Editor's Letters
by T. Austin-Sparks

July-August 1941

Beloved of God,

With gratitude to the Lord we are able to send out this further issue of the Witness and Testimony, and we count on your prayers that this ministry may be maintained as long as it is needed. Letters from so many parts give us reason to believe that it is meeting a need, and therein we rejoice.

It is much on my heart that-in this letter-I should say a little to you regarding this ministry, for if it were understood, and the mists of suspicion and prejudice were dispelled, many more might derive the same spiritual help which is confessed to by friends in many places and all sorts of connections.

First of all, let me say that we have one all-inclusive purpose, and this is our one dominating objective, namely-THE FULNESS OF CHRIST AS THE GOAL OF ALL GOD'S CONCERN FOR HIS PEOPLE. Not a "teaching" as such; not a "movement"; and, positively, not a new sect or exclusive body of Christians! Our purpose (we believe God-given) is to keep this Divine objective before all of His children; to minister the measure of that fulness as He imparts and enables; to indicate what is shown to us as the ways thereto, and the principles which govern attainment; but never to seek to impose a system of truth or practice upon anyone. If the Lord has so dealt with us as to involve us in certain practical steps, we would never lay such steps as an obligation upon others and tell them that they must do likewise. We know only too well what a false position this would mean for all who would take such a course on such a ground. No; our business is to present God's fullest thought in Christ, to exhort and encourage to "go on to full growth", but never to coerce or impose. Such practical steps as may arise must come livingly out of a walk with God and spiritual crises in that walk on the part of everyone concerned, and never because any person or persons urge them.

Let us be quite clear as to our position, for herein is all the difference between life and death, liberty and freedom. The relationship and fellowship between the Lord's people must ever and always rest upon the basis that they are children of one Father and that they share a common life. Life, not light, is the uniting factor; the one indivisible life of God in us all by new birth. Make anything else the basis and you at once divide and move apart. The only hope of any progress toward fulness is in that we steadfastly and resolutely preserve this simple basis. We must deliberately put back any being affected or influenced by earthly connections of Christians. It is not for us to be affected toward them by their connection with this or that denomination, sect, society, etc. Do they belong to the Lord? Have they received His life in the Holy Spirit? Do they truly love our Lord Jesus? Is He to them the very Son of God? This is where our fellowship begins, and so long as they will not try to involve us in anything extra to Christ, but will allow a going on purely on that ground, we must continue in love and fellowship. We shall find that-apart from all such artificial grounds of difference-the matter of spiritual fellowship will be a stern battle and call for steadfastness, because of the forces of evil which are set against this mutual life in God. Let me beseech you to seek ever to be free of the very mentality which points in the direction of exclusiveness as among the children of God; or that inwardly implies division because they have not seen what you have seen, and therefore do not stand where you stand.

This does not mean that the different associations make no difference in the matter of spiritual progress toward fulness. They do, and those associations are very often the grave-clothes which remain even after life in resurrection has come. But my point is that there is all the difference between our telling people that they must do this and that in the matter of their connections, and the thing coming up as a living issue resultant from a work in them of the Holy Spirit. The latter is the only way of life, and the only safe way for the future. Anything else is just a coming down on to earthly ground, and earthly Christianity, and that means division, limitation, and deadly bondage! No one ought ever to have any fault to find if the course taken is the result of an inward work of God, and results in spiritual increase, wealth, life, rather than just having adopted a new position. We are suffering very much in our testimony because quite a few people have taken such steps outwardly without the real revelation of God's thought inwardly, and a mighty work of His Spirit. But this has always been the case when God has put His hand upon an instrumentality in relation to fuller purpose. Lot will follow Abraham; a secondhand walk with what is of God; and Lot will be a burden, if not a menace. Well, beloved friends, let us seek to keep on heavenly ground.

We are in a time of a great shaking and overturning of much of the shell of Christianity. If this should lead to dividing walls disappearing, and the people of God drawing together on the common ground of Christ, who would shed a tear for the passing of the material? Just at present God is doing things. We are often distressed that there is no voice of authority for God either to the world or to His people. The ear of men is not in any measure captured by a voice of true interpretation. Yes, just now the world and the Church is without a distinctive voice which is unmistakably God's "Prophet" for the time. The reasons for this may be various, but God is doing things, and it may be He is preparing both an instrument and a way for the message of such. It is quite a question as to whether the situation has as yet reached the point when-if the Lord did have the vessel and word-the sense of need is so deep that prejudice and party interests (even among Christians) would go down as nothing if only the need could be met. Oh that the enforced suspending of much of long-standing movements and institutions will be the occasion for a consideration of their real measure of spiritual value in the light of God's thought as to the fulness of Christ, so that-if a space is yet given-it will not just be a going on again as before. This is an hour of great opportunity and demand for reconsiderations and stock-taking. Let us ask the Lord to make us all alive to the significance of this present hour, and not to be losing its meaning by living in an uncertain future.

Beloved, we greet you again in this "little while between", and assure you of continual prayer. Pray for us!

Yours in the Hope of the Gospel,

T. AUSTIN-SPARKS


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