Reading: Isaiah 61:1-62:1a.
We come now to yet a further
aspect of this so many-sided fruit of the Cross of the Lord Jesus.
We remember that the first three verses of this sixty-first
chapter of Isaiah, so full, were taken up by our Lord Jesus
Himself. After His baptism the heavens were opened, and the
Spirit descended and came upon Him: it was the great moment of
His anointing as the Servant, who had just passed, symbolically,
by the way of the Cross, as represented by His baptism. Now,
anointed, He meets the enemy in the wilderness, and worsts him
completely on all points; then, returning from the wilderness in
the power of the Spirit, He comes to Nazareth, where He has been
On the Sabbath day, He enters
into the synagogue, and the Scriptures are handed to Him. He
opens them at this point in Isaiah's prophecies, and reads these
verses; and, when He has read them, He hands the roll back to the
Ruler of the synagogue and sits down. (This, contrary to our
custom, was a sign that He had something to say. If we have
something to say, we usually stand up; but in the synagogues, if
they had something to say, they sat down.) And it says that 'the
eyes of all' that were assembled 'were fastened upon Him' -
because He had sat down; they saw He had something to say. "And
he began to say unto them, Today hath this scripture been
fulfilled in your ears" (Luke 4:14-21).
We thus see that the Lord Jesus
was appropriating this part of Isaiah to Himself. All along we
have recognised that there is a relationship of these prophecies
to the Lord Jesus and to this dispensation, as well as a
connection with the history of Israel. And this is what we now
Anointing of the Head Flows Down to the Members
But notice as we begin, that
this anointing, resting first of all upon 'the Lord's Servant' -
for that is the title of Christ in Isaiah: "Behold my
servant" (Isa. 42:1) - while this anointing of course rests
upon Him and relates, fully and supremely, to Him, as the
Head, the language of the prophetic narrative immediately
afterwards makes an abrupt transition to 'they', 'them'; 'ye',
'you', 'your'. After this declaration concerning the anointing of
the Servant, it goes on "And they shall build the old
wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they
shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many
generations" (61:4). The people of God derive the values,
come into the good, of this anointing. It is as though the
anointing upon Him, as Head, just flowed down and embraced the
whole of His membership - the members of Christ.
That is why we read the first
fragment of the next chapter: "For Zion's sake will I not
hold my peace..." As I said in the previous chapter, there
is so much, in these later prophecies of Isaiah, about Zion -
about the good of the anointing being found in Zion, Zion
inheriting all these values. And Zion, as we know, is the Old
Testament figure of the Church. We were speaking, in that
chapter, about Zion's light: "Arise, shine, for thy light is
come" (60:1) - this is the testimony recovered. Here, in
chapter 61, we move into Zion's life and Zion's liberty.
Proclaim Liberty to the Captives"
You notice, first of all, that
this is a message to Zion, to the Church. All
this has to have its fulfilment, its realisation, in the Lord's
people. Israel, at this time, were in exile in Babylon, in a
state of bondage and spiritual death, and the prophecies have to
do with their deliverance, their liberation from that bondage,
from that death, the bringing of this people out into life and
into liberty. Now I have said that Jesus took to Himself this
Scripture about the anointing of the Lord being upon Him,
"to proclaim liberty to the captives", and so on. But
you remember that the earthly Zion, the earthly Jerusalem - in
other words, the Jewish people - never did come into the reality
of this liberation. They missed all these values. That Zion
did not inherit the values of His anointing. But the Church has
inherited it all. This has become the inheritance of the spiritual
Israel, the spiritual people of God. Judaism - 'Israel
after the flesh' - was the supreme antagonist of the anointing.
By their weapon of legalism, they slew Him. It must be a people
who answer to all this that is said about the anointing, who come
into these further values of the second part of this chapter.
That is, it must be a people
who can appreciate the Good Tidings, because they are meek: that
was not true of Israel after the flesh. It must be a people of a
broken heart, and that was not true of Israel after the flesh. It
must be a people conscious that they really are captives, and
that was not true of the Jews in our Lord's day. They thought,
they believed, that of all people on the earth they were the
freest, the ones who knew least about bondage: that was one of
the points of controversy with them and the Lord Jesus (John
8:33). It must be a people who feel that their state is one of
imprisonment, if they are to enjoy the "opening of the
prison to them that are bound"; and so on. The values of the
anointing can only come to people who realise, in all these
ways, spiritually, their need of this Servant of the Lord,
working, under the anointing, for their good, for their
We now follow the same course
as we have followed in every connection. This part of Isaiah's
prophecies, and this chapter in particular, carries us to the New
Testament counterpart. We have seen that there are parts of the
New Testament which answer distinctly and clearly to the
different phases and movements in these prophecies of Isaiah. And
the New Testament counterpart of this sixty-first chapter is
undoubtedly Paul's Letter to the Galatians. Let us look at a few
fragments from that letter. You will see how they bring in Isaiah
61, the anointing of the Spirit.
Letter to the Galatians
"This only would I
learn from you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law,
or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in
the Spirit, are ye now perfected in the flesh? ...He therefore
that supplieth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you,
doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
...Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law... that upon the
Gentiles might come the blessing of Abraham in Christ Jesus; that
we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith"
"And because ye are
sons, God sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,
crying, Abba, Father" (4:6).
"For we through the
Spirit by faith wait for the hope of righteousness" (5:5).
"But I say, Walk by
the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For
the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the
flesh; for these are contrary the one to the other; that ye may
not do the things that ye would. But if ye are led by the Spirit,
ye are not under the law... If we live by the Spirit, by the
Spirit let us also walk" (5:16-18,25).
"For he that soweth
unto his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that
soweth unto the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap eternal
All that, as you notice, has to
do with the Spirit - which is, of course, another way of speaking
of the anointing. We will now take another brief series, which
follows the line of the Cross.
"I have been crucified
with Christ; yet I live; and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth
in me" (2:20).
"O foolish Galatians,
who did bewitch you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was openly
set forth crucified?" (3:1).
"And they that are of
Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the
lusts thereof" (5:24).
"But far be it from me
to glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through
which the world hath been crucified unto me, and I unto the
These two series of extracts
from this brief letter "to the churches in Galatia" (1:2)
make it clear that two of its major themes are the Cross and the
Holy Spirit. It is the bridge that is passed over between Isaiah
53 and Isaiah 61.
Essentially Spiritual Nature of Christianity
Now we all know that this
Letter to the Galatians contains Paul's tremendous battle. Yes,
Paul was out for a fight when he set himself to write this
document. There is no more vehement product of the pen of Paul
than that which we have in this letter. But what is the battle
over? what is it all about? Of course there are theological and
doctrinal answers to that question; but it may be said, with a
good deal of support both from the letter itself and from other
parts of the New Testament, that this battle of Paul's all
related to the essentially spiritual character of
Christianity. The Christianity which is the true Christianity is
an essentially spiritual thing. That is what the battle is about.
It shows so clearly, in every connection, that the Cross leads to
a spiritual position, to a spiritual condition.
The great enemy, who had very
useful instruments in the Judaizers, was fighting to make of
Christianity something other than a spiritual thing; to bring it
on to an other than spiritual basis. Both then, and ever since,
he has sought, either to resolve Christianity into a matter of
rites and ceremonies - ritual, formalism, earthly and temporal
symbols, representations, figures, and so forth; or, failing
that, to substitute for it the false spirituality sometimes
dignified by the name of 'mysticism'. That was Satan's object,
and Paul saw that the issue was nothing less than the real meaning,
the essential nature, of Christianity - what it is.
And Paul was not giving it away, because he had had a tremendous
experience on this very matter. He therefore set himself to fight
this thing with all the strength at his command, to make it
perfectly clear that Christianity is not in any respect an
earthly system - it is a heavenly life. Christianity is
essentially a life in the Spirit, and the Cross is intended to
produce that. If it does not produce it, there is some reason for
it in those concerned. It means that the whole nature of
Christianity has been changed, and the meaning of the Cross
So Paul lunges at this subtle
move of the enemy with all the force of the Cross, and brings in
every weapon to which he can lay his hand. What are some of those
Weapons Against the Debasing of Christianity
His Personal History
Well, first of all - and this
is a very powerful weapon, as you will notice from this letter -
he brings in the weapon of his own history and his own
experience. There are few places in all his writings - perhaps
only Second Corinthians - where he refers to himself more than he
does in this letter. He brings his own history and his own
experience right forward; it is one of his masterstrokes. And he
was the man to do it! Just look at Saul of Tarsus: look at his
history - what he tells us about himself. Was there ever a man
who had put this whole Jewish system more thoroughly to the test
than he had? He had committed himself to the observances, to the
performance of every part of the Jewish ritual, right up to the
hilt; indeed, he tells us that he was far more zealous in this
matter than many of his own age. "I advanced in the Jews'
religion beyond many of mine own age... being more exceedingly
zealous for the traditions of my fathers" (Gal. 1:14). This
man had gone all the way with this system, with its ceremonies
and rites, its types and figures, its symbols and forms; he had
gone the whole way.
What did it do for him? Where
did it land him? He had exhausted it most thoroughly, most
conscientiously, most sincerely: because one thing that we have
to say about Saul of Tarsus is that he was a man who did not
believe in half measures - he was a man who meant business, and
he was a man who was sincere in what he did. He tells us: "I
verily thought... that I ought to do" - 'I thought that I ought
to do' - "many things contrary to the name of Jesus of
Nazareth" (Acts 26:9). It was a matter of conscience with
this brilliant young Pharisee, who had climbed so high on the
ladder of Judaism. But, where did it land him? We have his own
exclamation; he says: 'This is where it landed me!' - "O
wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me out of the body of
this death?" (Rom. 7:24). You could not get very much lower
than that, could you? That is the last word in anything. In his
own experience, in his own history, the whole thing had failed.
In effect, he says: 'That is where it landed me; that is all it
did for me. And it is not going to do anything better for anybody
else, however devoted they may be to it.'
The Meaning of the Cross
But then, having come to that
end, to that ignominious end, crying for deliverance - 'O
wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me? Nothing and nobody,
over all this long history, has proved a deliverer for me!' -
then he found the Lord Jesus; and the Lord Jesus did for him all
that this tremendous sum of things had entirely failed to do. He
found the Cross, and he said: "I have been crucified with
Christ; yet I live; and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me"
(Gal. 2:20). You notice the change from the thought of 'death' to
the thought of 'life'. He is a dead man made alive, come to life.
He is a man who has known an altogether new beginning, a new
history, a new experience, which has sprung out of the Cross of
the Lord Jesus.
Moreover, he found the Holy
Spirit, and the Holy Spirit did for him what this vast system of
Judaism, to which he had given himself so utterly, could never
do. That is why he gives such a large place to the Holy Spirit in
this letter. That is why the Cross and the Holy Spirit are here
brought together as the ruling lines of this whole testimony. The
Holy Spirit, on the ground of the Cross, has reversed the whole
experience, changed the whole situation.
The Meaning of Christ
And then - here we could go
through the letter with another ruling line - he discovered the
real meaning of Christ. The name of Christ occurs forty-three
times in this little letter, which can be read in ten minutes or
a quarter of an hour. That itself is significant; indeed, it just
shouts at us as to what it is all about. Paul is really seeking
to show here what is the true meaning of Christ. What is the true
meaning of Christ? Just this: that all that system has been - in
Himself - completely fulfilled. The vast system of the law and
all its ordinances has been fulfilled in and by Christ, in the
Cross; all righteousness has been fulfilled. As He came to His
baptism in the Jordan, typifying His death on the Cross, Jesus
had said: "Suffer it now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil
all righteousness" (Matt. 3:15). That was the question at
issue, and it was all fulfilled in the Cross of the Lord Jesus;
Christ crucified has fulfilled it all. The Old Testament is
fulfilled in Christ. That is what we have been saying about
Isaiah; and what is true of Isaiah is true of all the Old
Testament. We cannot attempt to show here how the Old Testament
is fulfilled in Christ, but that is what Paul is saying. 'I have
been crucified with Christ: and so I am united with Him in that
writing off, that fulfilment, of all the requirements of God;
and, by the Spirit, I come into the good of all that Jesus is.'
The Meaning of Grace
There is yet
another theme in this letter which would repay our study: it is
the meaning of grace. That is a great thing in the Letter to the
Galatians. Grace puts us on to an entirely new basis. All the
ritual, all the forms, all the demands of the law, only served to
accentuate the evil conscience. Paul makes that so clear. As we
know, this Letter to the Galatians was written before the Letter
to the Romans: probably Paul, when he had written to the
Galatians, said to himself, 'I must write something more about
this', and so took the opportunity of enlarging upon it when
writing to the Romans. But the point is that the whole thing
related to this matter of conscience. "I had not
known sin... except the law had said, Thou shalt not..."
(Rom. 7:7). 'The very saying of that thing only gave me a bad
conscience: this whole system was only keeping my conscience
alive - it was not saving me from an evil conscience. But grace
has done that; grace has put me on to an altogether new and
different basis, where the evil conscience is dealt with.' Yes,
grace deals with the conscience. It is a wonderful word over
against a bad conscience: 'The Grace of God'.
The Meaning of the Holy Spirit
discovered the meaning of the Holy Spirit. What does Paul say
preeminently about the Holy Spirit here? "Because ye are
sons, God sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,
crying, Abba, Father" (Gal. 4:6). "Ye received the
Spirit of sonship, whereby we cry, Abba, Father" (Rom. 8:15).
Paul sets that over against servanthood. And there he gets right
to the heart of the matter. For if we recognise, as it is easy to
do, the difference between a servant and a son, we have the
secret of everything.
A servant is one
who simply has to do what he is told: he is told that he must or
he must not, and, whether he likes it or not, whether he agrees
with it or not, it is for him to obey, that is all. Whatever may
be his own reactions, he cannot help himself: he is merely a
servant. Inwardly he may be in positive revolt against the whole
thing, but he can do nothing about it. I am speaking, of course,
about a servant of those days. A servant of the present day would
just give up his job and go - that is how it is in our time. But
you could not do it there in the Roman Empire in Paul's day. A
bondslave had no power of choice whatever; he could not say: 'I
am resigning. I am going to find another master' - he just could
not do it. He was bought, body, soul and spirit; and, though he
might be in revolt with every fibre of his being, there was
nothing he could do about it. He just was the bondslave of this
Spirit of Sonship
That is a servant,
a slave. What is a son? Well if he is a son in the true meaning
of Christian sonship, his service is a delight to him. There is
in him the dynamic of love: he delights to do those things that
please his Father, and that love gives him the incentive and the
power to do them. He has another spirit, the Spirit of Sonship,
working in him, making it possible for him to respond to every
requirement: for that is the meaning of the Holy Spirit - an
inward power, and that of love, which makes everything possible.
As we all know, if we have a mighty love for something, nothing
is impossible! Would that we had more of this love - the love
that does not irk, that does not wait to have things pointed out,
to have its attention drawn to them, but is all the time on the
alert, anxious and keen, watching to see what needs to be done.
We need that spirit, do we not?
That is something
that is so impressive in certain companies known to us in the Far
East. It is referred to here by way of illustration and example,
not by way of condemnation or criticism of others. One great
meeting hall, for instance, with its internal capacity of 1,600,
and provision all the way round for up to 3,000 more, and with
its 1,000 panes of glass, needs, as you can guess, a lot of
looking after - what with the cleaning, the care of all the
electrical installations, the amplifiers, and so on. There is so
much connected with even one centre like that. After every
meeting you see an army of men and women, prepared, and getting
down to it, sweeping and cleaning and mopping up, adjusting and
seeing to things, so that everything is clean and wholesome and
in its place, for the next meeting. As you look at these people
doing these jobs, perhaps you ask about someone, busily working
away in his old clothes: 'Who is that brother?' 'Oh. that is
Major-General So-and-So!' You see another younger man getting
down to it, really getting down to a dirty job: 'Who is that
young brother?' ' He is the Managing Director of the biggest
textile factory on this island!' And so you go on - General,
Colonel, Director - but they are all 'going to it'. One of these
high officers has made it his business to clean those
one-thousand panes of glass once every week!
How do they go
about it? Well, before they start on their work, they all meet
together and pray and sing. They pray all together, this great
army of workers, then they have a good sing; and then they get
down to the work. It is all done in a spirit of joy like that.
That is the spirit of sonship! That is not bondslavery; it is the
true spirit of sonship. We need far more of that. That is the
meaning of the Holy Spirit. You are not surprised that these
people are radiant, and you are not surprised that the question
is answered in their case: "To whom is the arm of the Lord
revealed?" It is indeed revealed there. Suffer the
illustration; it is very wholesome to have seen these things
really working. They can work; they really can work.
This, then, is the
meaning of the Spirit, the meaning of Christ: the real spirit of
sonship. That is what Paul is saying here. Satan is against that
- Satan just hates that. He will try to break it up, he will try
to spoil it, at all costs. That was the battle that Paul was in.
He was not just contending with the Judaizers, but with the
direct antagonism of the great enemy against a testimony of that
kind - against the real fruit of the Cross.
from Law Means Government by the Spirit
Now, if Satan is
thwarted along one line, he does not give up - he tries another.
Satan is a great master of strategy, and one of his favourite
lines is that of pushing things to extremes. Among the Galatian
believers, he had sought to push legalism to an extreme. But now
he is thwarted along that line; Paul wins the battle - there is
no doubt about it. What is the enemy's next line of attack? 'Very
well then', he says, 'if you won't have the law, then don't have
any law; discard all law.' "You are no longer under law, you
are under grace" - you can do as you like! Just behave as
you like; just carry on as you like; you must know no
limitations, no restrictions. Any kind of restriction is law -
repudiate it! Go to the other extreme - licence instead of law!'
I believe that, if Paul were alive today, he would be just as
vehement against this as he was against the other: for here is a
work of Satan indeed. If Satan cannot bind by the law, and change
the whole nature of things in that way, he will seek to dismiss
all law and make us wholly lawless.
But remember, if
this Letter to the Galatians is the letter of the liberty of the
Spirit, it is also the letter of the government of the Spirit. We
are only free when we are governed. In George Matheson's
well-known words, that we sometimes sing:
'Make me a
And then I shall be free'
A paradox - but
how true. We are not free when we are giving way to licence, when
we take liberty that far. No: this Letter, and the Letters to the
Romans and to the Hebrews, are not documents of lawlessness. Even
if they do set aside the whole of the Jewish system, they do not
introduce a regime of lawlessness. But they do most clearly bring
in the life and government of the Holy Spirit. Remember - no
child of God who is governed by the Holy Spirit, who is really
living a life in the Spirit, will infringe any Divine principle.
Indeed, a life governed by the Holy Spirit will be the more
meticulously careful about spiritual principles.
Change in Divine Principles
You see, the
change is not in the law; that is where a great mistake has been
made. Christ crucified does not alter the law; Christ Himself
does not alter the law; the Holy Spirit does not alter the law.
The change is not in the law - the change is in the man. Grace
does not say that, because you are not under the law, you may now
murder, and get away with it; that you can steal now, you are not
under law; you can commit adultery now, you are not under law;
you can be covetous now, you are not under law. Grace does not
say that; you are horrified at the suggestion.
But carry that
right through to anything and everything of Divine principle -
and remember that the Law of Moses is only the embodiment of
Divine principles. Now the Lord Jesus took up that and said:
'Moses said, Thou shalt not kill; I say to you that if you are
angry with your brother, you are not less in danger of judgment'
(Matt. 5:21,22). The Apostle John goes further, and says that if
you hate your brother you are a murderer: if you hate him,
without taking any step to kill him, you are already a murderer
in your heart (1 John 3:15). Take the words of the Lord Jesus
again: 'Moses said, Thou shalt not commit adultery; I say to you,
you have only so much as to look with evil intent and you have
broken the commandment' (Matt. 5:27,28). It is the principle of
the thing, you see. This is terribly searching.
No, neither Christ, nor the
Holy Spirit, nor the Cross, changes the nature of the law, the
principle of the law - it is the man who is changed. That is how
the law becomes lifted from us, because we become changed people.
The Spirit, who keeps the law, has now entered into us, and if we
walk by the Spirit, in the Spirit, we do not fulfil the lusts of
the flesh (Gal. 5:16,25). It is a question of the changed person.
by the Spirit is to Keep the Law
So grace does not say: 'You are
not under the law, therefore you need not observe the Sabbath.'
We have to recognise that the Sabbath is the embodiment of a
principle: it is not a day - it is a principle. It is a principle
upon which God has constituted the creation, in every realm, that
there must be a period of rest for something new. In all nature
there has to be a period of rest, in order to prepare for
something new. In our bodies there has to be a period of rest in
order that there may be something new. In spiritual matters, in
spiritual service, there have to be periods of rest, during which
the Lord can speak and give us something new - that is the
principle of the Sabbath. But even there, the Lord has very
graciously made it possible for many to have a day a week still,
in which to let other things go, to keep it sacred for the Lord,
for spiritual renewal.
So, you see, it is the
principle that matters, not the outward form. Nothing changes the
principle. The principles of all Divine laws are abiding: they
are never abrogated, never set aside, never nullified - they
still hold good. Jesus went behind the code, and put His finger
on the principle of every part of it; and He said: You may not
now be governed and ruled by an outward system of 'Thou shalt'
and 'Thou shalt not'; you are to be ruled by the Holy Spirit who
observes those things. The Spirit is the Spirit of holiness: no
one who lives in the Spirit, therefore, will persistently,
habitually, do unholy things, be unholy. The Holy Spirit is the
Spirit of love: no one who lives in the Spirit will have
any other than the Spirit of love, will fail to observe the laws
of love, will violate love. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth:
no one who lives in and by the Spirit will be untruthful, in
any sense - and untruthfulness covers not only the saying of
things that are not true, but everything in the life that is not
absolutely true and real and genuine and honest and transparent.
The man or the woman who lives in the Spirit will be a man or a
woman of truth, one who is real. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of
wisdom, and those who live in the Spirit will have a Divine
wisdom governing their lives.
It is life in the Spirit,
through the Cross, that is here in view, and it is the crucified
man, the crucified woman - or the assembly or the church - who
walk and live in the Spirit to whom the Arm of the Lord is
revealed. Do we want to know the power of God - God with us, God
for us? Then it must be like this - the Cross our ground, the
Spirit our life, walking and living as sons of God.