From the latter days of
the Apostles till now, the history of Christianity is a
history of prisons. This history is not of literal or
material prisons, though there have been not a few of
these. It is a history of prisons, which are the result
of man's long established habit of bringing the Spirit
How many times has the Spirit broken loose and moved in a
new and free way only to have that way brought under
man's control and crystallized into another form, creed,
organization, denomination, sect, order, community, or
the like! The invariable result has been that the
Spirit's free movement and life has been cramped or even
killed by the prison of the framework into which He has
been drawn or forced.
Fettered the Spirit's Fire with Religious Tradition?
we seek to express something divine in word or form, we
at once limit it. When that expression or form becomes
the established and recognized formula, we have, in
effect, put fetters on the Spirit. God gives a vision,
and every God-given vision has unlimited potential and
possibilities. But all too soon the vision is laid hold
of by men who never received it by the Spirit. Then the
grapes of Eschol turn to raisins in their hands. So very
many of the living fruits of the heavenly country have
suffered in this way and become dried, shrunken, and
unctionless shadows of their early glory.
Successors, sponsors, or
adherents build an earthly organization on a living
movement of the Spirit, born with fire in the heart of
some prophet. They imprison the vision in a tradition. A
message becomes a creed; a heavenly vision becomes an
earthly institution; a movement of the Spirit becomes a
work, which must be kept going by the steam of human
energy and maintained by man's resourcefulness.
Any real (or seeming)
departure or diversion from the recognized and
traditional order of creed or practice will sooner or
later become heresy, to be violently suspected,
repressed, and cast out. What was, at its beginning, a
spiritual energy-producing living organism, expressing
something that God really wanted and to which He gave
birth has too often become something which the next
generation has to sustain and struggle hard at to keep
going. The thing has developed a self-interest, and it
will go hard with anyone or anything interfering or
seeming to interfere with it. The Spirit has become the
prisoner of the institution or system, and as a result
the people become limited spiritually.
Did I Get Where I Am?
Why is all this so true,
resulting in strain, divisions, jealousies, rivalries,
and often deception? If there is any remedy, what is it?
The answer is to be found in an honest and fundamental
question: Why am I where I am? Did I enter into something
objectively? Was it something already formed, presented
to me with an appeal, an argument, a need? Was it real at
all? Or did the Spirit open the eyes of my heart and give
me a heavenly vision, which on one side made me cry,
"Woe is me," and on the other, "Here am
I"? Was it a life-crisis? Did I take up a teaching,
a complexion of truth, a work, an enterprise? Was I at
the very source of life? Was it a definite and
overpowering apprehending from heaven? Is my position
that of a relationship to something from which I can
resign? In a word, is my imprisonment that of a system or
order of an outward kind? Or am I the bond-slave of the
The Apostle Paul, in
particular, shows that the former bondage or imprisonment
can even be what he calls "the letter". In this
sense, the Bible can be death ("the letter
killeth" 2 Cor. 3:6). Not
that we can have the
Spirit and the life without the Word, but it can most
certainly be the other way around. For we can definitely
have the Word without the Spirit and the life.
Will it Cost Me to Move Forward?
It is seriously
important that everything, including us, be kept
continuously in touch with the original source of life.
Succession and continuation is not ecclesiastical,
traditional, or of human choice and decision.
Continuation is certainly not policy, nor expediency, nor
fear. Continuation is anointing - the anointed eye, ear,
hand, and foot. It is a fire in the bones, not the
obligations of a profession, association, or idea.
The Spirit must have
initiated our course and position. All along the way the
Spirit must be referred to and deferred to. In anything
in which the Spirit may have His liberties limited, the
Spirit will be a rebel. And if He is in us, He will make
us to rebel against unspiritual restrictions. This does
not for a moment mean that all rebellion and the bid for
what is called liberty is of the Spirit. It just means
that in the realm of nature we are broken people, robbed
of a power to fight for our own conceptions.
So it becomes simply an
issue of imprisonment either to the Spirit or to
something else. It must be at the greatest cost, and
because the Spirit has done a deep and drastic thing in
us, "Here am I; I can do no other. So help me