That Which Was From The Beginning
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 6 - The Enemy and the Testimony

Arising out of that which we have said about the testimony of life, we are going to think about how the testimony of life is nullified. Let us repeat that it is not a matter of the killing of life - which is an impossible thing - but it is the matter of quenching or nullifying of the testimony which is the manifestation and the outworking of life. The testimony is, so far as the means of its manifestation is concerned, life. It is by the life, the divine life, that Christ as the Son of God is made known. But this testimony of life proceeds from what God is: that is, there is a basis even to the life, and that basis of the life is what God is in Himself.

So we find a beginning, a starting point in this 1 John 1:5. The first four verses are a kind of comprehensive introduction. Verse 5 is the setting out upon, the expounding, the breaking up of all that, and it begins with this: "This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all." That is the background of everything. It is the background of the testimony concerning His Son, Jesus Christ, as to what God is. God is light, and there is no life in this true, divine sense except as there is an utterness of what is meant by light; that is, an utterness of transparency, of consistence, freedom from contradiction, from deception, from duplicity, from everything that is meant by darkness.

Darkness has many constituents. It is a very comprehensive word, just as light is. Death is comprehensive just as life is. Within the realm of life there are numerous factors. Within the realm of death there are also numerous factors. Light includes many elements, many features, and darkness does the same. Life is only possible on the ground of an utterness of light: what God is. When you come to God you come to what is final, what is ultimate; of a certain nature, a certain kind, a certain character. There is nothing behind that. There are no more degrees of that. You have got to the last, the final, the ultimate of that particular nature or character. God is light, not in degree but in finality.

In the book of the Revelation, also written by this same apostle, the river of the water of life is said to be as clear as crystal. The water of life must be that. It cannot be the water of life unless it is clear as crystal. That is only symbolic language. It is saying, in another way, that life is resultant from light, which God is.

Foreign Elements

The destroying, or the nullifying of the testimony of life will therefore be pursued along the line of corrupting it. It is perfectly clear, with the most cursory glance through the Word of God right from Genesis onwards, that that has been the way by which the adversary has always sought to nullify God's testimony in this universe, by corrupting it and introducing elements which counter its utter transparency, its perfection of purity, bringing in other foreign elements and features. In some way the enemy must get a link between what is of God as light, and what is of his own kingdom as darkness, if he is going to nullify God's testimony of life.

In our last meditation we were engaged with those chapters in the second book of the Chronicles from chapter 29 to 32, and there we saw that the Lord's testimony had been nullified. It had been set aside, the House of God was closed. The lamp in the House of God was extinguished, the altar was not functioning, the priesthood was polluted and defiled; everything was out of action. It was in death. Hezekiah's movement was to bring it all back into life. It was a matter of recovering a living testimony, a testimony in life out of the grip and power of death. It is perfectly clear as you read what leads up to that time, that the nullifying was along the line of corrupting, and Hezekiah's activity was to get rid of the corruption, to cleanse, to purge, to get rid of all the foreign elements that had come in, and by being in, had nullified.

Then we saw that after all this faithfulness, Sennacherib, king of Assyria, came against Jerusalem and Judah. As the margin says, "to break them up", to break up the testimony. The enemy's method of breaking up has always been by corrupting, by introducing foreign elements.

So you find whenever the Lord reacts to a situation like that, there is always a great place given to purging, and the instrument used for the recovering of the testimony in life is always one who has peculiar insight to discern, to detect where the corruption is, and to deal with it.

Instruments to Deal with Corruption

Take Nehemiah. Nehemiah seems to have had a great deal of his time occupied with dealing with the other false and foreign elements seeking to insinuate themselves into the recovery of this testimony, as represented by the wall: the clear line of demarcation between what is of God and what is not of God. He found these things had got right into the House of God itself and had established themselves there. And he rooted and routed them out, but he was constantly being drawn out to deal with these encroachments and these impingements. On the Sabbath day the traders came round the gates of Jerusalem trying to get in, and if they could not get in on the Sabbath day they waited there to get in immediately the doors were opened. Nehemiah saw that this was a corrupting thing, it had gained the upper hand and would pollute what he was doing, and he recorded it of himself: "I testified against them". Here is a man who is alive to the danger of these foreign elements coming in, and he is all the time dealing with that which he knows if once it gets in, will undo all that he is doing, which will destroy the testimony.

So it was with Ezra. And what business these two men had in the matter of the foreign wives even of the priests! These foreign relationships had to be disentangled and cut off, and there had to be a breaking in between what was of God and what was not of God in order to establish the testimony in life. It had to be done.

In many other illustrations and instances in the Old Testament we have this same thing, that whenever a testimony has to be brought back into fulness of life, everything that is of darkness, that is foreign to light, that is not of God, has got to be put out. Otherwise our labour is in vain and the testimony will be nullified. The enemy's persistent activity is to get something in that is not God. If He gets it, it can carry that to the final issue.

That is why the Lord Jesus Himself, as the personification of the testimony of God, said: "the ruler [prince KJV, ASV] of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me" (John 14:30). The enemy had tried all through His life to get something in. In the wilderness, in the temptations, he tried to get something in that was of himself and insinuate himself in some way. All along he was trying to do that. He knew quite well that if he could get a lodgement for something of his own kingdom that was not of the Father, of God, he was sure of triumph in the long run. The testimony of life triumphing over death would be nullified. So he concentrated upon the chief and the inclusive vessel of that testimony, but the Lord was able to say at length, when the enemy had tried all his resources: "the ruler [prince] of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me". That is the secret of His power and His victory; the full triumph of God over death in Him.

This is something which may not be new to us, but to have our attention drawn afresh to it is very important if we really are to be vessels of the testimony of God concerning His Son. This applies to us as individuals, as individual believers, as children of God, but oh, how it applies to us and concerns us if we are responsible in any larger way than that of personal Christian life. How important it is for us to be alive to this fact, and to always bear it in mind, that as believers and as servants of God the maintenance of the testimony in life with all that that means of the impact of an indestructible all-conquering power over Satan, has to be upheld and maintained. We must have a very clear perception as to corrupting elements, defiling elements and mixture. Mixture is one of the devil's master strokes to nullify what is of God. This letter of John touches upon quite a number of things by which the enemy pursues this course of nullifying of the testimony.

In the first place it speaks of inconsistency and contradiction in the life of the believer. Take note of one little clause only which is very revealing in that matter: "If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth" (1 John 1:6). "If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us" (verse 8); "If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us" (verse 10); "The one who says he is in the light and yet hates his brother, is in the darkness even until now" (1 John 2:9). Here are contradictions in believers saying one thing, but in the background contradicting the thing we say. We need not dwell with that very much. It is perfectly patent that here you have two things at work, contradicting one another. That is the devil's work.

In the World

Another thing in this letter referred to very much, as we have already seen, is the world and the relationship of believers thereto. "Do not love the world nor the things in the world..." (1 John 2:15). If the devil can get the Lord's people compromised by any kind of relationship with what is called "the world", he has nullified the Lord's testimony. "The world" is also an inclusive and comprehensive term. Here, as you notice, the world is represented as the operation of nature in man. "The lust of the flesh": that is gratification of desire along the line of feeling. That covers a lot of ground. "The lust of the eyes": that is gratification of desire along the line of possessing, and that also covers a lot of ground. That can come into the very House of God, and here this word is actually being said to believers. They are being warned. It is possible for believers to be caught in this, and the testimony goes. "The boastful pride [vainglory ASV] of life": that is the gratification to be something.

When the Lord has done anything in us by way of the Cross, and given us any kind of revelation of the utter worthlessness of man by nature, what poor and wretched things we are at best, when we have any real conception of that, and we see the poor creatures in this world strutting about, trying to impress others with their importance, we have a mixture of sensations: pity, disgust, nausea, that anybody in this world should try to be something and make other people think that they are something! Yet that is the world. Is it not that desire to be something that has ruined the testimony of God? The very sphere and realm of the things of God has been the sporting ground of the flesh, to gain reputation, influence, position and name. That is all the vainglory of life. 

We are not thinking outside of ourselves. Perhaps most of us have at some time or other been in that realm. The sphere of the work of God was at one time a place in which we could make a name and get to the top of the tree amongst the servants of God. How differently we look at things when we have been brought to the Cross! But there it is.

All these things are dead-set against this life. These things are darkness and they destroy the life, because the life is based upon the light, or what God is. That is not God. These are the things that corrupt. How we need the Cross to do that work of severing us from ourselves, because by nature we are in the world and the world is in us. We are not only in the world, but the world is in us. These things are in us by nature. The Cross must sever us from ourselves and keep that severance maintained, so that there shall be no evil communications corrupting good manners; that is, the communication between us in Christ and us in ourselves, between our ruined spirit and our natural life; no communication in correspondence, in consultation, in deferring to ourselves by nature. The devil has ruined the testimony by this sort of thing.

I heard of a great work of God going on in a certain city, souls being saved, a glorious work going on. So much so, that one of the outstanding servants of God said that to me which made me know that he considered it a kind of competitive thing to his own work. I have heard today that the whole thing has gone, it is smashed to pieces and is no more. Why? Some of the leaders introduced their business affairs into it, they brought in business interests and before long there was competition amongst them in business interests in this thing, and it was torn to shreds. The world came in. The devil knew. Here were men of God who had interests to serve, and they sought to serve those interests in the realm of the things of God and make the things of God serve their worldly interests, their commercial interests, and a testimony which was in life was nullified.

We could mention numerous instances of the same thing; a piece of work truly of God, raised up of God, with a vibrant testimony of divine life, and then imperceptibly the enemy brings in some corrupting element, something of the world, something of man... Yes, man religiously, not necessarily carnally. Man bringing in what he calls his common sense, men getting together and discussing the thing and bringing their own natural ability to bear upon it and arranging it accordingly. And the Holy Spirit has been quietly, unwontedly (it may be unconsciously) set aside, and man has come in. The thing goes on, but its life has gone. Its life is fading out and presently it will be but a mission being driven by its own momentum and by the drive of man, but without life.

All this shows that the enemy's way of countering the testimony is to bring in some mixture, some element that is not God.

Another thing that the apostle refers to in this letter is antichrist (chapter 2, verse 18). What is antichrist? The devil has been called the ape of God, [Satan has been called the "ape of God" because he cannot originate, but he can copy and imitate] and antichrist is the devil's christ in place of God's Christ. Who is Christ? God as Man, and Man in union with God. Who is antichrist? The same thing, but a false god in man, man as God. Put the emphasis on the word "man". That is, elevating man to a position where man is everything. That is what God has done in His Son, in a true, right and proper way, but what a Man He is! This is what Satan is going to do, and is ever seeking to do in principle: to bring man up into a place of importance, where he is in view, where he dominates, where he is worshipped. You see it going on today. That is antichrist. In principle it is just this making a lot of man, who ought not to be made a lot of. We can never make too much of the Man, Christ Jesus, but of any other man you dare not make anything. Satan's object is to make a lot of man, and in the end to make everything of man, even God.

On what does Satan work? Pride. Give the devil pride, and he will make antichrist. Pride is the secret, the principle of antichrist. If you and I make anything of man as such, we are in a very, very dangerous way and we are getting out of the way of the Father. In time the Holy Ghost will withdraw from that and leave it to man and the devil will take possession of it and he will so associate himself with that that it will become the very devil incarnate, invested with supernatural powers. That is the thing when it is working out to the full. The principle is in every one of us. Pride is the basis of that, and pride means being something. If you like to put it the other way, you can say, not liking to be nothing. There are very few people in this world who do really enjoy being sat on, walked on, set at naught. It is all very well to sing:

"O to be nothing, nothing";

and then someone begins to practice it on us, and that is another thing. There is that in the meekest of us which will turn if it is pressed far enough, and stand up for itself. The Cross has got to deal with that to make things safe for God, for immediately we in our pride get up, we are in the way of antichrist: that is, something that is not God, and is against God. Pride nullifies the testimony of life.

The apostle refers to false brethren (Gal. 2:4). That is another way in which the enemy counters the testimony, by bringing in false brethren. We need not say very much about that, but there they are. For a time they are not recognised. They use the same language, the same phraseology, they do the same things, they make the same professions and declarations. Outwardly they seem to be one; but get down to business with the testimony of life, and strangely enough life itself has a wonderful way of showing whether a thing is light or darkness and you begin to find a cleavage, and those who are not genuine are manifested. They manifest themselves and it becomes clear that they are not going on with us.

While that is true to principle it represents the great difficulty for so many. If you are going on with God in the light with the testimony concerning His Son in life, you are going to raise crises, you are going to precipitate issues where certain people will not go on, and you will find a sifting, a dividing work is brought out. The most effective way is to have a true testimony in fulness, and then you will find out what you have got, and what is going on, and what will not go on. It is no use setting up a doctrinal standard and saying, "Now, do you subscribe to that? If you do not you cannot belong to us." Quite a lot of people will subscribe to it and strangely enough, when the thing begins to work the very people who subscribed to it are the people who will not have it. Having a testimony in life will find out where people are, and sooner or later there will be a sifting. It must be. If not there will not be the maintenance of the testimony in life for mixture, which God sees deeper than all our mental assent, will be working all the time secretly against the life and you will be conscious that you are under an arrest, you are checked, held up, not getting on, paralysed.

In chapter 4 the apostle speaks of spirits of false prophets. The emphasis all the time is on what is of God. That is where you start. The testimony is based upon light, that which God is, and here you have: "God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all"; "There are many false prophets"; "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits".

We mention the fact of the false prophets as one of the things touched upon to show that the great course of the enemy to destroy the testimony is mixture and is that which is contrary to what God is as light.

May the Lord show us how much value there is in all this at this time, for we are speaking as those who are concerned for the testimony of Jesus, and for this impact of the risen Lord upon the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of death. And if the enemy can turn the edge of our weapon and blunt its point and spike our guns, he will do it along the line of corrupting and getting mixture in. The Lord keep us alive to Himself, and to all the enemy's devices, and keep our feet out of the snare.


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