"A Candlestick of Pure
Gold: of Beaten Work" Exodus 25:31
"The Testimony of Jesus" Revelation 1:9
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|September -- October, 1969
||Vol. 47, No. 5
AN APOSTLE'S SUPREME AMBITION
"That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection,
and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed unto his death"
THERE are few words in his writings which reveal how committed to the
Lord Jesus this man was. The whole context is one consummate outpouring
of his heart to the One whom he said had "apprehended" him, and he
focuses all in a brief half sentence: "That I may know him."
The impressive thing about this expressed ambition is the time at which
it is made. Here is a man who has had a revelation and knowledge of
Jesus Christ greater than any other man up to that time. That knowledge
commenced whence as he said, "it pleased God to reveal his Son in me".
That beginning devastated him, and sent him into the desert to try to
grasp its implications. Later he had been "caught up into the third
heaven and shown unspeakable things, which (he said) were not
lawful to be uttered". Between, and around those two experiences, there
is evidence of an ever growing knowledge of Christ. Here, after all
that, near the end of his life, he is crying passionately: "That I may
The very least that we can say about this is that the Christ in view
was a very great Christ indeed, who outstrips the greatest capacity and
comprehension of man. This stands in such tremendous contrast to the
limited Christ of our recognition and apprehension! How very much more
there is in Christ than we have ever seen! But we must break down our
verse. It is divided by its main words, and can be stated in its four
(1) The all-governing passion: "That I may know him."
(2) The effectual power: "The power of his resurrection."
(3) The essential basis: "The fellowship of his sufferings."
(4) The progressive principle: "Conformed to his death."
1. THE ALL-GOVERNING PASSION
"That I may know him."
Here a little study in words is both helpful and necessary. In the
original language of the New Testament there are two words for
'knowing' or 'knowledge' or 'to know'. They run in numerous occasions
and connections right through the New Testament. [97/98]
One of these words has the meaning of knowledge by information; being
told, reading, by report. It is more the knowledge which comes by
observation, study, searching, or talk. It is rather knowledge about
things, persons, etc. The other word carries the meaning of personal
experience, intimate acquaintance; and inward knowledge.
Sometimes there is a prefix which gives the meaning of "full knowledge"
(epi). The second of these words and meanings is that which Paul is
using and employing here: 'That I may have or gain more of the
knowledge of Him which is personal experience by personal acquaintance,
by living, firsthand relationship with Him.'
This removes everything from the realm of mere theory, the intellect,
and being told. It is the result and effect of an act of the Holy
Spirit within. That is why Paul links with this knowledge "the power of
his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings". It is powerful
knowledge, born of deep experience. And this is the only true
knowledge of Christ! It is planted or wrought deep in the inner life.
2. THE EFFECTUAL POWER
"The power of his resurrection."
While there is a future aspect of the whole statement, that is,
the consummation in glory, we must understand that in each of
these phrases Paul is thinking of this life. Even in the next verse,
where he speaks of attaining to the "outresurrection from among
the dead", he is thinking primarily of present spiritual and moral
out-raising. He had known something of this power already. His
conversion was such. Again and again, in what he called "deaths oft" he
had known it. Perhaps greatest of all were his experiences in Asia and
Lystra (2 Corinthians 1:9; Acts 14:19-20).
Resurrection power and life are the knowledge of Christ. This
is how we know Him, and this is available for every believer. It is for
endurance, for overcoming, for fulfilment of ministry, for maintaining
the Lord's testimony in the world; for every need which demands it in
relation to the interests and glory of Christ. It puts life on a
supernatural basis. It is the power of His resurrection, the
greatest miracle in history.
3. THE ESSENTIAL BASIS
"The fellowship of his sufferings."
In this connection there are some things that we must at once set
aside. There were sufferings of Christ which we do not share,
and are not called upon to share, although sometimes there seems to be
a very fine and thin line between them.
We do not share the atoning sufferings of Christ. There is a whole
realm of suffering which was His alone. The work of man's redemption
was His alone, for us. When He who was without sin was made sin
for us He was alone, even God-forsaken in that eternal moment. Upon
that fact the whole truth of His unique Person hangs, and the whole
system of perfect sacrifice rests; the spotless Lamb.
But when all that is accepted and established, there are
sufferings of Christ in which we have fellowship with Him. We also, for
His sake , may be despised and rejected of men. We can be
discredited, ostracised, persecuted, mocked, tortured, and even
"killed", both in an act and "all the day long". Paul speaks of a
residue of Christ's sufferings which he was helping to fill up for "His
body's sake which is the church". This is another, and different, area
and system of suffering. Paul looked upon this as an honour and
something in which to rejoice, because it was for the One whom he so
deeply loved. But he also saw that this suffering with and for
Christ provided the basis for knowing Christ and the power of His
resurrection This Apostle would agree that only those who know this
fellowship truly know the Lord. We know that! It is perfectly evident
that real usefulness in a spiritual way comes out of the winepress, and
"they that have suffered most have most to give" There is nothing
artificial about the fruit of Christ.
4. THE PROGRESSIVE PRINCIPLE
"Becoming conformed unto his death."
It is important in understanding the Apostle to realise that he was not
thinking of conformity to Christ's death as the end of all else. His
real meaning was that he should increase in the knowledge of Christ,
know the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings
by becoming conformed to His death. His death -- Christ's -- was
behind, something at the beginning, and the spiritual history of the
believer is a working back to what that death meant. It meant
the end of the "old man", crucifixion to the world mind and will; the
closing of the door to a whole system which was not Christ-centred and
All this had been stated and presented in Paul's earlier letters; but
it was a meaning which had to be progressively made real and true in
spiritual experience. The meaning of Christ's death -- Paul [98/99] taught -- was to be the inner history of the
believer, and this would work out -- progressively -- in the power of
His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings. So that, by
being conformed to His death, he would come to the fuller knowledge of
Him and of that Divine power. It is ever so.
The all-governing passion opens the way for the effectual, and
effectuating power, by the essential basis, through the progressive
principle of conformity to His death.
THE MISSION AND THE MESSAGE OF JESUS
5. IN THE BOOK OF ACTS
THE importance of this book is best recognised if we were to estimate
the importance of it being in the New Testament at all. I wonder if you
have ever thought of what the New Testament would be without this book!
Perhaps at some time you would like to read the New Testament and leave
this book out. There would be a whole lot of questions that you could
never answer, and you would be in complete confusion. This book,
therefore, is of very great importance to the whole New Testament.
Historically, it is Luke's second volume, and it gives us the beginning
and the spread of Christianity. It tells us how all the rest of the New
Testament came to be written. That is the historical aspect but
spiritually there is another aspect, and that aspect is backward and
In the first words of this book Luke tells us of what happened in the
past -- that he informed his friend of what Jesus began to do and to
teach. That is the backward look. Then Luke proceeds to look forward.
In effect, he says: 'Now I am going to tell you what Jesus continued to
do.' But there is this particular thing that we must note: all that is
in this book is the securing of the ground for the rest of the New
Testament. All that is in the rest of the New Testament is built upon
the ground of this book. After Acts the New Testament is occupied with
the doctrine, or the teaching, and the book of the Acts is the story of
how the ground was secured for the teaching.
As to the backward look, this book of the Acts takes up Matthew, Mark,
Luke and John, and makes those four Gospels actual. Now I want to
remind you of one of the first things that we said at the beginning of
these messages. You remember that we said that the best way of
understanding the New Testament is to read a book and then having read
it, to stand back and ask yourselves the question: 'What is the main
impression that has come to me by reading that book? This is of
particular importance with regard to the book of the Acts, for when we
stand back, after reading it, we see the Holy Spirit making the Gospels
real and actual in history. Pentecost truly governs this book, but it
will be well for us if we stand back again from that word 'Pentecost',
and if we ask ourselves this question:
WHAT WAS PENTECOST?
Can your minds work quickly enough to give an answer? If I asked you
now just to put down on a piece of paper what Pentecost was, I wonder
what you would say! I know what a lot of you would say: 'It was the
advent of the Holy Spirit.' You would be quite right. Some of you would
say: 'It was the baptism of the Holy Spirit', for that is the meaning
of the word 'Pentecost' for a great many people, but when you press the
question closer, what was, and what is, the baptism of the Holy Spirit?
You know what a lot of people would say. It is not necessary for me to
discuss that! However, what I am getting at is this: there is an
altogether inadequate conception of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Pentecost has come to mean a very much smaller thing than it really is,
and that is what I want to show in the first place. Not one of us will
doubt the necessity of the Holy Spirit. Call it 'Pentecost', 'the gift
of the Holy Spirit', 'the baptism of the Holy Spirit', or what you
like, but, really, what was it?
TAKING UP THE GOSPEL BY MATTHEW
Firstly, the coming of the Holy Spirit was taking up the Gospel by
Matthew. What have we seen to be the message of the Gospel by Matthew?
We have seen it to be the absolute lordship and authority of Jesus
Christ -- and that is the beginning of Pentecost. That is the first
meaning of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and we do not know the
meaning [99/100] of the Holy Spirit until we
recognise that. Now read the book of the Acts in the light of Matthew!
"They ... went everywhere preaching ..." (Acts 8:4), and what was the
chief note in their preaching? Jesus Christ is Lord ! (Acts
10.36.) The absolute lordship and authority of Jesus Christ runs from
the beginning to the end of the book of the Acts.
This is the primary test of our having the Holy Spirit, which ought not
to be something subsequent to our conversion. This is not the extra
gift, nor the second blessing. You look into this book and see! From
the very beginning these people who came to the Lord came into His
lordship. They accepted Jesus Christ as Lord, and they came
under His authority, and that was the secret of the power of the early
Church. I know it was that that cost them their very lives. If you
stand on the ground of the absolute lordship of Jesus Christ something
is going to happen, but do you want nothing to happen? Yes, things
happen in this book. All hell was stirred to its depths, all men were
compelled to give a reaction of some kind, and all heaven was very
interested. The supreme thing in heaven and earth and hell is the
lordship of Jesus Christ, and making Jesus Christ Lord is the first
work of the Holy Spirit in a life. I do not just want to say these
things; I do want them to be applied. I hope that no one will read this
message without making Jesus Christ Lord in a new way, without making
Him Lord in all the practical things of your life and in the way you
behave in this world, in everything that people see about you, so that
you are captivated men and women, young and old. So the book of the
Acts takes up Matthew.
TAKING UP THE GOSPEL BY MARK
It also takes up Mark. What is the message of Mark? It is that a life
under the authority of Jesus Christ is marked by a consuming concern
that other people should know the Lord, a great passion that others
should receive the Lord and that He should have a full place in them.
You remember John Mark? I hope you will never forget him! That young
man in a hurry! He had lost time. He returned from the work, and there
was a period in his life which was lost to the Lord Jesus. Then he was
recovered and his whole spirit from that time was: 'I must make good
all the time that I have lost', and so John Mark is: "Straightway ...
straightway ... straightway ..."
John Mark, therefore, is the representative of a life under the
authority of Jesus Christ, and he takes the spirit of Jesus Christ and
says: 'I must work the works of Him that sent me while it is day, for
the night cometh when no man can work.' Now you see in the book of the
Acts how that spirit is found. "They ... went everywhere preaching",
and if you say to me: 'Well, of course, that applies to the apostles',
may I remind you that it applied to all the believers that were in
Jerusalem "scattered abroad" (Acts 8:4); when the hammer of persecution
came down on the Church at Jerusalem and the believers were scattered
everywhere. The Greek word for what they were doing is very
interesting. I notice that our interpreters have got into difficulty
with this word! Well, if you don't understand the word, you know the
thing. You can see it on the street any day, and after every meeting of
a conference. Two or more people get together, and what are they doing?
Well, they are just ... gossiping! That is the word. These
believers went everywhere just gossiping -- gossiping the Gospel. They
were talking, talking everywhere about Jesus Christ. That is actually
what is said about them. That is in the book of the Acts -- but that is
the later spirit of John Mark in Acts. He is moving everywhere and is
talking about Jesus Christ. Do you see that this book of the Acts does
take up Matthew and Mark?
May I just stop here to say something especially to my younger friends?
It is quite evident that after his restoration John Mark was a released
young man. Before that, although he was a disciple, he was just tied
up, and his relationship to the Lord Jesus was in severe limitation.
Now what I want to say is this: You will never get your spiritual
release until you become one who testifies. This is a law of the
spiritual life. I do not present myself to you as an example. You may
not believe it, but I was a young man once! I came to the Lord when I
was in my teens, but for quite a time my spiritual life was locked up.
Yes, I loved the Lord, I had given my heart to Him, but my life was all
tied up until the day came when I stepped into the middle of an
open-air meeting and gave my simple testimony to a large crowd of
people. It was an awful business! I went home saying: 'I will never do
that again!', but it turned out to be my release, and from that time my
spiritual life was completely free. That is when I started my preaching
life, and that has gone on to this day. The point is that you will
never get full release in your spiritual life until you tell someone
else about it.
I had a great friend, and he was a great soulwinner. I was not very
much impressed with his preaching, but he was a wonderful personal
worker, and I am sure that in eternity a great number of people will
owe their salvation to that man. Now [100/101]
he learned this principle. One day he went out and was wondering where
he was to go to meet some souls and tell them about the Lord Jesus. He
was just passing the army barracks, and inside the gate he saw two
soldiers. One of them was on guard; he had his gun over his shoulder
and was marching up and down. On the other side there was another
soldier, just standing and watching. He had the stripes on his arm, and
was just watching to see that things were done properly. My friend
walked in through the gate, and when the soldier came to stand still,
quite contrary to regulations, my friend asked him if he knew the Lord
Jesus. Well, the result was that this soldier accepted the Lord Jesus.
My friend said to him: 'Now that you have accepted the Lord Jesus as
your Saviour, shout over to that other man and tell him what you have
done!' He had much experience, and he knew quite well that while we
keep it to ourselves we are not free. If you are an apostle, go
everywhere preaching the Lord Jesus. If you are just a simple believer,
talk about the Lord Jesus everywhere and you will be a true John Mark.
The book of the Acts takes up that principle of the Gospel by Mark.
TAKING UP THE GOSPEL BY LUKE
What about the Gospel by Luke? What did we say about that? We saw that
the message of Luke is the message of a new humanity, a new kind of
man, and this new kind of man is after Christ. It is not mankind
according to Adam, but mankind according to Christ. Is it necessary for
us to point that out in the book of the Acts? The work of the Holy
Spirit is not only to make Jesus Christ Lord and to make us active
witnesses to the Lord Jesus; it is also to make us like the
Lord Jesus. It is to reproduce the Lord Jesus in us, and this is the
proof as to whether we have received the Holy Spirit. This is what
Pentecost means: a change in our nature from Adam to Christ.
TAKING UP THE GOSPEL BY JOHN
And then we pass on to John. You remember what we said about John's
message? Everything in this present dispensation is of a heavenly
character and is spiritual in its nature. I will gather that up into
one word. Near the end of John's Gospel he gives us that wonderful
prayer of the Lord Jesus. Jesus is praying, is pouring out His heart to
His Father, and the burden of His prayer is these men the Father had
given Him. He is praying for them, and what does He say to the Father
about them? "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world"
(John 17:14). That is New Testament Christianity, and the work of the
Holy Spirit is to make that true of every one of us -- "not of this
world". Romans 12:2 says: "Be not conformed to this world", and do you
know what the literal words are? "Do not take the fashion of this
world." That is very searching!
Well, I must leave that word with you, especially to the younger
people. Are you trying to be like the people of this world in your
fashion? I will say no more, but I will ask you to ask your own heart
about that. You will never overcome the world on its own ground. The
Church has tried to do that, and the world has defeated it. Our victory
in the book of the Acts is on the ground that we are not of this world.
So the Acts takes up John, and, as I said, makes actual
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
TEACHING FOR THE SPIRITUAL LIFE
When the ground has been secured and men and women have responded to
that fourfold message, then the teaching follows. We have the forward
look from Acts. All these people in all these places mentioned in the
Acts will receive the teaching for their spiritual life.
Now note this again. The teaching demands the position. Unless you are
in the position the teaching will do you no good. You may have it all
in your notebook, or, if you have a good memory, you may have it all in
your head, but it will do you no good whatever unless you are in the
position. We can only understand the teaching, and grow up into Christ,
if Jesus Christ is absolute Lord. There are multitudes of Christians
who have just come to a standstill in their Christian life. You try to
talk to them about the fuller things of Christ and they look at you as
though you were talking in a language they had never heard before. They
do not understand what you are talking about. Well, they have come to
the Lord, but for them the Lord is not absolute Lord, and therefore
they cannot understand the teaching. They are still babes in Christ.
For spiritual understanding and spiritual growth complete committal to
the Lord Jesus is necessary.
Again, we cannot understand the teaching or grow up into Christ unless
we are very practical in our Christian life. That is John Mark -- being
very practical about the Christian life. Not just theory, nor doctrine,
but practical life. That is essential to spiritual knowledge and
Then we cannot understand the teaching or grow up into Christ unless we
are dedicated to be like Christ. That is Luke -- manhood after Christ.
If your heart is wholly set upon being like the Lord [101/102]
Jesus He will give you an open heaven, that is, the Holy Spirit will
come and teach you and work in you according to Christ.
Finally, we cannot understand the teaching, nor grow up into Christ
unless we are not conformed to this world. There is really no such
thing as a 'worldly Christian', that is, from the New Testament
standpoint, but actually there are many Christians who are still of
this world. Do you know, dear friends that this world lies under a
curse? Do you believe that of the devil? He was cursed in the Garden of
Eden. The symbol of Satan is the serpent, and the serpent has no wings
-- it cannot get off the earth. The symbolism is that this earth is a
cursed thing, and the Scripture says that "the whole world lieth in the
evil one" (1 John 5:19). If you touch this world you touch death, that
is, spiritual death. The Word of God knows what it is talking about,
and therefore, with very great meaning, it says: "Be not conformed to
this world." If you do Satan will make a mess of your life. Brother
Watchman Nee always spoke of this as 'the earth touch'. If he saw any
Christian who was not going on with the Lord, who had no spiritual
power in his life, he said: 'There must be an earth touch somewhere.'
Does this all sound very serious? Well, it is serious. It is not my
desire to he hard, but I am trying to help you to see the way of a true
Holy Spirit life, and so I come back to what I said about Pentecost. Do
you see how much greater Pentecost is than what people think it to be?
This is what Pentecost meant in the book of the Acts, and this is what
it will always mean. So I say to you what the Apostle Paul said: "Think
on these things."
GOD'S SPIRITUAL TEMPLE
Reading: 1 Peter 2:1-10; John 2:13-22
THE TRUTH SOWN AND HIDDEN
YOU will notice that the incident referred to above took place at the
commencement of our Lord's ministry, and it is very remarkable that
there is nothing in the other Gospels of this nature which sets forth
so clearly the determined counsel of God concerning the crucifixion and
resurrection. He began to disclose to the inner circle of His disciples
how He must be crucified, and rise again on the third day. Here we have
quite a public statement right at the beginning of the Lord's ministry.
This surely brings into view something of extreme importance, which
gives a very big and comprehensive explanation of the mission of Christ
in coming here, being crucified and being raised again -- "Destroy this
temple, and in three days I will raise it up."
You will notice that the disciples, after the resurrection, remembered
that He had said this, and we are told that they believed the
scriptures and the word which Jesus had said. When the Lord Jesus did
rise again, so unexpectedly to these men (although they had been told
so often), they naturally would remember that He had told them that He
would rise again. But we are expressly told here that it was not the
fact of His resurrection that they remembered, nor the fact that they
had been told about it beforehand, but that after He rose again they
remembered this particular saying. It came back to them -- not just
that Jesus was going to rise again, but this particular utterance of
His. Surely that means something more than that they believed that it
was written that Jesus should rise again! They came to understand
something of the implication of the resurrection, and I think we find
that in this particular chapter of the first letter of Peter.
Here is the real implication of Christ's resurrection, and a scripture
is brought forth. He is to rise again. Yes, but His resurrection means
this: that God now has, by the resurrection, a spiritual, heavenly,
eternal temple in which to dwell. "Destroy this temple," the Lord Jesus
said, "and in three days I will raise it up." He raised up God's temple
which, in the first place, was the Lord Jesus Himself. The disciples
remembered the scripture, and here in Peter's letter we have the
Spirit's explanation of that abiding work done by the resurrection in
the sense that God now has a spiritual, heavenly, eternal temple in
which to dwell; and when we touch that we surely touch the final, and
ultimate, and full purpose of God.
Peter tells us what the temple is for. On the one hand, it is that
spiritual sacrifices might be offered up to God. On the other hand, we
are told that it should be that from which His excellencies should be
shown forth. It is a place for God's dwelling, in which He is to abide
and find the satisfaction of His heart (represented by the spiritual
sacrifices), [102/103] and from which He is to
manifest His excellent glories to the universe. That is the result of
Now we may see something of the value and importance of this expression
of the Lord's from the way in which it was taken up and twisted by His
enemies towards the end of His time here on the earth. You remember
that when they sought false witnesses against Him, nothing very much
came which seemed to offer any particular charge against Him until two
men came and said: "This man said, I am able to destroy the temple of
God, and to build it in three days" (Matthew 26:61). Why did they lay
hold of this saying? Surely there were many other things which might
equally well have been brought forth as charges against the Lord Jesus!
Well, of course, as Jews that hit them and it rankled in their hearts.
That is the human explanation. They could never forget a word that
seemed to be against their temple. But there is something even deeper.
Surely Satan's hatred is being manifested in this, and since it is to
be shown what his finger is out against, there comes up this question
of the destroying and raising again of the temple. It would seem that
there is something there against which all the powers of darkness are
ranged, something which, as far as they know, is of supreme importance
and value. It comes up again when the Pharisees complain about the tomb
not being sufficiently guarded: "Sir, we remember that that deceiver
said, while he was yet alive. After three days I rise again" (Matthew
27:63). That had remained in their minds and was something they could
not forget. When we touch this question of God's heavenly
dwelling-place, the corporate heavenly Man, immediately we come into a
realm of intense and bitter conflict. This is God's ultimate purpose,
as it is His first purpose. His heart has always been set upon this
very thing, and that is confirmed by the way in which Satan rages
THE TRUTH APPREHENDED
Now we pass into the time of the Pentecostal Church in the book of the
Acts. We find there men who, because of their witness concerning the
Lord Jesus and His resurrection, are in a realm of persecution and
suffering, trial and difficulty. But it seems that, when we get beyond
those first few chapters and meet this servant of the Lord called
Stephen, we come into a peculiar realm of antagonism. Stephen comes
forth as a man, and the first thing we are conscious of as he comes
into his public ministry is that all hell is against this man. They
have been persecuting the disciples, but they gnash their teeth on
Stephen, and there is a tremendous uprising of all the rage and
bitterness of hell against him. It is surely not going beyond the
scripture to suggest that Stephen had a clearer vision of this very
thing than the apostles had. We are not suggesting at all that there
are any differences between these servants of the Lord, so far as their
experiences are concerned. As we know, the Apostle Paul later on
brought, by the Holy Spirit, a very clear explanation of the heavenly
nature of the Church, and there have been some dear children of the
Lord who have mistaken the explanation for the experience, and think
that the Apostle Paul brought in the heavenly Church.
I think there is no doubt that these first chapters of the book of the
Acts reveal that the saints of the Lord at that time had not the clear
vision of what was involved in this heavenly temple, but that did not
alter the fact that they were in the experience and value of it, and
were living in fellowship with their blessed Lord, in heavenly union
with Him; for we must always remember that the experience is one thing,
and the explanation of the experience is a further thing. The
experience does not wait upon the explanation. Let us not be too
concerned if we have not the clearest understanding or explanation of
things, but let us rather be deeply concerned that we shall be in the
heavenly value of them and in the experience of them -- though, of
course, the explanation as given by the Holy Spirit is of great value.
Then we come to Stephen. Stephen has met the awful force and power of
the devil against him, and then he is brought before the Sanhedrin.
Notice the terms of the accusation! The witnesses are false, but they
are as usual distorting something which is true. "This man ceaseth not
to speak words against this holy place, and the law; for we have heard
him say that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place ..." (Acts
6:13-14). Well, as in the case of the Lord Jesus, they were false
witnesses, distorting his words, but there was something of truth in
what they said. Follow through Stephen's explanation. Many good people
imagine that Stephen did not answer the charge, but went off into a
long story and then levelled a hot-headed explanation against the
Sanhedrin, and suffered for it. Not at all! Stephen is a man filled
with the Holy Ghost. He goes through the history of God's dealings with
His children from the time when the God of glory appeared unto Abraham,
and keeps this charge in view until he comes to the end of the story.
He tells how Solomon built a house and said: "The heaven is my throne,
and the earth the footstool of my feet: what manner of house will ye [103/104] build me? saith the Lord: or what is the
place of my rest? Did not my hand make all these things?" (Acts
7:49-50) -- and he stopped there. If God does not dwell in a house made
with hands, where does He dwell? Stephen was reciting a well-known
passage of scripture to men who had quite probably studied the
scriptures and knew them. Now you know that when a passage of scripture
is quoted and the one who is quoting stops before it is completed, how
instantly in your mind you finish the quotation. This was a very
familiar passage and perhaps every man in his mind said: "But to this
man will I look ..." (Isaiah 66:2), and the Man who was very much in
view was the Lord Jesus. That was why Stephen did not have to say any
more to ram home the explanation!
Here is the point. You are speaking against the temple -- but what is
God's concern? What is God's plan and place? What position has He in
this great building? Well, the Almighty does not dwell in houses made
with hands. Then where does He dwell? "... to this man will I look,
even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth
at my word." You do not have far to go before Stephen says: "Behold, I
see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand
of God" (Acts 7:56). A heavenly Man at God's right hand in the power of
resurrection? They would not forgive Stephen for that! All hell rose up
in an awful ferment of fury against him. Why? Because this is the
ultimate, full thing of God. Where is God's holy, heavenly, eternal
dwelling place? "To this Man will I look" -- the Lord Jesus Christ! He
always was, of course, God's heavenly Man; but the value and the
purpose of the resurrection is that -- as we see so clearly in 1 Peter
2 -- by His resurrection God not only has the Personal Man in whom He
dwells, but also His corporate Man, His heavenly, holy, eternal
Now this is the emphasis in my own heart. The Lord Jesus said that if
that temple were destroyed, in three days He would raise it again. That
raising again of His temple, His body, of Him who was, and is, the
eternal temple of God, has resulted in this: that God has secured in
Him, beyond any doubt, that which His own heart has sought from all
eternity -- a spiritual temple in which to dwell, wherein to find His
own heart's rest, and from which to manifest His glory.
THE VIOLENT REACTION TO THE TRUTH
You notice the reaction of the Jews to what Jesus said in relation to
the three days: "Forty and six years was this temple in building."
Herod was the man responsible, and he would not be forty-six years at a
job without making a very good job of it! As a matter of fact, that
building in which our Lord stood was one of the wonders of the world,
and yet that was not where God dwelt. So the forty-six years and the
three days not only stand in contrast as to time, but set before us
this real contrast of what a wonderful building for God can be as
against the heavenly temple which God has built for Himself. Oh, what a
contrast! I cannot describe that temple at Jerusalem, but most of us
have probably read some account of its beauty and wonder. But that was
not where God dwelt. Where did He dwell? Peter tells us: "Unto whom
coming, a living stone, rejected indeed of men ..." See the contrast!
Here is a great, overwhelming, impressive, beautiful, magnificent
building, and over against it a very ordinary Man. The Word describes
Him as 'a root out of a dry ground, with no form nor comeliness, and
when we see Him there is no beauty that we should desire Him'. No value
was set on Him, and He was not esteemed -- and yet this is God's
heavenly Temple. We need to pull ourselves up over this, for we have so
often imagined that God's temple must be a world wonder. If it is full
of God's glory it must impress people! We have to learn that God's
glory is a very different thing from the world's glory, and does not
impress the people on earth, for it is not revealed to them.
THE TRUTH STILL LARGELY HIDDEN
How many of the Lord's people are straining, striving, praying, and
desiring that the Church here on earth should be a world wonder,
impressing people by its magnificence, by its form, by its standing
among men! No! That is not where God dwells, and that is not what He is
doing. It is this Man, rejected by the builders, disallowed, despised,
who is God's Living Stone, His heavenly Temple.
That refers not only to the life-time of the Lord Jesus, but, if you
pass over to the time of the Epistles, you see a glory of God in man
joined to Jesus Christ; but it is not very glorious and magnificent so
far as earth is concerned. You remember the account that the Apostle
gives in 2 Corinthians 3 in which he contrasts the glories of the
Gospel with the glories of the law, and he tells how there was a great
glory associated with the law when Moses came down from the Mount. That
was a very impressive sight, but the whole point of the Apostle's
account was to show how very much the new covenant excels that in
glory. [104/105] It is of surpassing glory, so
that that old time of the first covenant seems to have no glory 'by
reason of that glory which excelleth'. So we might ask: If Moses was
such an extraordinary sight, and this is a glory that excelleth, where
is the man that is the herald of such a covenant? He is a despised
outcast, broken, pressed, trampled on, beaten, imprisoned, scourged,
discredited, poor, as having nothing. And yet, was not Paul, above all
who have been on this earth, a wonderful example among men of the
heavenly glory of those who are associated with Jesus Christ? There was
no earthly magnificence about him, and he became even more discredited
and despised; but that is always the way.
SUFFERING AND GLORY
Peter is the Apostle who speaks of glory, but he is the Apostle who
speaks at the same time of suffering. He is amongst that company in the
glory of God's heavenly, wonderful work, but you would not think so to
look at them. They are going through fiery trials; they are suffering,
and it is not a very heroic suffering so far as the world is concerned.
They are suffering as Christians, and "Christian" was a very nasty word
by which to be named in those days. We do not realise how much contempt
a name can convey. Here are people suffering as Christians and they are
people filled with the glory of the Lord. That is God's heavenly
temple. There is a wonderful inward glory of fellowship with Him, but
so far as the world is concerned, the Stone which the builders rejected
is an unworthy thing. We need to remember that!
Even when we have laid aside our more wonderful ambitions concerning
the Lord's work, and even when we come to realise something of the
heavenly and spiritual nature of the Church, there often lingers with
us a desire to make, perhaps of our little local assembly, a world
wonder, something that shall impress people. Not to impress them in the
sense of wealth and influence of course, for we may have got beyond
that realm, but there is still sometimes the desire to impress people
with the very spirituality and efficiency of the thing. 'This is an
example of the heavenly Church here on earth!' No! If you are trying to
get a spiritual work that shall be a world wonder, you are not doing
what God is after. 'Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone' -- but
it is rejected of men, though held in great honour by God and by those
who believe. It is an honour which this world can never understand, and
which the Lord does not allow to be displayed here on earth. It is
quite obvious that in some cases He takes pains to remove those very
things which might present something to be recognised by men. Thus He
takes Moses and makes him a nothing, a nobody; He takes Paul, and all
the things in Paul which might seem to be of value, even for the Church
of God, have to be cast away, until he becomes this messenger of the
Gospel a despised, rejected outcast. But Paul knew it was all right,
for he had the vision of the heavenly side of things.
Forty and six years it took them to build the temple, and I understand
that it was not finished then. That is the sort of thing that happens
when you are trying to build something for God! It has not
taken the Lord two thousand years to build His temple. He did not even
take those three days of which the Lord Jesus spoke. We know His
resurrection did not take three days, but was actually on the third
day. What did God do? In the twinkling of an eye there was a finished
work by the resurrection. It did not take the Lord Jesus time, for this
raising of Him was a timeless thing, though actually there was a moment
in time when He was raised from the dead. Man's building takes a long
process and period, and then it is not finished. What God does He does
in a timeless way, and it abides for ever.
The Jews were afraid that the Lord Jesus would rise again, because they
knew that Lazarus had risen from the dead. When Lazarus arose the stone
had to be removed and the grave clothes taken away, and they thought
that, if only they could seal the tomb, even if Jesus did rise again He
would not get very far because the tomb was blocked up. The angel
rolled the stone away, but not for the Lord to come out; he rolled it
away so that people could see that He was not there. In a moment God
raised Jesus from the dead, and in a moment God had laid in Zion His
Living Stone. By that raising He had in Christ that upon which His
heart had been set through all eternity. In the resurrection that great
and wonderful and eternal work was a finished thing.
FINISHED AND YET PROCEEDING
Looking at this from another point of view, we read about the whole
temple growing and the Body making increase of itself. Look at it from
a heavenly side and we see that this building is finished and the work
is done. If, by the Holy Ghost, we can lay hold of this it will mean a
tremendous strength to our hearts. God is not taking forty-six years,
nor any time, to build His Church. There is a sense in which, by the
resurrection, this is completed. It was as secure in Christ on that [105/106] resurrection morning as it ever will be.
What strength to the heart of a despondent, struggling servant of the
Lord who sees so little and desires to see so much of God's true,
spiritual building! May the Lord show us, and give us grace to be ever
reaching out to Him in earnest faith and prayer, that He may do His
work; but we shall find strength for our prayer and strength
for our ministry if we get God's viewpoint, which is that at the end of
that third day Jesus Christ raised up God's holy, heavenly temple, a
finished thing. Praise His Name!
BY MEN OR BY GOD
Now notice these forty and six years during which these men were
building. They were trying to build something for God -- and that is
just the trouble. God's heavenly dwelling-place is not like that. We
read that it is a spiritual temple, and we shall understand something
of that which is involved if we see the contrast. This great wonder of
the world was what the Epistle to the Hebrews calls: "Of this building"
(Hebrews 9:11). It was made with hands, with laborious planning and
straining and effort to build up something with a good, strong
foundation here on this earth, that God might have something for
Himself. That is the opposite of His spiritual temple. And yet, how
many of us have been engaged in that very thing!
You notice what happens when people try to build something for God (
for God, mark you!). Then they have to go on and try to maintain it
for God, and before long they have got the thing in their own hands and
are grasping it for themselves. You get a feeling that things are not
quite right as soon as you open the Gospel by John, but you have not
got very far before you find this most significant phrase: "Now the
passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand" (John 6:4). You do not
find that term in the Old Testament, for it was Jehovah's Passover. Now
it is the Jews' Passover. They have got it themselves and are holding
it and that always happens when people try to build something for God.
And look at the state the building was in! Contamination had come into
it, and it was a defiled thing.
Oh, the defilement and contradictions that come into anything that we
try to build up for God! We may do it with the very best intentions,
but it is a very dangerous thing to be a builder. These builders
rejected the true Stone, and whenever people on this earth try to build
up something for God, what eventually happens is that they reject the
Living Stone. It is a sad thing, but true. The very fact that they are
so busily engaged in trying to build something for the Lord brings them
into the realm where they really reject the Living Stone and make their
own edifice. You see the contrast. The Lord says: "Behold, I lay in
Zion ..." It is not the earthly Zion now and is not built by human
pains. It is a poor conception of the Lord's work to imagine that
because the Jews would not have Him and He was driven out, He had to
found a temple amongst the Gentiles. That at its best, when it was pure
and spiritual for God, was only a type, but it was a shadow of the
things which are to come. God says: "Behold, I lay in Zion a chief
corner stone ..."
A RESURRECTION TEMPLE
There are very practical issues from all this. It is by the
resurrection that God's heavenly dwelling-place is obtained, which
means that we need to know the resurrection. To know the resurrection
is to be made conformable to His death, and in the final summing up it
is, as the Apostle says: "That I may know him." Therein we have what is
involved in being in that which is God's true, heavenly work -- to know
Christ and to come into an ever-increasing knowledge of Him. That is
the way, and that involves in actual, continual experience, this basis
of death and resurrection. That was how God's purpose was obtained.
There had to be the death; and then He rose from the dead, and in
actual experience it was as a practical working thing. Our life in that
heavenly temple means for us a continual series of experiences on this
basis of coming to a place which seems to be utter destruction, and
then God raising from the dead.
THE DEVIL'S HATRED
For one reason this is because the devil is always out against the
thing that is God's chief concern. So, right up to the very end, when
the Man-child is caught up to the Throne, it is in such an atmosphere,
and that rapture is a resurrection from the dead. The dragon stands
there ready to devour, and here are the saints of the Lord brought to
the last extremity. And then God's purpose is fully and finally
realised as, out of the very jaws of Satan, He catches up His Church.
And this principle is the same all the way through.
This is encouragement for us, because it explains a lot that would
otherwise be inexplicable. Why do we go through such terrible
experiences? Why does everything seem to collapse and break up? Have we
failed? Is it unbelief? Are we wrong? The principle of the heavenly
temple is death and [106/107] resurrection,
death and resurrection! For us it means a series of experiences when,
for the moment, we seem to be utterly swallowed up. It is as if once
again the challenge has gone out from the Lord to His enemies: "Destroy
this temple!", and the devil takes Him at His word. But the Lord
continues: "I will raise it up." That is the experience through which
the Lord is bringing us, and it is necessary for this reason: that, so
far as our personal and practical experience goes, God's building is
largely a matter of His being able to break down that which is not of
Himself. Perhaps that is the three days -- death really working, and
the delays in our experience are often, not solely because of His
building, but because through a certain period there is some breaking
down process going on. We shall probably see that growth is more in the
nature of swift acts of the Lord. We come to a new place, but the
process is one of disintegration, of breaking down and despair. That is
the way the Lord leads because, in practical experience, this
resurrection can only be on the basis of death, and it is a continual
application of the Cross making the death real, and putting out of the
way that which hinders God. But let us always hold in view this fact:
that it is by the resurrection that God has secured everything.
In one sense we are not waiting, and God is not waiting to be able to
build His heavenly temple, to have His heavenly Man, for He has Him
there already. The resurrection has done that, and our strength
consists in laying hold of that, and believing that with all our
hearts. Notice the abiding meaning of that which God does! The temple
was forty-six years in building, but it did not last another forty-six
years. The disciples could not believe that. When the Lord said: "Your
house is left unto you desolate!" they came back and said: 'Lord, look
at these buildings, these great stones!' Then the Lord said: "See these
great buildings -- and there shall not be left one stone upon another!"
Looked at from a human point of view: there is here a well-grounded and
founded piece of architecture, so strong that it would seem to last for
ever. On the other hand, here is a poor, frail Man, whose life, it
would seem, could be taken away in a flash. Which is going to abide?
From an earthly point of view the building will abide, and the human
life is snuffed out like a candle. Those poor Hebrew Christians to whom
the Apostle was writing were tremendously attached to all these things,
and they found it hard to leave them, go right outside the camp and be
united to Christ, whereas when they had a temple and recognition by the
Roman Government they seemed so secure. They little knew how few years
were to pass before not one stone of that temple would be left on
another. The Lord said through that very Apostle that He was going to
shake once more the heavens and the earth, and He reminded them that
they were inheriting a Kingdom which could not be shaken, but it looked
so different. It looked so precarious just to be in that heavenly
position. There was no security for them here on earth, no recognition,
and that is a very real consideration today for many servants of the
How we do want something that has a standing before men and is
recognised, a kind of something that we can fall back on and feel
secure! This attachment to a heavenly Christ is all very well, and we
are hoping for it in the future, but while we are here on earth we want
something more solid and more reliable. Not many years passed before
that whole temple was in ruins, and a ploughshare was being driven
through them. It was gone and now these people were really in a
desperate plight, for they had nothing. But those who are united with
the Lord, in heavenly union with Him, are unmoved, even though
everything is reduced to ruins with not one stone upon another, and
though perhaps the visible thing that represented the Lord here has
gone. "He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have
them in derision" (Psalm 2:4).
AN ETERNAL TEMPLE
Which is the most reliable? The temple looked such a great place, but
the Lord said one day that a greater than the temple was there. It is
worth while to be united with Him. When everything else is shaken, He
is unshakeable, He abides, He is eternal. Having come to the Living
Stone, we know that blessed position of being united with Him, where
nothing can ever move or change God's eternal purpose.
We are not striving nor trying to climb up towards that position, and
our strength is to recognise it. In the Epistle to the Ephesians we
read that we are raised, we are placed there. It is true that there are
plenty of enemies, but in Christ we are above the enemies. So in the
Epistle to the Colossians we are told to seek the things that are
above. What is the basis? That we have died and are risen with Him!
That is why we are to seek the things that are above! It is something
which was done once and for all in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
Let our hearts lay hold of that. God has laid His Living Stone in Zion,
and there we stand by His grace. - H. F. [107/108]
FOR BOYS AND GIRLS
REGRET CANNOT FORGIVE
ONE day in 1955 Mr. Macmillan's Private Secretary was walking up and
down in his room at the Foreign Office with deep concern on his face
and a letter in his hand. When a friend came in and asked him what was
the matter he explained that the letter had come from somebody whom he
had been at school with at Winchester.
When they were boys the writer of the letter had bullied him terribly.
Perhaps the cruellest thing that this bully had done was to put Hancock
in a trunk and sit on the lid, knowing very well that the boy suffered
badly from claustrophobia and was terrified to be so shut in.
The years had passed and the bully had now written from his death-bed.
He was suffering from cancer and apparently only had a few days to
live. In his letter he was asking Hancock to send him an urgent message
of forgiveness for all his cruelty at Winchester. He said that since he
had grown up he had become a clergyman and had often been troubled at
the thought of all the wrong done to Hancock, though he had never done
anything about it. Now he was dying, and he only asked one thing. He
longed for forgiveness and would be grateful if Hancock could send him
a message by telegram.
This was the explanation of Hancock's present concern. It would be easy
just to send a telegram of forgiveness only because his persecutor was
now dying. It would be easy, but it would not be true. Patrick Hancock
was not only a very gifted man; he was so truthful that he could not
bring himself to tell a lie.
So he paced up and down his room, wondering what he should do. He
thought over the matter all through the day, and then let a night's
sleep pass before he finally made up his mind. This was the telegram
which he finally sent to the dying man: "REGRET CANNOT FORGIVE.
(Signed) HANCOCK." It must have been a hard decision to make, and a sad
message to be received, but it was truthful. Though he regretted to say
so, the fact was that he could lot forgive.
Why not? Perhaps because he felt that a death-bed repentance was not
good enough. Perhaps because the injury done to him was so deep and
lasting that it could never be forgotten. We do not know. None of us
dares criticise this action of Hancock's, but what we can do is to
rejoice that we have a Saviour who is able to forgive.
The Bible tells us that God cannot lie. That is good, but if it turned
out to be a truthfulness like that of Hancock's, it would leave us all
with the sad message from heaven: "REGRET CANNOT FORGIVE." Instead of
that the good news of the Gospel tells us that God is able and ready to
forgive all our past misdeeds, however they may have wounded Him.
It might be that the real difficulty was because the confession was
only made from a death-bed. If the offender had gone to Patrick Hancock
before he became a clergyman and had apologised like a man, he might in
time have found himself able to forgive. Perhaps the bully had left it
Be sure that you do not make the same mistake. Without waiting for the
time to die, without waiting any longer at all, come straight to the
God whom you have wronged and ask Him for His forgiveness. It is not
only important to die in peace; it is important to live in peace also
-- peace with God. This peace comes from forgiveness, and God who
cannot lie has promised it. "If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities,
O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou
mightest be feared" (Psalm 130.34). - H. F.
THE MOMENTOUSNESS OF JESUS CHRIST
"God ... has appointed a day in which he will judge the
world in righteousness by (in) the (a) man whom he hath ordained,
whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised
him from the dead" (Acts 17:31).
"For neither doth the Father judge any man, but he hath
given all judgment unto the Son ... and he gave him authority to
execute judgment because he is the (a) Son of man" (John 5:22, 27).
HERE we have a comprehensive and emphatic statement concerning the
place that the Lord Jesus occupies by the appointment of God His [108/109] Father. That place is shown to be inclusive
and exclusive. That means that
1. God has summed up all things in Christ. Ultimately there will be
nothing outside of Christ, and all that eventually is found to be
outside of Christ will be removed from God's domain.
2. Nothing of God can be had outside of Christ.
In the Bible we have two revelations: one of man outside of Christ and
the other of man in Christ. The emphasis is upon the word man.
The Scripture above says that the final judgment of the world is in a man
; a God-ordained, God-horizoned man. And it is not by, but in
that Man. What is in that Man in the matter of righteousness will be
the criterion of judgment.
MAN OUTSIDE OF CHRIST
We know, not only by the statements of the Bible, but in our own hearts
that man is marred and spoilt by sin. It is an ugly word, hated by all,
refused acknowledgment by many, excused by many more, but, apart from
those in Christ, not confessed or allowed recognition. In this
connection it is very significant that, in a time of moral landslide
and increasing depravity, there is a great revival of humanism -- the
theory of man's inherent goodness and moral greatness: the total
dismissal of the fact of sin as sin . It is called by any other
name, even good in the making. It is not difficult to see through this
artifice of the devil. It is to construct a humanity which, in
itself , is its own saviour, and to wholly dispose of the
redemption that is in Christ Jesus. This is almost the last word in
human blindness. It is blindness to history. It is blindness to the
moral de volution of recent times. It does not allow that the
last decades have uncovered a depth of iniquity, wickedness, and "man's
inhumanity to man", beyond description, and that in the areas which
have had more education, scientific research, discovery, and "culture"
(?) than anywhere else on the earth. Such is the master-deception
of the devil! "The god of this world hath blinded the minds of the
unbelieving", says the Word of God. We must ever remember that Satan's
rebellion against God was on the decision of God to make man .
He knew that the intention of God was to give dominion over the world
to man, and that dominion he -- Satan -- both coveted and
usurped by the deception of man. This is all very clearly implied in
the titles given to Satan in the Bible as "The prince of this world",
"the god of this age", "the world-ruler of this darkness", etc. Hence
the double issue of man's deception, seduction, and ruin: man's
separation from God: and the defeat of God's intention. Man, out of
Christ, is such a man, even at what he -- man -- thinks to be the
highest levels of intelligence, "culture" and "progress". The Bible
says much about the sinister nature of "the wisdom of this world", and
even foretells that apostasy will go hand-in-hand with the increase of
knowledge. The subtlety of sin is that to try and eliminate its
malevolence it has to be called by other names. The Bible does not hide
the fact of man's sinful nature, not even to omit mention of the sins
of the greatest of its men of God: Abraham, Moses, David, etc.
It is now possible to discern the momentousness of Christ. For this we
have to go a long way back, even to a cosmic event before man's
creation, when, the Bible tells us explicitly, God appointed His Son
"Heir of all things". That was the point of cosmic controversy then,
and has been ever since. The focal point of the conflict of the ages is
the predestined place of Christ as Son of Man, the humanity according
to God's intention, of which Jesus the Christ is the "Firstborn",
Progenitor, "Pioneer" and "Head". Countless are the ways and means
pursued to prevent, frustrate, and defeat Christ from coming into His
own in a humanity conformed to His image. In other words, (a )
to discredit and displace Christ; and (b) to prevent there
coming into being a people truly, by new birth, coming "into Christ". The
great revelation of the New Testament is what is represented by that
phrase "In Christ". The "fall" was not only a fall in level, from one
higher level to a lower; it was a fall out of God! The
momentousness of Jesus Christ is in His reversal of that, and in
Himself restoring man 'into God', his right place.
This is the meaning of that darkest and deepest eternal moment at the
end of the Cross when Jesus went out from God -- "Forsaken"; out into
the direst distress; out, that in 'lostness' He might find us
just where we are in God's knowledge and bring us back into God.
"Christ died once, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to
God" (1 Peter 3:18). His body broken was the reality of which the veil
of the tabernacle and temple was the type. Its rending, as between
heaven and earth, man and God, opened a fast-closed way back into the
realm of God. Surely that was a momentous moment: a momentous act!
Every aspect of Christ's person and work, and every aspect of the
Gospel has to do with this. Moreover, every activity of the evil powers
upon the Christian is with the object of cutting in between him -- or
her -- and the Lord by weakening or damaging the one tie of that union,
namely faith. [109/110]
Hence Christ's imperative "Abide in me". Satan "abode not in God" and
see the consequences! Hence the momentousness of being in, and abiding
in Christ, which is in God.
We return to where we began. God binds Himself up with His Son for man.
All judgment is, and will be, on the basis of what Christ is and
whether man is in Him or not. The whole Christian life, if it is true
and under the government of the Holy Spirit, is a lifelong education as
to the significance of Christ; the knowledge of Christ, and, seeing
that it is not merely theoretical, doctrinal, theological knowledge,
but very practical, wrought on the anvil and by the fires of deep
experiences, it is knowledge which is a part of our being, our
constitution. It is knowledge which represents something that has taken
place in us. We are that knowledge.
When we first come back to God through Christ we have only a
more-or-less understanding of the depth, the cost, the momentousness of
what we have come into. But as we go on, the dealings of God with us
bring us to an ever-deepening realisation and appreciation of what
Christ is and has done. On the one side, the depth of our worthlessness
becomes more terrible to our awareness. This is not for our desolation
as the end, but to make us "know" how great is the meaning of
Christ from God to us, and to God for us. The ultimate
vision of the redeemed multitude is that of a worshipping
people attributing everything to the Lamb.
THE DIVINE MINISTRY OF DELAY
[J. S. H.]
ONE of the great dangers of life is that of losing sight of God's great
design in the details by which that design is worked out, and it has
been well said that we entirely lose the value of any experience if we
isolate it. That is, if you take your sorrow and regard it apart from
the great designing love of God, if you take your losses, your
temporary setbacks, your momentary depressions, and dwell upon these
things as if they were the only experiences of God's providence, and as
if they were not related to the great central control of His love --
you will entirely miss their value. It is that we may be saved from
such peril that we are meditating together thus on some of God's
unlikely but never unkindly ministries.
With this brief recapitulation let me ask you to turn to the word which
is the occasion of our thought this morning in regard to the Divine
ministry of delay by which God oftentimes tests His people. I will ask
you to turn to the words of Jeremiah the prophet, in the book of
Lamentations, in the third chapter, at the twenty-fourth verse: "The
Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The
Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.
It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the
salvation of the Lord." It is especially on those last words that I
want our meditation to be based: "It is good that a man should both
hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord."
Let us frankly admit at the outset that one of the great difficulties
of life with many of us is concerned with the fact that God sometimes
seems to delay His answers to our prayers. The most perplexing problem
of many a Christian life is just this: that God apparently does not
answer, and apparently does not even heed much of our crying. By His
grace our faith in Him has not been finally disturbed. By His grace
this conflict has been carried on courageously in secret. Outside our
own heart no one even suspects that there is such a conflict. But you
know that there is, and I know that there is, and sometimes the only
word that rises from our hearts when we come into God's presence is
almost the last word which came from the Saviour's lips: "My God, why?"
This is not the first question of the Christian life. Faith's first
question is usually "How?" There is a stage in Christian experience
when we are constantly saying "How?" -- "How can a man be born when he
is old?" "How can these things be?" "How can this Man give us His flesh
to eat?" "How are the dead raised up, and with what body do they come?"
These are some of the first questions of the Christian life. But as we
go on with God, as life deepens, as its necessities become heavier, its
sorrows more acute, and our perceptions more alert also, the question
which rises from the heart of many a disturbed and distressed believer
is: "My God," not "how?" but "WHY?" I have already suggested that what
many of us are seeking at this time is not comfort, nor sympathy, nor
even the lightening of our loads. We are seeking some explanation, some
interpretation from God Himself as to what He is doing in these our
lives. Some of us are distressed almost to the point of desertion --
desertion of our [110/111] own allegiance, and
desertion of His colours, because He seems to delay, indeed almost to
deny the things we ask Him.
Yet, I would remind you that there is nothing which the Word of God so
amply encourages men to do as to pray. There are promises attached to
prayer which do not attach to any other condition. There are riches
which are covenanted to men as the result of prayer and waiting upon
God, which they can obtain in no other way. And it is just because the
promises with regard to prayer are so great, so high, so wide, that
these delays of God perplex us, and we cry out this morning, "My God,
why?" There are times in life when nothing but sheer belief in God's
goodness saves us from despair, when nothing but simple reliance upon
God's love, without any present evidence of it, can save us from
hopelessness; when nothing but almost reckless faith in His omnipotent
wisdom, will prevent us from sinking into positive moral apathy and
spiritual lethargy. Therefore, it is my present endeavour to help some
here to a recreation of that sheer belief, that simple reliance, and
that reckless faith in God which trusts Him when His face is veiled,
and they do not even feel the grip of His hand. Faber well sang:
"Thrice blest is he to whom is given
The instinct that can tell
That God is on the field, when He
Is most invisible."
That is the instinct which may God grant every one of us to have in
Now these words were spoken by the prophet Jeremiah in a day when the
nation's desire, its best desire, was perhaps never so evident. The
people had begun to see the fulfilment of God's promises and the
working of His providence. Their foes were being pushed from their
land, the beginnings of recultivation were taking place, and the
broken-down altars of God were being rebuilt. But all was being done so
slowly that they could not reconcile the slowness of God with the
implicit assurances upon which their faith in Him rested. They were
impatient and restive under His apparent inactivity. Faith saw God's
beginnings and, like the disciples of later days, "thought the kingdom
must immediately appear!" There is a great deal to be said for the
faith of a little child which cannot understand the reason of delay.
But you will not misunderstand me when I say that there is a great deal
more to be said for the faith of a grown man who has come to know that
God has an entirely different scale for the measurement of time from
those we commonly use. There is still more to be said for the faith of
the man who is perfectly content to rest in the fact that a thousand
years are as one day with Him, and one day as a thousand years. This
was the faith of Jeremiah. He had looked into the depths of the
Infinite God, and had seen that He was unhurried, and that His ways
were the more certain because they were not the more obvious. So he
waited calmly, and sought to renew courage and patience and hope in the
people, just because these things were the expression of his own soul.
Hence he says: "It is good for men that they are kept waiting, that
they have to quietly hope for the salvation of God."
You will readily understand that these words of his are of infinitely
wider application than to the Israel of that day. I believe they are
apposite to the case of every one of us here today who is perplexed
because, for instance, the expected deliverance from sin in his own
life does not come as he thought it would. Or the petition he offers
for some good of which he conceives himself to be in great need is not
granted. Or the loved one for whom he prays is not immediately
converted, and though he goes on praying he has almost lost heart about
it. Or the revival in his world for which he has conscientiously
wrought to the very last ounce of his strength, does not seem to be
even on the horizon. We want to know why this delay, and what the
spiritual good of having quietly to wait and hope so long.
I am very sure that when the last word of human experience about prayer
has been said, we are still in the presence of the greatest of all
mysteries. The man who thinks he knows so much about prayer, that he
can frame a philosophy of prayer, really confesses that he knows little
indeed. How prayer liberates spiritual forces, who knows? Why God has
ordained that men should wait upon Him, uniting their wills with His in
order to exert the saving power of His grace both in their life and
through them in the lives of others -- who can say? With regard to this
greatest of all subjects, there is really nothing further to be said
than that which Paul said about all knowledge of God -- "We know in
part, and we prophesy in part." But, thank God, we do know! What we
know we know with a certainty which nothing can shake. But we only know
in part. Therefore they are mere suggestions that I venture to offer
you today, suggestions which have come with some degree of light and
encouragement to my own heart in regard to this assertion -- that it is
good for a man to wait and hope for the salvation of God.
It is almost unnecessary to say that there is no thought in this word
of any man having to wait until God is willing to bestow upon him the
primary [111/112] gifts of pardon and peace and
forgiveness, the salvation which is His free gift in Jesus Christ. The
sinner who cries for pardon, the weary and heavy-laden who ask for rest
of heart, the lonely who seek the fellowship of love, are never kept
waiting for the fulfilment of their desires. The prodigal is welcomed
before he utters his prepared confession. The sinking man who cries
"Lord, save me", is at once conscious of being grasped by the Hand of
power. The Evangel of Christ bears the ageless superscription that "now
is the day of salvation". In this respect, indeed, it is never God who
keeps men waiting, but men who keep Him waiting. But, in regard to that
aspect of His mercy which is concerned with the strain of our present
discipline, with the anxiety of future uncertainty, with the relief of
immediate discomfort, with the weariness of unremoved burdens -- it is
in that realm of life that we want to know why God delays. Nor is it
unnatural that we should be impatient.
For instance, here is a good man who reads that "All things work
together for good to them that love God", but who sees nothing in his
life today but chaos. His affairs have been completely ruined. His home
has been invaded by sorrow and disappointment, until the nerves of all
are on edge, and no one knows with certainty what an hour is going to
bring forth of fresh calamity. That man has rested upon that Divine
Word with implicit confidence in its truth, but the delay in realising
its fulfilment has almost staggered his faith. Is it to be wondered at
that he should be asking today what it all means?
There is a young man yonder, and there has been illumined to his soul's
vision this word: "In all things we are more than conquerors through
Him that loved us." And yet he has been defeated even since he came to
Keswick, and this morning his face is toward the ground, and not toward
the Lord. He says, "What does it mean? I have rested my whole weight,
as I believe, upon this promise of God, and my Lord delays His coming
in power to me. What does it mean?"
There is the busy worker -- I have met him since I came to Keswick --
who has come from some far-off missionary field, in which for the last
ten years he has been pouring out his life, seeking to live the life of
a citizen of the Kingdom of God resting upon that word -- "My word
shall not return unto Me void, but shall accomplish that which I
please." And he confesses today that he has seen it accomplish hardly
anything. What does it mean?
There is the great promise upon which every member of Christ's Church
just now is building more solidly than ever a temple of hope: "Behold,
I come quickly." It seems as though Christ was never so much needed as
He is today. It seems as though international relationship can never
again be restored as we have known it. It seems as though the scattered
units of Christ's Church can never be gathered together again in one,
save by His coming. And the Church cries out: "Amen. Come quickly, Lord
Jesus." But there is not a sign of His coming. What do these delays of
I am going to suggest three things, and they are mere suggestions; but
may they bring light to you, as they have brought to me in past days.
The first thing I want to say about God's delays is this: It is only by
enforced waiting upon Him that we come to know God with that knowledge
which is the foundation of all character. I use the word enforced
waiting upon God, because it is only by being forced to wait upon God
that some of us ever do wait on Him. We are naturally impatient, we are
naturally impulsive, we naturally chafe at anything like slowness, and
God, by withholding the answer for which we have looked, keeps us at
His feet in order that we may come to know Him. He is infinitely more
concerned in the making and remaking of our lives than in the
gratifying of our minds. He is infinitely more concerned in making us
men and women of His own pattern, and to deepen His life in our souls,
than to gratify some of the desires which we often express in
unconsidered prayer. For we cannot come to know God, and inferentially
we cannot come to know ourselves, in an hour. God's delays do not
indicate any caprice on His part, but rather His concern and compassion
for us. They are directed toward saving us from hurrying away from His
presence before the lessons of His grace have been more than mentally
received. God is preparing us, by keeping us waiting upon Him, worthily
to receive, to interpret, and then to use the gifts He will yet give in
answer to prayer and in fulfilment of His word.
I constantly see tourist visitors to London rushing about from Park to
Palace, doing what they call the "sights". And after a fevered week
they go back home thinking they know London. But do they? One of
Ruskin's students once said to him, on returning from a first Italian
visit: "Sir, immediately I entered the Gallery at Florence, I knew in a
moment what you had always impressed upon us as the supremacy of
Botticelli." Ruskin's reply was, somewhat cutting. He said: "Oh, you
found that out in a moment? Well, it took me twenty-two years to
discover it!" And there are a great many people who think they know God
in the light of a single experience! We are kept waiting upon Him [112/113] that we may become of the number of those
who really do know their God, and who consequently are empowered to do
exploits. God is making us; do not let us be impatient under the
process. God is making us; do not let impatience and impetuosity take
us, therefore, from under the hand of the Master Workman. He is
eliminating the flaws, and remaking the marred vessels. The two
qualities which we need most -- endurance and radiance -- are not
imparted to any man in a single hour. God keeps us waiting that in His
presence, beholding His glory, we may be changed into the same image
from glory unto glory.
The second thing I want to say is this. Many of our prayers must be
passed through the refining medium of God's wisdom, that is, of God's
love, many of them must be edited by God before they are answered. For
well-intentioned prayer is not always well-informed. Like those who
made requests of the Saviour, God often has to say to His children, "Ye
know not what ye ask". If some of our prayers were immediately
answered, the consequence would be almost certain moral and spiritual
disaster. Our prayers have to be passed I say, through the refining
medium of God's wisdom, sometimes with regard to their motive. "Ye have
not because ye ask amiss." There are men and women, for instance, who
pray for power while their real objective is pre-eminence. What they
really mean by power is that which will make them prominent in His
service. When our motives are altogether unworthy of the words we
express, we have to be kept waiting until God turns upon us the
searchlight of His love, and learning the untrustworthiness of our own
impulses, we yield us to that gracious Spirit who makes intercession in
us according to the will of God.
Not only in regard to the motive, but in regard also to the
content of our prayers, Christ has to say again and again, "Can ye
drink of the cup that I drink of; are ye able to be baptized with the
baptism wherewith I am baptized?" For often we know not what we ask,
and hence God's delay in response. I have seen children -- we have all
seen them -- who have been utterly spoiled by the weak good-nature of
parents who gave them at once everything they wanted. For human love
may be entirely lacking in wisdom. But the love and wisdom of God are
one. When He keeps us waiting for secondary mercies, it is in order to
make us know the value of the primary and spiritual. We have to learn
that God's "No" is just as much an answer as God's "Yes". We have to
learn that God's "Not yet" is just as truly an expression of Divine
love as God's "Immediately". The day will come to every one of us when
we shall know that God's silence was in reality His most loving speech
to us. For we shall see that while seemingly inactive God has all the
time been working in us, bringing us into moral correspondence with His
will, which alone capaciates men to receive His gifts.
Well do I recollect, some years ago, in the city of Dublin, a man
coming into the vestry-room of a church and saying: "Sir, I want to
thank you for that message about God's love. I believe every word of it
now, but I did not six months ago." His eyes filled with tears; and as
I said: "What does it mean, my brother?" He went on: "Six months ago my
home was bright and happy, and the shadow fell. I prayed earnestly that
God would save my wife and our infant. But he took them; and I have
come to know that He took them only in order to bring me back to
Himself, from whom I had wandered." God's silence in that man's life
was His richest and kindest speech. And others of us have found this to
be true also; and more of us will find it so ere these dark days in
which we live have passed away.
The things we try to get rid of by prayer are often the very things we
can least afford to lose. Some of those things we call burdens, of
which we try to get rid in the Sanctuary, are the things that God has
placed upon us for the steadying of life and the guiding of our
energies into channels which otherwise we should overlook and miss.
Paul learnt that there was something infinitely better than the removal
of the thorn-pain -- infinitely better! Thrice he besought the Lord to
remove it -- with what interval between those prayers we know not. But
surely Paul, like the rest of us, was perplexed at God's delay. And he
ultimately found that God was preparing something far better than the
extraction of the thing which caused a throbbing wound -- "My grace is
sufficient for thee." If he had not had the thorn-pain, like the
nightingale which is said to sing sweetest when its breast is pierced,
he had never learned the song: "Most gladly will I glory in my
infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me!" We learn, as
we are kept waiting at His feet, that the cord which we would have had
God cut, He disentangles, and so saves for purposes of His service.
God's ways are always justified of His children, if they will patiently
tarry His leisure.
Ere I pass on to the third and last suggestion I have to make, may I
say that surely we get an illustration of all this in the burden of
prayer which is increasingly descending upon us for our nation. There
are not a few of us who are perplexed that God has not already
intervened to stay this [113/114] terrible
conflict. We look out from this place of quiet rest, and see across the
Channel the sons of God being butchered upon the fields of France and
Belgium; and we cry to God to give victory to the cause which is
inherently right, and about which we have no shame. Yet He does not do
so. After a whole year, and despite the sacrifice of thousands of
precious lives, the battle-line is drawn substantially as it was at
first. Why does God not put forth His power through our Forces, and by
scattering the nations that delight in war bring this unspeakable
strife to an end? Why have we no answer back from Heaven that our cry
is heard? Why does He delay His coming when by one word He could end
the whole conflict? Ah! it is not that God cannot, nor that He will
not; but that an immediate victory for our land might only mean a
revival, in the basest form, of our national sins. As a nation we are
far from being morally ready for victory, for there are few signs in
our common life that we have learned and taken to heart the lessons of
this chastisement. That is why God is keeping our nation waiting. We
have to be brought infinitely lower yet. We have to learn yet what the
law of God stands for. We have to learn yet what the hideousness of sin
in a man or nation means. We have to learn that sin brings pain and
bloodshedding to man, as it brought pain and bloodshedding to God. Then
when the nation is morally prepared and renewed I believe that victory
will not be delayed by an hour. But it will not come one hour sooner.
Hence the necessity of our quietly waiting for the salvation of God.
Though remember, in the last analysis, it is not He who delays the
answer to our prayer for victory. It is we who delay Him.* (*[footnote]
Spoken in 1915 during World War I.)
The third thing I want to say is this. Faith can only be trained by
being tested. As a man's muscles are only hardened by exercise, so his
faith only becomes strong and ultimately invincible by being subjected
to the discipline of strain. For until it accepts the will of God, not
under compulsion, nor because there is no alternative, but by free
choice and glad surrender, faith is lacking in essential quality. But
when we are unmoved by the fact that we are kept waiting, calmly
conscious that God's glory is intimately bound up with our lives and
prayers, and content that if He can afford to wait, so too can we, one
of life's greatest lessons has been learnt. For faith reaches its
triumph only when its exercise ceases to be a deliberate activity and
becomes an instinctive attitude.
Sometimes we learn this by our own impetuous efforts to hurry God.
There are two conspicuous examples of this. Do you remember Moses and
his undisciplined effort at the deliverance of his people? How
disastrously it ended for him! God had to take him into the schoolhouse
of the desert and keep him there for many a weary year. By his
impetuosity he had embarrassed God; and so, too, do many of us. Do you
remember Abraham with a wonderful promise to support him, with a vision
so great that it staggered him, attempting to expedite God's purpose?
You know the dark story of Hagar and Ishmael, and all that it afterward
led to. Sometimes God likewise delays the promises of His faithfulness
in order that we too may learn the utter futility of our every effort,
and all the sweat of our souls, apart from Him. For remember that the
faith of God must be vindicated in us before it can be verified through
us, and before we can be His effective messengers to the world.
One last word. There is nothing in common between quiet waiting upon
God and lethargic indolence. We have known those who excuse their
non-participation in the enterprises of Christ's Church because of this
necessity of quiet waiting on God. Let me say that there is no greater
mistake than to wait for subjective manifestations and to neglect
objective opportunities. True waiting upon God expresses itself in the
expenditure of every energy of the soul at the clear directions for
whose interpretation we do not need to wait an hour. Oh, the supine
folly of the man who in these days of tremendous opportunity is content
to "wait upon God" to open doors, to "wait upon God" to enlarge
opportunities, to "wait upon God" to organise success and influence for
him, while he himself does nothing in the way of sacrifice -- of giving
himself, of losing his life, for the Kingdom's sake! God does not
co-operate with dreamers. We cannot live in fellowship with God and let
evil stalk unchallenged, by neglecting the wide-open doors of the world
which call to our faith and our loyalty.
I cannot forget that God did once say to His people: "Stand still, and
see the salvation of God." But I also remember that that word was given
to men and women, a great host, who were walking in implicit obedience
to His leadership, and who in that pathway had come up against the
impassable. There are times in life when God says these words to us,
but only when, like Israel, we are walking in the light of His will.
"We are not here to play, to dream, to drift;
We have hard work to do, and loads to lift;
Shun not the struggle! face it! 'Tis God's gift.
Say not, 'The days are evil! Who's to blame?'
And fold the hands, and acquiesce -- oh, shame!
Stand up, speak out, act bravely in God's Name. [114/115]
It matters not how deep entrenched the wrong,
How hard the battle goes, the day how long;
Fight on! fight on! tomorrow comes the song!"
As we wait upon God in this energy of implicit obedience to Him, He
will vindicate all His delays. He will do it as we stand, like men who
wait for their Lord, doing His will to the very utmost of our power,
knowing that when He comes He will perfect that which concerns us;
pushing the battle to the gate, in the confidence that at the strategic
moment He will bring up reinforcements which shall mean the final
factor in victory, quietly hoping for that we see not; saying to our
souls again, and yet again, "We see not yet all things put under Him,
we see not yet the fulfilment of our every desire; but we see Jesus
crowned. Blessed be His Name for ever!" (Selected ) - J. S. H.
THE CHURCH -- ITS NATURE, PRINCIPLES
4. THE LOCAL EXPRESSION OF THE CHURCH
BEFORE leaving our consideration of the Church, I feel strongly that I
should say a few things of vital importance as to a true local
expression of the Church. I know only too well how difficult it is to
find or secure any such true expression, but that is no reason
why we should abandon the whole matter: rather is it a pointer to its
value, for history and experience have shown that this is one thing
that is of very great account where the adversary of Christ is
concerned. To prevent or destroy such expressions has always been a
major concern of the powers of evil. The true Church, universal and
local, is a very great menace to the kingdom of Satan. This we have
emphasised in earlier chapters. But let us summarise:
(1) The importance of the Church in local expressions
We must first remind ourselves that a solid block of the New Testament
was written specifically to local churches; which churches had been the
first result of apostolic ministry. That ministry, and all the
suffering involved, had been vindicated in local corporate bodies of
believers. It was for those churches that the apostles travailed,
laboured, prayed and fought. The bulk of the New Testament had its
supreme concern for such assemblies which, themselves, had known great
sufferings in their very birth, and were in "a great fight of
affliction" for their continuance and survival.
Then we must remember that the Lord's own personal concern for, and
evaluation of local churches is made very evident by His direct
messages to the seven churches in Asia with which the book of
finalities (Revelation) commences. There is no mistaking the importance
to the exalted Lord of local churches when we read those messages, the
focal point of which is a clause in one of them "These things saith the
Son of God." The Psalmist Would say: "Selah" -- "think of that!"
(2) This importance is to be seen in the specific values of a local
assembly, when rightly functioning
(a) Here the principle that "No man liveth unto himself, and no
man dieth unto himself" (Romans 14:7) is enunciated in relation to the
local church in the messages to the churches in Asia. It is said of the
church in Ephesus that through them "all they which be in Asia heard
the word of the Lord" (Acts 19:10 -- see 1 Thessalonians 1:8). It
should be impossible for a local assembly of God's people to exist
without it being known over an area far greater than its own locality.
A living company will, sooner or later, be known abroad for what it has
of the Lord.
(b) To enlarge on this, a local church should have, not only
enough spiritual bread for itself, but basketfulls over to spare, and
many beyond its borders should be receiving enrichment from its
spiritual wealth. Is this not so very evident in history? Have not the
Lord's people been feeding down the ages unto this day upon the bread
ministered to and through those New Testament churches? Is it not true
that multitudes have been fed, and are still being fed by the food
ministered in local churches in many places in the last century? So the
Lord would have it. The church which only ministers to itself and does
not do so to the Church at large is committing a sin against the trust
of life; it is a cul-de-sac, not a highway. Of course, it is
particularly important that the ministry in a local church is truly
anointed ministry. Not by man's appointment, selection or decision from
either side. Not by studied-up and made-up addresses, but by
illumination and inspiration as through [115/116]
an open heaven. Not just keeping something going as a must, but by
revelation of Jesus Christ. It must be evident to all that those
leading and ministering are under a genuine burden from the Lord, and
the evidence is life!
(c) The local church should, and can be a refuge, a covering, a
protection to its own members. One of Satan's master-tactics is to
isolate believers and then knock them out. This can be done by unwise
and independent action, choices, movements, uncounselled decisions. The
church by its prayers, and counsel, and fellowship is a Divine
provision against the tragedies which lie in the way of independence
and isolation. Co-operation and coordination in the physical body are a
provision and a law against many diseases. So it is in the spiritual
(d) The local church should provide personal ministries to the
Lord's people, and to the unsaved near and far, and it should provide
an encompassing safeguard and support for the fulfilment of such
ministries. Those who go forth in the church's ministry should
know that they are being upheld and stood with by those from amongst
whom they have gone. Indeed, they should go as sent forth by the church!
The lack and absence of these characteristics in local companies is the
cause of much weakness in the Church universal.
(e) Finally, a local church rightly functioning is a wonderful
provision for the training of its members for service. Training is so
largely a matter of being able to work corporately. How to live and
work with others, and to sink individualism into fellowship, is a real
part of the discipline which makes a fruitful ministry!
There is a real danger in departmentalism; the separation into isolated
groups, so that these groups do not come into the corporate life and
function of the church. It is possible to have groups associated with a
local church which really have no true church life. This means
weakness and loss. Moreover, the local church should be its own Bible
School, for systematic instruction in the Word of God.
Careful reading of the Bible, especially the New Testament, will show
that what we have said above is all there as exhortation, admonition,
warning, instruction, and example.
Were I to add one more vital and all-inclusive thing, I would
say that the absolute essential to such churches is a real work of the
Cross in everyone concerned.
THE ESSENTIAL NEWNESS OF THE NEW
"Thou hast heard it; behold all this; and ye, will ye
not declare it? I have shewed thee new things from this time, even
hidden things, which thou hast not known. They are created now, and not
from of old; and before this day thou heardest then not; lest thou
shouldest say, behold, I knew them" (Isaiah 48:6-7).
" Wherefore if any man is in Christ, there is a new
creation: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new"
(1 Corinthians 5:17 -- R.V. margin).
"And no man putteth a piece of undressed cloth upon an
old garment; for that which should fill it up taketh from the garment,
and a worse rent is made. Neither do men put new wine into old
wine-skins: else the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the
skins perish: but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are
preserved" (Matthew 9:16-17).
FAMILIARITY with words and ideas very often takes something from their
value. Few passages in the New Testament are more familiar to us than 2
Corinthians 5:17: "Wherefore if any man is in Christ, there is a new
creation ...", but the full force of the one governing word there has,
I am quite sure, not fallen upon our hearts, and we have still very
much to learn as to that essential newness of the new creation in
Christ. Indeed, we may say that many of our troubles, our difficulties,
our weaknesses, our failures, our problems, our perplexities, are the
result of our having failed to grasp sufficiently the import of that
one word "new". We have, very largely, proceeded into the new creation
with a good deal that is old, or we have tried to do so, and we have
discovered sooner or later that that cannot be done and we are
attempting an impossibility. So it may be quite profitable for us to
dwell for a little while upon this essential newness.
We begin by reminding ourselves, or acquainting ourselves with the fact
that there are two sides to the new creation. There is the vessel, and
there is that which is put into the vessel. It takes both of these to
constitute what is called the "new creation", the human side, and the
Divine side, but while newness applies to both sides, the newness is
not the same newness. There are two main words which are translated
into our English word "new", and [116/117] we
are perhaps familiar with the difference between them. One implies
something which is fresh, not necessarily just originated, but bearing
the mark of freshness. The other word implies more strictly something
which is quite recent, and which was not necessarily there before; it
is not new in the sense that it has just come in; it is not something
revived but something new. It is interesting to notice that the Holy
Spirit uses the two words in connection with the two sides of the new
In this vessel in Matthew 9 you have both words used. As to the
wine-skins (translated in the Authorised Version as "bottles") the word
used is that which implies freshness. When the Lord Jesus speaks of new
wine He uses the other word, that is, something which is quite new,
quite recent. When you pass to the passage in 2 Corinthians 5 and it is
stated that: "... if any man is in Christ there is a new creation; the
old things are passed away: behold, they are become new," there the
word which means freshness is used twice. That is strictly consistent
with the truth as to the real nature of the new creation.
You are dealing, first of all, with the vessel. Now, as vessels in the
new creation we are not something which never was before, something
quite recent. The vessel of the new creation is our old spirit brought
back into life. Our human spirit fell out of fellowship with God, and
that meant spiritual death. The new creation activity is to bring back
the human spirit from spiritual death into life, and it is the same
spirit, raised in union with Christ, becoming the vessel of the new
That is, however, only half of the process. Something which was never
in that spirit before is deposited in it; a life which is not fresh but
new, recent, absolutely new, which was never in the human spirit
before, is now put into that vessel, and that which is so completely
new, says the Word, is never put into an old wine-skin. That vessel has
to be made fresh, has to be brought into a state of life in order to be
the receptacle of this utterly new life of the Spirit of God.
These are the two sides of the new creation. The point is that, first
of all, something has to be done in the vessel, as well as something
having to be put into the vessel.
That is a principle, to which God has bound Him self and which governs
Him in all His activities. It applies in every direction where Divine
work is in view. God never builds His new thing upon an old foundation.
He never uses the old thing as the material for His new work. That has
to be completely renewed. That He does not put His life, His
new wine, into old skins is a truth which relates not only to
regeneration, to our salvation, to the new creation man, but it also
applies to every work of God. Whenever God does a thing the
characteristic is newness. Although there may be an old vessel, that
vessel has to be made fresh in order to effect God's end.
That applies to truth as much as to anything else. It may be Divine
doctrine, God-given revelation, that which at one time, by the Holy
Spirit, was living truth; but that can never be taken up at any
subsequent date or period of time and used again unless it becomes
fresh in the experience and life of those who come into it. It is just
there that a very great many of the mistakes have been made: that what
in the way of revelation was a living revelation so long ago has been
adopted as truth without that subsequent generation, or those
subsequent generations, coming into the living reality thereof. That is
It applies to the new creation man. you cannot bring the old creation
man over into the new creation without his becoming fresh in a living
way. That applies to truth, revelation and doctrine. You cannot carry
it on unless it is perennially fresh. Ezekiel's vision of the river and
the trees on either side -- very many trees whose leaves never fade and
whose fruit is continuous -- is simply a revelation or a vision of the
Testimony being maintained by the principle of life in freshness right
down the whole course of the ages. Truth has to be like those leaves
which never fade. Truth has to be like that fruit, luscious fruit which
is always there. All doctrine is not like that, but unless it is like
that its essential element has gone. It is the essential newness of
what is of God.
Every fresh step of God is marked by this freshness, this newness. God
may have done that same thing again and again in the course of history,
but the next time He does it, it is as though it had never been done
before in the case of the people in whom He does it. That is the glory
We have seen this work in simple ways. Some of us have been so familiar
with certain things, and we have said those things again and again. To
us they were living realities, but we have known of certain people who
have heard them, who have listened to them, who have been under the
ministry by which those things have been declared again and again over
a course of, perhaps, years, and then suddenly, as by a touch of the
Spirit, they have seen them, they have caught the inner sound, the
truth has broken upon them and has become living to them. The result
was that they commenced to talk about those things as though no one in
all the world had ever heard them before, and as though the very person
[117/118] who had been talking about
them for years did not know anything about them! It is just like that.
That is the living Testimony. It is the freshness of things, and things
must be like that to be of God, for what is really of God is like that.
It is not that we hold the truth, but that we have the life of the
What is true in the case of the new creation man, and in connection
with truth or doctrine, revelation or light, is also true in the
direction of the work of God -- what we call Christian work. For
everyone who enters into the Divine vocation, the calling to service,
it ought to be as though there had never been any Christian work
before. It ought to be as though they were the first ever commissioned.
In their spirit, in their outlook, in their passion, it should be as
though they were right at the beginning of things, as though the
Christian activity, the Christian Gospel, was only just starting on its
way. That is the consciousness which they should have, and that is just
the opposite of entering into a longstanding, accepted, crystallized
system of Christian work and becoming a part of a great existing
machine. The freshness about things should be of this character: that
in our service we are conscious that the hand of God has come upon us
as though it had never come upon any other person, and as though no one
else had been called but ourselves. I do not mean that to be taken in a
wrong way -- that we are the only ones -- but that this thing is such a
living, tremendous reality to us that we feel as though nothing had
ever been done for the Lord before.
Do you understand what we mean by that? Christian work has become an
order, as we have called it, a crystallised system of Christian
enterprise, activity, organised work, and people are called upon today
to enter into it, to take it up, and they do so and become a part of a
great Christian machine for accomplishing a certain purpose. Then they
go into some kind of a factory to be turned out a Christian worker. You
are not surprised that these factory-turned-out workers have not got
that thing by which men and women today are fed and brought into the
full glory, beauty, gandeur and magnificence of Christ! No! The work of
the Lord is something which, to the one who is apprehended of Christ
Jesus, is as though there had never been any Christian work before.
There is the freshness of life about it.
This applies to the thing which God does, for when He does a thing
there is that about it which is fresh, and there is the sense that here
is some thing which, as an element, makes this work of God a new work.
God must have newness of every kind in His vessels. If the vessel, or
the vehicle, is a man; if the vessel, or the vehicle, is a revelation;
if it is a collective instrumentality, or some piece of work which God
is doing in the world, when it is of Him it bears that hallmark of
freshness. There is no staleness about it, nor death. It throbs with
I believe the Lord has a very definite object in our being led to this
thought at this time. Undoubtedly the need today everywhere is just
this sense of God in a new way. There is plenty of work, plenty of
doctrine, and there are many Christians; but, oh, for this sense of
God, this sense of keenness freshness, vitality, and knowledge of God
in all. That is the need. Without it things will go on as they
are, and they are very dead, and tragically weak and ineffective.
The measure, then, of the newness of the vessel will be the measure of
the newness of what God puts into it. God demands the newness of the
vessel in order to commit Himself to it.
Look at that passage from Isaiah 18: "I have shewed thee new things
from this time, even hidden things, which thou hast not known. They are
created now, and not from of old; and before his day thou heardest them
not; lest thou shouldest ray, Behold, I knew them." Is not that the
attitude today toward a great deal? 'Oh, yes, I know it all! I know,
there is nothing new about that! The doctrine and everything else, yes,
I know it! We have heard that before! we know it! There is nothing new
about that!' Dear friends, if you have caught the inner significance of
this you are not talking mentally like that! You are seeing, and as you
see you are feeling intensely that there is this need everywhere today.
You have the intelligence of a living insight, and you know quite well
that there is no hope whatever in simply propagating doctrine and truth
and trying to do the old work in the old way. The need is not more
work, more doctrine, more truth and more light so much as more of this
living element in all.
There are two sides. There is the vessel, and there is that which is in
the vessel. The vessel may be quite a good vessel doctrinally, and in
other ways, but there needs to be also the deposit in the vessel, the
new wine. So the Word says here quite clearly that there is a
hopelessness about the old, and all the hope lies in the direction of
renewal and freshness on the one hand, and of God's living, new deposit
on the other hand.
What is the ultimate conclusion about this? It is the conclusion to
which 2 Corinthians 5:18 comes: "But all things are of God ..." That
allows the statement "... we thus judge, that one [118/119]
died for all, therefore all died; and he died for all, that they which
live should no longer live unto themselves, but unto him ..." That is
the one side: everything having died as to its own self-productiveness.
It cannot produce this Divine end and result. It has died to its own
productiveness, and now it is unto Him, and when it is all unto Him
then all things are out from God. When all things are of God, all
things carry this vital element, this essential freshness of a new
You and I should have heart exercise about everything that the Lord has
brought to us. Do we really do that? Do we go back over what has been
said and say: 'Now the Lord said such and such, and this and that comes
out of it. What am I going to do about it? Do I know that in a living
way? Does that really represent the Lord's mind for me, and His people?
Is that something that the Lord desires for all His own? If so, on any
one of these matters I must get before the Lord and definitely be
exercised in heart about it.'
Piled up, mountains high, are words, language, teaching, truth and
light, and the percentage of living, effective value in it all is all
too small. If there is one thing about which we should lay hold of the
Lord it is this: 'Lord, keep this Testimony a living thing! Do not let
it become mere doctrine, mere truth, something to be passed on which
will be taken up by others and talked about, and the phrases and
terminology used. God forbid that that should be!'
The point is the essential newness of all that is out from God; the
essential newness of that which proceeds from the Lord, and which is
really related to the Lord; and freshness on the part of those who are
concerned, and newness on the part of that which is coming out from God
Himself. Let us pray very much about that, because that is the very
essence of our ministry, and not only of our life and what we call our
Testimony. Bread must have vitamins in it, and it is the same in
spiritual food, for there must be a living attribute. There must be the
newness; not old things dead but -- it may be old things -- living.
"Therefore every scribe who hath been made a disciple to the kingdom of
heaven is like unto a man that is a householder, which bringeth forth
out of his treasure things new and old" (Matthew 13:52). But if he
brings old things out there is a newness about them that conveys the
impression that they never were before, something, at any rate, which
is altogether fresh.
The Lord maintain us, and all with which we have to do, in that
essential freshness and newness which is the hallmark of Himself.
We acknowledge with gratitude the following gifts received during June
and up to 28th July 1969:
Aberdare £3; Amsterdam, Holland £2 10s.; Auckland, New
Zealand £1 10s.; Berlin, Germany £2; Blackburn £1;
Bognor Regis £10; Bromley £1, £6, £6; Brynmawr
£5; Calgary, Alberta £1 14s. 6d.; Chelmsford 10s.;
Clitheroe £1; Compton Dando £2; Congleton £25;
Dalbeattie 10s.; Didsbury, Alberta £4; Glasgow £25,
£1; Godalming £1 1s.; Hastings £5, £5; Hexham
10s.; Horley 2s. 6d.; Hunter's Quay £5; Ilford £1;
Kingswood £2; Lentran 10s.; London N.17 £1; S.E.22 10s.;
S.E.23 £5, £5, £1, 10s., £3, £5,
£4, £1; S.E.26 £2; S.W.19 £1, £1;
Maidstone £5; Newcastle-on-Tyne £3 15s. 6d.; Norwich
£3; Penticton, British Columbia £4; Preston 10s.;
Schlieren, Switzerland £4; Sicamous, British Columbia £3;
Surbiton £5; Swansea 10s.; Taipei, Taiwan £10; Tonbridge
£5; Waterloo, Ontario £1 18s. 6d.; West Wickham £5;
Worthing £20. Total: £219 12s. 0d.
Avila Beach, Calif. $5; Beaver, Pa. $5; Bellflower, Calif. $5;
Birmingham, Ala. $15, $10, $15; Boston, Mass. $5; Boulder, Colo. $50;
Bradenton, Fla. $10; Charlottesville, Va. $10; Chicago, Ill. $10;
Columbia, S.C. $20; Conway, Mo. $2; Emmaus, Pa. $10; Ephrata, Wash. $8;
Erlanger, Ky. $2; Fort Worth, Texas $5; Haddon Heights, N.J. $50;
Harrisonburg, Va. $1; Jackson Heights, N.Y. $5; Lancaster, Calif.
$6.50; Lansdowne, Pa. $20; Lexington, S.C. $5; Macon, Ga. $2; Martinez,
Calif. $15; Minneapolis, Minn. $5; Monroe, Mich. $25; Monrovia, Calif.
$1; Mount Holly, N.J. $50; Norfolk, Va. $10, $10; Ozone Park, N.Y. $50;
Pasadena, Calif. $10; Pascagoula, Miss. $5; Pitman, N.J. $97; St.
Petersburg, Fla. $5; San Diego, Calif. $10; San Jose, Calif. $10;
Seattle, Wash. $2; Taichung, Taiwan $1; Tulsa, Okla. $7.50; Whittier,
Calif. $10. Total: $600.00.
Orillia, Ontario C$5.15.
Maasshuis, Holland HFL. 20.00.
Chardonne, Switzerland Fcs. 50.00. [119/120]
WITNESS AND TESTIMONY LITERATURE
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.
|By T. Austin-Sparks
|THE STEWARDSHIP OF THE MYSTERY
| Vol. 1 ALL THINGS IN CHRIST
| Vol. 2
||(Art paper covers)
|WHAT IS MAN?
|THE ON-HIGH CALLING or COMPANIONS
| OF CHRIST AND OF A HEAVENLY CALLING
|DISCIPLESHIP IN THE SCHOOL OF CHRIST
|GOD'S REACTIONS TO MAN'S DEFECTIONS
|WE BEHELD HIS GLORY (Vol. 1)
||(Art paper covers)
|WE BEHELD HIS GLORY (Vol. 2)
||(Art paper covers)
|RIVERS OF LIVING WATER
|THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO PAUL
|WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A CHRISTIAN
|FUNDAMENTAL QUESTIONS OF THE
| CHRISTIAN LIFE
|THE GOLD OF THE SANCTUARY or
| THE FINAL CRITERION
|THE CITY WHICH HATH FOUNDATIONS
|THE RECOVERING OF THE LORD'S
| TESTIMONY IN FULLNESS
|THE SCHOOL OF CHRIST
|THE SPIRITUAL MEANING OF SERVICE
|THE SIGNIFICANCE OF CHRIST
|IN TOUCH WITH THE THRONE
| (Some Considerations on the
|THE CENTRALITY AND SUPREMACY OF
| THE LORD JESUS CHRIST
|GOD'S SPIRITUAL HOUSE
|HIS GREAT LOVE
|UNION WITH CHRIST
|THE MORE EXCELLENT MINISTRY
| (Incorporating Union with Christ
| The Ministry of Elijah and Stewardship)
|CHRIST -- ALL, AND IN ALL
|CHRIST IN HEAVEN AND CHRIST WITHIN
|"I WILL OVERTURN"
|THE SUPREME VOCATION
||or 5/- per dozen
|A GOOD WARFARE
||or 5/- per dozen
|WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN?
||or 5/- per dozen
|THE BLOOD, THE CROSS AND THE
| NAME OF THE LORD JESUS
|THE WATCHWORD OF THE SON OF MAN
|THE ARM OF THE LORD
|CHRIST OUR LIFE
||or 1/6 per dozen
|By H. Foster (Booklet)
|THE REALITY OF GOD'S HOUSE
|By Various Authors
| (Each volume contains a number of
separate messages )
|THE WORK OF THE MINISTRY
| The three volumes, when ordered
|For Boys and Girls
|By G. Paterson
|GOSPEL MESSAGES FROM THE ANTARCTIC
| (170-page cloth-bound book.
|By H. Foster
| (All with illustrated art paper
|READY FOR THE KING (48 pp. Illus.)
|ON WINGS OF FAITH (52 pp. Illus.)
|BURIED TREASURE (48 pp. Illus.)
|OPENING IRON GATES (40 pages)
|Published by SURE FOUNDATION
|By DeVern Fromke
|THE ULTIMATE INTENTION
|UNTO FULL STATURE
Printed in Great Britain by Billing and
Sons Limited, Guildford and London [120/ibc]
[Inside back cover]
MOTTO CARD 1970
The wording of the new motto card will be:
"Is anything too hard for the Lord?"
"There is nothing too hard for Thee"
"All things are possible" Mark
"That we should ... trust ... in God"
2 Cor. 1:9
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The postage on cards sent overseas is a little higher
than the above rates.
Orders for these cards may be placed immediately. They will be
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A WITNESS AND A TESTIMONY
The six issues of the magazine, bound together, to form a volume with
light blue art paper cover, are available for the following years:
1956, 1959, 1960, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968. Price per volume (1
year): 5/- ($0.70).
Certain back issues of the paper are also available and will be sent to
those who desire them at cost of postage only. Please indicate the date
of the issue(s) required.
POSTAGE AND PACKING: For postage and packing please add
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Witness and Testimony literature can also be obtained from:
|P.O. Box 68505,
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