importance of the Cross: then that
is proof that we have not yet become inwardly gripped by this
concern for the exaltation of the Lord Jesus.
not forget that He Himself would never have been exalted, but for
His Cross. There was that mighty "Wherefore..."
Wherefore? "...Becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death
of the cross. Wherefore... God highly exalted
him..." (Phil. 2:8,9). But for the Cross, He would never
have been exalted; and, in principle, He never is exalted, except
in so far as there is a work of the Cross in His people. It is so
clear, is it not, that, if the Cross has not dealt with things in
you and in me, the Lord Jesus cannot be glorified in our lives.
And as for His Church - the Church would never have come into
existence but for the Cross, and, but for the Cross, it can never
have a present expression. Its beginning, its continuation, its
growth, its consummation, are always by the law of the Cross; and
every bit of addition to, or increase in, the Church, whether
spiritually or numerically, is by means of the Cross. There is no
other way. So it is a very real test and very real challenge to
The Cross Positive,
here, again, the Spirit of God shows that God's ways and means
are always positive and not negative. I want to say that with
emphasis; let us underline it in our minds. God's ways are always
constructive and not destructive; they are purposeful, and not
just ends in themselves. And if God's inclusive, comprehensive
means is the Cross, let it be understood, once and for ever, that
by the Cross He is working to an end - a large end. The Cross is
never intended to end with destruction; it is never intended to
end with a negative. God is working for some great thing, and He
uses the Cross in this positive way.
see, the weakness in our apprehension of the Cross is largely due
to a misapprehension of the Cross. Our idea of the Cross
is that it is destructive, it is negative, it is death. We revolt
against that; we don't want to be always talked to about this
death of the Cross - death, death, death. It is indeed possible
so to preach the Cross as to bring in death; but that is a
mis-preaching. That is not God's interpretation of the Cross at
all. Let me repeat: the Holy Spirit here shows quite clearly that
God's ways and means are always positive and not negative; they
always have in view something more, and not something less; not
an end, but a new fulness.
only we could really grasp that, it would transfigure the Cross.
When the Lord confronts us with the challenge, what do we do? We
revolt, we draw back - we don't like it! Why? Simply because we
have not seen that, in this application of the Cross, God is set
upon securing something more in our lives - in our fellowships,
in our companies, in His Church - something more than there has
ever been before. That is God's law. God is not a negative God.
Other gods are negative gods, but our God is not a negative god.
He is not working to bring things to annihilation, He has very
large purposes before Him in all His ways and in all His means.
we really have to see is that, whatever the Cross may negative -
and it will of course negative some things - it is God's most
positive instrument for securing spiritual, heavenly, eternal
values. The Cross is God's most positive instrument for securing
the enlargement - not the annihilation - of that which will
abide for ever. While it is true that the Cross, in the first
place, does represent God's 'No', and that we cannot have God's
'Yes' - the Arm of the Lord - until we have accepted His 'No':
yet once we are willing to come and accept God's 'No', then the
way is clear for us to come right into His 'Yes'. And, mark you,
God's Name is not 'No'! His Name is 'Yea and Amen' (2 Cor. 1:20)
- He is "the God of Amen" (Is. 65:16) - the Positive,
the 'Verily', the God of purpose.
it is very necessary for us to move on to this settled basis,
that God always comes in with a mind to create (or to recover),
to build and to increase. If only we could believe that of the
Lord - even in our most devastating times, when everything seems
to be taken away, and all is stripped from us, when everything
seems to be going, and we think we can see an end coming: if only
we could believe then that God is working - not to bring values
to an end, but to increase them! That must be our ground - that
He is ploughing, He is digging, He intends a harvest; He intends
something more. He knows why He is doing it in that way - we
don't. But we can be sure of one thing: God is at work by the
Cross to make things safe for Himself.
The Cross Makes Things Safe for the
just supposing the Arm of the Lord were revealed to you or to me;
supposing the Arm of the Lord were revealed in the locality where
we live, in the place of work where we are engaged, or in the
company with which we are connected; supposing the Lord came out
with His mighty arm, and showed that arm in prospering, in
increasing: what would happen? Perhaps you will not agree with
this, because you feel that it would not be true in your case;
but that is just where our hearts are deceived. I can tell you
what would happen. You and I would come into the picture; you and
I would begin to strut about in this thing, now that it is
growing and enlarging and prospering and becoming something to
take note of. We should be walking round just like peacocks,
with our tails all spread out; we should be metaphorically, if
not literally, wearing a badge with 'Superintendent', or 'General
Manager', or something like that, written large across it! We
should begin to talk about the thing; and if people began to talk
about us, how pleased we should be!
is the infinite peril, and God will not run the risk of allowing
that in something that is wholly of Himself. The Lord must make
things safe for Himself, so that, if He does stretch out His
mighty arm and do something, you and I will not begin to pocket
the credit; we shall be a hidden and a covered people.
is impossible to exaggerate the importance of this. Has this not
been perhaps one of the deepest underlying laws of the revealing
of the Arm of the Lord through the whole course of Christianity?
Why was there that growth, that expansion at the beginning,
which has never been paralleled through the centuries since?
Because the Church was stripped and peeled and emptied, broken
and battered and bruised and persecuted, because it preached
Christ crucified as the wisdom of God and the power of God - and
the world would not have it. The Arm of the Lord was revealed to
that. The Church was not trying to avoid the offence of the Cross
in order to find a place in this world. No, it preached the
Cross; it was not ashamed to preach Christ crucified. It cost
everything - but the Arm of the Lord was revealed.
a tremendous lesson for us!
are brought back to this chapter in Isaiah. This chapter, which
is the quintessence of the New Testament and of all God's ways,
shows that the Arm of the Lord is revealed to that humbled,
emptied, despised, broken and crucified Servant. It is an abiding
law. Let there be no mistake about it - if you and I have an
assertive spirit, a self-confident spirit, a 'managerial' spirit,
or anything like that, the Arm of the Lord will not be revealed.
But if we find that He is stripping, emptying and pouring out,
seeming to bring to nought, we may be sure He is doing it to make
things safe for Him to stretch out His arm. Do you believe that?
I say again - He is the God of the positive and not of the
negative; He will stretch out His arm if only He is allowed to
complete, to perfect, that work of undercutting everything that
would take glory from Himself. You and I do not know how much
there is in us of that kind, do we? We think we have just about
touched bottom, we have come to the end; there is nothing left in
us. But what would happen if the whole situation suddenly changed
- took the upward road, and began to enlarge? We should
come in again - our inveterate flesh would at once begin to
assert itself! The Cross is the great clearing instrument; it is
the only way of the glory.
The Central Place of the Cross
I want you to note what a wonderful place this chapter occupies
in Isaiah. You will recall the analysis of these prophecies. The
first thirty-five chapters are occupied with a wide sweep of
judgments, beginning, as always - note that - with the people of
God. That is a Divine law: how can He judge the world until He
has judged His own people? Chapters 36 to 39 form a short
interlude dealing with Hezekiah; and then the final section,
chapters 40 to 66, is occupied with restoration and rebuilding.
Now, midway in the last section, which has twenty-six chapters,
and is occupied with the new prospect, with recovery and
rebuilding, comes this chapter 53. Is that not significant? It
gives the Cross the central place in building, in recovery; and
that is always true, is it not? But perhaps you might react, and
say, 'Isaiah is ancient history - far away and long ago!' I would
therefore like to put in here a long parenthesis.
whole sequence that we have just considered is carried right into
the dispensation in which you and I are living. It is brought in,
or introduced, in Paul's letter to the Romans; and (as we shall
see in the next chapter) it is completed in that same Apostle's
first letter to the Corinthians. You remember the letter to the
Romans. The first section opens up the sweep of Divine judgment
over the whole race of Adam; it is God's 'No'. It leads up to the
focal point of chapter 6: the Cross. That chapter is placed over
against the whole situation which has gone before, declaring that
the Cross says for ever 'No' to all that. But when we pass from
chapter 6, through chapter 7, into chapter 8, we find we are
moving out of that old situation into a new, from the negative to
the positive. In chapter 8 we come into an altogether new
prospect, an altogether new opening up. "There is therefore
now no condemnation..." All that which was condemned has
been dealt with in the Cross. We are "in Christ Jesus";
and 'the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made us
free from the law of sin and death'.
new and wonderful prospect, then, is in view. What does it amount
to? It says this: God, who ever had in view the building of His
wonderful and glorious Church, "without spot or wrinkle or
any such thing", looked at the situation among men, in order
to find that which would serve as a foundation for His building.
But what did He find? He found the state of things that is
described in those early chapters of the letter to the Romans.
What a description it is - the sin, the corruption, the tangles,
the complication - a hopeless picture of human depravity. That is
what He found when He came to lay a foundation for His glorious
Church, and He said: 'I cannot put a foundation on that; I cannot
found My Church upon that. I must clear the ground, clean up this
whole situation, burn it in fire' - and so the Cross did that.
The Cross, in the intense fires of judgment, like the mighty
Brazen Altar, dealt with that twisted, distorted tangle of human
nature. Now God has His foundation - Christ crucified. Now He can
proceed to build His Church.
is the interpretation of the Cross. It is God's means of getting
rid of everything that makes it impossible for Him to do what He
wants to do, to carry out what He has in mind. He has a mighty
purpose in view, but He finds things in the way, and He says: 'These
must be dealt with.'
us, however, in closing this chapter, return to the positive note
again. When we hear the phrase, 'The Cross', let us guard our
minds against that sudden uprising - 'Oh, the Cross again, the
Cross again, the Cross! It is all death, it is all crucifixion,
it is all negative!' That suggestion must be resolutely refused -
it is Satan's twist given to God's most wonderful instrument for
realising His glorious purpose. When we hear 'The Cross', let us
say: 'Ah, that means prospect! That means a clearing of the way;
that means something more, not less; that means that God's Arm is
going to be revealed!' Let us join with Paul in saying: 'God
forbid that I should glory in anything, save in the
Cross...' (Gal. 6:14).