Editor's Letters

by T. Austin-Sparks

November-December 1945

Beloved of God,

With this issue of the "Witness and Testimony" we close another year of its ministry. And what a year it has been in world affairs! All time to come will date a reshaping of the disposition of nations from this year. And yet, as we write, new and significant things of far-reaching consequence are in ferment. We are not joining the company of those whose prophesyings and prophetic interpretations have had to be subjected to such drastic revision in the years immediately behind us, but we are pretty safe in saying that very big strides have been made, and are now being made in the direction of an all-inclusive issue in - not only earthly - but - super-earthly realms.

What a great amount of Scripture hitherto of obscure and limited meaning to us has - in a brief time - become more than full of meaning and understanding. With one discovery alone, a whole system of accepted and established (?) ideas and acceptances has been shattered. A well-known servant of God in America says that, in a brief space of time, after reading the statement about the atomic bomb, many of his major ideas were destroyed. He made a public pronouncement that "never have I had to change my ways of thinking so much as I have in the last few hours. In many respects I am a man with entirely new sets of ideas". He then proceeded to give some of the tremendous changes in his outlook. This is from one who holds a front-rank position in the Evangelical life of the United States, and beyond, and has been a foremost speaker at the great Keswick Convention in England. Now, why am I writing like this in such a paper as this? Just for this reason. From time to time, right through the ages, those who have stood in quite a definite relationship to the things of God have either been seduced, or have drifted, or have for some reason come to fixed and systematised positions as to the ways, works, and purposes of God, which fixed ideas have come to limit Him, bind them, and result in going round in a circle instead of on a direct course of ever-enlarging and clarifying spiritual fulness and newness.

This propensity for fixedness and finality in conceptions has threatened the people of God many times with a fatal impasse. Indeed, Israel's captivity and eventual disintegration among the nations, with all the agony of centuries, very largely rests upon their fixed idea of being so right as God's elect. This same peril threatened to frustrate the real spiritual way and purpose of God with Christ's own disciples. Because of Jewish ideas interpreted by their natural minds they had prejudices and preconceptions which menaced their spiritual lives and constantly came into conflict with Christ's mind and way. Paul's life and ministry was continually opposed by this element, and he himself in his pre-conversion days, is a supreme example of its danger.

So it has been through the ages since, and is one of the greatest hindrances to the quicker realisation of the thought and purpose of the Lord in our own times. The fact is that God must not move or do anything which does not conform to the accepted and recognised order of traditional evangelical Christianity. Anything that is outside of a prescribed circle of what has been done and how it has been done for generations is suspect and boycotted. The official bodies of organised evangelical Christianity are the final court of appeal. One of the strong factors in the ministry that this paper has sought to fulfil through these many years has been that, while there are those foundational facts which are in their essence unalterable and unchanging, there is always, in everything that comes from God, a wealth and fulness of meaning and value which is commensurate with its infinite Source and Fountainhead, and that the Spirit of Truth can continually make us know that God's meaning infinitely transcends our apprehension. We must therefore never box the compass of truth or interpretation, and fix our methods and framework of doctrine or work in a way that makes it impossible for the Lord to show us that, although a certain way of outworking was all right for the time being, it was only relatively so, and fuller light means further adjustments. All this, not because the Lord is developing or changing, but because we can only move and change by life, organically, as we grow in understanding. That this is so is proved by much Scripture, and Ephesians 1:17-20 is the great stand-by in this matter; a word written to believers of no immature degree.

We venture to say that a time has begun when the old and fixed positions of traditional Christianity are losing their hold on - not only the Christian public in general - but many sincere seekers for reality, and that great numbers of young people are looking for something not to be found in many of the churches, and what they are looking for is the real and true life of God.

The question which confronts us all is this; can the Lord lead us on into His fulness in Christ without continually bumping up against something in our own carry-over of - not fixed truth, but - our fixed limit of its meaning: or something in our fixedness of position in any direction or connection? Stedfastness, un-movableness, faithfulness, etc. are to be to the Lord, and to the foundation realities of the faith, and also in the purpose for which and to which He has called us in life and service; but adjustableness is an essential to growth and increase in light and fulness. At the same time, we cannot change and move on only as there is a basic work of the Cross by which the strength of nature - even as it impinges upon Divine things - is set aside. The Lord find us such as have only one object, and that truly at any cost, "That I may know him".

I do thank you dear friends for all the many letters of appreciation which have come from so many parts. Pray for this little paper; firstly for its preservation and maintenance in spiritual strength, and then for an increase of paper and improvement in quality; for I often blush for its smallness and poverty due to the severe wartime austerity in these matters in this country.

With greetings and love in our Lord,
Yours for His glory,
[November 1945]

In keeping with T. Austin-Sparks' wishes that what was freely received should be freely given and not sold for profit, and that his messages be reproduced word for word, we ask if you choose to share these messages with others, to please respect his wishes and offer them freely - free of any changes, free of any charge (except necessary distribution costs) and with this statement included.