The Spiritual Background of the Word of God
Chapter 2 - God's Testimony and the Age-long Antagonism
From this point two things start their course:
(A) God having a specific relationship with this world and a
testimony in it.
(B) The Adversary seeking to counter that.
Now these two things embrace all the Scriptures and you cannot touch
the Scriptures at any point without touching them. If you pause even
for a moment and reflect upon that you will see that the Scriptures
in every part from Genesis to Revelation touch these two things -
God having a specific relationship with this earth and a testimony
in it, and the Enemy seeking to counter that. While that is true in
general, there are certain things within that compass, of a specific
character. These two things embrace all Scripture, and specifically
four things under number one, that is, God having a specific
relation to this earth and a testimony in it.
God's Basis of Relationship is the Cross
"A" (1) The basis of God's relationship. What is it? It is the
cross! That is quite clear from the fall. By the altar the cross is
signified as the basis of any specific relationship that the Lord
has with this world, and He never has that relationship only on the
ground of what is contained in the cross.
Always allow your minds to expand when you get a thing like that;
cover the whole range of things, and recognise that if God is going
really to have a definite and positive relationship with anything
here, it is only as what the cross represents and contains is
established. The cross in its spiritual meaning has got to be
represented, and God does not come into relation to anything where
the cross in its spiritual meaning is not truly and livingly applied
and represented. The cross in its active meaning is the very first
thing, the basis upon which God comes in.
What do you mean by God coming in? Well, the Holy Ghost manifesting
that He is there. You take the simple and well known illustration of
the Moravian Missions in the cold regions of the far North. The
missionaries who went there and started work amongst the Eskimos
told the stories of the earthly life of the Lord Jesus to the
Eskimos, tried to attract them, interest them and win them by His
works, His miracles, His kind acts, His character, and they went on
and on and on and nothing happened; not a soul was saved. And they
could not understand why it was that there was no soul being saved;
and after some time, a long time of failure, they were sitting in
their hut one evening, and they were singing a hymn together; all
unconscious of what they were doing other than that they were
expressing their own hearts, they sang a hymn about the cross, the
death of the Lord Jesus for the sinner, His giving Himself. It was
the story of Calvary in a hymn. An eskimo woman outside heard them
singing, drew near and listened, and presently she came in and said:
"You never told us that!" "That is something you never told us."
That woman was the first one saved. God came in on that; the Holy
Ghost came in on that. Just a simple illustration of a far reaching
truth. The Holy Spirit, the Lord comes in on the ground of the
cross. And beloved, that has got to work out to very fine details
It is not only true in the matter of salvation: it is true in the
matter of God's co-operation. We have sung: "Oh, to be nothing,
nothing...." Now, we have been standing on our dignity, standing up
for our rights! Someone has been making nothing of us - and we have
not liked it, and an impasse has arisen, a deadlock, an arrest,
things have got difficult; a good deal of prayer appealing to the
Lord has gone on for the clearing up of the situation between us and
someone else, and the Lord makes no response, nothing happens until
we crash and come down to the place where in emptying of ourselves
we apologise, we repent, we take the position of a crucified one,
and all that flesh is surrendered to the cross. The Lord comes in
there; the Holy Spirit allies Himself with that. It is the principle
of Calvary always, and as those who have spiritual responsibility it
is important that we should recognise it. We come up against
difficulties in the work of the Lord at home and abroad. Do we want
the Lord to come in on it? In what way is it necessary for the cross
to operate? When you have discovered that you have the Lord coming
The basis of God's specific association for every purpose, salvation,
fellowship, co-operation is always the cross.
The Means of God's Testimony is the Church
(2) Secondly, what is the means of God's testimony? The Church! The
Church is implied right from the beginning, and, of course, coming
out in type continuously.
Take your great foundation in Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Abraham is
the cross; he is the altar; the altar is with Abraham. If you want
the symbol of Abraham's life it is the Altar. Isaac is the
issue of the altar in resurrection. Abraham, the altar on the death
side; Isaac, the issue of the altar, resurrection. Jacob, the issue
of resurrection, the Church, Bethel, the Pillar. Bethel, a place
outside of the world. A pillar set up and anointed, marking the
place of an opened heaven, of Divine revelation and Divine
communication. And then, mark you, Jacob after the flesh incapable
of abiding at Bethel and having to go on into a spiritual experience
of the destruction of the flesh for twenty years, and then changed
from the carnal to the spiritual, coming back to Bethel where he can
pour out his drink offering, and abide. His first word, in the flesh
is: "How awful is this place" meaning: "I cannot stay here." His
ultimate word is: "How glorious! I can stay here." In between the
man of flesh has been changed for the man of the Spirit. That is the
Church. Those features are the features of the Church. "I am the God
of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" and you cannot divide those things.
That is only an illustration which can be expanded continuously,
that the means of God's testimony is the Church; it is the pillar
and ground of the truth. We know pillars in tho Old Testament are
always symbols of a witness. Covenants were made and pillars,
obelisks were set up as monuments of a covenant, an understanding, a
witness. "These stones shall witness between us."
God's Methods with Man - Emptying
(3) Thirdly, the nature and methods of God's dealing with men. Let
us get the link again: God having a specific relationship with this
earth and a testimony in it. The basis of God's relationship - the
cross. The means of God's testimony - the Church. Now thirdly,
included in that relationship and that testimony, the nature and
methods of God's dealings with men within the compass of His
specific relationship and testimony - emptying.
The nature and method of God's dealings with men in connection with
His Own specific relationship and in connection with His specific
testimony in the earth, all His dealings in that two-fold connection
have been along the line of emptying. The cross, the basis of God's
relationship declares it. The Church, the instrument of God's
testimony declares that; it is Jacob. You can never have that true
Holy Spirit association, relationship, and you can never have that
true instrument of testimony, nor the testimony itself, only in so
far as that emptying work has been done. It is an inseparable part
of the two things - God's association and God's testimony. And the
test as to whether the thing really does carry God with it and is of
God, the test as to whether it is a true testimony, a true
representation of the Church is as to how far that thing has been
poured out unto the emptying of what is of man by nature. You cannot
come into the testimony of God in a living way without coming
through an awful experience of emptying, until there is nothing left
in the end. "How awful is this place"; and it is! The Church is an
awful place for the flesh, if it is really the House of God
spiritually. It is not something to be jumped at. The testimony is
not something to be grasped at. It is something to be looked at and
you say: "If I mean business with God - being absolutely poured out
until there is nothing of me left... if not I had better not go this
way." The flesh cannot go this way. The Master says, always on that
side of the cross: "Whither I go thou canst not follow Me now."
After the cross - "You shall follow Me afterwards." It is only after
the cross you can follow that way. It explains a very great deal.
The Lord Jesus never left us in any doubt about this. He made it
perfectly clear that to follow Him meant denying self. That means
something much deeper than the mere phrase "self-denial." Taking up
the cross daily. Into this every kind of relationship and resource
is cast: father, mother, sister, brother, children, houses, lands,
everything. Emptying, stripping: not always literally in those
connections just mentioned, but the law of emptying so that in the
end nothing of nature really remains as a factor. The Lord, and the
Lord alone is the Factor, the Fulness. Well, again let your mind
expand, run right through the Word of God and see if that is true.
It was true with Abraham, true with Jacob, true with Joseph, true
with Moses, true with David, true with Paul; true all along.
The Fundamental Factor in God's Success
(4) Fourthly, the fundamental factor in God's success. What is it?
Now we come to the kernel of everything.
The fundamental factor in God's success is putting Christ into
things, getting Christ into things. If you think for a minute, you
will see that God aims at getting His Son into the very constitution
of things, and the ultimate secret of God's success is that Christ
is in it. Get Christ in and you are there; God is there, you have
reached His end. Christ in you is the hope of glory, and the only
hope of glory.
Now you will see how true that is when we begin on our next section.
But I want you to dwell upon that, and think about it, and get as
much of the force of it as you can. If only you can get Christ into
that man, that woman; there may be a terrific battle, but if only
you can get Him in it is all right, you have little to worry about.
This is the fundamental factor in God's success. If Christ can be
got into the constitution of anything He is Eternal Life. Get life
into the constitution and see what it will do. But when that Life is
Christ, what is He not capable of doing? It is not getting Christ
before Calvary in, but it is the Christ of resurrection with all
that it carries with it, the Christ of the exaltation Who said: "All
authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth." Get
that Christ into the constitution of a thing and it is
terrific in its potency. There are no limits to the possibilities
when Christ is really in. You will notice God's objective is to put
Christ into things.
Take the types of the Old Testament; they carry that as their
central element. Christ is implied here. What is the tabernacle? It
is Christ in completeness put down in the midst of a people, and
when the relationships of a people are right and true, all the
combined forces of this world are incapable of standing against that
people. As that tabernacle passed over Jordan into the land, as that
ark was carried around Jericho, it was Christ in the very
constitution of things, and nothing could stand. There is your type.
What was there typically and objectively in the Old Testament, in
the New Testament becomes actual and subjective. Have Christ in His
Church, and nothing can stand when the relationships are right and
the spiritual side of things true. Whenever there is a conformity to
the spiritual reality of the truth: "Christ in you," and "Christ in
the midst of you," then God has got the ground of His ultimate
success. You can have all sorts of substitutes for that which simply
counters the ultimate issue, but once get that and you can afford to
be at rest. Now you see the special value of putting this in a
certain way; it carries that particular value. God, putting Christ,
His Son, into the constitution of things is the fundamental factor
of its success.
The Age-long Antagonism
"B." The Adversary seeking to counter that. We said that these two
things embraced the whole of Scripture and specifically under "A",
the four things just mentioned. Now we deal with "B." The means and
methods of the Adversary's countering.
At that point we ought to stop to try and enumerate some of these;
the means and methods of the Enemy's countering. The countering of
God's basis of relationship; the Cross. The countering of the means
of God's testimony; the Church. Countering the nature and methods of
God's dealings with men; emptying. Countering the fundamental factor
in God's success; putting Christ into things.
Suppose first of all you made a list of the titles of Satan, you
have practically got your key to his system of working. Take some of
those titles and see what they imply.
As to his method: as "Satan," he is the "Adversary"; the one set
"The Accuser"; his method is here given away by the title.
"The Dragon"; the devourer.
"The Lion"; the destroyer, tearer.
"The god of this age"; an object seeking worship. There he is the
supplanter, the usurper.
Satan's Methods of Countering God's Purpose
The point is that if you take the titles they very largely cover the
ground of his methods of countering God's purpose, but we can, I
think, gather up the whole in two or three broad words. We will take
six, dividing them into two.
1. Independence of God. That covers a lot of ground.
2. Substitution for God.
3. Imitating of God.
You will have difficulty in getting outside of those three dealing
with his methods and means. You will have to think them out. We have
not time to go through the Scripture with them, but there they are.
The second three:
1. Direct assault.
2. Subtle deception.
3. Intriguing mixture and corruption.
And it is an extraordinary thing how subtly he does work. You take
the book of Numbers, chapters 23 and 24, as a very simple
illustration. As you see they are occupied with the prophecies of
Balaam. We know the story of Balaam being hired to curse Israel, and
the Lord's intervention in turning the curse into a blessing, so
that Balaam was compelled to bless when he came to curse. "And when
Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel...." He had to
bless under Divine compulsion, and when he had blessed to the full,
Balaam returned to his place and Balak also went his way. You notice
it goes on immediately: "And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people
began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab...." The whole
chapter is one of ghastly tragedy and Divine judgment. Nothing is
said whatever there of how it was done.
You pass immediately from a chapter of blessing into a chapter where
the people are under the judgment of a curse. The blessing commanded
and given by the Lord is, with apparently no interval, changed for a
curse. You want your New Testament to explain that, of course. 2
Peter 2:15,16. Something which changes the whole thing from a
blessing to a curse. It is that intriguing mixture and corruption of
the Enemy, that when the Lord blesses right up to the hilt something
just creeps in even while the blessing is there and corrupts the
spirit, and the next thing is the Lord is not there. What has
happened? Something was gloriously in the blessing of God and
suddenly loses the marks of that blessing, seems dead and withered,
and the Lord is not there. Even in the presence of blessing
something creeps in underneath. Blessing is a perilous time. Some
stream of the flesh flows in quietly when the Lord's blessing
abounds. The Enemy takes advantage of a great time of blessing just
to pour in something of the flesh. Is not that the history of the
Church? Just to counter the Lord's end.
Now we must remember that over all this the object of the Adversary,
the Enemy, is to circumvent that fundamental factor in God's
success, that is, his object is to prevent Christ from getting into
the constitution of man and things. Recognise that and your Word
lies open before you.
What are his methods and his means to prevent Christ from getting
into the constitution of man and things? "The god of this world hath
blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the gospel
of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn
upon them." Now he will go from the first degree to the last,
embracing everything and anything that will be suitable to his end,
changing his method and his means, adapting them, so long as that
ultimate thing is frustrated. By his open antagonism and fight as at
Philippi or Ephesus. Here is Christ coming, and Christ must not get
in here. So with open vicious antagonism he will seek to prevent
Christ getting into a place or into a man. If Christ has the
facilities on His side as in a Christian country where the Gospel
has been preached, as differing from places where Christ is not
known, his method will be a substitute for the indwelling Christ, an
external Christianity. There are few things which are more terrible
barriers to the Christ within than the formula of the Christian
Take that as a key to everything. His object is to prevent Christ
from getting into the constitution. How does he do it? By what
means? On the one hand with the unsaved, and on the other hand
through professed instruments of God. Satan has his ministers
amongst men. The test of ministry is this, the test of everything in
the ministry of God's people is just this - how far does it register
a blow, an effectual blow at Satan's ultimate design, keeping Christ
from becoming the very life within all His Own? Put that another
way, on the positive side. How far does that minister toward Christ
having His place and His way within the life of His Own? You have
got to know how, and how alone Christ can dwell within the heart.
That can only be through new birth.
Now one of the cleverest methods of the Devil against the truth is
the counterfeit of that very truth, the Christ in every man. He
patronises Christ now, just to divert from the truth, and he will
talk about "the Christ in all of us." The Christ in the unsaved man!
"Find the Christ in him; meet the Christ in him." It is pure
pantheism not regeneration. Elevation, but not regeneration. You see
it is a counter, and a very successful one.
Now we see our calling, brethren, we see what our ministry is, we
see what the effect of our ministry ought to be. It ought to be the
exposing of the works of the Devil on the one hand, an opening of
eyes, a making a way for Christ into the life, into the heart along
His Own lines, on His Own terms.
We have really touched the central point in the work of the Church,
in the testimony of the Church, on two sides, the for and the
against; that God's objective is getting His Son into the
constitution of things; the Enemy's objective is to prevent that.
And even with the Lord's Own children the Enemy tries so often to
get them to accept something less than the fact that Christ is in
them. If he can do that he really has broken them.
There is much meditation to be done upon all that we have said.
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