I just want to lay a foundation and read from the first
chapter of the gospel by John, “In the beginning was the
Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”
Verse 14: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among
Then over to the letter to the Hebrews, chapter 1, “God,
having of old time spoken unto the fathers in the prophets by
divers portions and in divers manners, hath at the end of these
days spoken unto us in his Son, whom he appointed heir of all
things, through whom also he made the worlds.”
Now I feel that in these times of being together the Lord
wants me to speak to you about what has come in with Jesus Christ
and what we have come into by the coming of Jesus Christ. My own
strong conviction is the greatest need of the Lord’s people
in this time is to know Him in a fuller way. The Lord
Jesus is so much greater than ever we have thought. And probably
you know that there is a law in the Word of God and that law is
that we shall only grow spiritually according to the measure of
our knowledge of Christ.
The Holy Spirit, if He has His way in our lives, will take
very great pains to bring us into the full knowledge of
Christ. It is the business of the Holy Spirit to do that. All our
experiences under the hand of the Holy Spirit are intended to
bring us into some fuller knowledge of the Lord Jesus.
Now, perhaps I am going to disappoint some of you when I say
that it is not going to get easier as we go on. When we first go
to school we learn a, b, c; that’s quite simple. One, two,
three... that’s not difficult. But when we come near to the
time of graduating, our lessons are made much harder. It is much
more difficult to know, it calls for all our strength and
endurance to learn. In the spiritual life it’s like that.
The farther we go with the Lord the deeper the lessons become so
that as we go on with the Lord, we find that He makes things more
difficult for us.
You perhaps think that if only you were grown up in the Lord,
it would be much easier; the Christian life would be much more
simple. Let me tell you that it is just the other way: Christian
life becomes more and more difficult the further we go. The
oldest saints often have the darkest times.
You must remember that after thirty three years the Lord Jesus
came to the place where in His last words, He said “Why,
Father? Why hast Thou forsaken Me?” His darkest hour was at
the end. He was just coming through to the glory then. And, as we
say, the darkest hour is before the dawn. Now perhaps you think I’m
not much of a comforter! But the knowledge of the Lord is a
wonderful thing, to know the Lord is a great compensation for all
suffering. If you are having a dark time, just say to yourself
“I am going to learn something more of the Lord through this”
and that will be a great compensation for the suffering.
Well, that is the comforting beginning, now we’ll come
back to our subject for this time: it is the knowledge of what
has come in with Jesus Christ and what we have come into in
You know we have come into two contradictory things. I wonder
if you have noticed this? Right through the New Testament there
are two words constantly recurring. Those two words are: ‘not’
the other is, ‘but’.
And those two words stand over two great systems. A whole
world of things is gathered into each of those words. And that is
what came in with Jesus Christ when He came into this world. On
the one side He said, “Not”. On the other side He said,
“But”. That will make a very helpful study for you if
you want to trace those two words. We shall only be able to touch
it very simply but you will understand what I mean as we go on.
The first “not... but”, relates to the Person of the
Lord Jesus. You notice the first name by which He is called, the
name which He had before this world was, in that dateless time
called the Beginning... who knows when that was? The worlds were
made by Him who was the Word. So He existed before the world. And
away back there His name was “The Word”. “In the
beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, the Word was God.”
What is a word? According to the Bible this word means four
things. Of course outside of the Bible some of these things are
true, two of them are true outside of the Bible and two of them
are not true outside of the Bible.
First of all, a word comes from a thought. That is, if you are
mentally sound, you think before you speak and when you utter
words you have already thought something. I say mentally sound
people do that, but a lot of people speak before they think! They
never thought what they were going to say; a lot of words come
out and there’s no thought behind them! But if you are sound
in mind, you think before you speak so that a word first of all
is a thought.
And secondly, a word is a thought expressed. When you speak
you express your thought. Those are two things which are
universally true but three and four are not universally true but
they are true when it is God speaking so that with God in the
third place, a word is an act. With God, His Word is a fiat. He
spake and it was done. He commanded and it stood fast. With God
His Word is an act. By His Word the world was created. Well, you
know the Bible has a lot to say about that, when God spoke
something happened. It was not just a word that went out into the
air. It was a word that had an effect. That is how it is when God
speaks, “My word shall not return to me void, it shall
accomplish the thing whereto I sent it.” You’ve got the
three things? The Word is a thought. The Word is a thought
expressed. The Word of God is an act of God.
What is number four? The Word becomes a Person. “The Word
became flesh and dwelt among us”. This is the name of Jesus
Christ, the Word of God. He is God’s Thought, He is God’s
Thought expressed. He is God’s Thought as an act. He is a
work of God. He is God’s Thought in personal form. He has
come into this world in all those four meanings.
Forgive me repeating this, I do want you to get it clearly.
The presence of Jesus Christ in this world was first of all God’s
eternal thought and then He was God’s thought expressed, and
then He was the act of God. I ought, of course, to stay a long
time with that.
Do you not see that when Jesus was here, without speaking
sometimes, something happened. He came into a place and demons
cried out. He hadn’t said anything but they cried out,
“I know Thee Who Thou art, the holy One of God, art Thou
come to torment us before our time?” His presence was an act
of conviction. You have many other illustrations of that.
There is an effect about the presence of Jesus Christ
and then this fourth expressed in power is in a living Person. It
is not just an abstract thing it’s a living Person. That is
what has come in with Jesus Christ. But to what does that Word
relate? To what does God’s Thought relate? To what does God’s
Thought in expression relate? To what does God’s Thought in
expression as an act relate? And, what does God’s Thought in
expression as an act result in personally? Does this sound very
technical? Well we haven’t got there yet, God’s Thought
in that Person relates to the kind of man that God intended all
men to be.
That is why the Thought ends in a Person. After that you have
all the New Testament about our being conformed to the
image of His Son. The Word says we are being transformed into the
same image. John cries, “When we see Him we shall be like
Him”! The end of God’s Thought is a kind of man.
Now we come back to our two words, “not... but”. You
go on in that first chapter of John, it says He came unto His own
things and His own people received Him not, BUT, “not... but”,
to them that received Him, gave He the right to be the children
of God. And then a little further, “which were born not
of bloods, not of the will of the flesh, not of the
will of man, but of God”. Not, not, not... BUT. You
see the point? With the coming of God’s Thought in the
Person of Jesus Christ one kind of man is set aside. The whole of
that race in Adam, the coming of Jesus says, “Not
that any longer”. And His coming says about another kind of
man, “But this kind”. That’s where it all
begins and you know that in the third chapter of John that is
I’m always sorry that they divided the chapters between
two and three in John because undoubtedly what is our chapter
three follows on from what is chapter two. You notice how chapter
two ends? It says that Jesus would not commit Himself to men
because He knew what was in man. He knew what was in man.
Of course that is the natural man and He would not commit Himself
to that kind of man. Now, of course, you say that must be a very
bad man! If the Lord will not have anything to do with that kind
of man as he is, he must be pretty bad. Is that how you think?
Well, let’s go on. How does chapter three begin? “Now
there was a man... named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews”.
You’ve got the link? He would not commit Himself to that
kind of man! He knew what was in man. “Now there
was a man... a ruler of the Jews, named Nicodemus...” Later
the Lord will say to Nicodemus, “Art thou a teacher
in Israel?” A teacher? A man of intellect, a man of high
position, a man of influence, a man greatly respected amongst
men. And this man comes with all that he is by nature and by
education, he comes with all his position and all his training,
he comes with all his devotion to the Lord God, a very religious
man, and he begins to talk to Jesus. He says some things by way
of compliment to Jesus, he calls Him “Rabbi” that is,
teacher. And he says, “We know that you’re a teacher
sent from God, no man could do the things that you do if you were
not sent from God.” Now they’re good things aren’t
they? Surely Jesus is going to commit Himself to this man! Surely
He’s got the best specimen of a man in Nicodemus.
What does Jesus say? “Oh Nicodemus! I’m so glad to
meet you! There are so few fine men like you in the world, I do
admire your learning!” None of that. He does not commit
Himself to that man. But He says, “You must be born anew.
You must become another kind of man Nicodemus. With all that you
have, you were born of blood, you were born of the will of the
flesh, you were born of the will of man, but you’ve never
been born of God. Not that man, but this man: that
which is born of God. The wind bloweth where it likes, you hear
the sound thereof, but you don’t know whence it cometh or
where it goes. There’s a mystery about the wind that natural
wisdom cannot explain. So is everyone that is born of God.”
You know I’m quoting the Scripture all the time; not
that man at his best, but this one born of God. That man
at his best is not God’s original thought. The man that is
born of God and is God’s thought is a different kind of
I’m going back again, everybody here knows that the Bible
is divided into two main divisions, what we call the Old
Testament and the New Testament. That division is not just an
artificial division. That division is not just a historical
matter. That division is something very much deeper and greater
than that; it’s a spiritual division.
I think we are all prepared to write “Not” over the
Old Testament. You remember how the Old Testament finishes? After
all that God had done, and what a great all that was...
the last book of the Old Testament speaks about His own people
robbing God and God saying, “You are cursed with a curse”.
Surely we will write “Not” over the Old Testament! Not
that. No, never again that.
We open our New Testament and the four first books of the New
Testament present us with a Man. The four gospels are the
presentation of a Man. There has never been a Man like this
before. This Man is different from all men that have ever been.
This Man is presented to us in this four-fold way.
Now, having said that, I dare not stay to deal with the four
gospels; they all have some differences from each other. Some of
them have the same things, some of them have different things.
But all of them end at the same thing. Every one of them has one
thing in common; whether it is Matthew or Mark or Luke or John,
they all head right up to:
It seems as though that was what was meant, these writers
cannot get away from it. Whatever they say, it leads to the
Cross. The Cross really ought to be placed between the two
testaments because the New Testament in its beginnings, leading
up to the Cross just says this one thing: all that this new Man
represents, all His teaching, all His works, all His Person, can
only come into human experience when one man is put away and
another Man is brought in.
The Cross of the Lord Jesus is the great “Not!” to a
whole kind of man. It is God’s “Not” to the Old
Testament. The Old Testament is failure, failure, failure
everywhere. And you close the Old Testament with failure. The New
Testament introduces God’s success, God’s great success
in His Son, Jesus Christ. That is not theory is it? You would not
be in this room tonight if that were not true. You and I are here
tonight because Jesus was a success! And we ought to be His
successes. So I say that whatever the gospels hold, at the end
they say this is only possible in man by way of the Cross.
The Cross is the eternal setting aside of one man and the
Cross on the other side is the introducing of another Man after
God’s thought. Now I suppose I should finish; when we get
into eternal things time seems to go very quickly!
Can you just visualize a cross, draw a cross in your mind, one
arm stretching backward and the other arm stretching forward,
then draw a black line right down the middle of the cross. And
let that one arm point backward to your Old Testament and see
that that ends in the Cross. I’m going to prove that to you
before I’m through, I think. Oh thank God for that great
“Not” about the Old Testament! Our hearts ought to be
full of joy over that “not”! Do you wonder what I mean?
Well, we are not under the Law! And the Old Testament is
the Law. We are under Grace... not under Law, but
under Grace. The Cross is the divide between the two. That dark
line says that’s an end of all that and this is the
beginning of all this, all that we have in the New Testament.
Do you see what has come in with Jesus Christ? Do you see what
we have come into in Jesus Christ? It is the first “not...
but”. There’s a hymn that we sometimes sing, it runs
like this, this is the first line of it: “Not what I am, oh
Lord, but what Thou art”. That’s the Gospel isn’t
it? That’s the end of the Old Testament: condemnation,
judgment, ending in a curse... by nature I belong to that. In
myself, that’s where I am, but “not what I am, but what
Thou art”. I am now not in myself or in Adam, I am now in Christ
and in Christ Jesus there is no condemnation.
That is only the beginning, you’ll see a lot more not’s
and but’s yet. But you see the first one relates to man, the
man as he is in himself. God’s saying, “Not that man”.
He relates to the new man, quite another man. By faith we are in
this new Man, accepted in the beloved. Not that, but
I trust that this is the Word of the Lord, not just a thought,
not only a thought expressed, but a thought as a work, taking
personal form in us. We leave it there for now and thank the Lord
for what He has brought in by His coming.