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Joined: 2005/4/4
Posts: 342
Continental Europe

 The Holy Spirit, the Church, and the Nations

Chapter 1 - Introductory

Reading: Acts 1:1-5

"Jesus... was received up, after that he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit unto the apostles whom he had chosen... and, being assembled together with them, he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, said he, ye heard from me: for John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days hence."

It is of the greatest importance that we, as the Lord's people, should be deeply concerned about two things.

There should be in our hearts, in the first place, a very real concern for the fullest Christian life that it is possible to know. Such a concern is a necessary link between us and that which is the Lord's will for us: for you notice that when the incoming of the Holy Spirit is spoken of in the Word, the expression "filled" is often used. The Lord's thought is "fulness": it is not just that we should "receive" the Spirit (cf. Acts 8:15,17), but that we should be filled with the Spirit; not just that we should be "filled" (cf. 1 Cor. 4:8), but that we should be filled with the Spirit. If, therefore, we are to come into God's thought for us, we need to be deeply exercised about this matter of knowing a life of as great a fulness as the Lord intends it to be.

And, in the second place, we should have a deep concern for the most effective possible witness in the world by the Church - that the Church's testimony in the nations should be as effective as the Lord would have it.

These two things are essential to the realisation of the Lord's thought and intention. But, in relation thereto, there are certain important considerations.

No Church or Christianity Without the Holy Spirit

In the first place, "Christianity" - the Christian life and the Church - owes its very existence to the advent of the Holy Spirit, to that day which is marked out in history as "the Day of Pentecost". There had been many days of Pentecost before that one, for the Feast of Weeks, the feast of the firstfruits of the wheat harvest (Ex. 23:16, 34:22), observed on the fiftieth day (Gk. pentekostos, fiftieth) after the Passover, was one of the seven principal festal seasons in Israel. The day of Pentecost had been observed year by year throughout the centuries. But there had never been a Day of Pentecost like this one. So much was this so, that this is the only "Pentecost" that we ever think of when we use the word. We forget that it was an annual event, and so a commonplace in the life of Israel. Although, of course, the actual term "Pentecost" only entered into the common vocabulary of the Greek-speaking Jews and proselytes of the latter centuries B.C., the feast itself formed part of the common course of Israelitish festivities; it was what we might almost call an "everyday idea" in Israel. But that particular occasion swallowed up all the others. It brought into full meaning all that the others had foreshadowed; it was The Day of Pentecost, rightly called that in the Scripture. Christianity and the Church owe their existence to what happened on that Day. This means that there is no Christianity - there is no Church, as recognised in Heaven and in the Word of God - that is not the product of the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, neither Church nor Christian life is possible.

From which, of course, it follows that Christianity and the Church can never fulfil their purpose, or reach their Divinely intended goal, on any other ground than that upon which they started, that is, upon the ground of the Holy Spirit. No alternatives are open to them; there are no substitutes for the Holy Spirit available. If the Holy Spirit does not continue with them, then Christianity and the Church lose the very meaning of their existence.

Fundamental Principles Underlay the "Acts" of the Spirit

A second consideration is this. The opening phase of the Holy Spirit's activity was not just a set of unrelated acts. We have sometimes substituted for the artificial and unwarranted title in our Bible, "The Acts of the Apostles", that other and better title, 'The Acts of the Holy Spirit'; but we have still regarded the events that are here recorded as a mere set of acts. We rightly attribute them to the Holy Spirit; but for us they are still just so many - of course very wonderful - "acts". And yet, they were not just unrelated acts of the Holy Spirit, and certainly not of the apostles. The falsity of the latter title is seen in the fact that not half-a-dozen of the apostles have a place in the book, after the first chapter. After being listed there in toto, most of them then disappear from the book completely; and the apostles who really play a part in the "Acts" are very few - Peter and Paul, and one or two others. No; this may be a record of the acts of some apostles, but it certainly is not a record of the Acts of the Apostles, as a whole.

My point is this: that the "acts" that are here narrated were related to fundamental principles of the Holy Spirit. These events were not the beginning and end of everything, in themselves, they were the demonstration of certain spiritual realities which lay behind them. We go completely astray when we fail to recognise this. They were not merely isolated "happenings", without further meaning than themselves. They had a very deep meaning - a much greater significance than what merely appeared on the surface; they carried with them deep spiritual truths. If you and I are really concerned about this matter of a full Christian life and of the Church's effective witness in the nations, we have got to get behind the 'acts' to the meaning of the acts, to the principles which the acts demonstrated, for they were all most significant things, as we shall see later.

The Church at the Beginning - and Now

At this point, we must note - what is, alas, only too obvious - the sad contrast existing between the first thirty years of Christianity and of the Church, and that of all the centuries since. There really has been nothing in all these centuries comparable to those thirty years. The known "world", certainly, was a very much smaller place than it is now. But, even so, making all allowance for this, the indisputable fact remains that then, in that more limited known world of nations and people, an impact was registered with which nothing that has occurred since bears any comparison. It is doubtful whether all the subsequent centuries put together could represent the spiritual force that was there in those early years. The witness in the nations was unparalleled in its effectiveness. We need only to recall what happened during the lifetime of the Apostle Paul alone: to think of how things were when Paul was converted - the Church small and struggling, limited in range and in effect - and then of the situation when Paul went to the Lord - churches in practically every nation, and many far beyond all national locations. "Their sound went out into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.", (Rom. 10:18) - that is the statement. It is a tremendous record for a mere thirty years of Christian service, on the part, mainly, of one man. There has been nothing to compare with it since.

But there then set in something which checked the spiritual impact almost entirely - indeed, started a downgrade movement; so that, but for little lamps of testimony, from time to time, here and there, in remote places, the Church as a whole lost its testimony in the world, and its sense of responsibility for it. So deeply and terribly was that true, that, even at so late a period as the end of the eighteenth century, when William Carey (1761-1834), away in a country church, was speaking about the obligation that rests upon the Church of God for taking the Gospel of Christ to the heathen, he was immediately pounced upon by a member of the gathered company, and rebuked with: "Young man, if God ever wants to evangelize the heathen, He will do it with better material than you!" "He will do it without our help" - that was the thought. There was an utter loss of a sense of responsibility.

But then there came a revival - what we may call a "renaissance" - of that responsibility. I am not going to give a history of missions: that is not the point; but just think of all that has been devoted to this undertaking during, say, the last hundred years. Think of all the lives that have gone out into the nations with the inspiration to evangelize - a great and mighty army of men and women; think of all the millions of money that have been poured into this. If it were possible to produce a comprehensive document, or statement, showing how many Societies have been, and are now, engaged in this work, and how many representatives they have had since they were founded, and how much organization there has been, and how many countries have given of their resources in persons and means and energy; it would be a startling and amazing story.

Today, with it all, not half of the world knows anything about the Gospel! not half the world is touched! And what is more, Christianity is losing its influence in this world - you have only to look at our own country of Britain to see this. We are noting it in these very days. How tragic is the loss of testimony in high places, the loss of the place of God amongst authorities and rulers; the terrible growth of godlessness, and God-forgetfulness, and God-ignoring, in the Western world. What is the matter?

I say all this by way of drawing a comparison. In the beginning, the Church registered such an impact upon this earth that men were provoked to say: "These that have turned the world upside down are come hither" ! (Acts 17:6). Rulers and nations - and hell - were stirred, were provoked with fear for the presence of this "thing". It is not like that now. I do not dwell too much upon it, but, with every honour and respect for all that is devoted and true and sacrificing, the spiritual ineffectiveness today, the kind of Christianity that is so very general, makes a terrible story - I am speaking quite generally. Why? what is the matter?

The Lord Would Continue His Original Work

It brings us back to this whole question of the Holy Spirit. And it challenges us, and provokes in us, surely, some questions. The question that immediately arises in our hearts is: Have we any ground for believing that the Holy Spirit would continue or repeat the works of those first thirty years? Was it just something for a time? Did God just then, in this massive way, demonstrate something, which He did not intend to be perpetuated or repeated: something that was for a time only, something merely to be looked back upon?

I think the answer lies in two directions.

First of all, surely it is at least implied in the words of Luke at the beginning of this second treatise of his: "The former treatise I made... concerning all that Jesus began both to do and to teach, until the day in which he was received up". Implicit in that statement is - not only that now Luke is saying: "I am going to tell you what Jesus continues to do after He is received up" - but, surely, that His "receiving up", and His continuing of the work from His heavenly position, is something that is not related to time at all, much less to the few short years of one man's life, His life on earth. Surely we have ground for believing that the Lord, from His heavenly position, would go on. And in reality He is going on with His work: because, as the Scriptures throughout testify, it is a work for a whole dispensation. The Lord Jesus Himself said: "I am with you all the days, even unto the consummation of the age", (Matt. 28:20, mg.). The end of the age did not come when the Apostle Paul was executed and went to the Lord!

But we have other evidence that answers our question: namely, the fact that through this age, and even in our own day, wherever the Lord has His required conditions He does this very thing. He does it - the thing happens! It may not be world-wide; nevertheless, here and there, from time to time, the Lord has done something comparable in its range to what happened at the beginning - He has just done it. And, in some parts of the world, He is doing it now: it is there, and it can be seen. The Lord is doing something quite wonderful, and when you see it and know it, you have to say: This is just what we read of in the book of the Acts! Yes, there are instances through history that prove that, if the Lord has His required conditions, He would go on with the same kind of work as He did at the beginning.

That leads us, of course, to ask the further question: Why was the work arrested? why, at a certain clearly defined point in the history of Christianity, did the work begin to fade out? You can see when it began to happen; and, if you look into it carefully, you can see why it began to happen. We could, in fact, put the question in another form: What is the ground of the Holy Spirit's work? If we can answer the second question, we have answered the first - why it was arrested? The answer is found in a discovery of the ground upon which the Holy Spirit works, and continues His working.

 2005/7/26 18:23Profile

Joined: 2005/4/4
Posts: 342
Continental Europe

 The Holy Spirit, the Church, and the Nations

Chapter 2

The Person, and the Work, of the Holy Spirit

At the end of our introductory section, we asked the question: What is the ground of the Holy Spirit's work? For this should give us the answer to our previous question: Why, at a certain point in the early history of Christianity, was His work arrested? We must therefore now ask the further questions: Who is the Holy Spirit? and what is the Holy Spirit?

What the Holy Spirit is Not

First of all, what the Holy Spirit is not, and what the Holy Spirit did not come to do. Here, a very serious error is to be avoided: that error of making the Holy Spirit impersonal, and making everything of the effects of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not, in the first place, an influence. He may exercise an influence, but in the first place He is not an influence. He is not, in the first place, a "sense": we may sense Him, but He is not just a "sense". The Holy Spirit is not, in the first place, a "principle", though He may work by principles. Nor is the Holy Spirit in the first place a "power". We are always in danger of making the "effects" of the Holy Spirit everything. These things are just characteristics of the Holy Spirit.

What the Holy Spirit Is

The Holy Spirit Himself is a Person, just as truly a Person as are the Father and the Son. The Lord Jesus did not refer to the Holy Spirit as "it". Although the word for "spirit" in the Greek is neuter, the Apostle John always reports the Lord Jesus as speaking of the Holy Spirit as "He", in an emphatic way: "He, when he is come..."; "when he, the Spirit of truth, is come...", (John 16:8,13). Now you may feel that this matter does not require such emphasis, that it is accepted and recognised by most evangelical Christians. But we can get into difficulty if we are not careful - if we put more upon the characteristics than upon the Person Himself. In the Person of the Holy Spirit we are reckoning with God Almighty. We may ask for spiritual sense, consciousness, light, wisdom, power, influence, but we must always keep in mind that what we are really seeking is this Divine Person Himself, who with the Father and the Son is one God. It is God present; it is as truly God present Himself in Person, as ever Jesus Himself was God present in Person.

If you go through the book of the Acts, you will see that neither in the Church nor outside of the Church were people having to do with some abstract thing - they were having to do with a present, living Person. To Ananias and Sapphira, Peter said: "Why hath Satan filled thy heart to lie to the Holy Spirit ?", (Acts 5:2). You do not lie to an abstraction. It was like that in every connection: people were dealing with a living present Person - God Himself. When the Apostle spoke about strangers coming in to the assembly, and giving expression to their feelings, he did not say: "They will say that there is some powerful influence here! I am conscious of a strange atmosphere here!" He said: "They will say - God is in the midst of you!", (1 Cor. 14:25). "They will relate everything to God, and will say - It is God that I meet here!" It is a very important thing that the registration should be of none other than of God Himself. If that is true, there are far-reaching implications. The Holy Spirit is not an "it": He is a Person.

What the Holy Spirit Did Not Come to Do

The Holy Spirit did not come to start a new religion. Let it be very carefully noted that Christianity was not a new religion. It was not something set up over against, or alongside of, other religions, so as to become a subject for the academic discipline of "Comparative Religions". It was quite a long time before some of the leading apostles themselves realised the implications of their new position. They did not at once come to the conclusion that their Jewish religion, as such, was finished, and now they were in the "Christian" religion. There was no such dividing line in their consciousness. The implication of their new position did not immediately dawn on them; it did not become clear-cut in a moment, they grew into it gradually. They found themselves moving in spirit in a certain direction - gradually moving away from something, feeling themselves to be more and more "out of it" - out of something that they had been in - and more and more involved in something altogether other: but what this "something" was, was not at first clear to them.

Think of Peter and the house of Cornelius. Peter was not at all clear as to the implications of this strange departure, this innovation of God. If Peter had had the idea that Judaism was now wound up and finished, and that Christianity had now come in to take its place, there would have been none of that battle in his heart over the Gentiles at all. In Jerusalem there were others, leading Apostles and elders, who took a very long time, if indeed they ever managed, to get quite clear on this matter. The Holy Spirit did not come to set up a new religion, called the "Christian" religion. It is very important for us to recognise that.

The Holy Spirit did not come to launch a new "movement" in this world. If that had been His object, then we should have found in this book records of committees, consultative and executive, being set up, and plans being laid for the evangelization of the world, with all its attendant machinery and organization. But the impressive thing about this whole book is that you never find anything like that as the basis upon which the work was initiated. No thought-out campaigns existed. The Apostles and their brethren were so often taken by surprise; they were compelled to do things that they had never thought of doing, nor ever intended to do; they found themselves altogether beyond their depth. Many things that they had planned never took place, or were set aside. No, it was not a new "movement" - not a "Movement" at all (spelt with a capital "M") - that the Holy Spirit came to inaugurate.

Furthermore, the Holy Spirit did not come to inculcate a new "teaching". We need to be well informed and instructed on this matter. There is no ground whatever for asserting, there is nothing in the whole story upon which to rest an affirmation, that the Apostles went out into the world with "the teaching of Jesus". It may surprise you, even startle you, to hear that said. But there is absolutely nothing to warrant the notion that these men went out to spread "the teaching of Jesus" - as though to say, "Whatever Confucius may teach; whatever Buddha may teach; whatever the other great religious teachers or leaders or founders may teach, this is the 'teaching' of Jesus." That was not their idea at all, and that was not the Holy Spirit's idea. They were not in any way propagating a "system of doctrine".

Our New Testament "teaching" was made necessary by what was "happening". All the things "happened" before the explanation was given - the teaching came after the event. Things happened, and then explanations followed. It was not: Now, this is the "teaching" - now go and put it into practice, constitute everything according to it; here is the teaching - therefore have everything conformed to "it". That would be the wrong way round. You do not get a New Testament church like that; you do not get a moving of the Holy Spirit like that. The Holy Spirit took things into His own hands, launched the Church right out into the deep, and landed it far beyond its own understanding and comprehension; and it was not until afterward that He raised up anointed or endowed men to teach the believers the meaning of their experiences, of what had happened to them. We have got to get things round the right way. Would that we could get back there - where the Holy Spirit does something, and we do not understand what He is doing, or what He means; and then we go to the Word and find - "This is that..."!, (Acts 2:16). This is the explanation - here in the Word of God!

Lastly, the Holy Spirit never came to make some "thing", called "the Church". It is true that the Church was born on the Day of Pentecost. But here we need to get our ideas a little clearer, a little straightened out. Our mentality in relation to that word "church" may be a bit confused. We may have an "object" in view in our minds - a "thing" called the church, or going by that name, among many others. But the Holy Spirit did not come to make a new 'thing' by the name of "the church".

What the Holy Spirit Came to Do

Now, if the Holy Spirit did not come for any of these things, what did He come for?

The Holy Spirit came to reproduce Jesus Christ in the lives of men and women. The Church is that or it is nothing; the teaching relates to that, or it has no meaning. Any movement of the Spirit is in that direction, or we have entirely misunderstood. He came to reproduce the Lord Jesus in the lives of men and women! Everything has to be tested by that. All our activities and efforts and energies and expenditure; all our sacrifice and machinery, our movements and our teaching: everything that has become a part of "Christianity" has to be tested by one rule: Is it resulting in the reproduction of Jesus Christ in the lives of men and women, so that it is demonstrated from heaven that Jesus is as truly here in this world now as ever He was in history? He should, indeed, be present here, not only as powerfully as then, but even more so, because He spoke of Himself as being limited until the Spirit came. He should be present, not only in works such as He did then, but, according to His own words, in "greater works than these" that believers should do, "because I go to the Father", (John 14:12: cf. vv. 16-18; ch. 16:7-15; Luke 12:50).

That is how it was in those first thirty years; that was the thing that men everywhere realised. The presence of Christ was the great impress. "They took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus", (Acts 4:13). That was why the believers were called "Christ-ians" - "Christ-ones"! It was the only way of explaining. It is Christ! The Holy Spirit came for that. And if there is to be any continuation or repetition of those experiences, it will only be - it will only be - not merely through a belief in Jesus Christ, His Deity, His sinlessness, His atonement, as doctrines, but as by the Holy Spirit He is livingly present in us. In those early days it was just that: that, by the Holy Spirit, Christ was present in these believers in a mighty way. When you think or speak of being "filled with the Spirit", what do you mean? What do we really mean by that expression? Well, what the New Testament means by being "filled with the Spirit" is simply being filled with the Lord Jesus.

I will stop there for the moment. But we are now getting near to the meaning of the Holy Spirit: this is just the point where we move over into the real significance of Pentecost. It is, so to speak, the bringing of Christ back again, in a new mighty advent; not externally, this time, but inwardly. And I repeat that everything has to be judged according to that. Yes: when He has His place, the place that He ought to have, the measure that He ought to have, in His people, things will happen; they will happen as spontaneously and mightily as they did then. It is all resolved into the matter of Jesus being glorified!

 2005/7/28 17:44Profile

Joined: 2005/4/4
Posts: 342
Continental Europe

 The Holy Spirit, the Church, and the Nations

Chapter 3

The Spirit of Christ's Character

"John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days hence.", (Acts 1:5)

"They were all filled with the Holy Spirit.", (Acts 2:4)

"There is one body, and one Spirit... one Lord, one faith, one baptism.", (Ephesians 4:4).

The Holy Spirit is, of course, the Spirit of God, but in this dispensation He is particularly the Spirit of Christ. The very title "Christ" (which is simply the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew "Messiah") means "Anointed". The Lord Jesus said that the Spirit of the Lord was upon Him, because the Lord had anointed Him (Luke 4:18). And thus it is that He has become known to us as the Christ. The Holy Spirit and Jesus have, as it were, united, combined; they are two Persons, but you cannot separate them. They are like the figure of the oil upon the man: they have become joined together. The Holy Spirit, then, who, in the old dispensation, was in the general sense the Spirit of God, is in this dispensation particularly the Spirit of Christ.

The Holy Spirit Inseparable From Christ

You have only to turn over the pages of your New Testament to see how often that connection is brought out. "Because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts", (Gal. 4:6). "The Spirit of Jesus", (Acts 16:7); "the Spirit of the Christ", (Rom. 8:9b). The Holy Spirit was given to the Son for His mission in and throughout this dispensation. Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit for the particular work that He had been chosen by the Father to do, and especially in this dispensation. That work, that mission, did not end when He left this earth. There is a very true sense in which it may be said that when He left this earth it only began - not, of course, altogether; but, in a fuller way, a much fuller way, He began His real mission when He ascended to the right hand of the Majesty in the Heavens. It is an impressive thing to note how the Holy Spirit is always related to Jesus.

The preaching, at the beginning, was undoubtedly in the power of the Holy Spirit. They were filled with the Spirit, and then they were immediately constrained to proclaim the good news (Acts 2:4,14). There is no doubt that they preached by the Holy Spirit - that it was the Holy Spirit who was inspiring the preaching. What did they preach? It was just all about the Lord Jesus: they were preaching about Him; the Holy Spirit inspired them to proclaim Jesus Christ.

The Holy Spirit was in those mighty acts that we find strewn throughout the early record. The "Acts" were truly the acts of the Holy Spirit. Many were the forms of His activity - and not only in the miracles that were performed. An apostle essays to take his way in a certain direction, and the record says: "The Spirit of Jesus suffered them not" - "the Spirit of Jesus suffered them not", (16:7). The same apostle, writing to a church, said that he was counting upon their "supplication and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ", (Phil. 1:19). And that supply was for the accomplishment of his mission.

The Holy Spirit was in and behind all the teaching, fulfilling the promise of the Lord Jesus: "When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall guide you into all the truth", (John 16:13). The truth that we have in the New Testament is wholly Spirit-provided truth; and it all relates to the Lord Jesus. The conformity of believers to the image of the Son of God is the work of the Holy Spirit: He is the transforming and conforming Spirit, and His model is Christ. The Holy Spirit is wholly and utterly committed to the Lord Jesus. We may say that the many-sided but inclusive work of the Holy Spirit is, first and foremost, to secure the place of the Lord Jesus wherever He can.

Securing Christ's Place in this World

We need to remember that. We must not put it in other ways; we must not think of it in other terms. "The Holy Spirit will do this and that", we say. Yes, He will: but - "this and that", and perhaps a hundred or a thousand other things and aspects, are all related to one thing; they are not things in themselves. We must emphasize this here very strongly. The Holy Spirit may give light; the Holy Spirit may give leading; the Holy Spirit may do many many "things": but we must remember that everything that the Holy Spirit does is included in one object, it is all to one end. That object is, primarily, to secure Christ's place in this universe - to secure the place of the Lord Jesus in men, in this world.

Our way of speaking may often mislead us. We would say: The work of the Holy Spirit is to save souls. Yes, quite - but why? just to have them saved? No; in order that the Lord Jesus may have His place. Those souls are to be the "residences" of the Lord Jesus. The Holy Spirit may instruct believers and build them up - for what purpose? Just that they should be mature Christians? Not at all; but so that the Lord Jesus shall have a larger place. No matter what the Holy Spirit does, He has one all-inclusive object and end - the glorifying of the Lord Jesus: that is, the giving of the Lord Jesus His place, and then filling all things with Christ. Do not think of the "being filled with the Spirit", of the 'fulness of the Spirit', in any other way than this. The Holy Spirit's filling is intended to be a filling of all things with Christ.

The Real Meaning of Being "Filled With the Spirit"

We can get these ideas - "Oh, to be filled with the Spirit!" Then, what will happen? "Well", we think, "we shall have such a good time; we shall have ecstasies, enjoyment; there will be power in our life" - all these things. We think about being "filled with the Spirit" as a wonderful idea! But do remember that the "filling with the Spirit" is in line with that eternal thought and purpose of God, that the Son shall "fill all things", (Eph. 4:10). You can have these experiences, and these ecstasies, and these emotions, and all these things, and yet - and yet - be sadly lacking in the Lord Jesus! You can have all the teaching and the truth, and yet the measure of the Lord Jesus Himself can be so small.

It is terribly sad to go about the world and meet Christians who would lay down their life for the doctrine of the Holy Spirit - "I believe in the Holy Ghost" - the Person of the Holy Spirit, and so on, and yet in whom you do not meet the Lord - you meet them: you come up against something that is "themselves". You are hurt by "them". It can be like that. No: Simply, but essentially, the Holy Spirit is committed to one end, and one end only - to fill all things with Christ. And if you want to know what it means when it says: "they were all filled with the Holy Spirit" - you can see by the effect. They simply talked about the Lord Jesus: they preached Christ. Everywhere they went, it was Christ; they were bringing Christ with them wherever they went. As far as they were allowed, as far as consent was given and openness of heart was provided, they so to speak "filled" people with Christ, filled companies with Christ, and filled places with Christ. That was the work of the Holy Spirit.

And, with that end in view, the Holy Spirit is always seeking a transformation in believers. Naturally, we are not a bit like Christ, and naturally we do not give very much place to Him; and so the work of the Holy Spirit is to transform us into His image. It is Christ, only Christ - "the beginning and the end", (Rev. 21:6).

The Character of Christ

Now, in that connection, the great governing truth is that the foundation of the work of Christ, of the work of the Holy Spirit, is the nature of Christ. The measure of Christ is the measure of the Spirit. You cannot have more of the Holy Spirit than you have of Christ. And it is a question of the character of Christ. These two things are often so painfully overlooked. The presence and work of the Holy Spirit is detached from Christly character, and is thought of as something in itself. The Holy Spirit, the work of the Holy Spirit, the power of the Spirit, the works of the Spirit, working for the Lord - they are often just things in themselves, in the thoughtless mentality of so many. But the Holy Spirit is not thoughtless about this - far from it. The Holy Spirit only commits Himself to the Christ - let us be quite clear about that. He will not commit Himself to you or to me, to any institution or "thing"; He only commits Himself to Christ. And it is according to the degree of Christ that the Holy Spirit commits Himself: that is, according to the measure of the character of Christ that He finds.

For the whole Bible comes down powerfully and mightily upon that truth. In all the types and figures in the Old Testament relating to the Holy Spirit - the anointing oil, and so on - you will find, if you look more closely, that the symbols are always subject to certain Divine provisions and prescriptions. Take the oil, for instance: that oil shall not come upon man's flesh (Ex. 30:32). The anointing requires garments that cover man's flesh; God requires the fulfilment of certain conditions before that anointing oil can be applied. We could extend our consideration of the symbolism further afield. But when you understand, you see that that prescription of God - whether it be the garments, or whatever else may be required by God as the condition for the coming of the oil upon that person - is something related to the character of Christ.

It is thus foreshown that the Holy Spirit is only given to the Lord Jesus. And He will only be given to the Lord Jesus. And He will only be given to you and me in proportion to the measure in which the Lord Jesus has His place. Do we seek more of the Spirit - a greater fulness of the Spirit? Very well, then: we are asking for the Holy Spirit to displace us, and all that is of us; and we are going to have a bad time. We think that, if only we get filled with the Spirit, we are going to have a wonderful time of ecstasy! Well, that may be one side of it, but - make no mistake - it may be that we shall have to be taken through the fire and through the mill to come there. It depends on how much resistance there is to Christ. The clearer the way, the more selfless the motive, the quicker it can be done. The principle is that these two things go together: the work of the Holy Spirit and the character of Christ. We shall not get away from that. The character of Christ is the foundation of the work of the Holy Spirit.

"The World Knew Him Not"

That, of course, brings us face to face with the fact that Christ is of an altogether different order from what we are. When He was here, He was a stranger. It is written: "The world knew him not", (John 1:10); and that, while of course it applies specifically to His Deity, applies also to His unique humanity. The world did not know Him, in the sense that it could not understand His mentality, His ways, His standards - they were different. It did not understand that by which His course and conduct were governed: the world does not do things like that! For one thing, the world does not act on principle - the world acts on policy. Anyone who does not do that, in some way or other, is a strange person, from another world! Jesus absolutely refused, from beginning to end, to be governed by what is politic.

No, the world knew Him not; He is a special and different kind of person, a different order of being from what we are.

That was the real explanation of what a difficult time He had in this world. He was differently constituted. He was, in fact, a Holy Spirit-constituted Being: both in His birth - He was begotten of the Holy Ghost - and by anointing in His mission. And, being so different in His constitution, upon that basis He was tested and perfected, in a contrary world. If you grasp the significance of that, it will explain very much. You see, when you and I are born anew, we are born of the Holy Spirit, begotten of God, and in the deepest reality of our being there is a difference of constitution. If that is not true of someone who bears the name of "Christian", he is not a Christian. A Christian "born anew" has another constitution introduced in the innermost part of his being. It may be in an elementary form, as in babyhood, but it is something altogether different. It is the difference of what Christ is from all other people.

Now then, the whole of our life under the Holy Spirit is the testing and the trying of that "other constitution" in a contrary world. As "born anew" believers, we are now in a world that is contrary to our nature, contrary to our constitution; and that constitutes our difficulty, our suffering, our trial, our testing. But it is the basis of our perfecting. As we know, anything in creation that does not become subjected to adverse forces never acquires stamina or endurance. Hothouse plants cannot stand up to anything - you have got to nurse them all the time! Anything that you protect from adversity will suffer - suffer terribly, it will never come to that which can abide, that can stand up under test. The law of God is that stamina, endurance, strength, maturity - the power of abiding - come out of testing and trying and adversity.

"Made Perfect Through Sufferings"

It surely explains why the Lord allows the winds to blow so fiercely and so cold against His Church, against His people. What is the Lord doing? Well, here is His own Son in this world, with another constitution, being tested, tried, and perfected by the very difference between His own constitution and the world in which He was placed. He was "made perfect through sufferings" (Heb. 2:10), and the sufferings were of this kind: the conflict of two constitutions - that in the world and that in Himself. It is an awful thing to live in this world with a heavenly constitution, such as you and I are supposed to have; and it ought to become more and more awful. If we can settle down, become happy and at ease, in this world, we have abandoned the very constitution of Heaven. If it is true that we are finding it more and more difficult to endure this world, as being what it is, that is a good sign.

That, then, is what happened to the Lord Jesus. He was of a different order, and His suffering came along the line of testing and trying by reason of the foreign and uncongenial constitution in the midst of which He had to live. His own heavenly constitution had to triumph over the other that was all about Him and pressing upon Him: and thus He was made perfect, through suffering. There is no other way for you and for me. In the end, if we abide faithful, if we do not let go, if we do not "cast away our confidence", (Heb. 10:35, A.V.), if our faith does not give way because of the difficulty and hardness of this spiritual conflict, we shall emerge a "full-grown man" spiritually; the stature will increase "unto the stature of Christ", (Eph. 4:13). That is the history of the Church; that is the history of believers.

The Conflict of Two Natures

Now, where does the Holy Spirit come in in this? Well, the Holy Spirit came from Heaven when that question had been fully answered in the Lord Jesus. I will put it in this way. There was, as it were, a question all the time through the earthly life of the Lord Jesus. In reality, of course, there was no doubt - but there was a question. A battle was going on; and when there is a battle, there is always a question as to the issue. The question was whether this that was of Heaven was going to gain the ascendency, or whether the ascendency was going to the earthly thing, under Satan's power. It was a big battle on this question. A heavenly Kingdom was opposed to an earthly kingdom, the Kingdom of God opposed to the kingdom of Satan - this was the conflict; and it all focused upon and centred on the soul of this one Man. Right to the end, to the last moment on the Cross, the battle raged, as to who was going to prevail; which side was going to win. The whole question was: Is the heavenly nature going to triumph over this evil nature outside?

That question was fully and finally answered when He reached Heaven. His being "received up", (Acts 1:2) - for that is the right way to speak of the ascension: being "received", accorded a "reception" in Heaven - means that the question is finally answered. The Heavenly Man has triumphed in His constitution, in a world that, in its constitution, is so utterly different. The question is answered, the whole thing is settled, and, when that is settled, the Holy Spirit comes. What does He come to do? He comes to bring into believers the very nature, the heavenly nature, of that Man - and then the battle starts up again!

That is the battle that you and I are in. After all, it is not a battle of outward things, it is a battle of spiritual things. The battle may take many forms, and involve many things, people, situations and circumstances; but, after all, it focuses upon our spirit, upon our heavenly life, upon our heavenly constitution. That is the centre of it all; that is the battle-ground. Are we going to yield to the Devil - is his constitution going to get the upper hand, in that irritability, in that bad temper, in that loss of good faith, and so on? Or is this other - faith in God, the love of the Spirit, the patience of Jesus Christ - is this going to triumph? That is the form of the battle. The Holy Spirit has come to bring into us another constitution, and then so to work as to develop us completely according to that new constitution, until we too are perfected in Christ.

This comes back, all the time, to the measure of Christ, does it not? There is no substitute for the Holy Spirit. To put anything in His place is to open the door at once to that whole terrible change that came about so early in the history of the Church. It began even before the apostles had gone - the bringing in of substitutes for the Holy Spirit. There they are: the crystallization of Christianity into an earthly, man-made system; the composing of "creeds" of Christian doctrine, to become the legal forms of government; clericalism, organization, forms, vestments, orders, and so on - they all came in so early. They were all substitutes for the Holy Spirit; they all represented a moving away from the spiritual to the ecclesiastical, the sacramental. The result? A vitiated, emasculated Church, a changed Christianity, which cannot stand up to the forces that are at work in this universe. The world triumphed - and the Devil laughs.

The Spirit of Truth

Now, we are talking about what the Holy Spirit is. We have said that He is, inclusively, the Spirit of Jesus, the Spirit of the Christ; and we have said, further, that that means the character of Christ. Let us, therefore, now look at the character of Christ, as taken up by the Holy Spirit in His own nature, and therefore in His own work.

The Holy Spirit was called by the Lord Jesus: "the Spirit of truth", (John 16:13). Now, there is a very large place given by God in the Word to "truth", He is very jealous over the truth. He is Himself the God of Truth (cf. Is. 65:16). He desires "truth in the inward parts", (Ps. 51:6). He holds lies in abomination (Prov. 12:22). He has consigned all liars to the lake of fire, says the Word (Rev. 21:8). He excludes from the New Jerusalem everything that makes a lie (Rev. 22:15). Jesus calls Himself the Truth - "I am... the truth", (John 14:6); and "The faithful and true witness", (Rev. 3:14). On the other hand, Satan is called by Him "a liar, and the father thereof", (John 8:44c).

Man a False, Deceived Creature

Now, note this. When the lie entered in, the whole structure of creation collapsed. Satan injected a lie into man; man accepted it, received it. The result was the collapse of the entire structure of creation, and man himself became and remains a falsehood. He is not the man that God made him or intended him to be: he is a deceived creature; in the very constitution and nature of man as he is there is a lie. He is a misrepresentation of the man that God spoke of when He said: "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness", (Gen. 1:26). There is a lie in the work of man, and in all his works. He hopes and believes and works and tries, and in the end it comes to vanity - it is all in vain; disappointment awaits him at the end of all his works and all his strivings. He thinks and argues that he is free - but he is a prisoner. He thinks and believes that he knows; he proves to be a fool. He thinks that he can do, and he does many great and seemingly wonderful things: but all his doings lead to greater problems to be solved; and the greatest problem of all is satisfaction, is rest, is joy, is peace.

No; man is building, not on rock, but on sand. His world is run by lies. This may seem a terrible thing to say, but how rare in this world is downright honesty! What a welter of misrepresentation and deception, pretence and appearance, mixture and exaggeration, has to be drawn into the running of this world. Is it not true? Many a well-meaning man, who in his own soul revolts against it, will tell you that, if you are proposing to be honest, absolutely honest, you will find it impossible to be successful in a world like this. And the lie has got into religion. Our Lord's indictment of the Pharisees and the Scribes was: "Hypocrites" - playactors, pretenders! And therefore, because the race is shot through and through with a lying deception, it cannot stand. A false world is bound to collapse. If there is anything in "Christianity" that is not absolutely true, "according to God", (Rom. 8:27b; cf. 15:5b), it will go to pieces. Anything that has in it an element of untruth, has within itself the seeds of its own ruin. The Holy Spirit, therefore, is called "the Spirit of Truth". Jesus is "the Truth". Eternal values, the values which are eternal, are those which are absolutely true according to the standards of God. The value of the Gospel is that it is the "truth" of the Gospel, (Col. 1:5). The eternal certainty of Christ is that He is "the Truth".

Now this is a very challenging thing. It separates and discriminates - not always between the black lie and the transparent truth - but between the beautiful lie, the soulish lie, the sentimental lie, the formal lie, the religious lie, and that which is 'according to God'. John the Baptist said about the Lord Jesus that He would "lay the axe to the root", and that His "fan was in His hand, and He would thoroughly cleanse His threshing-floor" (Matt. 3:10,12). What is the axe? What is the winnowing fan? It is the truth!

Thus it was that, as He spoke to the woman of Samaria, He looked on the temple on Mount Gerizim, and He looked, with His mind's eye, on the temple in Jerusalem; and then, to the woman who thought that one or the other - especially this one in Samaria, to which she was attached - was the truth, the true thing, He said: "Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall ye worship the Father... The hour cometh... when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth... God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth.", (John 4:21,23,24). He is discriminating between the formal, the traditional, the historical - if you like, the symbolic, at best - and the real, the true. And He is saying: "Only that which is spiritual, after the very essence of the Divine nature, is true. Therefore this temple and that temple will collapse - not one stone will be left upon another. They are not the truth." The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth.

Our Need for Absolute Truth in all Things

It is very, very important that our position should be a true position. You and I need continually to review our position, and say: "Is my position a true one? Is it second-hand? What is it? The position in which I stand - how did I come to it? What is it that puts me in this position? Is it to me so true as to be to me absolutely a matter of life or death ?" It should be true like that, so that you cannot give it up, you cannot resign from it, you cannot withdraw from it - it is your very self. To do so would be to commit spiritual suicide. That was how it was with the Lord Jesus. Go through His life again, and hear Him speaking. This Man has not just come to perform something, or to give some teaching, objectively; this Man is the thing! Because it is so real, so true in Him, He is going to that Cross to shed the last drop of His Blood. His position is that - it is Himself.

Our position must be true, or we shall not stand we shall collapse, we shall go to pieces. If there is a lie, we shall disintegrate, as the creation did when the lie entered in. Our life must be true: our conduct must be true; our walk before others must be true; our walk before God must be true. Our life must be true. Mark you, it is going to be an agony for it to be so.

Our testimony and our teaching must be true. Is it truth?

Our fellowship must be true - no feigned love! No pretence at fellowship; no trying to make believe, no merely outward thing. The Holy Ghost will be satisfied with nothing less than "the truth" in the matter of fellowship. He will say: "Look here, you are trying to make believe in the matter of fellowship with that person; you are trying to bolster up something; you are trying not to let something collapse: that is not true!" He will take you down deep until it is true.

Our church must be true - it must be the true Church. How much could be said about that!

Our business must be true - we must take this matter of the Holy Spirit into our business. Is your manner of business really true? When you are going to pay for something, are you quite sure that you are paying all that you ought to pay for it? that you are not getting it to your own advantage, that someone is not going to suffer in this transaction? Is that true? Even John the Baptist raised questions like that at the Jordan, about exacting more than should be, (Luke 3:12-14). Yes, in business we must be true; we cannot have one order of things in Christianity and another one in the world.

Our spirit must be true. We must never be less than we profess, God help us. We must never be more than we profess - God help us! The Holy Spirit is the "Spirit of Truth", for that is the character of the Lord Jesus. To be "filled with the Spirit" is a very, very exacting thing. Ananias and Sapphira tried to "steal a march" on the Holy Spirit: but oh, no, He is not being taken advantage of like that! We cannot "hoodwink" the Holy Spirit. This is very solemn. What do you have in mind when you talk about being "filled with the Spirit" ? We hear the command: "Be filled with the Spirit", and we all want to be filled with the Spirit. But we must understand that the Spirit is the character of Jesus Christ. He is the Spirit of Jesus Christ - and especially in this one respect, as the Spirit of Truth.

To be "filled with the Spirit", therefore, means that everything has got to be true, exact, right, real: no lie, no falsehood, no make-believe, no pretence, no exaggeration, no imitation; everything true, genuine. May God make us like His Son in this! Then the Holy Spirit would do things: through a church like that, through a people like that, and through lives like that. He would do mighty things. When conditions are such, you will not have to try to get things done - He will do them.

That brings us back to the point mentioned in our last study - why things changed at the beginning, when they had been so spontaneous, so mighty, so wonderful. The Holy Spirit was present as the Spirit of Truth, and anything untrue that He came up against was dealt with and not tolerated. Peter's words seem fierce, I know, but he is jealous, with the jealousy of the Holy Spirit, for the truth: he sees that the Church can be wrecked and ruined if there is a lie getting in - "Why hath Satan filled thy heart ?", (Acts 5:3).

We began by saying that we are concerned about this matter of a life of fulness and of powerful witness in the world, and troubled because that impact upon the world is not as it was at the beginning. It ought to be the same: the Holy Spirit has not changed. God has not changed. Christ is the same - then what is the trouble? Surely, if it is true that the Holy Spirit commits Himself to the Lord Jesus, then the answer is, once more, that we need more of the Lord Jesus. Which is to say, that we need more of Him in His character. This matter of the Truth is only the beginning - there are many more facets to His character than that; but truth is the foundation of everything.

 2005/7/31 9:07Profile

Joined: 2005/4/4
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Continental Europe

 The Holy Spirit, the Church, and the Nations

Chapter 4 - The HOLY Spirit

"The Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name...", (John 14:26).

"John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit...", (Acts 1:5).

We are now going to think about the Holy Spirit as the 'Spirit of Holiness' (Rom. 1:3) - the Holy Spirit. In the New Testament He is referred to by the latter title somewhere about eighty times, which is in itself a very impressive thing. He is the Holy Spirit.

Mistaken Ideas of "Holiness"

The subject of "holiness" or "sanctification" can be a very oppressive and heavy-going matter. I confess that for a long time it was a subject that I never enjoyed looking into, or having anything to do with. The fact is that, as a subject, it has been resolved into various systems of teaching, has been made the ground of particular cults and movements, and has even provided a name for a "church" - the "Holiness" church. It has brought many Christians into bondage and confusion and frustration of life.

This is mainly due to holiness or sanctification being focused down on certain particular aspects of human life. When you come to ask people what they mean, you usually find that they refer to certain common sins in human nature: if you desire to be delivered from these, then that is a "longing for holiness", and if you are actually delivered from them, that is an experience of "holiness" itself. I am not saying that holiness does not involve that; but holiness in the Scriptures is a very much bigger, greater thing than any of our systems, or our movements, or our crystallized teaching, or our "foci of application". It is not intended to bring anybody either into bondage or into a life of struggle or strain. It is just in this connection that Satan has shown his cleverness. Having himself brought about our unholy condition, he then turns upon his own victims, bringing them under terrible condemnation and accusation, and involving them in a whole constellation of complexes, so that they have become completely tied up on this matter of sin and sanctification and holiness. That certainly ought not to be the effect of a healthy occupation with holiness as presented in the Word of God. It is just the opposite of what God has intended.

Satan as the Spirit of Unholiness

This is, of course, a matter that goes far beyond the limits of a few brief pages. But let us seek at least to get it into its right perspective. At the outset, holiness must be seen in its full setting. We will not stay to argue that this is the supreme characteristic of God. We have to see it in its full background. The Holy Spirit is set over against an un-holy spirit. Just as the Holy Spirit is a Person, so, just as truly, there is a personal un-holy spirit. This whole matter of "holiness" has to be seen in that light. Satan it is who has brought in an unholy State: not merely as an unholy condition, but State with a capital "S", as when we speak of the State in the sense of the Kingdom, the regime, the system or government. Satan has brought in an unholy condition and an unholy kingdom or State. He has defiled everything: he has defiled human nature; he has defiled the creation; and the proof is in the universality of death - God's verdict on all that it is unclean, that it is defiled, that it has been touched by Satan.

It is therefore impressive and instructive to note that, as soon as Jesus had been anointed by the Holy Spirit, He entered upon a direct and immediate battle with Satan himself. From the Jordan he went straight to the wilderness, to meet and encounter this arch-foe of all righteousness. As Jesus went into His baptism, He said to John: "Thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness", (Matt. 3:15). For, in figure and representation, His baptism, as a type of His Cross, in death, burial and resurrection, was truly the fulfilment of all righteousness. On that ground, then, He encounters the one who is the embodiment of all unrighteousness. And it is under the anointing that He does it. The Spirit of Holiness, the Holy Spirit, takes the Righteous One to encounter the universality of unrighteousness, as represented by Satan, there in the wilderness. I say, it is most impressive and instructive to note that that was the very first thing after the baptism and anointing.

Now the method of Satan is always to bring about a link with his State, a link with his kingdom, thereby achieving his object of effecting a link with his defilement. Remember that! Let me repeat it: the object of Satan is always to bring about, if possible, some complicity, some touch, some link with, or some foothold in, his own unholy kingdom, or State, or condition. That is what was happening in that battle in which the Lord Jesus found Himself. All the time, Satan, from one angle and another, was moving round, trying to involve that Righteous One in his unrighteous kingdom. We are not going to argue out these three temptations, but it is perfectly clear. At last it comes out: "If Thou wilt worship me", (Matt. 4:9; Luke 4:7). "If only You will recognise me, accept me, give me a place" - "If only Thou wilt worship me, all this will I give Thee!" In other words, "If only I can get You on to my ground, I have spoiled Your kingdom, spoiled You: I have established myself, if I can but make that link." Blessed be God, that Holy and Righteous One saw through it all, and said, in effect: "No, not a hoof - not one iota. Nothing for Satan." "The prince of the world cometh: and he hath nothing in me", (John 14:30). That is victory, absolute victory.

The Principle of Non-contamination

Remember, then - what was true in His case is always true. Satan is ever seeking to find some way in which he can link us in with his kingdom, which is his power, by getting us on to his ground. Hence all those Old Testament prescriptions made by God against contamination, against mixture: "Thou shalt not plough with an ox and an ass together", (Deut. 22:10). Nothing wrong with the ass, as such, for Jesus rode upon an ass, and we read in the Bible of the ass serving many a good purpose. But from God's standpoint they belong to two realms, two kingdoms, they represent two orders of life, and He says that you cannot mix them up. The work of God must not be done on the basis of a mixture of two things which belong to two different kingdoms and realms.

"Thou shalt not wear a mingled stuff, wool and linen together", (Deut. 22:11) - they belong to two different kingdoms. There is nothing wrong with wool in itself: God clothed the man and wife with the skins of animals - that is, in principle, with wool; and I suppose all the patriarchs wore woollen garments. But here it is forbidden that the animal and vegetable fibres be woven together to form a "mingled stuff". They belong to two realms, and God is simply saying this: You must not try to bring together things that do not belong to each other. It is a foreshadowing of this great principle of distinctness, separation, non-contamination.

When the remnant came back from captivity, for the rebuilding of the temple and wall, as we read in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, the whole thing headed up to this - the mixed marriages (Ezra 9, 10; Neh. 13:23-31). And when that was settled, the books close; that is the end, it is all right; now we have got to the point - the mixed marriages between the people of God and other, idolatrous, nations. These two things must not come together. "Be not unequally yoked...", (2 Cor. 6:14); God will not have it. It is providing Satan with that which he is always seeking, towards which he is always trying to work - a link with his own kingdom. This is the whole point of "holiness" in its right setting.

New Testament Illustrations

Now this is very thorough-going, and it is very comprehensive. For instance, let us allow this principle to take us right into the First Letter to the Corinthians. Everything in that book is explained by this.

First of all we read of "the wisdom of this world", (3:19; 1:19-2:13). The wisdom of this world: we remember what the Apostle says about it there. But listen to another Apostle earlier: "This wisdom is not a wisdom that cometh down from above, but is earthly, sensual, demoniacal", (Jas. 3:15). "The wisdom that is from beneath is demoniacal." What, the wisdom of this world, demoniacal? Well, so the Word says; and if we want the proof of that, let us come back to Paul's argument, that it was in "the wisdom of this world" that Christ was crucified (1 Cor. 2:6-8). In the wisdom of this world, it was thought to be the "wise thing" to put Him to death - what folly! what madness! what devilishness!

Anybody who really touches the wisdom of the world knows that it is a realm of death. Anyone who has dipped into philosophy knows that there is no more deadly thing in all the sciences than philosophy. If you touch it, you touch death. That was the wisdom in Corinth - the wisdom of this world. Yes, Satan had a good foothold in that church, along that line; he had got them on to his ground right enough.

Again, we read of - "divisions among you", (1:10). "There are contentions among you", (vs. 11). Remember - and this may be anticipating - the Holy Spirit is essentially the Spirit of unity. Satan has got them on to his ground, for he is the great divider. Satan never stops until he has divided the last thing: if he comes to one, he will make two of it! "Divisions among you" - they are on his ground. Nothing need be said about the next thing mentioned - fornication. But then the Apostle speaks about the Lord's Table, and you hear him say: "You cannot - you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons", (1 Cor. 10:21). "You cannot mix things up like this!" But it was actually there in Corinth.

Practical Details in this Light

At this point let me utter a very emphatic word. These chapters in the First Letter to the Corinthians must be read in this light. Do not extract subjects from those chapters, about women wearing hats or headcovering, and all those difficult things - do not just lift them out, as separate subjects: for, if you do, you will just get into confusion. What the apostle was dealing with then was the coming in, among the Lord's people, of the spirit of this world. He was saying to the Corinthians, in effect: "That is how the world behaves - or misbehaves; that is how the world does it; and that world is Satan's world. If you let this sort of thing in, you are lining up with the world - with his world."

Study it in this light, as to all these details, all these practical matters. It is not just that you are having to do with an apostle who you think had no great liking for women! No, no; you are up against tremendous things here. It is Satan seeking to get inside and get a foothold - a link between what is holy and what is his - in order that, by thus bringing the world in, and touching with his corruption and defilement, he may destroy that which is of God. Read it all in that light, for that is where the New Testament puts it - "that no advantage may be gained over us by Satan", (2 Cor. 2:11).

You see, the whole of the bulwark is raised against this one - this un-holy spirit that is in the universe; this corrupting influence and power; this defiling work. The Church is to be always on its guard against these spirits of uncleanness that are everywhere. Why? Because of the power of holiness. It is not just to have a clean condition, as something in itself. Never make "holiness" an end in itself. No, it is because of the power, the mighty power, of holiness.

Holiness is Militant

Remember that, in the Bible - and it is so strongly illustrated in the Old Testament - "holiness" is always militant. It was the priests that led the nation into battle; it was the sacrifice that was the ground of the warfare. It is a most impressive thing that even the Levites are spoken of as set apart for the "warfare" (Num. 4:3,23, etc.; 8:24,25). Levites, priests, set apart for warfare? We thought they were set apart to offer sacrifices and deal with all that side of things! No, holiness is militant, and it is a mighty power against a militant foe. "Our wrestling is... against the principalities, against the powers...", (Eph. 6:12). They are making war, there is no doubt about it. They make war. What is the ground of our hope? It is not our language, our phraseology or our terminology, or our doctrine: it is our holiness of life. That is the point of attack. Unholiness puts God back. God is holy, even as the Holy Spirit is holy, and unholiness just keeps Him back; it binds His hands; He cannot do anything. When there is unholiness, it is as though the Lord is bound, helpless, paralysed, in the midst of His people (cf. Jer. 14:7-9).

The following extract provides a simple, fragmentary illustration of what I mean, and brings out some very practical points. It is the story of a Christian college that depended for all its support upon prayer and faith.

"The College was based on the simplicity of daring faith in God for the provision of need. As long as the spiritual life of the men was maintained, the necessary funds came in in answer to prayer. If supplies failed to come in, or were low, with no signs of replenishment, it was recognised that the finger of God was on some failing, or unconfessed sin, among them, and not until this was put right would supplies come in. Thus, the meeting of material needs became, as it were, the spiritual barometer. One instance of this may be recorded: Funds were so low that a meeting was held, and the students were urged to a more complete surrender to God. Still matters did not improve, and it was thought that possibly the men were not devoting sufficient time to prayer, so the curriculum was curtailed, and more time devoted to prayer, but still no supplies. And, finally, all funds came to an end, and there was only the garden produce left."

"Then, late one night, two students came to the tutor and confessed secret drinking. He gave urgent advice to repair to God, and confess their sin and plead forgiveness, and not for the sake of the loaves and fishes, but because of the leaven of hypocrisy. And they did that. Confession was made before the whole college, and united prayer was offered. The next day was set apart for fasting and humiliation and prayer, at the close of which they gathered together with a great heart-thankfulness, feeling the moral and spiritual atmosphere was cleansed, and that God would be able to give an exhibition of His faithfulness. God honoured their faith, and the very next morning came a cheque for fifty pounds."

A very simple story, but it illustrates how the whole work of God can be held up; a whole assembly can have its spiritual life injured, limited; the warfare of the saints can be turned into defeat, if for some reason the Lord has to stand back and say: I'm sorry, but I cannot go on with them - there is this, and that; there is an Achan, or an Ananias and Sapphira... Yes, He knows! It may be unholiness in something which is, after all, only a small part of a whole - two men in a whole college, or one man in all Israel, or a man and his wife in the Church at the beginning. Yes, the majority are all right; the mass are not doing this sort of thing. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit focuses right down on that, because He is bound and committed to the corporate principle. On the one hand, "whether one member suffereth, all the members suffer with it"; but, on the other, if "one member is honoured, all the members rejoice with it" (1 Cor. 12:26). There is a relatedness which to the Holy Spirit is sacred. And while our blessing benefits the whole Church, our sin, our unholiness, may cripple the whole Church.

Holiness is the Character of Christ

Holiness, then, is militant; it is the power of triumphant warfare. But holiness is also Christly character. Holiness is not formal make-up, something put on. The Lord Jesus saw right through that with the Scribes, Pharisees, Rulers. None of that, no "make-up" spiritually, will pass with the Holy Spirit. Holiness is more than teaching; more than profession; more than pretence; more than formal outward procedure. It is the very Person, the very life, the very character of Christ in the believer and in the Church. It is a very big matter, far bigger than I have been able to indicate in these pages. But the Spirit is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Holiness; and because He is that, everything else follows.

Now, just a few words in closing, for our comfort. Those men who were gathered in that Upper Room for those ten days: I do not think they were, in themselves, any more holy than when one of them denied the Lord Jesus thrice. They had all forsaken Him and fled, and in that way denied Him - they were all guilty. And I do not think that, even on that particular Day of Pentecost, they were in themselves any more holy than they were before. But the Spirit came upon them - for what? In order to make them holy; to set up, establish, a holiness of life within them. We do not have to struggle in order to get to a place of holiness; we have not to try to make ourselves "worthy" of the Holy Spirit. We have to be where they were - just before the Lord: set upon all that the Lord has spoken of; obedient to what the Lord has said.

That is what they were doing. "After that he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit..." The first part of that "commandment" was to wait until endued with the Spirit. The writer almost immediately continues: "He charged them not to depart from Jerusalem...", (Acts 1:2,4). "After he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit..." They are obeying His command: that is, they are there, as men with many, many imperfections, but open, diligent, committed, earnest, ready, waiting on Him. The Holy Spirit saw a way in them, and He came, and took the way He found.

 2005/8/2 17:08Profile

 Re: The Holy Spirit, the Church, and the Nations

Thank you Manfred. Clicked "Save as".

I have the happiest busting over folders ever, just since whatever date I found SI.

I especially like the section on the Absolute Necessity of Truth, up there.

I can read the rest off line.

One never knows, when they won't be able to get on line, to get things like this ... that's what "Save as" is for :-D

Thanks again.

 2005/8/2 23:53

Joined: 2005/4/4
Posts: 342
Continental Europe

 Re: The Holy Spirit, the Church, and the Nations


As I said elsewhere, I print and get the messages bounded at a photocopy shop. It is cheap and one can read and re-read these messages as a book at leasure.

Thank for your post, I really enjoy people commenting on these messages.


 2005/8/3 4:33Profile

Joined: 2005/4/4
Posts: 342
Continental Europe

 The Holy Spirit, the Church, and the Nations

Chapter 5 - The Spirit as Light

"I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, that he may be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth: whom the world cannot receive; for it beholdeth him not, neither knoweth him: ye know him; for he abideth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you desolate: I come unto you..."

"These things have I spoken unto you, while yet abiding with you. But the Advocate, even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you", (John 14:16,17; 25,26).

"...That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him", (Ephesians 1:17).

In our consideration of the Holy Spirit as Divine character for Divine testimony, we now move round to another angle, to view Him as Light. We have seen Him as Truth and Holiness; we have now to consider Him as Light.

"God is light", (1 John 1:5). Jesus is the Light of men and of the world, it is stated (John 1:4, 8:12, etc.). The Holy Spirit is called the "Spirit of Revelation". God dwells in the light (1 Tim. 6:16). The City, which is the last presentation in the Bible, has the light of God (Rev. 21:11). The Word of God is a light, a lamp (Ps. 119:105). Christians are said to be "children of the light" (Eph. 5:8).

So, everything related to God is light: "in Him there is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5). It is Satan who is the prince of darkness; his works are "the works of darkness"; his children are the "children of darkness". These are the two contrasted and conflicting kingdoms: the Kingdom of Light; the kingdom of darkness. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Light. We recall those further words of the Lord Jesus: "When he... is come, he shall guide you into all the truth... He shall take of mine, and shall declare it unto you.", (John 16:13,14).

Light Precedes Building

Let us look, then, at the Holy Spirit, first as character and then as function, in terms of light. God never begins to build until there is light. In the creation, before He proceeded to build, He divided the light from the darkness - He said: "Let there be light". That is an intimation of an abiding law, that God does all His work on the basis of light. Those two great symbolic representations of God, the Tabernacle and the Temple, were the result of spiritual illumination, to Moses and to David respectively. Before they could be, light had to be given. Someone had to be the receptacle, the vessel, of the revelation. When we come into the New Testament, we find that the first definite intimation of the Church - "I will build my church", (Matt. 16:18) - was made immediately after the illumination had come to Peter as to the Person of the Lord Jesus. "Flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee" - revealed it - "but my Father..." "I will build my church..." Note this consistency in the principle of God.

We pass from the first intimation of the Church in the New Testament, from that first mention of the word, to the full disclosure of its eternal calling, vocation, destiny, in this Letter to the Ephesians, and we find that, as in the beginning, so in the full-orbed presentation, it is along the line of illumination, or revelation, by the Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus said: "I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Advocate..." "He shall guide you into all the truth". In the mind of the Lord Jesus, there may well have been the thought of the pillar of cloud in the wilderness, guiding to the land. But He said: "I will pray the Father, and he will give you One who shall guide you into all the truth."

Paul is in prayer: he is praying in the same way as his Master; his prayer is on the same line: "I bow my knees unto the Father" (the same Father), that He "may give unto you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him". Here it is not the beginning of revelation: that was with Peter - that was in Matthew 16. Here, it is another word, which it is difficult to translate adequately; it is really "in the full knowledge of Him". "A spirit of revelation in the full knowledge of him".

The Nature of Light

(a) As to Character

So we have to see, first of all, what light is. If so much depends upon it, so much rests upon it; if it is, as it were, one of the pillars upon which the whole structure of the church rests, then it is very important that we know what it is. And firstly, as to character.

(1) Transparency

Light is transparency; light is clearness; light is absolute purity; light is honesty; light is openness of character. Light hides nothing; its whole action and nature is contrary to hiding anything. It has nothing to hide; it shows everything; it shows all: in other words, it is not deceitful. It does not want to cover anything, or to pretend or make believe that something is other than what it is. Light is single; it is not double; there is no duplicity about light. And light is just - light! There is "no darkness at all" where there is light.

Now, we have pointed out that the City - which, as we so well know, is one of the titles of Christ corporate, Christ and His members, the Church - is characterized by everything that speaks of the nature of light. It is characterized, as a whole, by crystal clearness; it is like "a jasper stone, clear as crystal" (Rev. 21:11). Its street is of pure, transparent gold (5:21b). The water of its river is bright as crystal (22:1). Everything about it is of the nature of light. It has so much light in its character, that it has no need of the sun. The light is in its own constitution. It takes its character from the Lamb, who is "the lamp thereof" (21:23b). You can see through this City, and everything in it. Perhaps we should not like to live in transparent houses on this earth! But when you live in this City, to adopt the figure, you will not be ashamed for anybody to see what is going on: you will not need to hide anything. You can just "see through it". All the sin which produces cloudiness and murkiness, indefiniteness, mists and fogs, and all that sort of thing, will have been finally abolished - "there will be no night there" (v. 25).

These things, as you will recognise, are symbolic terms. They show symbolically what the Holy Spirit has come to do, in men and women, and in the creation. He has come to bring about in human nature a condition like that. He has undertaken a tremendous task! He is the Spirit of Light - that is His character - and the purpose of His presence is to bring to an end everything that is of the nature of darkness. How many shades and aspects of darkness there are! - a whole vocabulary of words. The Spirit has come to bring all that to an end by applying the Cross, in which it was all brought to an end in the Person of the Lord Jesus; to work out the meaning of the Cross in our lives, so that everything that belongs to that kingdom of darkness is removed: so that in the end, with us too, there is no darkness at all.

Is that really what we think of, when we think of having, receiving, being filled with the Holy Spirit? Here again, perhaps, a little re-shaping of our ideas is called for. It is true that He is many other things, as well as light: He is the Spirit of Power, He is the Spirit of Wisdom; yes, He is many other things; but, with them all, He is this. And we must not make more of those "demonstration" aspects of the Spirit, in power, in gifts and capacities, in works, than we do of His character side. If He really does His work in you and in me, He will make us to be people who can bear to be 'looked into' without any fear, without any drawing of the blinds. Our lives and our motives will bear looking into.

The Holy Spirit knows us, He knows us. We cannot deceive Him; we cannot, as we say, "hoodwink" Him; He knows us through and through. We must therefore give the Holy Spirit credit for dealing with us according to a knowledge of us beyond our own. Looking inside us, He has seen something that is contrary to His own nature; He has found something that does not answer to His character of absolute transparency, and He is dealing with that.

We often think that sincerity on our part is all that is called for: we have only got to be "sincere" in order to satisfy God. (I would remind you that there is, in any case, a difference between sincerity and reality.) But Saul of Tarsus was the most "sincere" man alive in his day, and yet he was the most mistaken. Sincerity may be required, may be very important, and it is; but do not let us deceive ourselves with our sincerity, and say that because we are downright sincere, then we must be right; that is not the case. The Spirit may require sincerity to open the door, for anything that is insincere means a closed door to the Holy Spirit. But, after all, it is only an opening of the door, so that He may come in and then begin to show us that, "sincere" as we were, we were wrong after all.

It is exactly what happened with Paul, is it not? "I verily thought... that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth", (Acts 26:9). "I verily thought that I ought to do...": absolutely sincere, absolutely conscientious, and yet so ignominiously mistaken and wrong - until the Light came. Then he saw it. You see the point. The Holy Spirit does not just accept our sincerity as the everything. He comes perhaps through that door; then He begins His work of showing that even our purest motives were probably mixed; our most sincere intentions were tainted. He works according to His knowledge, and we must give Him credit always for doing that.

If you and I are really meaning business with God, and the Holy Spirit has taken us through an experience, through a depth, which has been very self-revealing, a real shock to us: we have discovered that there was that there that we would never have believed, had we been told: the end is that we are on our faces, worshipping Him as the Faithful and the True. No rebellion, no bitterness, but thanking God that He has been so faithful with us, and so true. We do not want to be let off anything that is of the darkness, do we?

This, then, is the first thing about the Holy Spirit as light. He is, and He works for, complete transparency and honesty and purity, without a shadow. He seeks to bring us to that end of glory - "having the glory of God", (Rev. 21:11) - because there can be no glory in anything that is of the kingdom of darkness.

(2) Fearlessness

Another thing about light is that it is absolutely fearless. If the Holy Spirit is really there in this character, we are never afraid of something being discovered. A good conscience, a clear conscience, is a wonderfully courageous thing. It is a very strong thing; it puts you in a very strong position. Where there is light, and no darkness, nothing to be hidden and nothing that we do not want to be discovered or uncovered, there is no fear. There is a great strength of confidence and assurance.

Light is a fearless thing. If there is anything doubtful or questionable, anything about which we are not sure; if we have some question, if we are not sure whether our position is right or wrong: then we are always afraid, we are in the weakness of fear. Darkness and fear always go together - it is like that naturally, is it not? - fear belongs to darkness. There can be no confidence, no strength, where there is darkness. This City, this people, at the end, is a strong city, "having a wall great and high" (Rev. 21:12); it is the very embodiment of the idea of strength: but its strength lies in its character - in its purity, its light.

(3) Disinfection

Another thing about light is that it combats disease. We know that physically, do we not? We send people with certain diseases to the country, where all is sunny and light. We have learned to expose our wounds to the sun for their healing. The light is healing; light is purifying; disease cannot abide the light. Now, come back again to the City. It is said: "the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations", (Rev. 22:2c). Disease cannot abide this light that is in the City. The light deals with everything that is working corruption: it destroys it, and repairs the damage.

I am thinking especially now of the more recent discoveries and uses of light in healing. I remember how it began. In the first world war, I had a great deal to do with wounded soldiers - thousands of terribly mangled bodies, torn by shell; and it was in that war, when it was so difficult to cope with this terrible situation, that the method of healing, and even of making good the loss of flesh, repairing the destroyed tissues - the method was adopted of just putting the wounded out in the sun, exposing them to the sun. It was marvellous what the sun did. It built up the bodies; it made good the destroyed tissues, it healed in a wonderful way. That was the introduction of a new technique which has now, of course, been resolved into the various kinds of ray for healing. Light does it: it heals; it repairs; it destroys disease.

(4) Joy

Another thing about light - and we are building up for an application - is that it is something joyful. It is a joyful, an uplifting, an inspiring thing. Darkness is nearly always depressing. You can see something of this in the people of this world. Those people who live in extreme northern realms, where they do not see the sun for months on end, often tend to be heavy, serious, grim, taciturn, even joyless people, whereas, when you go to more southern climes, what a difference you find - laughter, merriment, lightheartedness. Light has that effect. People of the sun are sunny people; people of the shadows are marked by shadows.

So we can see that light is a very important thing in character. And you have got to have the character before ever the function can begin - that is the point. You see, it was when the Holy Spirit Himself had come into the Church, and given His own character to it, that the Church broke out on its great world mission, and challenged darkness everywhere. You can see the contrasts in those early chapters of the Church's history. There were tremendous contrasts in the apostles themselves. Oh, what a change has taken place in them - what different men they are! They were men in the shadows, in the dark, but now they are in the light - or rather, they are men with the Light in themselves. Something has transformed those men; they are changed. The Spirit has come - the Light is in them.

Take those two representatives on the Emmaus road. What a veil was over their eyes as to the Scriptures! When the Lord Jesus opened up the Scriptures of the Old Testament, from Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms, that was not their first introduction to the Bible. They knew their Bible; they knew the Scriptures; they were not just being introduced to the Book - but how dark their minds were! Now, listen to others like them on the Day of Pentecost! What light they have! They now are seeing, and are proclaiming wonderful illumination out of the Scriptures. Light has come into them, changed them, made them into a different kind of people. In many respects you can hardly recognise them as the same persons. You cannot recognise the old Simon Peter, can you, in this man who is now standing up and speaking, and challenging everybody. Only a short while before, he could not stand up to the challenge of a serving maid, but now he can challenge the rulers. Something has happened to this man: the light has come in - in other words, the Spirit has come into him - and he is now seeing in a new way.

The Nature of Light

(b) As to Function

That is how the testimony begins; that is how the functioning begins. You see, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the work - of the world testimony, of the testimony in the nations. The Holy Spirit is not out just to make us "retailers of the Truth", in a secondhand way. That is one of the weaknesses of the whole order, that certain things are taught in schools, and then people are sent out with what they have learnt - all this school-learning. And they go out and they give it out - in a secondhand, "phonographic" way! You are not surprised that there is not the impact upon the darkness that there was at the beginning; that the healing of spiritual and moral diseases does not take place; that the whole scene is not transformed.

Teaching is Not Sufficient

No, it is not that way. The disciples had had all the information that ever they needed: they had had all the Lord's teaching; they had seen all His work; they had seen Him die; they had seen Him after the resurrection; and they had heard angels declaring from Heaven that He would come again in like manner as they had seen Him go up (Acts 1:11): and yet, with all that, they are not allowed to go out into the nations and preach it! This has got to become more than something said to them - something that they have been told - something that they have heard with their ears. This has got to come into them by the Holy Spirit, as a mighty power within their own being. Hence, He gave them commandment that they should not depart from Jerusalem, until they received the promise of the Father (Acts 1:4).

No, it is not the truth that we have been taught - it is the truth that has come into our hearts, by illumination of the Holy Spirit, that is powerful; not any other. That is most important! I venture to say that, if only a small percentage of the teaching that some of us have received were to come up in the power of the Holy Spirit, some tremendous thing would happen: there would be an impact and registration that would be comparable to what was at the beginning - just wonderful. Let us not be content with our "truth" and our "teaching". The Lord made it perfectly clear that, much as He had given, and much as He had shown, and much as they had come by through their association with Him, that was not all that they required. You must not go out into the world with nothing more than that; that must not be the sole basis upon which you go. That will have its place; it is necessary, and it will come to life; but - you cannot just go on with that only. "Tarry ye, until ye be endued with power": and when the enduement came, what happened? It was what He had said to them that sprang into life; it was what He had done that came to them with a new revelation as to its meaning. The Holy Spirit is absolutely indispensable, even when you have a very, very large wealth of instruction, of teaching, of information.

The Church Should Make an Impact

This is true as to the individual, but remember that the Holy Spirit is the Light of the Sanctuary. When Paul prays about this "spirit of wisdom and revelation", he has the Church before him. He is thinking of the Church as the dwelling-place, the "habitation of God" (as he calls it) "in the Spirit" (Eph. 2:22). The Church is to be here in this world, universally and locally, as a challenge to, and with a powerful impact upon, the darkness in each locality, wherever it may be, by the Holy Spirit. The darkness cannot go unchallenged and it cannot eventually triumph. It was said of the Lord Jesus that life was in Him, and the life was the light of men, and the darkness overcame it not (John 1:4,5). It looked as though it did, but it did not.

The presence of the Church, with the Holy Spirit within, ought to be like that, registering a tremendous challenge; and it should be that, whatever men do, or Satan does, that light is not quenched; the light survives. You and I, individually, when we have passed from this earth, should be remembered for having been vehicles or vessels of light - this kind of light. It was a challenge; it was healing; it was effective. It should not be merely that we had teaching, or that we had truth, but that there was that which had the Holy Spirit in it, which left a mark. We all ought to be like that. Do you think it would be possible for anybody really to have the Holy Spirit in any measure, and for it to make no difference where they are? Surely that could not be. It was said of the Lord Jesus: "He could not be hid" (Mark 7:24); and so it should be with us.

Light Can be Shut Out by Prejudice

Now this is the "truth" about the Holy Spirit as light; and I am sure that you agree with the truth, and that your heart goes out that it might be so in your case. Perhaps there is a need for us to give the Holy Spirit a better and a larger chance than He has hitherto had. We can, you know, deprive ourselves of this light of the Spirit; we can shut out the light; we can have bandages over our eyes. What might such bandages be? Well, take prejudice. Prejudice is a terribly blinding thing. It means, as the word clearly indicates, that you have pre-judged something, some situation, before you really looked into it. You prejudged it - perhaps on the basis of report, or on any one of many pretexts. And, in pre-judging, without a first-hand, honest, sincere, true investigation and enquiry, pursuing this matter till you really knew, you closed down - you foreclosed on it. Very well: you have put the bandage of prejudice on your eyes, and there is no hope - no hope - until that is removed.

Some of us know that quite well. Some of my brethren know that it was just on that very point that, many years ago, everything turned in my life from what I have called a "closed heaven" to an "open heaven". I was preaching one Sunday morning on the subject of "prejudice". Some people think that I can be emphatic, but on that day, I had - metaphorically - my coat off, and my sleeves up! I was lunging at "prejudice" with all the strength that I had, calling it by all the names that my vocabulary could provide, saying it was a cruel thing, a thing that gave neither God nor man a chance... and so I went on. That was the Lord's Day morning.

Tuesday morning, I was in my study. A letter was handed to me, in which I was invited to attend a certain conference, with all expenses paid, including travelling. And I looked, and I said: No, not on your life; you will never find me there; I would not touch that with a twenty-foot barge-pole! And I took out my diary, quite sure that, in those very busy days, of course I should have my answer - I should have other engagements. When I looked in my diary, the only dates that were free were those very dates! And I left it on my desk, wondering - How am I going to get round this? what am I going to do about it? Very kind of this person, to offer me all my expenses; but what am I to say?

While I was trying to find my way out, my backdoor of escape, my wife came in with my morning cup of something, and she saw that I was a bit disturbed, looked a bit worried; and she asked me about it, and I told her what it was. She said: Well, have you any engagements at that time? I said: No, just at that time I have none. Well, she said, it looks to me as though you have one of two alternatives: either tell them that you will not go, or go! (I suppose that is the value of having a practical wife!) I was left with that, and she went out.

And as I began to think about this again, it was as though somebody stood at the side of me - I did not see anybody, and I did not hear any voice - but it was as though someone stood at the side of me and said: What about your sermon on prejudice?

Well, I had to face that whole thing before God. It was just that that brought a great turning-point in my life, opened the way for the Lord, for something very much more. By dealing with that whole spirit of prejudice I came into an altogether new way with the Lord. You can perhaps understand how afraid I am of prejudice - what it can do, how it can close the door, how it can figuratively put a bandage over the eyes, so that we are deprived of what the Lord wants to give.

Light Can be Shut Out by Pride and Policy

And then there is pride: unwillingness to humble ourselves; unwillingness to say that we have been wrong, to take something back. Pride can blind. Perhaps there are few things more blinding than pride. And policy: you can just shut the Holy Spirit right out if you are going to be governed by policy. Policy means taking into account how things will affect you and your interests, your future, how it will close doors to you; what other people will think - that if you do this or that you will be regarded as a "speckled bird", and so on; you see, secondary considerations. Oh, that is a hobgoblin of the Devil to rob you of something! Yes, it will blind; you will not go on if there is any policy about it - make no mistake.

There is a passage in John's Gospel, by which I have often been greatly impressed (and which I have tried to make a guiding principle in my own spiritual life) - those words in John 5:44:
"How can ye believe, who receive glory one of another, and the glory that cometh from the only God ye seek not ?" "How can ye believe ?" You see, that whole nation, and those Jewish rulers and teachers and leaders, were shut out of all that Christ came to give on this one thing - policy: thinking more of the glory of men than of the glory of God; walking more as before men than as before the Lord. If Abraham has a great inheritance - and there is no doubt that he has, for the covenant of promise concerned his seed, "which seed is Jesus Christ", (Gal. 3:16) - what an inheritance! - remember that the covenant with Abraham was made at the point where God appeared to him and said: "I am God All-sufficient; walk before me, and be thou perfect", (Gen. 15:1).

"Walk before Me! and be thou perfect." That is the way of the enlarging inheritance. "Before Me!" Not before men; not before systems; not before public opinion; and not before your own interests, with an eye to how they are going to be served, and what is going to happen to you. "Walk before Me, and be thou perfect. I am the Lord All-sufficient". "How can ye believe, who receive glory one from another, and do not seek the glory which comes from God only ?" This is the way of light; this is the way of power; this is the way of the Spirit. It is the way of 'walking in the light, as He is in the light', and walking with the light in ourselves.

We can, of course, see how all this relates to the Church's witness in the world. We can understand much in the light of that. When the Church was filled with the light of the Spirit, what an effect it had upon the kingdom of darkness, everywhere! But when the Church began to lose that basis of life, it began to lose its influence in the world. The Lord save us!

 2005/8/5 7:16Profile

Joined: 2005/4/4
Posts: 342
Continental Europe

 The Holy Spirit, the Church, and the Nations

Chapter 6

The People of God and Their Inheritance

Reading: Joshua 1.

"It came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? And he said, Nay; but as prince of the host of the Lord am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my Lord unto his servant? And the prince of the Lord's host said unto Joshua, Put off thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.", (Joshua 5:13-15).

The counterpart of the book of Joshua is found in the New Testament, especially from and with the Gospel of John onward. When you come to the end of the four Gospels, you find yourself at the self-same place as that which you find just before the book of Joshua opens. That is, a nation has come to the border of the Land of Promise - which border is, in this case, symbolically, the Jordan - and that nation has turned back and lost everything through unbelief. That is how it was before this book of Joshua opens. That is exactly how it was at the end of the Gospels. The nation to whom all the promises were offered for fulfilment came to that border land: through unbelief they were turned back and lost everything: and for the last two thousand years they have been experiencing a living death in the wilderness.

But a new nation springs into being. It is with that that we have to do as we open this book of Joshua, and it is that with which we have to do when we pass from John into Acts. A new nation has arisen out of the death of the old, and is now going in and on to possess.

The Ark of the Covenant went its lonely way through the Jordan. You remember that the Lord commanded that the Ark was to move ahead into the river, then in flood, and that a space of two thousand cubits was to be observed between it and the people. It was taking a lonely way, a way which it alone could take. We all know that that Ark represents the Lord Jesus Himself, and its passage through the Jordan typifies His passage through the Cross. "Ye... shall leave me alone", He said; "and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me", (John 16:32). There is a space; He took a lonely way through the Cross. No one else can go that way as fully as He went; thank God, it is not necessary. He first met all the overflowing of Jordan - God's judgment, God's wrath, God's separation; it was a terribly lonely way. "Why hast thou forsaken me ?" He cried to Heaven, (Matt. 17:46). The "Ark" went that way, to lead the way through for us, that we might have a dry passage, and might not be overwhelmed of Jordan.

I do not think that we really make enough of what He has borne for us, and of how little we have to bear because of that. If we know something of the Cross, if we know something of the fellowship of His sufferings, we know nothing of the judgment of God that rested upon Him. Nothing that we know has to do with judgment - not one whit. As the Ark went its lonely way to lead that people through, so He, by the Cross, has opened a way - a way into the inheritance.

Joshua and Amalek

At that point, Joshua comes into view in full stature, as representing, or indicating, the instrument of God for spiritual fulness. It would be instructive to spend a few minutes on Joshua in that light. Joshua stands for the mighty life and energy of the Holy Spirit. When the Captain of Jehovah's hosts, the Holy Spirit in figure there, joined Himself with Joshua, and joined Joshua with Himself, all that issued and proceeded was by the energy of the Holy Spirit. Everything thenceforth showed the Holy Spirit in charge and in action. Joshua, then, speaks of the Holy Spirit uniting Himself with a vessel for the purposes of the inheritance.

You remember that Joshua first comes into view in relation to Amalek (Exodus 17). Amalek is the type of the flesh, coming out to thwart, to prevent, to straddle the path of Israel, that they should not come into the inheritance. The flesh always does that. Satan has a ready ally in the flesh, and by the energy of the flesh he would always keep the Lord's people out of the inheritance. Joshua first comes in then against Amalek. You see already, well in advance, when he first comes into view, that he signifies that which is of the Spirit warring against the flesh. "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh", says the Apostle (Gal. 5:17). Joshua is there, as the energy of the Spirit, to deal with this obstructing and hindering and thwarting flesh, with the inheritance always in view. It is important always to remember that, and to keep it in its place. Why must we walk in the Spirit? Why must the flesh be dealt with? Not just for its own sake, but because the great inheritance in Christ is in view.

Joshua and the Tent of Meeting

The next occasion on which he is referred to is in Exodus 33. He is spoken of here as "a young man" who "departed not out of the Tent", (v. 11). I think that is a very beautiful touch, not only in the case of Joshua himself, but in the whole spiritual background of this story. What was this Tent? It was, of course, not the Tabernacle, because the Tabernacle was not in existence at that time. You have to go back to the occasion when Moses went up into the mount to receive the Law, and the pattern of the Tabernacle. He came down, and Israel had "broken loose" and had made a calf, and were saying: "These be thy gods which brought thee out of Egypt!", (Ex. 32:4). Joshua was there. But, when Moses came down, and heard and saw, he stood in the gate of the camp, and cried: "Who is on the Lord's side? Let him come over unto me!" Now, from that time onwards, what Moses did was to take a tent, a "tent of meeting", right outside of the camp, and "everyone which sought the Lord went out unto the tent of meeting" (Ex. 33:7). That was the Tent in which Joshua, the young man, abode, and from which he did not depart.

It is full of significance, is it not? First of all, that Tent out there implied absolute separation from every taint of Satan's touch. Satan had captured the gold of the Sanctuary, and had it made into a calf for his own worship: Satan had turned the heart of the people from the Lord to himself, and corrupted everything. If the inheritance is going to be entered upon and appropriated, that touch and that taint of the corrupting influence of the evil one amongst the people of God has got to be removed, and everything of God has got to be taken out of its precincts. Joshua, therefore, abiding and not departing from the Tent; this man of the Spirit, this man who is to bring into the inheritance by the energy of the Spirit; the man who abides beyond the taint and the touch of the powers of evil, says so clearly that he is not in that world, he is out of that realm altogether. He abides in the Tent of meeting. I like to think that there was one man, besides Moses, who was not a priest, but a man of the people, who was allowed to dwell in the House of the Lord.

Joshua as a "Young Man"

But then it says that Joshua was a "young man". Surely this speaks of freshness - the freshness of youth, with everything before; vision, purpose, a future; a life of energy in the Spirit; no touch of time, or old age, here. It is a very blessed thing. Oh, that we were all characterized by this youth! Here is where a part of our watchfulness and prayerfulness must be observed. It is always such a joy to meet with young Christians, who are reaching out for everything of the Lord; not satisfied with being just saved, but really after all that the Lord means for them. Because there are some of the Lord's people who "know it all", and have heard it all for years, so that you can hardly say a thing, even about the book of Joshua, but they know all about it - "Oh, you have gone over that ground again and again!" They are so stale, and everything to them is so stale: it is like bread which has been locked up for years - it has got absolutely dry; and so you cannot say anything to them; there is no freshness. But then you find a group of young Christians, and there is life, there is freshness, and you can give and give.

That is not a matter of years: it is a matter of spirit. And it ought to be like that. If we are going to come into the inheritance, we must always have an appetite for it. If we are going to come into the inheritance, there needs always to be this vigorous spirit, this energy, this reach-out; this consciousness that, however much we know, we know nothing. We see so much before us - that "land of far distances" that our eyes have seen; and yet, with all that we know, we know that we are only touching the fringes. It ought to be like that to the end: the spirit of youth, and youth's energy, ought to mark us. Sometimes it is very difficult to give a message amongst people who "know it all", and have heard it all before: there is a sense of heaviness and hard going - simply because there is not this drawing out of a spiritual energy to know, to apprehend. Joshua, then, was a "young man, who departed not from the tent of meeting."

The Holy Spirit and the Conflict of Possession

Now, when we come to this fifth chapter of the book of Joshua, to those three verses that we read, we come to what is the very heart and essence of the book of the Acts. With John, the Land comes into view. With Acts, the Spirit takes over. He takes over this whole matter of the inheritance, and of leading the people of God into possession. But it is along the line of conflict. Yes, He takes over in relation to the inheritance, but note how immediately it becomes a matter of conflict. If that Man standing over against Joshua, declaring Himself to be the Captain of the Hosts of the Lord, is (in figure, if not in reality) the Holy Spirit, as we believe He is, note that He has a sword drawn in His hand - He has not come with an olive leaf! He has come with a sword, and it is drawn.

There is going to be not one whit of this inheritance possessed without conflict. We need to make up our minds to that, for that is how it is going to be. There is going to be a withstanding from all quarters. As soon as the matter of any spiritual increase comes into view, then, strangely, sometimes mysteriously, a state of conflict arises. It gets into the very atmosphere, and it comes even from Christian people. Be satisfied with what is called "the simple gospel", and "simple evangelism", and you meet no conflict; everybody applauds and accepts, and is on your side. But - set your heart on the whole purpose of God, and you find yourself at once in a realm of terrible conflict. Satan is not going to allow this Church to reach its determined destiny, if he can prevent it.

Every step is going to be challenged. Notice: "Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon" - yes, "to you have I given it", (1:3) - "but, there will be a battle over it; there will be battle over your possessing what I have given." Yes, even though God has predestined and pre-determined it, and it is settled in the foreknowledge and forecounsels of God, that does not mean that we are going to come into it willy-nilly! With all the Divine sovereignty, with all the Divine power, and with all the Divine wisdom, associated with the purpose, strangely enough there is a battle over every inch of it. It is like that.

The Spirit and the Inheritance in the New Testament

In the Gospel of John, we read that Jesus said: "When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall guide you into all the truth.", (16:13). That is Joshua 5:13-15! The Spirit has come to guide them into all the Truth that is in Jesus (Eph. 4:21) - that is the book of Joshua. When He came on the Day of Pentecost, fulfilling the promise and explanation of the Lord Jesus, He came to guide the Church right into its inheritance. I cannot be too emphatic about this, because there are such inadequate, if not wrong, ideas about the Holy Spirit and Pentecost, and so on. Let us understand that the Holy Spirit came for no lesser purpose than to take the Church right on into all its inheritance in Christ. And if our ideas of the Holy Spirit are not poised and directed along this line, we are - if not arresting - at least in measure subverting the work of the Holy Spirit, and the purpose of His coming. The Church has to be brought into that inheritance for which it has been eternally predestined by God; and the Spirit came - in type in Joshua, in reality in Acts - for that one purpose. And this is going to be a conflict which will not end, until the Lamb has overcome in finality.

In the book of the Acts, then, the Holy Spirit does take over in the matter of the inheritance; and He takes over for the conflict of the inheritance. We do not move far into that book before we find the conflict is on. In Jerusalem - whether from Jewish leaders, who kill Stephen; or from the rulers of the pagan world, who kill James and imprison Peter - there it is; the conflict is on. But the mighty Spirit is with the Church in the conflict. He has linked Himself up with that instrument for the great purpose of God. And, when you consider the incidents, and what seem like the tragedies, and look through them, there is a sense in which it can be said, concerning this union of the Holy Spirit with a vessel here on this earth, that "no man hath been able to stand before it all the days of its life", (Josh. 1:5). There is a sense in which that is true. There has been a withstanding from men and from demons, awful withstanding: but the Church has gone on; the testimony has never ceased in the earth. Even when sometimes it seems to have been driven underground, it comes up and goes on again. Acts, then, sees the Holy Spirit coming, uniting Himself with the instrument, the vessel, and the conflict arising.

When you pass over to the Letter to the Hebrews, you find yourself once more in this battle. For here it is all about the inheritance, spiritually. The Spirit is here, urging the Church, urging the believers to go on, to go on; not to go back, not to stand still, but to go on. The writer points out that Joshua did not bring the people into God's rest (Heb. 4:8). It was type, it was figure, but that final fulness of Christ was never entered into under Joshua. But Jesus, and the Holy Spirit - they are going to bring the Church into the final fulness.

When we come to the book of the Revelation, we find that the whole issue of the inheritance has now resolved itself into a matter of "overcomers". However we interpret the book of the Revelation - whether as applying to the whole dispensation or to the end of the dispensation - the situation that we find is that the Church as a whole has not gone on. A very large proportion of the Church has either declined, fallen back or away, or has stood still in this matter. Perhaps the conflict has been too fierce, the cost too great, the world too attractive, sin too subtle; but there it is. As we find at the end of the book of Joshua, that the enemy was not finally cast out (for we have the tragedy of the book of Judges): so, in the last book of the Bible, in the Revelation, we find that the enemy has not been fully and finally worsted. He still has territory amidst the people of God. And so, there arises the whole question of the "overcomers". The "overcomer" company, or body, is that which will go on and will satisfy the Lord in the whole matter of His full thought.

All this, surely, indicates our own position. For we are in the dispensation of the counterpart of the book of Joshua: in the dispensation of the Holy Spirit whose one inclusive purpose is to bring God's people into fulness - all, that is, who will be led into that fulness; all who will go on. Not a "select", an arbitrarily selected company, but all who will. Paul's great word as to his own praying and striving was: "that we may present every man complete in Christ", (Col. 1:28) - every man. It is God's thought for us all. Do not say: "That applies to some good, large people, who have spiritual capacity and are of a different make-up from what I am." No, "every man complete in Christ" - that is God's purpose. If the Holy Spirit gets His way, if He gets His ground - we have to see perhaps later what that is - He can do it with every man.

"Be Strong"

Now, it is because of such a tremendous withstanding, all round, of any kind of real progress towards God's end, that you have this threefold reiteration to Joshua: "Be strong, and of a good courage... be strong... be strong...", (vv. 6,7,9). That is our side. And it is just in that connection, as he is bringing into view the cosmic forces, "the principalities and powers", that are set against the Church and its inheritance, that Paul uses those words. "Be strong in the Lord" he says (Eph. 6:10); "be strong... be strong!"

There must be no weakening; there must be no letting go. The discouragements will be many; the heartbreaks will be many; perhaps the disappointments will be many. The situation will sometimes seem to be impossible, the prospect a hopeless one. But you and I have got to heed this word, for so much hangs upon it. For ourselves, the inheritance in fulness hangs upon this "Be strong": no weakening, no letting go, no letting down. But it may be that those who will be strong can be a strength to others, and therefore for the sake of others a responsibility is laid upon us to be strong. It is not only for ourselves - it is vocational to be strong.

"I Am With Thee"

And then: "The Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest", (v. 9). Do not take that out of its context. The context is, that the "whithersoever thou goest" must be in relation to God's full purpose. He cannot be "with" you on any other ground - you cannot count on that promise otherwise. It will not prove true, unless you are right on the line of His full purpose. But when it is so, then He commits Himself: He is with us whithersoever we go. "I will be with thee; I am with thee."

(1) In Spiritual Leadership

Do you notice that that is said in this first chapter twice over, in a twofold connection? Firstly, it is in connection with leading this people over the responsibility of spiritual leadership. I emphasize and underline that word "spiritual". Do not think of leadership as official. Leadership is not official: you are not made a leader; you are not appointed a leader; you are not given a uniform, or a dress, or a badge with "Leader" on it! Either you are a leader, or you are not; it is a matter of spiritual quality and strength. And spiritual leadership means that you are exercising an influence on others, to bring them on, to lead them on, into God's full intention for His people. The effect of your life is that others, because of you, are being helped on, drawn on, led on. If you have accepted that responsibility, and are seeking to fulfil it for other lives, then this word: "I am with thee", is yours.

(2) In Obedience to the Word of God

Then, notice the second connection in which this word occurs: "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth", (v. 8). "Give heed unto it - give heed unto it." And then: "I am with thee". Your whole life must be based upon and governed by the Word of God. You must not be above the Word of God, superior to it; you must not be apart from it. You must be able to substantiate you position by the Word of God: "Now, does the Word of God say this or that ?" Dear friend, the whole question of your inheritance, and of your influence, depends upon whether you adhere to that Word. And sometimes it will not be understanding the Word. But the word is there - it is said; it is said. Don't argue; don't be superior in judgment - it is said...

Oh, that there were more, a good deal more, of this government by the Word of God. That is why we have got to read it, to consider it, to give heed to it. "Observe to do according to all that is written therein", is what it says here. "Observe to do it." Are you reading your Bible in order to find out exactly what the Word does say? If the Word of God says: "Children, obey your parents", it says that; don't argue. If the Word of God says: "Husbands, love your wives" - it just says that! Don't say: "Oh, but... oh, but... oh..." It says that. If the Word of God says: "Wives, be in subjection unto your own husbands" - it says that, and no one can take superior ground to that (Eph. 5:22,25; 6:1). You see what I mean; I am taking things out in order to emphasize this point - "observe to do". You will be blessed if you do; if you don't, you will not come into the inheritance, and you will have no sphere of real spiritual ministry. Very big questions are bound up with this.

But the main thing is that, when it is like that, the Lord says: "I am with thee". We cannot take that promise - "I am with thee" - with any assurance, unless we are seeing to it that this Word does not depart from us, that we observe it, to do it. The presence of the Lord, and our entering into our possessions in Christ, are both governed by this thing. Do read your Bible to see what it really does say - not what your interpretation is, but what it says. Of course there is a great deal fuller meaning in all the Scripture than we have seen, and we shall get more and more light upon it. But, first of all - What does it say, what does it say? Am I in line with that? Big things hang upon that.

"As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Be strong and of a good courage... This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth... observe to do..."

This is why the Holy Spirit came. This is the ground upon which the Spirit is with us. And this is the purpose that the Holy Spirit has taken up in His coming. He has taken over; and, in all the conflict, in all the suffering, He is sufficient to see us through.

 2005/8/8 4:40Profile

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 The Holy Spirit, the Church, and the Nations

Chapter 7

Possessing the Inheritance

We have pointed out that the whole of the New Testament is the spiritual and present-time counterpart of the book of Joshua. Beginning with the setting aside of one nation, and its loss of the inheritance through unbelief, we are shown the bringing into being, by resurrection out from that nation, of a new people, a new nation, by way of the Jordan - that is, the Cross - and the absolute government of the Holy Spirit, as represented by the "man with his sword drawn in his hand" - the "Captain of the host of the Lord". The object of it all? The bringing of the people of God into their full inheritance in Christ. The New Testament is concerned with that in a spiritual way. Those are but aspects of this one great truth: that God, from eternity, has had in mind an elect people, to bring into the fulness of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Now we can find this first chapter of the book of Joshua condensed into two or three verses in the New Testament. Those verses are in the letter to the Colossians, chapter 2, verses 1 to 3:

"I would have you know..." Let us give due emphasis to every part of this statement. "I would have you know". It is easy to see that this is a dominant feature in the first chapter of the book of Joshua - the leaving of people in no doubt in no uncertain position. "I would have you know how greatly I strive for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; that their hearts may be comforted, they being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, that they may know the mystery of God, even Christ, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden."

Assurance and Understanding

Those three verses tell us what the beginning of the book of Joshua is all about. The emphasis of the Apostle is upon "standing fully assured" (Col. 4:12): having absolute assurance, certainty, and confidence, as to that to which we are called - both as to that which the Lord really wants, and as to all that the Lord really wants - standing fully assured about that. If, after reading that first chapter of Joshua, you stand back and consider, you have to say: "There is no doubt about what the Lord means there!" You are left entirely without any question. You are fully assured as to the Lord's mind on the matter, from His side.

"Unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding". Understanding is a great factor in assurance. If you have not understanding, you have not got assurance. "Understand what the will of the Lord is", (Eph. 5:17). It is a tremendous thing for assurance and confidence, really to understand what the will of the Lord is. That is the first, the primary thing, that we need to understand.

I trust that you are set wholly and strongly upon that understanding - that it is no mere passive interest with you. For, you see, when you begin this book of Joshua, you find yourself in the atmosphere of a tremendous energy: there is nothing passive in this whole book. And the whole book is represented in this first chapter. Things are positive, definite, strong; there is nothing weak here; it is all emphatic and imperative. That is a necessary state of heart and mind for coming into the full inheritance. Make no mistake about it - we do not drift into all God's will. We come there by a very definite concern to know what the will of the Lord is.

I am not speaking of day-to-day affairs, either privately or in business; I am not speaking about knowing the will of God in this and that in the make-up of life: I am speaking about that whole will of God lying behind our being called by His grace into fellowship with His Son (1 Cor. 1:9). When that is settled, everything else will fall into line, will be given by God its meaning and value, and all things will work together for good when we are in line with His purpose (Rom. 8:28). "I would have you know, understand, what the will of the Lord is."


And then, as we have already seen, in relation to that full and entire will of God, there is a great warfare. The atmosphere becomes charged with conflict, as the book of Joshua shows. It is the book of warfare all along. We therefore need to be fully assured, and have clear understanding, as to why it is that the enemy contests this thing so bitterly. There is no doubt that he does; it is perfectly clear, as we have said, that, immediately you go beyond a certain point in the Christian life, and seek to move on with God in the greater fulnesses of His purpose, then you come into a new realm of spiritual opposition and antagonism, arising from every quarter, and coming along every line and by every means. Why is that so? It is most important that we should be filled with understanding on that matter.

Well, you have only to read that letter to the Colossians throughout, and its twin-letter to the Ephesians, and you will soon discover why the conflict. It is no less a conflict than that into which the Lord Jesus, under the anointing and government of the same Holy Spirit, was immediately launched in the wilderness. It came out full and clear at last. The enemy had been trying to get at Him in different ways, but at last the whole thing is dragged out - "the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them", (Matt. 4:8). Ah, it is out now; now we know what it is all about! That is no small issue. "The god of this age", (2 Cor. 4:4), "the prince of this world", (John 12:31, etc.), "the prince of the power of the air", (Eph. 2:2), the "world ruler of this darkness", (Eph. 6:12) - all these titles of the adversary indicate that he has a mighty kingdom and a mighty range of influence that he must preserve at all costs. But he knows that Christ and His Church are destined to oust him from his kingdom, to take it from him, and to supplant him in it for the ages of the ages.

To have "understanding" on that is to bring some assurance, some confidence, some strength. We need to realise that no less an issue than that lies behind the conflict, which so often focuses down on fragmentary things - what seem to be mere incidents; but their object is the putting of us out, instead of our putting him out. And so we need "full assurance of understanding". There is nothing so weakening and destructive as the lack of understanding. We must ask the Lord to open our understanding.

(1) A Vital Union

Now, this understanding rests upon several things. First of all, it rests upon a vital union with the Lord Himself; Here is this constant reiteration and reemphasis: "I am with you" - "I am with you" - indicating the union between the Lord and His people. That is the simple but fundamental beginning of this whole matter of the will of God. Until a real, a living union is established between you and the Lord Himself, you do not understand what the will of the Lord is for your life and in your calling by His grace. Again, this union and this oneness with the Lord Himself is basic to an understanding of the whole conflict in which we are found. It is only when that union is established that the conflict begins.

Now note this. While Jesus was the Divine Son of God before birth, and at birth, and during the thirty years of His life, there was something of a special character that happened after His baptism at the age of thirty. That something was that God the Holy Ghost came in a particular way and united Himself with the Son of Man. And then the trouble began; then the conflict started; then the enemy came out! It was to get in between those two - the Father and the Son - in some way that the enemy was making his assaults. I cannot stay with the theology and the doctrine of that; but there is no doubt about it that, all along, the enemy's object was to get between Christ and His Father - to drive a wedge in there, to separate them. That would be his great triumph. If he can do that, he has captured all - the whole battle is his. This union was essential to all the purpose of God; this union was essential, as it was basic, to the whole triumph in the conflict.

Do remember this, that what the enemy is after is to get you away from the Lord - to make a breach, create a gap, and then to widen it as fully as he can, until you find that you are here, but the Lord is there: the Lord is not with you here - He is somewhere else. The enemy is always trying to do that, in a thousand ways; because he knows that while you and the Lord are together and continuing together, his hopes fade and vanish. This assurance and understanding rests upon our union with Christ, made and preserved.

(2) Having the Spirit

That, of course, as I have indicated, means our having the Spirit. A Christianity without the Holy Spirit is something which very much gratifies and serves the enemy. An unspiritual Christianity - a Christianity which is not really the Christianity of the Holy Ghost - the enemy loves that, and he will sponsor that; he will seek to build that up. And he has a great deal of success. Many who bear the name of "Christian" might well be challenged, as Paul challenged those at Ephesus at the beginning: "When you believed, did you receive the Holy Spirit?", (Acts 19:2). Having the Holy Spirit is the basis of understanding what the will of God is, of understanding the whole purpose of our salvation, and of understanding all the wiles of the devil and the fury of the oppressor.

(3) Walking in the Spirit

But that is not enough. This "full assurance of understanding", because it is a progressive thing and not attained all at once, can only become ours as we walk in the Spirit. Although the day of the Spirit had not yet come, it is what the Lord Jesus meant when He said so much about "abiding": "Abide in me, and I in you...", "If ye abide in me...", (John 15:1-10). That is explained later, in the epistles, as being the life of "walking in the Spirit" and "by the Spirit", (Rom. 8; Gal. 5:16-25; etc.). Our growing understanding, and therefore our growing assurance, depends upon our abiding in, and walking in and by, the Spirit. This is all implicit in the book of Joshua.

(4) The Power of His Resurrection

And then, one other thing. It rests upon the knowing of "the power of His resurrection ", (Phil. 3:10). What a large place the power of resurrection has in this whole book of Joshua. This people was a "resurrection" people. They stood, in the first place, over against the generation that died in the wilderness. They lived while that died; they, went through Jordan, the figure of death, and came out of death triumphant on the other side. And there is more than that in this book. But they came into the constant experience of the power of His resurrection.

We learn much, you know, along that line; we come to a great deal of understanding and a great deal of assurance in that way. In this battle with death, and in our being allowed, from time to time, to go into, if not in our being taken into, experiences where the circumstances seem more powerful than the life of God in us - where we are really having an experience of death, where the sentence of death seems to have been passed, and we, like Paul, despair even of life (2 Cor. 1:8-10) - it is there that we learn, as Paul did, something about the power of His resurrection. We are thus brought to a greater measure of the full assurance of understanding; and by this understanding we are made strong.

Yes, there is something to learn in those death experiences. We need, when we are in them, to be more "on the spot" (if I may put it like that), and to say: "There is something in this experience of death that I must wring out of it - something that is going to be, as it were, 'stock in trade' or 'ammunition' against the enemy. I am going to learn something. I am coming out of this, by the power of His resurrection, and it is going to count in the matter of the inheritance." The enemy would overwhelm us in those deep hours - carry the whole thing too far, and swamp us. Blessed be God, the Spirit is with us, and He brings us into a thousand resurrections.

This is the fourfold basis of the "full assurance of understanding", and the Apostle calls that the "riches". We are wringing them out of the Land; we are digging them out of these mines, out of these hills, of the Heavenly country. "In whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden". That is a great phrase, is it not? Remember the word to the people: "A land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass", (Deut. 8:9b). There were hidden resources, but they have got to be dug out, and it is real spade-work to get hold of the values of a deep and dark place in spiritual experience.

Taking Stock

Now, that sounds all very good and right and inspiring. But you will notice in Joshua chapter 3, something took place which is very often overlooked.

"And Joshua rose up early in the morning, and they removed front Shittim, and came to Jordan, he and all the children of Israel; and they lodged there before they passed over. And it came to pass after three days, that the officers went through the midst of the camp; and they commanded the people...", (Josh. 3:1-3).

They lodged before the Jordan three days, before going over it. This is not something to be rushed into; this is not something to be done just as the result of impulse. We may feel that it is a great idea - "the fulness of Christ ", "the inheritance", these " treasures of wisdom and knowledge" -wonderful! wonderful! most entrancing! But stay, stay; you are in for a big and a long fight. You are not going to come into this inheritance without real cost and real conflict. Stay! Many a Christian life would have been saved from wreckage if there had been, at the beginning, a little deeper and fuller consideration of what it all meant.

What is it that we are called to? Are we called to a "religious picnic"? a life of "spiritual joviality"? What are we called to? The Lord Jesus left no one in the dark about the cost of discipleship. But - but - how different is the appeal today! You would think that it was all going to be just one unbroken joy-ride - that it was going to conform to the idea of the man who was very fond of skiing, who said: "My idea of Heaven is one eternal swish downward and no walking back!" You would think that that is the Christian life, from a lot of the things that you hear. The result is, many do not go very far; they either stop too soon, or they just lose out altogether.

So here at the Jordan, before taking the plunge (if I may put it that way), before committing themselves, before going into the river, there were three days' pause, while they weighed it up. "Do you mean this?" We must be faithful with one another. While we so strongly emphasize the will of God in all this: while we make the appeal to go on, to go on; while we speak of the riches and the glory of the inheritance, the treasures of wisdom and knowledge - we must be faithful, and so we say: Take time to face the whole thing. Lay a sound foundation, so that you will be able to say, when the difficulties come afterward, and the enemy comes in like a flood: "Yes, but I weighed it up; I weighed it up; I faced what it would involve; I calculated. I am not where I am on a flimsy impulse. Mine is a soundly considered position; I know why I am where I am." It is very important, for the whole campaign, to pause for 'three days' before you make your advance. Now, of course, that need not be taken literally; but it does represent a state of the heart, a facing of things with God, a reckoning up in His presence.

Spiritual Resources

There was another aspect of this, as you notice. During the three days they "prepared the victuals": "Prepare ye victuals", said the officers of Joshua to the people (1:10,11). It is only another aspect of the same thing. You have got to have something to move on; you have got to have some support for this. You really need to have resources for this movement. Presently, when the manna ceases, and the old corn of the Land is fed upon, the situation may change. But here is a crisis; here is a turning point. And, to carry you through this crisis, you must have some real spiritual foundation, some substance.

Here, of course, we meet with the whole necessity of soundly instructing young converts, or young Christians, or those who want to go on further with the Lord. They need to be instructed, provided with the Word of the Lord in this matter. What a sorry and sad situation may exist, of spiritual immaturity, weakness and defeat because just there, at the crisis, there was not an adequate basis of the Word. Let us, then, lay a foundation, truly and surely, and see that we have victuals, we have substance, we have resource, something for our strengthening, to go upon.

Possessing the Inheritance

"Now Joshua was old and well stricken in years; and the Lord said unto him, Thou art old and well stricken in years, and there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed.", (Josh. 13:1).

"And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, How long are ye slack to go in to possess the land, which the Lord, the God of your fathers, hath given you ?", (18:3).

Perhaps you are thinking that the first of these quotations looks like a contradiction of what I was saying previously about the "young man" Joshua. If you think like that, you must think a second time! There is a good deal of encouragement for the old men here, not discouragement! The main part of Joshua's work began at that point. Up to that point, it is true he had led them in battle; he had led them against the many enemies, and he had subdued the country, but he had not yet brought them into their full inheritance. From this point, you will notice, it is all settling in the inheritance. Joshua does a very great deal, after this, of consolidating everything. That is the point. We must not stop until all that God intended has been entered into. The tragedy, of course, of these people was that they stopped too soon. For that very reason we have the story related in the book of Judges - the most tragic book of the Bible.

The Letter to the Hebrews is one strong argument against stopping too soon. "Having laid the foundation, let us not go over it again, but let us go on - let us go on", (Heb. 6:1,2). " Let us fear lest, a promise being left to us of entering into His rest, any one of us should be deemed to have come short", (4:1). That is the great burden and object of that letter, is it not? - to go right on! There are two sides to that.

There is, of course, the imperative. In Joshua 1 you have the imperatives: "Arise, go over..." We must, because the Lord wills it and calls us to it. Then there is the perfect: "To you have I given it" - "I have... it is yours." And there is the expressed purpose: "Ye are to... go in to possess". It must be. But if that "must" should sound hard, should seem to put an onus and a burden and a strain upon the Christian life, remember - when God says it must be, He means it can be. God's commandments are God's enablings. If He says: "Thou shalt", He means: "Thou canst". And because it must be, and it can be, then it should be. Those are the two sides - the imperative, and God's provision for all that He wills. What He requires, He makes possible, He provides for, indeed He commits Himself to it.

God's Commands Are His Enablings

It is a wonderful thing how - difficult, hard, painful and costly as may be this way of the fullest purpose of God, and all the conflict which is bound up and associated with it - it is just marvellous how we do survive, and more than survive. If there is any realm in which the miracle of His sovereign grace and His sovereign power is manifested, it is in this realm of the fuller purposes of God. A life in such a realm is a life of the "wonderful works of God". Perhaps that is why He allows it to be such a contested and difficult way, that He might show His wonderful works. That is how we must read the Word of God, that is how we must read Abraham and Paul and others: as men whose lives throughout were subjected to the most terrible testings and tryings, sufferings and adversities, sorrows and disappointments, in one realm, and yet who, at last, triumphed so wonderfully; and we have the record of their marvellous triumph.

You cannot read that eleventh chapter of the letter to the Hebrews without marvelling every time. I say to myself: "I could not do it" - and we all know that we could not do it. Listen! "These all died in faith, not having received the promises.", (v. 13). What are you going to do about that? They died without receiving the promises! One after another died without receiving the promises. And yet it says: "They died in faith". They did not die saying: "God promised and He has not fulfilled; God is not faithful to His promise. I give it all up; I cannot believe God any longer." "These all died in faith, not having received..." - "in faith, not having received..." I say, I could not do that. But God can - the grace of God can. And it is a long list that we have here.

And so, what God calls to, He enables for. It can be, because, from God's standpoint, it must be. I trust that you have seen something of the clearly defined lines of God's will and God's purpose for us, in having called us into fellowship with His Son. You can see what it involves us in, but you can see that God has committed Himself to that. When we are on this line, He will say: "I am with thee whithersoever thou goest."

 2005/8/9 16:01Profile

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