"A Candlestick of Pure
Gold: of Beaten Work" Exodus 25:31
"The Testimony of Jesus" Revelation 1:9
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|May -- June, 1970
||Vol. 48, No. 3
THE LORD IS RISEN INDEED!
THE book which is known to us as "The Acts of the Apostles", and
sometimes as "The Acts of the Holy Spirit", could well be truly named:
"The Acts of the Risen Lord". Luke -- the writer -- introduces it with
the observation that he had earlier written the beginnings of the acts
and teaching of Jesus Christ, implying that his aim is now the
But, what a change! In the former Jesus was bounded and -- to use His
own word -- "straitened" by time and space. At most, a few square miles
of Syrian soil, and, for the most part, Omnipresence in chains, except
for a few breakings-through of power at a distance. Then, almost
entirely to a people of one nation and tongue. Then, by outward urge,
persuasion and constraint, He had His wishes carried out. Then, to the
dull minds of the spiritually unquickened He gave His spiritual
treasures; explanations and reasons were necessary to gain confidence.
Then, a non-committal necessity was laid upon Him in the nature of a
slow disillusioning of His followers' minds as to what form the end of
His earthly life would take, because of the controlling personal
interests. Pride, ambition, self-assertiveness, self-assurance,
self-preservation were like barbed wires circling Him around and
wounding whenever He sought to break through their narrow mental
horizon and exclusiveness. Ever conscious from the beginning that He
was appointed for world-dominion as "Heir of all things", yet at
present 'not a place to lay His head, and destined to be "crucified
through weakness". But, what a change!
Now He has shaken off all His personal chains. Time and space no longer
have any power to limit Him. Material things and spiritual forces
cannot stand in His way. They are now the agents of His sovereignty.
Now, by an inward dynamic, in spite of every threat and peril, men and
women are moving out in all directions with a passion for the glory of
His name. Now, not as "the Jesus of history", "known after the flesh",
but by an inward revelation of transcendent magnitude He is known
"after the Spirit". Now, the once-dreaded, unacceptable, offending
Cross is all their glory. Now, suffering reproach for His sake has
supplanted pride and shame; selfless disinterested sacrifice takes the
place of worldly ambition; a mighty energising faith has destroyed
doubt; they gladly lay down their lives and suffer the loss of all
things [49/50] for "the excellency of the
knowledge of Him." With one strategic stroke He begins with a multitude
representing "every nation under heaven". See how the fire spreads
without artificial agencies! Dr. Fairbairn has given us a classic
record of this spreading flame:
"In the year 33 A.D. a few Galilean fishermen were seeking liberty of
speech in Jerusalem, and were hardly handled as men poor and ignorant.
"In the year that Paul died, how did the matter stand? There were
churches in Jerusalem, Nazareth, Caesareans in all Syria, Antioch
Ephesus, Galatia, Sardis, Laodicea, in all the towns on the west coast
throughout lesser Asia, in Philippi, Thessalonica, Athens, Corinth,
Rome, Alexandria, in the chief cities of the islands and the mainland
of Greece, and the western Roman colonies."
Surely the exclamation of our title is true: "The Lord is risen indeed!"
What we have to do, then, is to recover the principles which accounted
for this phenomenal expression of the glorious truth in that
exclamation. The Book of the Acts contains all the Divine principles
for the world of the risen Lord for this dispensation. Whenever those
principles have been honoured and governing, there has been a fresh
expression of the wonder of His risen power. This we are going to see.
But, first we have to dismiss false ideas which have become accretions
to Christianity. It is a matter of being quite clear as to what
Christianity is not.
1. The first Apostles and messengers of the Gospel did not consider
themselves to have been charged with a new teaching.
There is nothing in the whole story upon which to build an argument or
affirmation that the Apostles went out to the world with "the
teaching of Jesus ". They were not propagating new doctrines or a
system of truth. It was not a new ideology, i.e. system of ideas. The
teaching came after the acceptance of their testimony and was
the explanation of the fundamental facts of experience or
faith. It was the expounding of the contents of the basic truths. The
most that they did, to begin with, was to announce facts and
substantiate their testimony from the Word of God, and affirm the facts
concerning Jesus Christ.
2. Christianity was not conceived by the Apostles to be a new
It was not set over against, or alongside of, other religions and made
"Comparative". It was only gradually that some of the first Apostles
themselves realised the implications of their new position as being
emancipated from Judaism, but that did become real and clear, even if
their former allegiance had a carryover in their constitution and
emotions. They found themselves out and committed even against
their own former prejudices, and they did their thinking and arguing
after the thing had happened in them. The inward reality may have been
an embarrassment sometimes, but they never thought in terms of having
changed one religion for another. See Peter in the home of Cornelius,
and the events in Acts 10, 11, 15, etc.
3. Christianity was not thought or spoken of as a new "Movement".
No plans were laid. There was no "Policy". Organisation was practically
nil, and any little bit which subsequently had to be admitted was
forced upon them by the embarrassment of the very vitality of things
not to secure success!
A thought-out campaign did not exist. To set up, launch, form, bring
into being, or found a new "Society", sect, "Church" or community was
not considered or visualised. They did not set out with such ideas,
although their testimony gave distinctiveness to all who believed;
distinctiveness of life, character, and behaviour, and outsiders did
what they always do, that is, gave them a label: "Christians". This was
a misapprehension and misinterpretation of their motive.
What, then, was their testimony? All-inclusively it was the
proclamation and affirmation of a Fact. That Fact was -- and is
-- The Universal Sovereignty and Lordship of Jesus Christ as the
Son of God established and vindicated by His resurrection from the dead.
It is, however, very important, as an abiding law, to remember that
this was a testimony, not just a creed. That is, it came out of
a tremendous experience. What had happened objectively and historically
had had its counterpart in them; it had a tremendous and
revolutionising effect in their own being. The resurrection of Jesus
was an inward power and dynamic. A new and other life had been put
within them by the Holy Spirit. That life in Him which had conquered
death as the all-inclusive enemy, the sum of enemies, had been
implanted in them on the Day of Pentecost. Their testimony then was --
not only in word, but in power -- that Jesus lives triumphantly and
universally as "Lord of all". That life, given them when Jesus left
death and the grave behind as conquered foes, was not just a new mode
of life, it was a vital force which had burst all the old wineskins of
tradition and formalism, and systems which had served their purpose. It
was irresistible, indestructible, and "eternal"; the life of a new
creation. It was this vital energy which initiated and dynamited
'missionary' [50/51] activity. No appeals for
missionaries, workers, or missionary propaganda are found in the New
Testament. The Holy Spirit was the Custodian of the world-purpose of
God, and concern that Christ should have His inheritance in the nations
(Psalm 2:8) was the evidence that the Holy Spirit had been received and
given His full place. The testimony registered in the kingdom
of Satan, and it was impossible for this testimony to come into any new
part of his domain without hell rising up to defend its territory. The
Lord's indictment of churches later on was because they had settled
down and lost their impact!
We have now laid our foundation, and we can proceed to see how, when
the principle has been operative, something spiritually vital has
resulted, and something very much akin to the first years of
Christianity has issued.
SOME NOTABLE EXAMPLES
We have before us the records of some movements of God that have been
effectual and fruitful in the world testimony of the Lord Jesus. One is
the amazing story of those great days in the beginning of the Moravian
mission. In the first twenty years they actually sent out more
missionaries than the whole Protestant Church had done in two hundred
years. Of the closed lands entered, the sufferings gladly endured, the
range covered, the lives lived and laid down, the grace of God
manifested, it stirs wonder and shame to read. Someone has said that
"if members of the Protestant churches went out as missionaries in
corresponding numbers there would have been a force of missionaries
more than the number estimated as necessary to achieve the
evangelization of the world."
Our purpose is not to tell that whole story, but to ask what lay behind
it? In the first place, the Cross had been deeply wrought into the very
being of those people. Their country had been made a very field of
blood by massacre. They were driven from their homes. They were reduced
from three million to one million in population by persecution for
their faith. Indeed, it sometimes appeared as if they would be entirely
extinguished. Out of this fire of affliction there arose a company
purified with another fire burning in their bones. It was the fire of a
passionate love for the Lord Jesus. The meetings of these brethren,
when later possible, breathe the atmosphere of "The Upper Room" in
Jerusalem. Covenants were made that self in all its forms should be
entirely banished: self-will, self-love, self-interest, self-seeking.
To be poor in spirit would be their quest, and every one would give
himself to be taught by the Holy Spirit. A prayer-watch was set up
which would burn day and night, and in relays an entire twenty-four
hours was occupied in seeking the Lord. "To win for the Lamb that was
slain the reward of His sufferings" was their adopted motto. All this
is its own argument. Here that deep, inwrought work of the Cross issued
in a mighty personal love for the Lord Jesus.
That is the first principle which we recognize as being basic to the
early New Testament power and spread of the Gospel.
We pass to a second example to note another principle. We refer to the
early days of the "China Inland Mission", as it came to be named. Let
us say at once that that work was born of a spiritual truth, a
fundamental truth of New Testament Christianity. It was the vital
reality of union with Christ. With all his vision and passion for
Christ to be known in inland China, it is well known that as he went
from place to place in this and other countries, addressing Christians,
Mr. Hudson Taylor said comparatively little about China, and often
nothing at all. He poured out his spiritual message to bring the Lord's
people to the fuller knowledge of what union with Christ means. The
central and supreme thing in this fellowship with the Lord was the
universal efficacy of prayer. Listen to him:
"In the study of the Divine Word I learned that to obtain successful
workers, not elaborate appeals for help, but earnest prayer to God ...
and the deepening of the spiritual life of the Church, so that men
should be unable to stay at home, were what was needed."
Were we to put the inner history of this work -- the original spiritual
background -- into a few words, we should say that it was not the
history of organization, advocacy, propaganda, appeals, or advertising,
but of a man with a deep knowledge of God born of the Cross being
deeply inwrought, with a spiritual ministry to the Lord's people as to
fullness of life in Christ and the practical outworkings of such a life
in prayer. Everything in him and in that work turned upon the real
meaning of union with Christ. This is revealed in a letter to his
sister printed in the second volume of his "Life".
Is it not perfectly patent how this -- in principle -- corresponds to
what we have in the Book of the Acts?
To use the words of the writer of the Hebrew Letter: "And what can we
more say? For time would fail to tell of ..." In distinguishing the
Divine principles and methods in beginnings we could instance quite a
few more. [51/52]
Take the case of "The Christian and Missionary Alliance". There are
very few instrumentalities of God since apostolic times which have
ministered spiritual blessing over a large area of the world more than
has this agency. I came into touch with this ministry in the latter
part of the life of Dr. A. B. Simpson and the years since. My purpose
is not to narrate the story of the Alliance, but to do two things. One,
to say that the spiritual enrichment to the Church of God has
been exceptional through this vessel. The other, to emphasise the
apostolic or Divine principle which accounts for that spiritual
seed-plot of intrinsic values. Anyone who has read the life of A. B.
Simpson, either in the official and original record, or in Dr. Tozer's
"Wingspread" will know that all the work and worldwide ministry sprang
from a deep, radical, and utter abandon to the Lord Himself. Through
much stripping, devastating, and desolating experience, that servant of
God came into a very intimate knowledge of his Lord. Dr. Simpson,
although so thoroughly brought up and trained in Presbyterianism,
outgrew all the confines of denominationalism. There was no "wineskin"
strong or large enough to retain the new wine of his spiritual measure
and vitality. His Christian conferences, especially at Old Orchard,
were a way of enriching many with spiritual measure. The phrase which
became characteristic of Dr. Simpson, and uniquely so, was "the
Fullness of Christ". In those days that phrase had a newness and music
which registered; but it is a term which, by reason of familiarity, has
lost some of its impact now. It was out of that spiritual measure
that the world vision was born, and that passion for "the Fullness of
Christ" accounts for the "Alliance". Here we are back again at the
principle of all God's new beginnings.
The same principle can be noted in so many other instances. It was the
rich, deep ministry of Dr. Andrew Murray that accounted for the South
Africa General Mission and its early spiritual strength. The Keswick
Convention, with its original purpose of "the deepening of the
Spiritual Life", based on Romans 6, has been no small means of
missionary enlargement and spiritual support.
The evidence is overwhelming that God moves by way of a deep and full
knowledge of Christ; it is not just theory or academic knowledge, but a
knowledge born out of a deep work of the Cross in spiritual history
with God. Such are His beginnings, and to have God's "New Thing" those
principles must be recovered. 'Recovered' implies loss. It is sadly
true that even in the last days of the Apostles Paul and John there are
evidences of incipient change toward a systematizing and crystallizing
of Christianity with loss of the purely spiritual character and
nature. So it is that men will make a movement from heaven into
a form and institution on earth. In speaking to the most responsible
man in one of these "Missions" about the decline in spiritual power
since their beginning, he fully agreed, and then asked: 'But what can
we do?' When I said that perhaps much recovery would take place if all
the responsible leaders were called together for two weeks of prayer,
heartsearching, and consideration of the spiritual principles of their
beginning, he said: 'Yes, I believe that would be of great value, but
it cannot be; all our men are too busy.'
Too busy to recover the full impact of "The Lord is risen indeed"! - T.
THE MISSION, THE MEANING AND THE
MESSAGE OF JESUS CHRIST
9. IN THE LETTERS TO THE CORINTHIANS (continued)
THERE is one more message in relation to our particular theme at this
time before we leave the Corinthian Letters. We have observed that, by
many allusions, these two Letters find the believers to whom they were
addressed, spiritually where Israel were when in the wilderness, that
is, between Egypt and the Land of Promise; between the Exodus -- the
coming out -- and the Eisodos -- the entering in. We have seen how
precarious that position is, and therefore how strong the warnings are
as taken from Israel's tragic failure.
We are now seeing how our main title above [52/53]
applies to that situation. The Second Letter to the Corinthians has
some very rich things in it. Of course, commentators almost universally
interpret or define it as the Letter of the Christian ministry, and
that is summed up in the words in chapter 4, verse 1: "Therefore seeing
we have this ministry." We have often taken that clause in the
particular connection, i.e. the ministry of the Church. But for our
present purpose we light upon another immensely rich and comprehensive
phrase. In the same chapter, verse 4, we have: "... the light of the
gospel of the glory of Christ"; and then, in verse 6: "... God, that
said, Light shall shine out of darkness, who shined in our hearts, to
give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of
Jesus Christ." How rich! Break it up: "The glory of Christ." "The
gospel of the glory of Christ." "The light of the gospel of the glory
of Christ." "The face of Jesus Christ." "The glory of God in the face
of Jesus Christ." "The light of the knowledge of the glory of God."
"The knowledge of the glory of God." Every clause is a theme!
In the context the Apostle makes a great transition with a comparison
and a contrast: from Moses to Christ. He is emphasising the startling
and shattering effect upon the people of the glory of God on
the face of Moses. He is very strong on that point, and thus prepares
the way for his particular message. The comparison is in the same
glory, but the contrast is threefold: one, the glory in the
face of Jesus Christ, and, two, the exceeding glory of the
latter, leading to three, the effect in each case. The former was a
ministry of death, the death-sentence of the Law: the latter was life,
the life which comes by grace. This is the transformation implicit in
the wilderness, it is the ministry of life in surrounding death. It is
the glory of grace in the realm of condemnation. All this, says the
Apostle, is focused in "the face of Jesus Christ". The face is the
register, the index, the medium of character, of personality. The glory
was on the face of Moses. It was not his own personal
perfection of character, divine nature. It was in the face of
Jesus Christ, "who is the image of God" (4:4). It was therefore
a surpassing glory. Earlier the Apostle says that we are "reflecting
... the glory of God". It is not inherent in us; we are but "mirrors"
The point of all this, for Corinthians and for all Christians, is that
in a wilderness world like Corinth, and the world generally, it is not
necessary to perish, to die. It is not necessary to fail and not reach
the inheritance. Israel's tragedy need not overtake us, because,
although we are but "vessels of fragile clay" (4:7 -- Conybeare), there
is "the exceeding greatness of the power", which is "of God, and not of
This is the Mission, the Meaning, the Message of Jesus Christ to His
Church as in the world where there is nothing else to help. It is the
message to "pilgrims and strangers" here.
The Apostle will take much space in this Letter to meet the cruelty,
opposition, criticism, slander, and discrediting work of his enemies,
some of them Christians. His inclusive and most powerful answer to them
is in this "God hath shined into our hearts." It is the glory which we
have beheld in the face of Jesus Christ. We may be poor and despised
"earthen vessels", but there is a "treasure" within, the power of which
will bring us to glory. By this spiritual experience and possession we
can, and shall, reach God's end "while we look, not at the things which
are seen. but at the things which are not seen", which are eternal
This is true for the wilderness journey, but, says the Apostle, it is
true for our "ministry"; a heartening word -- if challenging -- for the
ministers of Christ.
But there is another tremendous allusion running through these two
Letters. We have heard the Apostle say that what had happened to him
and other Apostles was like that which happened in the creation: "God,
that said, Light shall shine" (or: "Let light be") "hath shined in our
In the second Letter, chapter 5, and verse 17, he says: "If any man be
in Christ there is a new creation." God said: "Let there be light."
"There is a new creation." In the first Letter, chapter 15, he refers
to the two Adams, the first and the last, in contrast: the earthy and
the heavenly. It is not difficult to discern that "in the face of
Jesus" we have the new and heavenly order of man and creation. This
surely, being in the Corinthian Letters, is set over against the
disorder and chaos, the darkness and confusion in the old creation
spiritually, the "natural man" of the early part of the first Letter.
If this is true, and not just our imagination, we can surely see that
the position of Israel in the wilderness, and of the Corinthians
correspondingly, is that of transition from the old creation -- or
before it -- to the new; from fallen Adam to the New Man, the Last Adam.
"We all, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed
(being changed) into the same image."
(To be continued) [53/54]
THE PRACTICAL OUTWORKING OF THE WORD
OF THE CROSS
IN our first message we considered the word of the Cross and found that
it is the power of God. Next we considered that there is only one voice
in the universe that can bring us the word of the Cross, and that is
the voice of the Good Shepherd. That voice can be recognized in every
one of the Lord's servants who truly follows Him; otherwise we only
hear the words spoken, and, though they may be true, we do not
recognize the voice of God. Then we considered the results of the
preaching of the word of the Cross, and found that they are very
profound. The word of the Cross creates a deep change in the man who is
exposed to it, a change from spiritual pride to true humility, from
contempt of men to Divine love for even the basest of them; it gives
him a profound work to do for the Lord; and it gives him a profound
conception of the Church of Christ and its calling.
But someone might now ask me this question: Could you not give us some
practical advice in order that we may experience all this? We
like the truth of it all, but what can we do to get a true experience
corresponding to the truth that we see and understand?
The Apostle Paul gives us three pieces of very good and very practical
advice, which we will now consider.
1. "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly" (Colossians 3:16)
Notice what Paul says -- "Let the word of Christ ..." What does
he mean by that? Does he not mean the word of the Bible? Then why does
he not say so? Because of his own experience! Before his conversion he
knew the Bible; the word of the Bible dwelt richly in him and he used
it greatly -- to kill as many people as possible! Now he does not want
to repeat that experience, nor does he want the Church to repeat it --
but the Church has repeated it, over and over again. My
experience is that no one can be as cruel as Christians can, especially
when they think they know the Bible. I cannot tell you how many dear
old saints have come to me and told me what is in the Bible! They bang
their fists on the table and say: 'It is in the Bible. Why don't you do
it?' I have met that again and again, and these people are convinced
that they are right and that they are doing right.
You see, the Bible can be used in a literal sense -- its "letter"
bereft of its spirit -- and "the letter killeth" (2 Corinthians 3:6) --
and the Christians killed one another gladly in the name of the Lord!
They did it in order to build the Church. But this is what we spoke of
in our second message -- the word, but not the voice. Thus, when a
strong Christian enters your room and says: "This -- or that -- is
found in the Bible, so you must do it and organize your church along
that line", just give him this answer: 'Dear brother, I give you a
fortnight to examine yourself before the Lord to find whether the
spirit of 1 Corinthians 13 is found in your heart and in your mouth.
Will you please read that chapter once a day, or even once an hour, for
fourteen days, and then come back to me and tell me, not what is in the
Bible, but what the word of Christ is.' Never enter into an
argument with strong Christians! They are much too clever. They have
examined the Bible and know everything about it, but they have never
given the Bible a chance to examine them, and, therefore, the word of
Christ does not dwell richly in them or among them. So they gladly kill
the Lord's servants and destroy the Church, thinking they are serving
The word of Christ is the word of the Cross, and if the Bible has not
become the word of the Cross to you, you run the risk of destroying and
killing, instead of giving life and health. All strong Christians run
that risk. They use the word of the Bible and do mighty things for God.
They can bring into being great movements which grow and increase and
they can point to the Word as that which supports all they do and say,
but God never gave us the Word as a weapon with which to fight for the
truth. If you want to fight for the truth, all you can do is to give
your life, and that is the best weapon. It is easy to take the lives of
others: that is the spirit of the Inquisition -- fighting for truths by
taking the lives of others and using the Word of God in support. But
the Inquisition has not stopped, and it is not confined to the Roman
Church. The spirit of the Inquisition can be found in any strong
Christian. If the Lord has really revealed His truth to you, He has not
done it in order that you should take the lives of others, but that you
might have the honour of giving yourself, your own life, in defence of
the truth. That is the word of Christ! "Father, forgive them! ..."; "I
lay down my life ..." Let that word dwell richly in you!
The Lord Himself said a profound and wonderful thing about this word:
"The words that I have spoken unto you are spirit, and are life" (John
6:63). Have you ever thought about that? When that word of Christ is
given it not only describes spirit [54/55] and
life, but it is spirit and life. It creates what it says. You
see, the word of the Bible as such can describe life for you. It can
describe what ministry is. It can describe the Church. But it cannot do
more than give a description, and therefore people have themselves to
do what they have seen described in the Bible. That is the reason why
so many try to make a New Testament Church. Strong Christians have told
them, with their Bible in their hand, how things ought to be. (And may
I, in parenthesis, give you a piece of very naughty advice? When you
meet a very strong Christian who says: 'Submit to what I say!' make
your neck as stiff as possible!) Those strong Christians can give you a
wonderful description of how things should be and will fight anyone who
stands up against them, but they do not create anything. They simply
leave this description of how things ought to be with those over whom
they have had any influence, and then expect them by their own means to
work it out.
But the word of Christ, the word given through broken men, gives much
more than a description. The living Lord, the Creator of all things,
speaks through them, and He does not operate like an artist giving a
description. He operates as a Creator, and His word is spirit
and is life, and it is only through that word that the work of
the Lord is being done and the Church is built.
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly." What is the result of
that? It is that you teach and admonish one another in all wisdom. Can
you sense the difference between an atmosphere where the word is used
as a hammer, and an atmosphere where the word of Christ is being heard?
Where the word of Christ is there is also wisdom, Divine
wisdom, and that leads us back again to the Cross, because the Cross of
Christ is the wisdom of God; and in the spirit of the Cross we
can speak about everything, loving one another, paying respect to one
another, and seeing truly that the other one is greater than we are. In
that spirit we can teach and admonish, and Christ is at work in that
atmosphere; He builds His Church in that atmosphere; and there is a
note of true, deep joy, even happiness, in that atmosphere, so that
Paul speaks of "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with
grace in your hearts unto God." (And now comes another piece of naughty
advice! When a very strong Christian comes to you and says: 'This is in
the Bible and you must do it', say to him: 'Dear brother, let us start
with five of Sankey's hymns!') Well, if the Lord's children cannot sing
together, then they cannot teach one another anything at all. "Let the
word of Christ dwell in you richly."
2. "And whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all it the name of
the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him"
This is just the same thing, but it is said in different words. It is
the result of the working of the Cross in any man who exposes himself
to it, which means that he does not do anything any longer in his own
name, that is, in his own strength and energy. He does not even speak
about the Lord or teach others in his own name. The more certain you
are of your own position, the weaker you are, for our strong points are
always our weak ones. If you are very certain and quite convinced that
you are right, then you will speak in your own name. You do not even
have to look to the Lord, for you know everything. You know the Bible,
so you speak freely in your own name, and you are quite convinced that,
with the Bible in your hand, you are doing the work of the Lord. But
the more certain you are of a thing, the more you need to depend upon
the Lord, for you might misuse the thing you know.
Therefore it says in this profound verse: "Do all in the name of
the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him", and
this thanksgiving means very much. It is not formal; it is thanksgiving
from a soul who is dependent upon the Lord and knows that he must
receive every word from Him; and therefore he thanks the Lord for it.
It is an expression of humility in the deepest sense: 'I am not worthy,
Lord, to speak for Thee, so I look to Thee and if, Lord, Thou shouldest
say: "Don't speak!" Thou knowest, O Lord, that I dare not open my
mouth. I can only speak in Thy name, giving thanksgiving, praise and
worship for being allowed to speak for Thee.'
3. "Continue stedfastly in prayer, watching therein with thanksgiving
" (Colossians 4:2).
That, again, is just the same thing, but expressed in another way. It
is an expression of total dependence upon the Lord, day and night --
for what is prayer? Is it your mastery over God, or is it His mastery
over you? If you are a strong Christian, with the letter of the Bible
in your hand, you use prayer to serve your own ends, but you are
convinced that you fight for the Lord. But if you are exposed to His
Cross, then you continue in prayer, and watch, that is, you seek the Lord's
mind. You watch and look to the Lord, seeking His will, His
mind, His way and His means.
I am sure Paul had a smile in his eyes when he continued: "Withal
praying for us also." He started by saying: 'Watch and pray with
thanksgiving', and then he said: 'Pray also for me', but he did not
say: 'with thanksgiving'! But if these [55/56]
people had the mind of the Lord they would pray for him with
Can you see the difference? On the one side there is the great and
strong Christian telling you the truth, convinced that he is doing the
very thing that the Lord wants, praying for you with all his power and
might; and, on the other side, there is the man of the Cross, meeting
you with the word of Christ, and praying for you with thanksgiving.
Which of the two is the Lord's servant? At which of them do you think
the powers and principalities tremble? Who is building with wood, hay
and stubble, and who is building with gold, silver and costly stones?
I trust that all of us can see on which side we would like to stand. If
you would like to stand on the side of him who is the man of the Cross,
then bow down before your Lord and give Him time to speak to you. Never
make Yourself the instrument of a man's programme, but become, and
remain, a slave of the Lord. This, too, can be done, and it shall be
done but only through Him! - P. M.
FOR BOYS AND GIRLS
A MOTTO FOR LIFE
READERS of "A Witness and A Testimony" will know that every year there
is a Motto Card with a message for that year. For 1970 we had some most
encouraging texts, designed in two colours, Oxford and Cambridge blues.
I had a packet of these to send to various friends, and planned to keep
the last one for myself, so that I would have a message from the Word
of God to see me through the year.
When all the other cards had been sent away I looked at the last one,
and when I looked I had a great surprise. Something had gone wrong! The
words in Cambridge blue had not been printed at all, so this left me
with a card on which the dark blue letters stood out all alone with big
spaces between them. What a strange card!
I looked at it again and then I noticed that the first word was
ANYTHING. What did it mean? Strangely enough, the next word underneath
it was NOTHING. I looked down a bit and over to the side and there I
saw another word. It was the simple statement: "POSSIBLE".
Was this, I asked myself, the only message left for me with which I
could go through the year? Was it a sort of dark hint or warning --
"Anything ... possible"? Well, in a sense it is true for all of us when
we face the unknown future -- anything is possible.
Elijah might have had this given to him when he first began to pray
about his country's spiritual need. He little knew what was going to
happen; it might be anything. All kinds of strange things did occur
which he could never have imagined, such as having to be fed by ravens
and then having to ask help from a foreign widow woman who was herself
near to starvation. Anything, yes, anything could be possible for the
future was full of difficulties.
As I looked down to the next word I read: "Nothing". Nothing is
possible! Yes, it seemed like that, too, for Elijah when he was praying
for the rain to come back after three and a half years without any.
When he first started praying on Mount Carmel he sent his servant to
look for the expected cloud. Alas! when the man came back his answer
was the same as the word on my card -- NOTHING! Elijah did not give up,
but went on with his prayer. Thinking that now something must be
happening, he sent the man again to look for a rain cloud, expecting
that it would be surely there after so much prayer. But no, when he
came back to Elijah it was only to repeat that hopeless word "Nothing".
Six times he came and went, and on each occasion he brought back the
same report. Poor Elijah! He must have felt that the words which
spelled out his future were: "Nothing is possible." I looked at my
strange card and wondered whether this was God's message to me for
1970. "Nothing is possible." I hoped not!
And of course I remembered that Elijah's story was a happy one in the
end, for the seventh time the look-out reported that -- yes, there was
just a tiny cloud in the sky. Tiny, but at least it was not [56/57] "nothing"! It was enough for Elijah to know
that the rain was on its way after all; God had answered his prayers.
I wondered what more my card could contain, and on looking down found
that the next words were ALL THINGS. First, "Anything", then "Nothing",
and now "All Things". These words were actually on a line with the word
"possible", so it made a good third line for that day and every day:
"All things ... possible."
These, I knew, were the words of the Lord Jesus Himself. Like Elijah,
He might have been tempted to dread the "anything" of the unknown, or
the "nothing" of the seemingly hopeless, but He did neither. He was the
One who said: "All things are possible ..." This I knew to be the
message of Elijah's life, too. And I felt that if there was anything
else on the card it would surely tell me the secret of this hope.
Of course there was another word, only one, but quite enough to give me
a message, not for this year only, but for the whole of my life. It was
certainly the secret of Elijah's great life, and it can be the secret
for us in a year when "Anything" may happen and when it may sometimes
seem that "Nothing" is possible. It was just one word of five letters:
Strangely enough, this word is made up of four consecutive letters in
the alphabet -- "r" ,"s", "t" and "u". Put together in this way and
with the "t" repeated they tell us the secret of a successful year. I
tried hard to think of another word which could be made up of some
other four consecutive letters, but I could not do so. Perhaps you can
find one. Meanwhile it will pay us to think hard of the important last
word -- Trust.
I am left with the strangest Motto Card I have ever had. It is not
artistic, as the proper Oxford and Cambridge blue one is. It hardly
seems to make sense. Yet it tells me of the most important thing that I
can do; it is a Motto for life -- TRUST!
"Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to
him that believeth" (Mark 9:23). - H. F.
THE SALT OF THE EARTH
[Roger T. Forster]
"Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost
its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for
nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men" (Matthew
"For every one shall be salted with fire. Salt is good:
but if the salt have lost its saltness, wherewith will ye season it?
Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace one with another" (Mark
"Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour,
wherewith shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land, nor yet
for the dunghill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let
him hear" (Luke 14:34-35).
CHRISTIANITY has a tang in it! It is a salty business. It is like the
early morning spring breeze off the sea that bites into your face, or,
perhaps, a thunderstorm, when you push your face out into the rain and
it stings. Or like the aching in your legs and the beating of your
heart when you get to the top of a mountain. There is something
pungent, biting, about it; there is an edge in Christianity which the
Lord Jesus says can be lost. In being Christians we can somehow lose
the salt of the whole business, and there is no bite in us. We can be
seasonless, insipid Christians.
In three places, one recorded in each of the first three Gospels, our
Lord Jesus uses this simile for Christian living. If we lose that
'salt' we are still Christians, but Jesus says in Matthew 5:13 that we
are 'good for nothings': "ye are the salt of the earth, but if the salt
have lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is
henceforth good for nothing ." We are not even as much use to God
as Nebuchadnezzar was, evil man though he could be, for at least he
could be used as a chastening rod on God's people. We are not bad
enough to be any good to God, and we are not good enough to be any good
to God. We are just nothing, 'good for nothings', Christians who have
lost their tang.
In Mark 9:49 the Lord Jesus says: "Everyone shall be salted with fire."
If we have lost our saltness, we are not able to be consumed or to
burn. We are just like clods. We cannot catch fire, there is no warmth
in us, we are muddy and damp, and [57/58] there
is not very much light coming from us. Amy Carmichael said:
"Let me not sink to be a clod;
Make me Thy fuel, flame of God."
Christians who lose their salt are but non-burnable clods in the Lord's
In Luke 14 the Lord Jesus says that if we lose our seasoning we are
neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill. We are not fit.
We are out of condition. There is a middle-aged spiritual spread
appearing, and we are not able to keep pressing on with the virility of
what it means to be a Christian.
I wonder if, as we look at our own Christian lives, at ourselves as a
church, and at the state of Christianity in the world, it would be
unfair to call to mind these sayings of the Lord Jesus to test
ourselves? Are we but 'good for nothings' as far as the Gospel is
concerned? Are we but clods? Are we really not fit for this whole
business of Christian living?
THE EFFECT OF CHRISTIANS IN THE WORLD
The first of these sayings has to do with the world. It was in the
Sermon on the Mount, of course, that it was given, and as the
multitudes gathered round the Lord Jesus He turned very deliberately to
His disciples, not because He was unconcerned with the masses, who were
like sheep without a shepherd -- for He "was moved with compassion
toward them" (Mark 6:32) -- but because He purposed to affect the
multitude through His people, who were going to be 'salt'.
"Ye are the salt of the earth", He says; and there is something about
this biting edge in Christian living which is to do with our attitude
to the world, to the multitudes who are without Christ in the earth,
for if we have lost our saltness we are "cast out". We are "trodden
under foot of men." The Lord Jesus is concerned, in this first
application of the word 'salt', with our biting edge in relation to the
world. Are we affecting the society in which we live? Are we
infiltrating like salt into the infection to hinder society's
corruption'? Is such an impact being made through our Christian living?
If not, we are just going to be cast under the feet of men.
Concerning the recent publication of yet another book advocating a new,
anaemic version of Christianity, certain non-Christians commented that
if this is all that Christianity is, then it is about time that
Christians gave the whole business up. They are throwing Christianity,
as it were, under their feet, because it is such a world-accommodating,
non-cutting, insipid affair, so watered down, that it has virtually
nothing to say to a corrupting society.
Are we salt that has lost its savour? The Lord Jesus says in verses 11
and 12 of this chapter: 'Happy are ye if men revile you and persecute
you', but the Church is not being persecuted in Western Europe. Men
think so little of us that they say: 'Let us just walk over the top of
them and ignore them'; and when the Church of Jesus Christ is being
ignored in the world it is because the salt has gone. Otherwise there
would be an antagonism. The Lord Jesus says so.
Are we looking round with superior, patronising smiles at the decadence
of our society, saying how very soon the end time must be, and this is
really about as much as we can expect? Rather we should see it as an
indictment upon our Christian living that the salt has gone and we are
not hindering the corruption about us.
Men did not treat the early Church like this. They persecuted it, and
tried to destroy it; but when we are so thoroughly ignored that we are
hardly worth considering, then we are no longer the salt of the earth
. Yet the earth has no other salt than the Church of Jesus Christ. The
Lord Jesus did not say that we could find the salt elsewhere. The only
hindrance to mankind's final rundown in energy, moral and ethical, and
in dignity and ability is the Church of Jesus Christ -- and that is you
and I. We are called into this great calling.
THE PEACE OF GOD'S HOUSE
In Mark's Gospel, chapter 9, the emphasis upon the salt is different.
The disciples had been arguing about who was the greatest -- and it is
a very important thing to some in the Church of Jesus Christ as to who
is No. 1 Apostle, No. 2 Apostle, No. 3 Apostle, etc. Everyone has to be
in their right order!
After the disciples' arguments the Lord Jesus took a little child, put
him in their midst and said: 'This is the greatest in the Kingdom of
heaven', and went on to explain that if we do not live in that sort of
way, but go on living with our self-ambition, self-assertion and
exalting of what we are, all we are going to create is war, but it will
be a war amongst God's people. John had just confessed: 'You know,
Lord, I met a man the other day, and he was casting out devils in Your
name, so I said to him: "Don't do it! You are not with us."' It is that
sort of officialdom, superiority, feeling that we are the 'in group',
which creates all the disturbance and antagonism in the Church. So
verse 49 says "Everyone shall be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if
the salt have lost its saltness, wherewith will ye [58/59]
season it? Have salt in yourselves , and be at peace one with
So the second reason for the necessity of salty Christianity is that it
is the only way to preserve peace amongst God's people. By destroying
that self-assertiveness whereby each of us strives for first place, we
find peace with, and love for, one another. Can we apply this in our
present context to-day? Do we really find a great deal of peace amongst
God's people? Are we not still so concerned about arguing our pet point
as to who is the first and who understands things the best, and
everyone else is less than we are? We have such a great understanding,
we are really the 'in crowd', we have the true appointment of God, and
that man has not. And so there are divisions. We argue, we divide, and
then some of us try to join together by signing bits of paper and
dismissing our doctrines -- but that is not the way to solve the
problem. The way is to get the salt of fire, the burning of the Holy
Ghost. We need salt if we are going to live together in the peace of
God's House, and we cannot do without it.
VALUE TO GOD
In Luke's Gospel, chapter 14, the emphasis is again slightly different,
for the Lord Jesus uses it in this way. He says that when salt has lost
its savour it is fit neither for the land (for the Jews used it as a
fertilizer to stimulate the fruit of the earth), nor is it fit for the
dunghill (for they also used it as an antiseptic to put on the rubbish
heap to save it from contaminating). Here the Lord Jesus is saying: 'If
you have not got salt in your life, then you are going to find that you
are not bringing forth My purposes. You are too unhealthy to be My
disciple.' Three times in this chapter the Lord Jesus says: 'Ye cannot
be My disciple', and a man cannot be a disciple of Christ without salt.
Without salt we are not contributing to the fruitfulness of the eternal
purposes of God for humanity.
So this tang for Christian living has reference to the world
("Ye are the salt of the earth"); it has reference to the Church
("Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace one with another"); and it
has reference to God for His satisfaction, and the fulfilment of His
eternal purpose for man ('You cannot be My disciple ... You cannot
follow Me ... Unless there is salt you will have lost out.') The Lord
Jesus goes on to tell the stories of the lost sheep, the lost coin and
the lost son. In this way He begins to explain what it means to have
lost our savour. It is to be lost to the heart of God, and to His
purpose. We can be Christians. and yet lose our salt.
WHAT ARE SALTY CHRISTIANS?
How are we going to salt the earth? In the third verse of Matthew 5 the
Lord Jesus says: "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is
the kingdom of heaven." Again He says (verse 10): "Blessed are they
which are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the
kingdom of heaven." Thus, having summed up the Christian and
his blessings by saying that the Kingdom of heaven belongs to him, He
continues: "Ye are the salt of the earth." It is the man who is truly
heavenly-minded who begins to salt society and prevent its
self-destruction. It is not the people who are falling over themselves
to become earthly-minded who are going to preserve the earth from its
corruption, but men and women who know how to live in heaven and its
reign. These give savour to the insipid, boring life of humanity
I wonder sometimes if I ought not to live in heaven as well as my
little son does! There was one occasion when we were staying in a
friend's home, and in one room they had a lovely orange carpet. We
dropped a bottle of ink on it, and tried everything we could think of
to get the ink out of the carpet, but to no avail. My wife went to the
ironmonger, and he recommended something. We came back with it, and the
first thing my little boy did was to drop on to his knees to look at
the spot on the carpet, and say: 'Dear Lord Jesus, please help us to
get this spot out!' Then he grabbed the bottle which, fortunately, was
not undone, poured something which did not come out on to his piece of
rag, and began to rub the spot ("faith without works is dead!"). Of
course, the spot did come out! Two days ago he was due to go to a party
but the little girl was ill, so there was no party. That night my
little boy prayed, perhaps not altogether from altruistic motives:
'Dear Lord Jesus, help Lucy to be better to-morrow so that we can have
the party', and then he added as an afterthought: 'and help her Mummy
to see that she is better!' Of course, the mother appeared on the
doorstep the next morning to say the party was that afternoon!
Seriously, that is what moving in heaven means. It is taking heaven
seriously. It is there, all round about us. God is there. Our Father is
in heaven, and as we take him seriously things happen. The earth is
affected and we become the sort of men and women about whom, as we move
in society, people recognize another dimension. Perhaps it will take a
practical outworking. It may be that we shall be those who went to the
Aucas from an Illinois college, and were martyred on an Auca beach by
head-hunters. It may be that, as others did from [59/60]
that same college, we shall go into a Chicago Rehabilitation Scheme,
whereby Christians have begun to make some mark in the middle of that
great city on its crime and sin. Or perhaps as a British business man
who finds that with his profits he can begin to build a halfway house
for prisoners coming out of prison, so that they may be 'salted' to
some degree. Or perhaps it may be a Literacy Campaign in the middle of
Africa whereby, after Christians have taught men and women to read and
write, they say: 'We learned this from Jesus', because they found
Christ in the men who were teaching them.
But it may not necessarily be in some scheme, a Lord Shaftesbury or a
George Muller to meet the problems of their day, or a Martin Luther
King, or involvement with our social functions. It may or may not, but
it must be men or women who bear heaven with them because they are
living there, and the reality of the Kingdom of heaven is theirs who
will be the salt of the earth. They have got it! There is a
rule going on in their lives that comes from heaven itself These are
the men and women who are going to prevent the corruption and disease
of man who is running down without God.
"Ye are the salt of the earth." Whether we see men and women turning to
Christ or not does not matter so much as whether we are fulfilling
Christ's assertions when He says: 'Ye are the salt of the earth. If you
have lost your savour, then men will throw you out and walk over you.
They will think nothing of you.' But if you are being salty, He says in
verse 12: "Rejoice and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in
heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." 'Happy
are ye, when men revile you, persecute you, and say all manner of evil
against you falsely for My name's sake.' There is an antagonism to
society, but it is that very antagonism of salt getting in and biting
in the situation which prevents the world running fast away from God.
LEARNING TO BE SALT AMONGST CHRISTIANS
Then we have to learn to be salt amongst each other. "Have salt in
yourselves" (Mark 9:50). We noticed earlier how this matter came up in
Mark's Gospel. The disciples had been arguing amongst themselves as to
who was the greatest, a little child had been taken into their midst,
and the Lord Jesus had taught them in that beautiful way He has,
without shaming us. He could have turned round to those disciples and
said: 'Now what was it you were talking about in the road? Ah, yes, I
thought so! Who is the greatest? Now, look, how many times have I told
you fellows that it is about time you realized that you do not just get
to the top like that?' That is the way we would have done it. We would
have given a terrific sermon so that everyone felt terribly small
afterwards. But Christ does not teach in that way. He teaches us in
such a delightfully artless way that we never forget, and we can feel
ashamed in our own corner, and not in front of other people. On this
occasion Peter was probably coughing and loosening his collar, and
trickles were going up and down John's spine as Jesus took the little
child and said: 'This is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.' You
know, we do not really believe it! They did not. It takes a very long
time to learn that, and perhaps we shall only do so just before we go
to meet Him, but it is really true, for Christ said it. That which is
greatest in the Kingdom of heaven is a little child -- not the great
evangelist, nor the great theologians but the one who is childlike,
artlessly simple, trusting his Lord.
'Lord, how can I be saved from this continual, aggravating,
self-aggrandizement, this self-assertion, this wanting to be in the No.
I place? Lord how can it be solved?' Well, you have to be salted with
fire. Just as salt is antagonistic to corruption, so fire is
destructive to pollution.
The Lord Jesus went on to speak about hurting these little ones, and
how much better it would be if a millstone were put about our necks and
we were cast into the midst of the sea. It is as serious as that. Our
self-assertion hurts little ones such as the man who was casting out
demons in the name of the Lord, when we stopped him and said: 'Brother,
you are not with us.' It hurts little ones who have just put their
faith out, like the centurion at the Cross who said: 'Well, that was a
Son of God, at least', and have not got much further than that. The
Lord Jesus said that, rather than hurt, it would be better if we never
did anything. It would be better to be cut right off with a millstone
round our necks and be cast into the sea. It would be better to cut off
our hand, he continues in Mark 9, than to be thrown into Gehenna, where
the fire burns. It would be better to pluck out our eye, or cut off our
own foot than to do damage, to maim or hurt another person.
'Lord Jesus, how can I love like that? I hurt my children, my wife, my
brothers and sisters in Christ, and my neighbours. How can a man love
without hurting?' We have to be salted with fire, and unless we learn
to be salted with fire we hurt our companies of Christians.
Do you see what the fire is? Just outside Jerusalem there was the
Valley of Tophet, or Gehenna, [60/61] and at one
time Solomon had built there a worshipping shrine to Molech, and later
child sacrifice was made by Manasseh and Ahaz. Josiah, in his
reformation, decided that that valley should become the refuse pit for
all the filth and rubbish of Jerusalem. So there the fires were kept
burning to disinfect the rubbish that poured out of the city life. We
all live in the world's city and cannot help but pour out pollution to
some degree, but we can have a fire that prevents its infection, and
its hurting and diseasing of other people, especially the little ones.
Everyone must be salted with fire; it is not an option. The pollution
must be hindered by the fire of God in our lives burning strongly to
give the first place to the Lord Jesus.
'Have peace amongst yourselves by being salted with fire.' Do you know
the fire of the Holy Ghost consuming and burning within, or has the
fire gone out? Is there as much desire burning in your soul to-day as
there was when you began the Christian experience, to say "Not I, but
Christ", to ensure that your life is not hurting others? There
is just as much need for it to-day as there was when you first began,
and perhaps even more, because contacts get wider, personal
involvements get stronger, and it means we hurt one another more
easily. There is perhaps more need for the fire of the Spirit of God to
consume that assertiveness in our lives than ever there was.
Look at John in this story. As soon as the Lord Jesus took the little
child and put him in the midst, and said: 'This is the greatest in the
Kingdom of heaven', John did not immediately jump up and say: 'Well,
Lord, I think I was quite right in telling that fellow not to preach
and cast out demons!' In effect he confesses and says: 'Well, Lord, I
am sorry. I got it all wrong really.' It is the man or woman who is
confessing what God shows in his life that finds the fire of the Spirit
consuming it. If we are not praying, then there will be no heaven about
us. If we are not being honest about the things that pour into our
experience, and confessing them to the Lord, they will not be consumed
be the Holy Ghost, the fire of the Spirit will seem to burn very low,
and there will be no salting. We shall lose our salt, for the salt and
the fire are the same thing. The fire of the Holy Ghost burns in our
experience on confession -- not unhealthy introspective confession --
but a glad confession: 'Lord, I have made that mistake again! Lord, I
have done that wrong again, and I have seen that it has hurt somebody.
Please, Lord, help me not to hurt again.' And the fire of God's Spirit
begins to burn. We cease to be clods.
If we all lived like this we would all be at peace. It would be like a
glass of water, when every little molecule tries to get to the bottom
-- it is quite calm. But when you start to heat it up all the little
molecules want to jump out of the glass. Everybody is trying to be on
top and there is a lot of disturbance. "Have salt in yourselves" so
that God's work can be done instead of our spending half our time
fighting one another. Does not the world despise us, with our
bickerings and bitings? Does it not count us as nothing because of such
things? "Have salt in your selves, and be at peace one with another."
THE SALT OF LOVE
There is a salt which is for God, and we find this in Luke's Gospel.
There was a whole mass of people who had been following the Lord Jesus
in a rather dilettantish sort of fashion, but they were not really
committed. He turned on that crowd and said "If any man come to me, and
hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren,
and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple"
(Luke 14:26). You will know, of course, how the Hebrews used the 'hate'
and 'love' similes, but in Matthew's Gospel it is put more simply for
Westerners to understand: "He that loveth father and mother more
than me ..." (10:37). 'Lord, is that possible? Is that what it is
going to mean for me to be for You, to have a tang in my life which is
to Your taste, which delights You when You taste Your children so that
You just love to taste them the more? If I have to give You that sort
of love, Lord, I just cannot do it.' But Jesus says: 'Unless you do,
you cannot be My disciple.' Can you do it? I remember a moment in my
life when I said to God: 'I cannot love You more than my wife, Lord, it
is impossible.' And then your children -- can you do it? I thought I
could when I first began the Christian experience. I did not love
anyone enough, so I could easily love God more than them; for it is
those who do not love anyone who find it such an easy thing to say:
'Oh, of course I love the Lord most of all.' But as time goes on I find
But I can tell the Lord so, so that is why the first statement in verse
27 is "Whosoever doth not bear his cross and come after me, cannot be
my disciple." 'Lord, I cannot die for You, so I do not love You more
than anyone else; but I can at least pick up that cross.' You know what
that meant in Roman days: you were going out to be executed. I cannot
execute myself and say: 'Lord, I love You more than anyone else. I will
die for You!', as Peter said at the Last Supper and could not do it [61/62] either. But I can take my cross, and Peter was
trying to do that. He was saying: 'Lord, I will try to bear my cross. I
have got hold of it and I am going to come after You.' "Whosoever doth
not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple."
'Now,' says the Lord Jesus, 'if you are going to be for Me, and if you
are going to build My purposes, count the cost, for any man who builds
a tower has to see whether he has enough to finish it; and any man
going out to war to defeat the satanic powers of evil must see whether
he has the armies. When you decide you have not enough to build the
tower, then don't start; and when you decide you have not enough men to
defeat the army, send out messengers of peace.' So Christ sums up these
parables with the words: "Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all
that he hath, he cannot be my disciple."
Forsake your resources to build the tower, forsake your resources to
defeat the enemy, take up your cross, acknowledging: 'I cannot do it,
Lord. I cannot be for You, I cannot bring satisfaction and taste to
Your heart, but I am coming after You', and the Lord will say: 'All
right, I will look after the salt', because He is our resources. He is
our salt, and that is how God gets a taste out of our lives. It is by
Christ in us who, bit by bit, begins to wean our hearts so that in the
moment of the crunch God does come first in our relationships. When the
time comes, maybe for martyrdom, we think we cannot go that way, but in
the crisis the Lord is there. It can be accomplished.
It is the Lord Jesus who is the salt which gives a taste in man for
God, when we are prepared to forsake all that we have and say: 'Lord, I
cannot do it.' It is just by coming to Him in worship and thankfulness,
thanking Him that, though I cannot, He can. It is a life of
thankfulness, for when we are thanking Him we are saying: 'I could not
do that myself. You have done it for me.' We are sour in our lives
because we are not thankful to God -- and the first sin of Romans 1 was
"and they became unthankful." Not that they became proud, nor
adulterers, nor murderers, but they became unthankful -- and
that is where it all begins. It is the thanking, praising, worshipping
Christian that is no longer losing his savour, because, like the
prodigal, he has found his Father again. He has come back to his
Father's house, he has brought salt back to the table, so there is
feasting, dancing and music.
Have we lost our tang? If so, we are no good to man, nor to the Church,
nor to Christ. We are 'good for nothings', not fit, clods. But the
savour of Christianity is preserved by men who live in heaven by prayer
and find that Kingdom at work, men who are exposed to their failures
and are prepared to confess them. The Spirit burns in hearts like that.
There is fuel for the flame of God. It is preserved by men who learn
how to give themselves to worship, to live in that 'foundness' -- 'I
have been found of God. He is there and I have all the resources
needful to satisfy His heart and to fulfil His purposes in Christ.' -
R. T. F.
THE BATTLE FOR LIFE
THE CONTROVERSY OF ZION
Reading: Hebrews 12:22; Isaiah 34:8.
"Ye are come to Zion."
"For it is the day of the Lord's vengeance,
the year of recompence in the controversy of Zion."
WHAT is the controversy of Zion? It is nothing other than the
controversy for the life of Zion. Zion is often represented in the Old
Testament as Jehovah's bride, as the one betrothed to Him, to whom He
was married. We are familiar with such a phrase as "the virgin daughter
of Jerusalem." The history of Zion was a chequered history. Zion was
constantly in the realm of dispute, the object of the envy,
covetousness, antagonism of the nations, and all the nations were found
at one time or another in some kind of relationship with Zion. The
history of Zion is a very significant and suggestive history from a
spiritual standpoint. The controversy, then, was God's controversy with
the [62/63] nations for Zion's life. The
prophecy of Isaiah makes that very clear. God was taking up the cause
of Zion, of Zion's very life, and entering into a terrible controversy
with the nations on this matter.
Let us bear that in mind as we take up the New Testament and consider
the spiritual interpretation. In the Book of the Revelation we find the
holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,
adorned as a bride, and the angel taking the Apostle and saying to him:
"Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the wife of the Lamb"
(Revelation 21:9). The Apostle goes on to say: "And he carried me away
in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the holy
city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God." The closing
chapter of the Revelation brings us into the city and the central thing
therein is the tree of life, while down its centre flows the river of
the water of life; and then, as this fulness is viewed, the Spirit and
the bride say: "Come." Do you see the spiritual follow-through? Here
the controversy for the life of the spiritual Zion is at an end, and
life -- full, triumphant, effulgent -- is the characteristic.
Throughout the book of Revelation, God is dealing with the nations, and
at its close all nations are seen as having been brought under the
judgment of His Son, the controversy of Zion has been settled once for
all, and Zion is found at last triumphing in fulness of life.
We have said enough to establish the fact that the controversy is in
relation to life, and it is that with which we are concerned at this
time. There is a spiritual sense in which we are in God's controversy
for Zion to-day. If we take the sixth chapter of the letter to the
Ephesians as representing what is going on in the spiritual realm,
namely, a conflict with world rulers, then the rest of that letter
makes it perfectly clear that the controversy with the world rulers is
concerning the Church: concerning the very life of the Church, the life
of the elect. We are, then, in the controversy and the issue is no
other, and no less, than the issue of life.
In our earlier meditation, in considering the messages of the Lord to
the seven churches in Asia, we were seeing that the thing which
occupies the place of pre-eminent importance and value to the Lord
Himself is the testimony of life -- not tradition, for they had that;
not so much Christian work and activity, for they were there; not so
many good and commendable things praiseworthy even in the sight of God,
for they were there -- but that which is central and basic to the
Divine election, choice and apprehension is the testimony of life. In
the first chapter of the book the Lord is presented as the One who is
living, who became dead, but is alive unto the ages of the ages, and
has the keys of death and Hades. Alive now from the dead, He is seen
standing in the midst of the lampstands, the vessels of testimony, and
judging them according to what He is as the Living One, as the One who
has conquered death. What He discovers and reveals in those churches is
the measure in which that testimony to Him has been lost. This is more
to Him than what is found amongst them of interest, concern, activity,
for Him and for His things. He shows the things which have struck a
blow at that testimony and names them; the things, that is to say,
which have interfered with the full expression of Himself as the Living
One. So it is disclosed that what to Him is more precious than anything
else, than all other things put together, is the spiritual life, in
fulness, in power, in expression, in impact, in testimony.
THE LORD'S JEALOUSY OVER LIFE
The priority and primacy of life is referred to in a fragment of
Scripture in a much-overlooked little New Testament letter -- Titus
1:2: "The hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised
before times eternal". ("Before the world or the ages began" --
Amplified New Testament.)
I want to carry that thought 'from before times eternal' into the Old
Testament, to see how jealous the Lord is over life, and what is His
1. THE TREE OF LIFE
It is necessary to go right back to the beginning of the Book, where
you will find that immediately there has been that initial disobedience
by which sin and death have entered and man has fallen out of his
position in relationship to God, and out of his state as created by
God, the question of the tree of life arises. Following the judgment
upon the serpent, and upon the man and the earth, God takes His step of
precaution in relation to the tree of life. He proceeds to safeguard
it, lest this man should put forth his hand and take of the tree of
life and live for ever. God set His cherubim to keep the way to it with
the flaming sword which turned in every direction, so that the tree of
life should not be approached.
The interpretation of that is to be found in the last chapter of the
Bible. The tree of life in the midst of the city of God is something
from which all sin and sinfulness is excluded. Without are seen to be
all those who represent fallen Adam, sinful nature. No one can
eventually be found in the presence of [63/64]
God, in a living relationship with God, and no one can know eternal
life unless the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus has been made
effectual in them. The point is that, right at the beginning, God took
a step to protect life from the touch and the appropriation of sinful
man. God was not going to have a sinful state perpetuated indefinitely.
The last chapter of the Bible sets its seal to the fact and shows that
the sinful state is fully and finally dealt with. The state perpetuated
is a state in fulness of life by reason of what the Lamb has wrought
through the shedding of His blood, even as the book of the Revelation
makes clear. If at the commencement of the book we can say: "Unto him
that loved us, and loosed us from our sins by his blood ...", then at
the end of the book we can be found within the city, drinking of the
water of life freely, and living in the full power of that life. Thus
we see right at the beginning God's jealous attitude and action in
relation to life. It is precious to note that He suspends the
possession of it until the mighty work of the Cross has dealt with all
that state which, if perpetuated, would be but the perpetuation of a
lost world, of a world outside of the Divine intention.
2. CAIN AND ABEL
The next step to the unveiling of God's attitude toward life is seen in
His dealings with Cain. When Cain has slain his brother Abel, God
instantly appears on the scene. There is no delay; it is as though God
hastens to the situation. Here is something which concerns Him
preeminently. No sooner has Cain shed the blood of his brother, and
that warm blood trickled into the sand, than God is on the scene.
"Where is Abel thy brother? And he said I know not: am I my brother's
keeper? And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's
blood crieth unto me from the ground" (Genesis 4:9-10). Then see what
God has to say to Cain. He is cursed. He is marked. Everybody who shall
observe him shall see him as scarred by God and branded: and he,
hardened as he may have been, and insolent to God, has to humble
himself and say: "My punishment is greater than I can bear." That is
God's attitude toward life -- His jealousy over it.
We pass to Noah. The terms of the covenant with Noah are familiar to
us, the equalizing of things in that covenant, and the terrible warning
to man: "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed
..." (Genesis 9:6). God will keep things even. No man shall get an
advantage in this matter. No man who touches that thing which is
precious to God shall come by any gain. God will bring it to evenness.
He will equalize in the realm of life. You rob man of that and you
shall be robbed; you shall not be the gainer. That is a solemn warning
and shows to man what is God's attitude toward life.
There is a great disclosure in the Old Testament of God's mind for man
in this matter. God's thought is life, not death. God is against death
and for life. We glance back a step and see Enoch, who breaks the long
story of death: "And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God
took him" (Genesis 5:24). That is an offset to the course of fallen
man, showing what God's thought is when a man comes into real
fellowship with Himself. It is life, not death, and that was ever God's
thought. It remains God's thought, and He is going to have it fully and
gloriously expressed in a company of His own believing children, who
will be translated to His presence even as Enoch was, and will not see
death or the grave.
5. ABRAHAM AND ISAAC
In Abraham and Isaac it is further set forth that when God has a great
purpose in mind, when He is moving out on that basis, He must have
things brought on to the ground where death cannot touch His purpose.
Isaac is the one in whom the purpose of God is bound up, and therefore
for the sake of the purpose Isaac must be put typically beyond the
power of death. He must come into death to have death destroyed, that
God's purpose might be realized upon a ground where death is not
future, but past. That is the great illustration of Divine purpose
being upon the ground of deathless life. And in the greater Isaac the
purposes of God are all going to be realized, without any fear whatever
of death breaking in to interrupt, because in Christ death is past and
All these are vivid, strong, and, in most cases, agonized expressions
of God's attitude to the clatter of life. It is a very costly thing. It
was infinitely costly to God. It cost those who were in fellowship with
God much also. All this is the controversy of Zion in principle --
God's jealousy in the matter of life. [64/65]
We pass on, so far as the arrangement of the record is concerned, and
come to Job; and here Satan is found in the heavenlies with access to
God. God challenges him: "Hast thou considered my servant Job? for
there is none like him in the earth ..." (Job 2:3). Satan sneers back
at God: "Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his
life. But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh,
and he will renounce thee to thy face." Do you see how the question of
life is bound up in that challenge, and what subtlety there is in the
whole movement? God gives Satan permission to touch Job; to touch his
body, to touch his family? his property, everything that he has, but
says: "... Only spare his life." Here again is God's jealousy for life.
Satan gets to work, and the subtlety is this: that Satan presses, and
presses, and presses along every line, by every means, seeking to touch
Job's life indirectly, because he cannot touch it directly. Satan's
indirect method is to move Job to break with God by cursing Him, so
that his life is forfeited and destroyed.* (*[footnote] The suggestion
of Job's wife may have been that he should break with God, and then
take his own life.) To understand the book of Job we have to recognise
that it is a controversy for life. We have said it is a controversy
over faith, but that is a relative factor. The real controversy is over
life. We shall see the faith element at some subsequent time, but here
God's jealousy for life is seen. Job is brought to great straits, but
the life link is never broken, and the end is life triumphant. We see
fulness, victory, everything that speaks of life at the end.
We sometimes come very near to collapse under the strain, under the
trial, under the tension. When the enemy is pressing to quench our
spiritual life through body, through mind, through circumstance, we are
often brought very low, as was Job. We have our questionings, we get
despondent, we may wellnigh despair. Yes, every heart knows its own
story of how far it goes into gloom even about God, His wisdom, His
love, His faithfulness. But because God is jealous for the life, and is
the Custodian of the life (we are not talking about the natural
physical life), the issue is always more than we had before. We always
emerge with increase. In a lesser way it is Revelation 22 after every
We must remember that in all that we are saying there is a factor extra
to the natural, physical life. The real battle is in the realm of man's
spiritual relationship with God.
7. THE EXODUS
We think of the story of Israel and the emancipation from Egypt, and
once again everything is entered in the issue of life and death. God
heads it right up to the main, the final, issue of life and death. God,
moreover, takes His own way, makes this own provision, so that when
death is to be broad in the land, smiting, smiting, smiting,
devastating everywhere, His own people shall be immune from death, and
shall be in life because of the blood. The life of His own is taken
into His own Custody and if the life of His own necessitates the
smiting of a nation, grim as that necessity may be, He will follow it
out. God stands at nothing when the life of His people is at stake. His
jealousy over life is made very clear in all these things.
8. LEVITICAL LAW OF LIFE
I hardly need bring to your remembrance those passages of Scripture, in
Leviticus for example, concerning God's attitude towards life, and the
emphasis laid upon the necessity for the people to avoid drinking the
blood, because the blood is the life and the life is in the blood --
"Whosoever it be that eateth any blood, that soul shall be cut off from
his people" (Leviticus 7:27). Here is God preserving the life. Life is
sacred to Him . Life is His. Man must not appropriate
it for himself. Man must not take it and make it his. Life is God's and
must ever be regarded as sacred unto God. It means a good deal more
than that, of course, but we simply state what is apposite to our
All these things, when summed up, bring us primarily to this: that life
is sacred to God, and He is intensely jealous over it. Then, that life
and not death is God's will. Again, sin and death always go together
just as righteousness and life go together The Old Testament is an
earthly type of heavenly truth, and all this is throwing its light
forward and saying that what is represented there in those Old
Testament Scriptures as to God's attitude toward life -- there
primarily represented by man's earthly, soul-life -- is but figurative,
typical, a foreshadowing of that dispensation to come, in which eternal
life, Divine life, would be the life given to man.
A LIFE THAT IS ETERNAL
Thus when we come over into the new dispensation, we find that it is
not merely the soul-life of man, the bodily life, the life of man as
here on the earth which is in view, but it is another life, called
eternal life. "I came that they may have life, and [65/66]
may have it abundantly" (John 10:10). It is over this life that God is
represented as being so jealous. It is this life which is preeminent in
God's thought. The Old Testament, as we have said, is the earthly type
or representation of heavenly truth. If it were only a matter of
physical death, that is, if the question at issue were but that of the
termination of life physically, and that were the end and all that
mattered, I do not know that such a great deal of ado might be made
about it. But the emphasis in the Old Testament upon even that takes
its force from the fact that it is pointing to something else, is
typical of something else and is illustrative of another life.
We are not in the New Testament very long before it is apparent that
the controversy has been taken into another realm, and is now seen to
be over man's spiritual life, over eternal life. That controversy is
waged on a twofold issue: firstly, as to whether man shall become
possessed of that life or not, and secondly as to whether that life,
once possessed, shall be allowed its full opportunity of final
expression in man, or shall not rather be smothered and thwarted,
baffled and hindered. That is the controversy. It is still over life,
but now we have come into the reality as out from the shadows and the
THE PERSISTENT ASSAULT UPON LIFE
So we pass for a few moments to see, in the realm of the reality, the
assault of death upon that which is of God.
The Lord Jesus.
Let us pass right on at once to the New Testament, and come to our Lord
Jesus, for He gathers all up in Himself. He is the last Adam. He is the
greater Abel. All these Old Testament types are gathered up in Him. But
remember that at His very birth there was launched an awful design of
death. The intention of the devil was to destroy Him at His birth.
We have to pass over many years wherein we have no record of the things
that touched His life, and then we find Him in the wilderness; and the
explanation of those temptations in the wilderness is that they were an
assault upon His life. Though from various points, by various
subtleties, the issue was one: they were intended to break His union
with the Father and get Him out into a realm where He could be smitten.
You have only to see that even He , had He cast Himself from
the pinnacle of the temple contrary to the will of His Father or, as
the enemy would have it viewed, by way of testing God -- putting God to
the test instead of believing Him -- would not have been safeguarded by
the angels of whom the devil spoke when he quoted the Scriptures.
Angels have no commission to bear in their arms any man or woman who
presumptuously tries to test God when called to believe Him. The Lord
Jesus in His own life has shown us this. It was a threefold assault
upon His life, which was dependent upon unquestioning obedience to His
From the wilderness He went to Nazareth where, in the synagogue, He
opened the Scriptures. The outcome was that they led Him to the brow of
the hill on which their city stood, to cast Him over. A little later
the Jews took up stones to stone Him, and He asked them: "Why seek ye
to kill me?" (John 7:19). What is connected with such a question? "Ye
are of your father the devil ...", "He was a murderer from the
beginning ..." (John 8:44). The Lord Jesus uncovers what lies behind.
He sees something more than man's opposition and antagonism. He sees
the devil as the murderer, and set against His life.
We follow Him on to the lake, where the storm is beaten up, until those
who were most familiar with those storms feared for their very lives.
Being awakened by them, He arose, and in words identical with those
which He used in casting out demons He rebuked the wind, saying unto
the sea: "Peace! be muzzled!" and the storm subsided, showing that
behind it there were other forces trying to swallow Him up.
Then we follow Him on into the garden and to the Cross. Who shall know
of the death conflict in the darkness? It is all the assault of death
upon what is of God.
The same thing is carried on into the Church. It is not long before
Stephen is stoned, and James is killed. Peter is taken with the same
object, but marvellously delivered because God had yet something to do
through him. Paul was in deaths oft, despairing sometimes of life. It
is a battle with the power of death. There are the sweeping
persecutions in which literally tens of thousands of Christians are
called upon to lay down their lives for the testimony, and "count not
their lives dear unto the death". It goes on still. We are in that
succession, not all of us perhaps of outward persecution, but do we not
know something of the pressing of that spirit of death? We do!
All this is very true. It is the controversy of Zion. It is the battle
for the life of the Lord's people. May the Lord bring home to our
hearts the nature of the conflict in which we are found! We have
perhaps painted a dark picture, have brought the gloomy aspect into
view, and have been rather strong and severe, but if you are not able
at the moment [66/67] through your own
experience to enter into what we are saying, you may come to do so if
you are going on with the Lord. In some real way you will enter into
this controversy of Zion. I am anxious that we should see this more
clearly, and recognise it in a more definite way. We can never
adequately seek the Lord in relation to it and come into line with His
intention to overcome it, be to Him the instrument against it which He
requires and desires that we should be, until we are fully alive to
what the issue is. I wonder if the Lord's people are at times really
alive to the issue, and whether their prayers are always a true index
of their apprehension of this thing! I believe that if you and I were
adequately impressed, and fully alive to the tremendous issue, we could
never pray mere prayers. We could never allow words to run out of our
mouths, which is what we call praying. We should be down on our faces
in a tremendous conflict on God's side against the evil menace that is
seeking to devour the life of God's people; but we shall never pray
like that unless we are really alive to what the issue is.
While we may know it in a doctrinal way, it is necessary for us to wake
up to what is happening and to what this means. The explanation of many
a heaviness and of many a difficult experience is not simply that we
have had a meal that does not agree with us, or that we are none too
well and therefore not able to pray as we would wish. No, it is not
just some physical malady from which we are suffering. This is not
something which can be explained along any ordinary line of nature.
Behind these things there so often lies another power. We may feel ill
in body for no justifiable reason, from the natural standpoint. Our
very energies and vitalities, physical and mental, may be sapped, and
we say that we are tired, but there is something extra to that. The
enemy delights in our accounting for these things on human grounds,
when we ought to be waking up to the fact that there is a much bigger
issue at stake. Let us ask: what is its tendency, and what is its
effect? Is it to destroy our prayer life? Does it work in the direction
of bringing us into a state of weakness and uselessness to God? If so,
are we going to accept that? That is the question. There is a good deal
that seems to be perfectly natural which should not be accepted by the
Lord's people, and we need to test everything, try it out, and see
whether, after all, the whole thing is natural, or whether there is not
something hidden. Do not look for a devil with horns and a tail and a
pitchfork! He hides himself. He covers his tracks. He comes in such an
intangible way that you are often inclined to explain the whole trouble
as quite a natural thing, when it is all covering up something else,
and its effect is simply to put you out of spiritual action. We have to
wake up to what is the issue for the Lord's people to-day, and it is no
less an issue than that of life and death.
Do you recognise what is actually happening? The enemy does not mind
how many so-called churches there are, how much preaching there is, or
how much religious worship. I do not know that he minds very much how
much orthodoxy there is, or how much of what we would call sound
doctrine. What he is against is life. In multitudes of places, so far
as the preaching is concerned, and so far as the things said are
concerned, no fault can be found, but there is no sense of any
vitalizing. There is no energizing, no impact, and no moving of the
people to register the testimony of the risen Lord against the forces
of evil. The enemy is getting them all quietly, nicely, snugly into
Oh, may the Lord move us to a new position in relation to this
tremendous issue, the issue of life and death. The Lord bring it home
to our hearts!
(To be continued)
GOD'S NEW ISRAEL
5. THE GREAT INHERITANCE
"And now I commend you to God, and to the word of his
grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you the inheritance
among all them that are sanctified" (Acts 20:32).
"... to open their eyes, that they may turn from
darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may
receive remission of sins and an inheritance among them that are
sanctified by faith in me" (Acts 26:18).
"... giving thanks unto the Father, who made us [67/68] meet to be partakers of the inheritance of
the saints in light" (Colossians 1:12).
"... knowing that from the Lord ye shall receive the
recompense of the inheritance" (Colossians 3:24).
"And for this cause he is the mediator of a new
covenant, that a death having taken place for the redemption of the
transgressions that were under the first covenant, they that have been
called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance" (Hebrews
"... unto an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled,
and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you" (1 Peter 1:4).
THE greatest thing that is taken over from the Old Testament into the
New, and from the old Israel to the new Israel, is that which is called
"the inheritance". This inheritance governs everything in both the Old
Testament and in the New Testament; all that is in the Old Testament
and in the New Testament is governed by the inheritance. It is the
inheritance that justifies and explains redemption. That was true in
the redemption of Israel from Egypt, and it is true regarding the
redemption of the Church from this world. All that is governed by the
inheritance. Redemption was never just something in itself. The
redemption of Israel out of Egypt was a mighty thing, and we have seen
that it was a demonstration of the 'exceeding great' power of God; yet
all that was not just to have Israel out of Egypt.
It was the inheritance that explained the tragedy of Israel, and it was
a terrible tragedy! Six hundred thousand men came out of Egypt, but
only two went into the inheritance. All the rest of the six hundred
thousand men died in the wilderness. The New Testament makes a very
great deal of that as a matter of warning to the new Israel, that is,
the Church. You must read your New Testament in the light of the
inheritance, for that is what governs it in all its aspects. The
inheritance is the interpretation and explanation of our very
existence. It is the positive factor in our very birth.
When I came to the Lord I was a young man and very enthusiastic. You
know, there is a saying that "fools rush in where angels fear to
tread", and I had a brother who was some years older than I was and he
was not the Lord's. He was a very strong man physically and could have
knocked me to the ground with one blow. In my enthusiasm I asked him
about his salvation. He looked me up and down, and I felt like a
grasshopper! He did not knock me down with his fists, but he knocked me
down with a word, for he said: 'I was never consulted as to whether I
wanted to come into this world. I just came into this world without
having any choice. Therefore, my being here is not my responsibility,
and I have no intention of taking any responsibility for my life.' That
knocked me down and I had no answer to it at the time. I was just a
young Christian, but since then I have learned the answer. Why are we
born? Why are we in this world? We are here with a great possibility in
view, for there is a tremendous thing bound up with a human life. If I
had known then what I know now I would have had the answer, and it
would have been this: 'Do you not recognise that God has a great
purpose in your being in this world? This is not a negative thing, that
we just happen to be here. There is a great inheritance to be gained or
If you ever have time, go through your Bible with that word
'inheritance', especially in the New Testament, for the New Testament
is the explanation of the word.
With this in view, of course, we come to the Book of Joshua, which is
the book of the inheritance for the old Israel, but it is the book of
the power of the Holy Spirit to realise the inheritance. Joshua himself
represents the energy of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God rested upon
Joshua because Moses had laid his hands upon him, and that anointing
had the inheritance in view. The word of the Lord to Joshua, after the
death of Moses, was: "Be strong and of a good courage: for thou shalt
cause this people to inherit the land" (Joshua 1:6). By the anointing
Joshua represents the energy of the Holy Spirit unto the inheritance.
Now this is a statement of fact. I am not giving you something that I
have studied. I am giving you the stated facts of the Word of God,
which says everywhere that there is an inheritance for the people of
God which they can miss or gain. I am sounding very forceful. That is
because I take things seriously, but this is a very serious matter.
There is nothing more serious in the Word of God.
WHAT IS THE INHERITANCE?
If I were to begin to explain the inheritance and try to cover all that
it is, this conference would be a very long one indeed. So you will
excuse me, but I will just say one or two things about this inheritance.
The inheritance is the full purpose and content of redemption, and
redemption is a far, far greater thing than we have ever recognised.
Redemption is only the beginning of salvation. When we speak [68/69] about salvation we are really thinking of
people coming to the Lord. We ask them if they are saved, and many
Christians will say: 'I was saved so many years ago.' So salvation is
just a matter of coming to the Lord Jesus, being saved from our sins
and receiving the gift of eternal life. But if you look into the New
Testament you will see that there are three tenses of salvation. "We
were saved", which is the past tense; "we are being saved", and that is
the present tense; "we shall be saved", and that is the future tense.
Therefore salvation covers past, present and future. If you want to get
just a little idea of salvation, look at Paul's first Letter to the
Corinthians, chapter 15. At the beginning of that chapter Paul says
that he is reminding the Corinthians of the gospel which he had
preached to them, and then through that chapter he tells us of the
gospel which he had preached and shows that that gospel leads right
through to the eternal glory, which includes our resurrection body, and
our position and condition in the eternal ages to come. He looks at the
sun, then at the moon, and then at all the stars, and says that "there
is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another
glory of the stars ... so also is the resurrection of the dead" (verses
41-42). There is much more in that wonderful chapter, and this
is the gospel which he preached. Well, that puts salvation on a very
much higher level, does it not? Peter said: "The God and Father of our
Lord Jesus Christ ... begat us again unto a living hope by the
resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, unto an inheritance
incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away." This great
inheritance is the content of redemption. The writer of the Letter to
the Hebrews calls it the "so great salvation" (2:3). The Lord Jesus
said to the first members of the new Israel: "Fear not, little flock;
for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke
12:32). He also said that the Kingdom of heaven shall be taken away
from the old Israel and given to the new (Matthew 21:43). So the
inheritance is the Kingdom!
What is the meaning of that word 'kingdom'? It is the sovereign reign
-- reigning together with Christ. He is the destined Lord of this
universe, so the kingdom is not only being with Christ, though
it will be a wonderful thing to be with Him when He comes in His
kingdom, but it is more than that -- it is reigning with Him,
being members of the government of the eternal kingdom; and, more than
that, being members of the Royal Family that governs.
It is impossible to describe the inheritance! These are some of the
things revealed in the Word of God. In the case of the old Israel,
Moses had great difficulty in explaining the inheritance. He was
learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, but he had difficulty in
explaining the land into which the people were going. He said that it
was "a land flowing with milk and honey ... a land of hills and valleys
... a land which the Lord thy God careth for; the eyes of the Lord thy
God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the
end of the year" (Deuteronomy 11:9, 11-12), and the Bible tells us that
the eyes of the Lord never rest favourably upon anything that
displeases Him. So, if Moses could not explain it, and Paul could not
do it, I give it up! Paul tried to explain the inheritance: "Things
which eye saw not, and ear heard not, and which entered not into the
heart of man, whatsoever things God prepared for them that love him" (1
Corinthians 2:9). I say again, we must give it up, but let us register
the impression. To be called according to the eternal purpose is a
tremendous thing to gain. It is therefore a tremendous thing to lose,
and that is why the Bible is all about the inheritance.
THE ESSENTIAL BASIS OF THE INHERITANCE
Now we go back to the Book of Joshua, and here we see the essential
basis of the inheritance.
We recall what happened when the people were over the Jordan. I dare
not stay now to speak about the crossing of the Jordan, though I may
touch it again later, but there is one clause that I like very much:
"When all the nation were clean passed over Jordan" (Joshua
4:1). We speak of people making 'a clean breast of it', and by that we
mean that there is no compromise, no reservation, nothing that they are
holding on to. They have made a clean job of it, and that is what the
Jordan means. You know that it is a symbol of baptism, being baptized
into Christ. When I baptize anyone I always demand that there is enough
water to get them right under, and I make sure that they do go under! I
hold both their hands, in case they put a hand out. No, they must go
under altogether, and if I did not bring them up within forty seconds,
that would be the end of them! Now, I am not trying to be humorous.
Paul says: "We were buried [69/70] with him
through baptism" (Romans 6:4), and it says of Jordan at the time of the
crossing: "Jordan overfloweth all its banks all the time of harvest"
(Joshua 3:15). It is a complete inundation, a complete burial of
everything. Jordan is only a type in the Old Testament, but that type
contains the New Testament Spiritual principle, so Paul says: "We were
buried with him through baptism" -- and if God does not raise us with
Him, that is the end of us! That is the spiritual position of the
people who are going into the inheritance.
Now there is this interesting thing: When the nation were clean over
Jordan the Lord commanded that the whole new generation should be
circumcised. While I am speaking about this, remember Paul's
interpretation of circumcision: "Neither is that circumcision which is
outward in the flesh ... circumcision is that of the heart, in the
spirit" (Romans 2:28-29). As we said earlier, circumcision is a sign of
separation unto God. It is an interesting and impressive thing that the
new generation which had arisen in the wilderness had never been
circumcised. The parents had neglected this command of God, and those
parents had all died in the wilderness. This means that they had
ignored the spiritual law of heart separation unto God? So what arises
is this: there is no entering into the inheritance without a
circumcised heart. The heart has to be wholly and utterly
for the Lord. If that is not true, sooner or later there is going to be
a tragedy in the Christian life.
THE PLACE OF THE HEIRS OF THE INHERITANCE
Do you notice what the Lord said when this nation was circumcised on
this side of Jordan? He said: "This day have I rolled away the reproach
of Egypt from off you" (Joshua 5:9). What does that mean? Have you ever
thought about that? The reproach of Egypt rolled away! When they were
utterly separated in heart unto the Lord the reproach of Egypt was
rolled away. Who were these people? They were the children of Israel,
and 'Israel' was Jacob's other name. What does 'Israel' mean? It means
'a prince with God'. These people were therefore, by Divine decree,
children of a prince with God, and, as children of a prince, they were
princes. What would you think if you saw a man, who was a prince of the
royal household and therefore an heir to all that that household
inherited, in prison, with his clothes in rags, his food being doled
out to him from time to time, never able to choose anything for
himself, and without money or home of his own? What would you say?
'What a shame!' That would be a reproach to a prince, would it not? It
would be a great shame upon such a person! Yet these children of a
prince with God were in Egypt like that. No, princes ought never to be
in a position like that! That was the reproach of Egypt, the shame of
the whole situation. It is called the house of bondage, and no prince
ought to be in that.
These people are now clean over Jordan, their hearts are circumcised,
and now they are wholly for the Lord. The reproach and the shame of the
past are rolled away.
What a glorious thing to have the reproach and shame of our past life
all rolled away! Why are you not shouting 'Hallelujah'? I think it is
because you are listening to the word but are not having the spirit --
or perhaps I should say that you are taking the word seriously. But our
rightful place, dear friends, is where all the reproach of the past is
rolled away. That is the place of the heirs of the inheritance.
THE CROSS AND THE INHERITANCE
This is the deeper, and inward meaning of the Cross, because the New
Testament teaches us that the Cross is the place of spiritual
circumcision. All this just says one great thing: only truly crucified
Christians, and only a truly crucified church can meet the enemy in the
coming battle with any hope of victory. This entering into our
inheritance is something which is withstood by all the principalities
and powers. All these evil powers in the universe are set against one
thing that is, God having a people for Himself to whom He is going to
give the Kingdom, when the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of
our God and His Christ. I say that all the spiritual forces are set
against that. As we have seen, they will fight to keep the people from
coming out to the Lord, and if they cannot do that, they will work to
keep them from going on. That is the wilderness story! And if they
cannot prevent them from going on, they do not give up the battle. Now
you have the story of the Book of Joshua. The people are now in their
new possession, and are not fighting with the world. That was in Egypt
and in the wilderness. You are not now fighting with the flesh, but you
have come through into the heavenly places, and the warfare is in the
heavenlies. It is spiritual against the spiritual hosts of
wickedness. There is no hope of victory in this realm unless we have
come through the meaning of Jordan and heart circumcision.
Now I come to my last point:
THE BATTLE FOR THE INHERITANCE
The principalities and powers have the kingdom of this world in their
power at present, but that power is the birthright of God's Son. That
kingdom was eternally appointed for the Son of God, and for all who are
with Him. Do you think the enemy [70/71] who so
strongly controls this world is going to give it up easily? He will not
give up one spiritual metre without a fight! Every bit of spiritual
progress is resisted by the evil forces. Surely you know something of
what that means! For many weeks I had a most terrible battle
over the message for this conference. Night and day, for a long time, I
was in that battle. Then some of you know what a battle it was for you
to get here! And I can tell you that it has been like that for many,
many years! Whenever there is something new of the Lord in view, when
there is going to be some new ground taken for the Lord, when the
Lord's people are going to move on into something more of Him, there is
always a battle. It may be a battle in the spirit, it may be a battle
in the soul, it may be a battle in the body, it may be in yourself, or
it may be in other people and in other things, but no bit of spiritual
ground is going to be taken easily. The enemy sees the implication of
the people of God taking the inheritance; his kingdom is weakened, his
reign is shortened, and his days are numbered when the people of God go
on to the possession. Are you going to let him win? Are you going on?
Are you going to take the kingdom? Are you afraid? You notice that in
the first two chapters of Joshua the Lord says to Joshua so often: "Be
strong and of a good courage!" Why should we not be afraid and of good
Go back to Joshua, and you find that it is not he who is in charge.
Joshua looked "and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his
sword drawn in his hand: ... and he said ... as captain of the host of
the Lord am I now come" (Joshua 5:13-14). It is the captain of the
hosts of the Lord who is in charge! Joshua, as we have said, but
represents the energies of the Holy Spirit, and it is in this spiritual
connection that the Apostle Paul utters some of those wonderful words:
"Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we
ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto
him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all ages for
ever and ever" (Ephesians 3:20). We can count on the energy of the Holy
Spirit! The battle may often be very fierce. The enemies may seem to be
very strong, but He that is in you is greater than he that is in the
So our last word in this connection is: "Be strong and of a good
We acknowledge with gratitude the following gifts received from the
29th January to the 25th March, 1970:
Aberdare £7; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia £4 16s. 6d.; Bath
£2; Bay of Plenty, New Zealand £1; Benbecula £3;
Bradford £1; Brighton £1; Bromley £5; Brynmawr
£5; Buckingham 10s.; Buenos Aires, Argentina £5 9s.;
Caernarvon 9s.; Calw-Wimberg, Germany £5; Carryduff £2;
Chorley Wood £1; Copenhagen, Denmark £1; Dalbeattie 10s.;
Deal £2, £2, £1, £5, £2, £5;
Dunedin, New Zealand £2; Edinburgh £1; Edmonton, Alberta
£10; Glasgow £2, £2; Hastings £5, £5;
Henley-in-Arden £2; Inverness £2; Ipswich 4s.; Kwara State,
Nigeria £2 15s. 6d.; Lancing £1 5s.; Leeds £5;
Liverpool £1; London E.18 5s. 6d.; N.7 £2; N.W.6 10s.;
N.W.10 £2; S.E.15 £1; S.E.22 10s.; S.E.23 £5,
£1, 10s., £1, £5, £1, £1; Madras, India
£2; Neuchâtel, Switzerland £1, £1 8s. 9d.;
Newcastle-on-Tyne £1, 10s.; Norwich £15, £3; Paris,
France £1 10s.; Penticton, British Columbia £3 16s. 11d.;
Poole £1, £2 10s.; Richmond £1, 10s.; St. Ursanne,
Switzerland £1; Sandown £2; Simmozheim, Germany £1;
South Shields £5, 15s., 15s., 10s.; Towyn £1; Tunbridge
Wells £2; Waco, Texas 10s.; West Wickham £5; Woodford
Bridge £1; Yarmouth, Canada £3; Zürich, Switzerland
£5 14s. 10d., £2. Total: £190 5s. 0d.
Arlington, Va. $5; Birmingham, Ala. $15, $15; Butler, Ga. $4; Dayton,
Ohio $3; Dearborn, Mich. $10; Decatur, Ill. $3.60; Decker, Mich. $10;
East Lansdowne, Pa. $5; Fort Worth, Texas $10; Hagerstown, Md. $5;
Lancaster, Calif. $10; Langley, Va. $50, $2; Martinez, Calif. $15, $50;
Midland, Texas $5; Mt. Vernon, N.Y. $100; Nogales, Ariz. $5; Norfolk,
Va. $30; Paradise, Calif. $10; Philadelphia, Pa. $5; St. Ann, Mo. $10;
Salzburg, Austria $2; Tulare, Calif. $5; Upper Black Eddy, Pa. $2;
Wappingers Falls, N.Y. $5; Wichita, Kansas $20. Total: $411.60.
Trout Creek, Ontario C$5.00.
Nimes, France Fr.Fcs. 20.00.
Adliswil, Switzerland Sw.Fcs. 40.00. [71/72]
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
|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
|HIS GREAT LOVE
|UNION WITH CHRIST
|THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE CROSS, THE CHURCH,
| AND THE COMING AGAIN OF THE LORD
|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 ARM OF THE LORD
|CHRIST OUR LIFE
||Free of charge
|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.)
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|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 [72/ibc]
[Inside back cover]
CONFERENCES IN 1970
In Switzerland: 14th to 21st September at
Hilterfingen on Lake Thun. Further details and forms of application for
accommodation, available in English, French and German, from:
The Conference Secretary,
Witness and Testimony Literature Trust,
39, Honor Oak Road,
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In U.S.A.: 6th to 13th July. Mr. Austin-Sparks
(Editor of A Witness and a Testimony) and Mr. Roger Forster, who will
accompany him, expect -- God willing -- to minister at:
The Eastern States Convocation,
Wabanna, Mayo, Maryland.
Mr. E. L. Chase,
1370 Ray Street,
Norfolk, Virginia 23502.
In Denmark: 8th to 13th August at Nyborg Strand.
Mr. P. Madsen,
1306 Copenhagen K, Denmark.
A WITNESS AND A TESTIMONY
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light blue art paper cover, are available for the following years:
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