In the book of the Acts, the book of the Acts chapter 3, at verse 15. This is a part, only a part, of the whole statement, but it contains the phrase that I want for this present time. The whole statement is, "Ye denied the holy and righteous One and killed the Prince of Life whereof we are witnesses". That phrase and title: the Prince of Life.
This morning we were occupied with the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit as illustrated by our Lord in the wind, "The wind bloweth where it listeth" or, where it likes, where it chooses, where it wills. "Thou hearest the sound thereof but canst not tell whence it cometh or whither it goeth, so is every one that is born of the Spirit" - the absolute sovereignty of the Spirit as the basis of a true Christian life, the born-again life of the believer.
This afternoon we were occupied with the Spirit's criterion. That is, the Holy Spirit has as His one object and test of everything, Christ Himself: making Christ the test of life, of work, of everything. That is, how much of Christ is found in us, both individually, collectively, and in all the activities of our life. The Holy Spirit's criterion is that - just how much we meet Christ in one another. A lot of other things are made Christianity's criteria, but that is the Holy Spirit's criteria; it's all reduced to that.
Now this evening we are going to say a little about another very big matter. There is the hallmark of the Holy Spirit's presence and activity; that which really does evidence the presence and sovereignty, the work of the Holy Spirit, and that is contained in this phrase or title: the Prince of Life.
Before we come to that, let us just glance back a moment to this matter of the Holy Spirit's objective that is Christ. At one point in our meditation, we showed how the Holy Spirit is against everything that makes Christ smaller than He really is. Put that round the other way: the Holy Spirit's work, business, purpose is to show how great Christ is, how immensely great Christ is. And dear friends, it will depend entirely upon our apprehension of the greatness of Christ what kind of Christians we are, whether we are little ones, small ones, petty ones, trivial ones, unaccountable ones, insignificant ones, or whether we really do signify, count, mean and represent something by our being here in this world as Christians.
The thing that will determine our value, our accountability, our spiritual significance (and no one thinks after what I was saying this afternoon that I'm talking about natural importance, human bigness; I'm speaking about spiritual stature, measure and significance) the measure of that where we are concerned will be very largely, if not entirely, dependent upon our real spiritual apprehension of the greatness of Christ. Not just our mental view, our studied conclusions, but how great Christ is to us in an inward way by revelation of the Holy Spirit. And this is one thing that we believers, we Christians, ought to be occupied with continually because it is the effect of this that will make us what we are going to be: occupied with knowing Christ in the full dimensions of the Holy Spirit's revelation. There are many ways in which we may come to that, which I will not mention, but closely in touch with what we have here, in this word, is this way of coming to an understanding of how great, great Christ is. That is, by a recognition of the titles by which the Holy Spirit speaks of Him.
I wonder if you have done anything about this: considered, considered the titles given to us by the Holy Spirit of the Lord Jesus. I have compiled a list from the New Testament of some 53 different titles of the Lord Jesus. Go back to the Old Testament to the prophet Isaiah alone and we'll add quite a few more: Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace - these are all titles, distinctive titles. And as you know, there are many others, both in Isaiah and in other parts of the Old Testament. I reckon before we were finished we would have about a total of over 80 different titles given to the Lord Jesus in the Word of God. Now, it takes a very big person to carry as many names as that! You wouldn't like to have all those names to carry about in life, would you, as many names as that? Why, if you get one or two, if you get three, there's just about all you could put up with! But here you are: here is one man, one man who is so great, so great, that He can stand up to this large, large sum of designations, titles. And remember that they are not just names, they are not just names, they are definitions. Every one of them is a definition of His character, His work, and His significance in God's universe.
I'm not going to run through that list... you see what a realm you're in of the greatness of Christ! Oh, if I said to you that I could occupy a whole week of meetings with you on each separate title, and more than that, more time than that on each separate title, you'd want, you see, 80 odd weeks just to cover the ground in a superficial way! But there is no fathoming of the depth of these titles, these definitions. How great He is! And I repeat that if by the Holy Spirit you and I could be led to know Him in these terms, the terms of these wonderful designations, what a Christ we would have! But, it's all here for us! It's in the Bible, we've got it, it's in a book for us, and we have got the Holy Spirit to take each one and bring us into the good of what that title means.
I trust that, though I have to concentrate this into a very short time this evening, that you will see something of what I mean.
Now, here is one of these more than fifty-three titles of Christ in the New Testament: the Prince of Life.
The Prince of Life
Perhaps I had better stop at once for a little technical adjustment. That word "Prince" is likely to mislead us, if we think of it as we should just naturally do, as referring to some princeliness, some high estate, some honourable position, as we speak of a prince. But that is not (while it is true, of course, of Him) that is not the word that is really here. The same word, the same word as is translated "prince" here, is translated in other ways in the New Testament. In the letter to the Hebrews, for instance, "to make the author of their salvation perfect through sufferings". That word "author" is the same word as the word "prince" here. "The author and finisher of faith..." author again is the same word. But in the original language, the best, the best translation of the word would be pioneer. You can see that author fits into that, just as in another place it is translated "captain", "the captain of our salvation", it's the same word again: captain, author, pioneer.
The Pioneer of Life - what, what a meaning that gives, doesn't it, to this statement, this statement of Peter before these Jewish rulers as he is hurling at them the great devastating charge of their crime: "Ye killed the Pioneer of Life!" Do you see what you do if you kill the pioneer? The pioneer, if there's only one pioneer, kill him and see what you do. Oh, how rich that very word is: the Pioneer of Life.
Now then, let's broaden out a bit. Here is a word, a word of immense dimensions. This one word embraces and gathers into itself all the meaning of Christianity. It sums up everything that Christianity (New Testament Christianity I mean, true Christianity) really means, this word: Life. This is the eternal issue, make no mistake about it. This thing here called Life is the eternal issue. It is the issue in creation. It is as clear as anything can be, that when God created the world, and then man upon it, He intended through testing and probation that the man that He had created should become the recipient of, and participator in something called "Life" which is more than animal life which he had, more than soul life which He breathed into him.
Whether it's symbolism or not it doesn't matter (to me at any rate, it doesn't matter) the principle is the thing. That Tree of Life placed at the heart of the garden represents this great thing: that there is something there for which God had created man, that he should have that on conditions of obedience and faith - have that, what that tree represented. It is called the Tree of Life.
Now, all the other trees were alive, they were all alive and all the animals were alive. All the birds and all the creeping things and all the fishes were alive. And Adam was alive, but not alive with that Life. There's no logic, no logic whatever, or reason, for putting that thing there apart from them, outside of them, as something distinctive and something definite if they've already got what it signifies. But they haven't; they haven't. And the very act of God after their disobedience through unbelief enforces this truth.
He turned them out and put in an angel, a cherubim guard around the Tree of Life and said, "No, not now. Never, now. Never now on this ground, for this kind of man: never. It was My intention, but never. The day, the day when thou eatest thereof as to another tree, in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt die". Sentence was passed and man fell into spiritual death that day and all his children from them to us, and all others today, and all that may yet be, are dead to God in that sense - never having had that Life by nature. That's the issue of the creation. That is the issue bound up with the incarnation of the Son of God. Why did He come? Why did the Son of God divest Himself of all His heavenly glory and come in man form? To take up this issue, this issue: "I am come that they might have Life". He said it.
"That they might have Life" - implying implicitly that they haven't got it. They haven't got it. "Without My coming they would never have it. I am come that they might have Life". The issue of the very incarnation. And of course the issue of redemption is this, this Life, this particular Life.
The issue of the advent of the Holy Spirit is this one issue - He is called the Spirit of Life. Romans 8:2, "the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ". He is the Spirit of Life. You mark, wherever you meet the Holy Spirit in all your New Testament, you are coming on the issue of Life; right on the issue of Life in symbol, or type, or figure, or statement, it's this issue of Life. So the word carries with it in itself the very greatness of Christ. If this is the eternal issue in creation, in incarnation, in redemption, in the Holy Spirit in all His work, the issue is Life and that Life is in Christ, surely and alone in Christ. What a significance is given to Christ! How great He is, reaching back to eternity past, coming through all time, carrying this issue for men and reaching right into eternity to be, on one thing: Life.
The Pioneer of Life
The Pioneer of Life - it is this, dear friends, this particular thing, that makes Christ unique. Unique! In Him was Life, and again the implication was: and no one else, only in Him. In Him was Life. In Him was Life.
You know that John wrote twenty chapters, twenty chapters of the gospel, and summed up the whole of his twenty chapters in one word, one conclusive statement: "These things are written that you may know that Jesus is the Son of God and that believing you may have life in Him". Thank you John, now we know what you've been after all the way through! All that you have written through that gospel has been concentrated upon one thing: Life. And that's borne out as you read, isn't it? Chapter by chapter the issue is Life.
Then John wrote six, six chapters of letters, as we have them divided up, and you know that those letters of John just bare right down upon this, "He that hath the Son hath Life, and he that hath not the Son hath not the Life", cannot see the Life. It's, it's all about Life!
The issue is Life, centred in Christ. And it is so clear by that, because you don't do that sort of thing, you don't write all that and say all these things if everybody has got this Life after all. It so evidently means: well, Jesus is unique in this! He's different from all other beings, created beings. He is different; as different as that Tree of Life was from all the other trees. And the difference, the difference, the uniqueness of Christ is in this: that He has in Him a Life that no other species of creation possesses. It's a difference in Him because it's a different kind of Life from all others.
Now, this is the very heart, the very heart of the meaning of His being the Son of God. The Son of God in the spiritual, in the Divine realm, it follows the line, the parallel of the natural: Sonship. Sonship, what is sonship after all? Well, it's not just a title is it? It's not just an association, sonship in its very essence is this: that the life of a father dwells in the son - the life.
How do I know that I am the son of my father? And the remarkable thing is (I don't know how true it is with you, perhaps you never thought about it, it may not bear out in your case, but I know it does in mine, and I suppose I am pretty well as old as anybody here) this is the remarkable thing to me: the older I get, the more I see my father in me. I am coming up against my father more and more, the longer I live, as I remember him, as I now can understand him, as I couldn't as a child, or even as a youth. I took him for granted. He was objective, but now... my word, this father of mine is coming out all the time! No one can raise any question as to whether I'm the son of my father! I know, I know. Why? Why? Because I'm called by the same name? Not at all. You're not a son of God because you call yourself a Christian and you bear a certain name, no none of that. The thing, the thing that makes for His sonship is this: that the very life of His Father, God, is resident within Him, has been passed into Him, has become the basic factor, and reality, and power in His being; His Father's Life is in Him.
And that, dear friends, goes right to the heart of this matter of a new family; the new family which God is making, which is to occupy His realm for eternity when all others have been dismissed from His sphere; all others have been dismissed, have gone. A family and a family only will remain and that family will be in terms of sonship in this sense: that they possess this unique Life of Jesus Christ as His own transmission by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Life to them.
Jesus was different, not in outward appearance perhaps altogether, for those who looked on and who were just spectators did not note the difference amongst men. "His visage is marred more than any man's, when we see Him there's no beauty that we should desire Him..." and so on. Not in the outward appearance, although I even think that Pilate registered something about Him. However, it is in this... this secret possession, that He is different from all others. And He was different, He was different, there was something there that was not true of any other person of all the millions on the earth when He was here. It's unique, quite different.
Now, He says He is the Pioneer. What is the pioneer? Well, "pioneer" again carries with it no significance if there's no one else coming after. The very meaning of the word "pioneer" means that He's ahead of others, He's the trail maker and breaker for others. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews, of course puts it, "in bringing many sons to glory" to make the pioneer, to make the pioneer, perfect through suffering. If this is true, you and I, you and I come to be possessors of that unique, that Life which is different, different in its very essence. Then you and I, dear friends, in the deepest reality of our being are different, are different. Now, that's a statement, a statement of fact, but what does it amount to?
And I do want to be helpful, not stating facts of doctrine, but really helpful. What does it amount to? What does it amount to? The most blessed thing of which you and I can conceive! It not only amounts to our being in a Family, a Divine Family, of the eternal Family, the answer to God's everlasting desire for men, it means this: that there is something by the Holy Spirit Himself as present as the Spirit of Life deposited in a born from above child of God, as something deposited which is a mighty power and energy to which you and I will owe everything. Oh yes! Oh yes!
We were speaking this afternoon of the negative side of what the Holy Spirit does in order to get us, to get us to the place of His absolute sovereignty. That is, He breaks us, He empties us, He brings us to total exhaustion where our own natural resources are concerned. He just smashes us to pieces and brings us to zero in order to bring us into the glorious sovereignty and fullness of Jesus Christ. That's the negative side, but look here! When the Holy Spirit is doing that work, He's never, never doing it with a negative object. And the positive thing that the Holy Spirit is doing is this: just to make us know the mighty, mighty and persistent reality of resurrection! Of resurrection! Death's work is in us, it's true. By the Spirit's operation: but Life also, the reality of resurrection! Oh, I do feel that this is something, if you forget everything else, that we must lay hold of anew, dear friends.
I don't know how many of you here, and perhaps some, not all, but others will follow in the way if this is not too disconcerting for them. Some of you know quite well what it is to be brought down very, very low indeed, low in your spiritual life, low in your physical life, low in your faith. A place where everything seems now gone, and finished, and hopeless; everything. Everything! That more or less may have been tasted by some of you, and don't forget (I'm sorry, I don't want to be depressing, I really don't want to be depressing, but I'm on the positive side you know, when I'm saying it) that is what the Holy Spirit will do if He gets sovereignty. He'll upset you. He'll break you. He'll end you. He'll up-end you, oh yes, you won't know whether you're this way up or that! You, you'll just come there to bewilderment and despair of everything in yourself. And they're things where the Holy Spirit really gets sovereignty for one reason, and it's a positive reason: to make you know the reality of the power of this Life that He has deposited in you, that it is stronger than death, that it is stronger than hell, that it is stronger than all the power of satan, that it is mightier than all the strength of human nature and all the weakness of human nature. That it is something that comes up again, and it comes up again, and still again it comes up when you thought that it was gone forever, disappeared for eternity. Up it comes again, and on it goes again, for the next cycle. This is true! This is true, it's true to the New Testament if you look. The Holy Spirit was working on this line.
It's true to spiritual experience, when the Holy Spirit gets hold. Now, is that something? Oh, thank God for it, it was deposited in us when we first received the Spirit as the Spirit of Life by faith in Jesus Christ, and were born anew; it was deposited. And a hundred times, a thousand times for some of us, since then. Our survival, our very survival has been on this basis: that there's something at work in us that is mightier than all these forces that are seeking our undoing and our destruction. It's something that survives, and comes up, and rises again, and takes us on further, until we have the next bout, but then it happens again! It's there!
It's like... I dare not... perhaps I'll use illustrations, but you know, you're familiar in this country, more than perhaps in any part of the world, with what you call pricks, injections, shots. What is it? Well, something put in, and it works and it may work for a year. And the presence of that within, silently, you're not conscious of it at all, that is there working silently and secretly. The presence of that is setting up a mighty resistance to something that otherwise would invade and mean a fatal issue. It's there within, secretly at work.
There are many diseases and maladies that are warded off in later life because of this something earlier, put there. We're saved, but we don't carry the consciousness of this thing all the way through life, but it's there. We owe a tremendous amount to it. Now, that's in the physical realm, and it's a poor illustration, but it is an illustration of this. The Holy Spirit brings this Life in, deposits this Life, this Divine Life. And secretly, oft-time so unconsciously, so unconsciously that Life is there working as a mighty Divine force for our redemption, for our deliverance, for our persistence, for our survival, for our spiritual progress, going on; stamina and for victory upon victory.
In the Christian life when the battle rages and it's an issue of Life and death again, in some way or other, this stands in good stead, this Divine Life. Because of what? There is One who has pioneered this way of Life. He's pioneered it. Oh, you in this country know something of pioneer work over here in the West, you're living in the good, aren't you, of the pioneers who came away right across, ploughed the way, cut the way, met the difficulties, the obstacles, cut down the forests and gave you a way for this good and pleasant country. But what they had to meet, you know, pioneering! They met the cost of it. They took all the involvement in it. They shouldered all responsibilities, they endured all the hardships and the sufferings, and what a thing it was, to give you this life.
He's the pioneer of something more than Californian benefits! The Pioneer of Life. He came, He took on Him all that was involved in this matter of death, and darkness, and evil, and God knows, as we were saying this afternoon, and God only knows how deep that iniquity is in us. How terrible a thing has happened to humanity through Adam. Oh, how terrible. How terrible is the thing that has taken place in us, in us. But He took the whole thing, the sum of it, the whole of it on Himself. And through it, through death, through blood, through agony, through darkness, through God rejections, the final stage of sin, through it all He pioneered through this issue of Life and came out victorious on the other side of the bloody ordeal of the cross. And as the Pioneer He said, "I'm the first one, you can be the second, and the third, and the fourth..." and on toward a great multitude which no man can number. Ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of persons possessing this same Life.
That is our prospect. That is what He's brought to us, but my point that I want mostly to emphasise is the reality of the indwelling Spirit of Life. Oh, lay hold on that! Lay hold on Him! "Lay hold on Life", as Paul said to Timothy, lay hold! Refuse, refuse death, refuse the old argument of hopelessness and despair because of this or that, or anything in this universe that would spell despair, but for the fact that the Pioneer has got through to the other side for us with Life, like the torch in His hand, offered to us.
You can see in the light of what I've been saying, just if you like to glance aside at the terrible, terrible thing that Israel did when they killed the Prince of Life. Two thousand years of misery, hopelessness, despair, of a Wailing Wall in Jerusalem where they go continually day and night and bewail their awful lot... and again and again through these two thousand years, the awful consequences of their deed, allowed to break up and show. In the Holocaust, in the awful pogroms, "You killed the Prince of Life and it has been hell for you and death for you!" It's true isn't it? History declares what an awful thing it is to reject the Prince, the Pioneer of Life. You'll never get through if you do that, but thank God we have been given faith in the Lord Jesus and that awful doom is not ours. Today we live with an open heaven, an open heaven right through to God, because the Pioneer went through for us.