Message given on July 23, 1966
Lord, we remind our hearts before Thee that the initiative in everything has ever been with Thee. We can initiate nothing, and we ask Thee that Thou would keep things in Thy hands and take full charge, to have them as all out from Thyself. Thine own Son did say that even the Son can do nothing out from Himself, but whatsoever He seeth the Father doing. This morning we know, and oh, how we know, that in this work we can do nothing out from ourselves. Let it all be out from Thee, Lord, do. And of course, the glory will be Thine, it cannot be otherwise and we will see that it does come to Thee, in the Name of the Lord Jesus, amen.
I knew it was going to happen, it's inevitable! When the Lord is in anything there are always twelve baskets full over. When 5000 have had all that they can take, there's the embarrassment of the surplus. Those disciples were embarrassed beforehand and had a conference as to how it was going to be done - the feeding of that multitude. It isn't on record, but I think it must have been that after it was over, they had another conference - what are we going to do with this? Twelve baskets full of fragments. And I think that's our embarrassment today, it's mine this morning. I don't know how we're going to get through; but the Lord knows, He will help us.
Well, on then with this overwhelming and inexhaustible fulness of the unsearchable riches of Christ. And will you now turn to a number of fragments of the Word. Of course Ephesians 3:10 is our foundation word, which we need not repeat again. And if we go over we come back to chapter 1, from chapter 3, at verse 17 and I want you to underline the common word in all that we are going to read, 1:17: "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the full knowledge of Him." I won't stop with that word, but it's a very important thing, unfortunate that the translators did not correctly translate here, but we'll leave it for the moment.
A Spirit of Wisdom
The letter to the Colossians, chapter 2, at chapter 1 and verse 28: "Whom we proclaim, admonishing every man and teaching every man in all wisdom..." Chapter 2 and verse 3: "In whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden."
Now back to the letter to the Romans, Romans chapter 11 at verse 33: "Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God!" Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom....
And please, back to the Old Testament, in the first book of the Kings, chapter 4, verse 29: "And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea-shore." And chapter 5, at verse 12: "And the Lord gave Solomon wisdom, as He promised him; and there was peace..." and there was peace.
So, "the riches of wisdom". The Bible has a great deal to say about wisdom. And the New Testament gives a very large and important place to wisdom, to spiritual wisdom. I will not trace that through, I make the statement, and leave it with you.
Solomon has been our interpreter on these various matters through the second session this week and he will help us on again this morning. For Solomon, the very name is the synonym for wisdom. Above everything else that God gave to Solomon, was wisdom, and it was out of that gift of wisdom that everything else did come, as we have seen. The Lord said: 'Because you have asked for wisdom, I will give you all the other things, wealth, riches, and so on.' But the spring of all is wisdom.
We know a little about the wisdom of Solomon. It says here "he spake three thousand proverbs", he comprised or composed 1005 songs: "He spake of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springs out of the wall" the whole range. "He spake of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes" - a master in the realm of natural history! And we could say much more about him and his wisdom, the queen of Sheba came from a far country - and I am impressed with the way it is put - "to see the wisdom of Solomon". Not to hear it, to see it! You will see the point of that in a minute.
But when we have said everything about Solomon's wisdom, its many-sidedness, its versatility, its range and its depth, the climax, the peak of Solomon's wisdom was the building of the house of the Lord. All the wisdom that God gave him headed up and was focused in, the house of the Lord, the building of God's house: the fulfilment of the life ambition of his father, David, to find a place for the Lord. The house was Solomon's masterpiece. When you look both here and in the New Testament, you will find that wisdom finds its chief expression in building.
The apostle Paul takes hold of this and says: "As a wise master builder I laid a foundation." Was there ever a wiser master builder among men than the apostle Paul? He built so well that for twenty centuries men have been, on the one hand, trying to pull down his building; and it stands intact today, triumphant over all. On the other hand, that building, that building through the apostle is the one thing in which we are finding so much of the Divine treasure, the Divine beauty, the Divine glory, the Divine preciousness - what Paul built. Why, it is defying all our attempts to fathom it, to exhaust it, to explain it! Here we are again, after all these years, still in the freshness of it. He built well; a wise master builder!
Well, as with Solomon, this building wisdom was a gift from God, a real gift from God. And the apostle, who had so much of the understanding of this, prayed, as we have read, "that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, would give unto you a spirit of wisdom... a spirit of wisdom in" - and now I can come to the word: "in the full knowledge of Him". I say it's a pity that the translators made this mistake. Well, we don't blame them, they had a real business on hand, but here it is. You will notice that the simple word 'knowledge' is used in the New Testament in relation to the beginnings of things: "This is life eternal, this is life eternal that they may know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou didst send". That's the beginning of the Christian life. This knowledge; knowledge! But when you come to the advanced point of the Christian life, as we have it in Ephesians, in the original you have that little prefix epi-gnosis - epignosis. This is something: full knowledge. And so the apostle is not praying that these believers may come into the first, elementary knowledge. He is praying that they may come into the full knowledge, and to come into the full knowledge requires this gift of a spirit of wisdom and revelation.
But let me note another thing common in Solomon and in this prayer of Paul. This wisdom is a wisdom of the heart for building. The building requires wisdom, but it is wisdom of the heart. Do you notice what it said about God giving Solomon a wise and an understanding heart? "I have given you a heart of wisdom."
A Heart of Wisdom
We said the other day that the heart has far better reasons than the head. Love, love is a profound well of wisdom. The apostle prayed: "that He would grant unto you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the full knowledge of Him; the eyes of your heart being enlightened". There is an illustration in the life of Solomon of this very thing. Do you remember the incident, the incident of the two harlots and their two babes? They lived in a house and slept together and their two babes. And one of them was overlaid and smothered, and died in the night. Then the quarrel, the quarrel as to whose should be the living babe - a terrible situation of life and death, life and death, death and life. And the whole thing came to Solomon, it was brought to him. And in his wisdom he did not look at, but through, these two women. Here is this one woman screaming and shouting: "That living baby is mine. That belongs to me!" Oh, she is in a state, but she is giving herself away. The other poor woman is in tears, she's wringing her hands - a pathetic picture!
Solomon says to his guards: "Bring me a sword. Take that living baby and divide it in two, and give half to each." And the one woman stands back coldly, icily, but the other woman says: "Oh, no, no, no! Don't take the life of that child. Give it to her rather than kill it." Solomon says: "Give the baby to her." The answer to this is heart - heart. Wisdom is a matter of the heart. You see, the other thing is death, undoing, spoiling, not building. Oh, anybody can destroy, any fool can destroy, but it is only where the heart is that there will be building. Well, here is a great illustration of that kind of wisdom, "the eyes of your heart being enlightened". Well, what is wisdom? What is wisdom? Wisdom is more than knowledge. Wisdom is knowing how; is knowing how.
Years ago I knew a man who wanted a large job done of building and reconstruction in his house, and he got in touch with the builder and showed him what he wanted done. The builder sent his men, and started the work, and got away with it. When it was finished he sent in his bill. It was just a totality bill, an inclusive bill, "for doing such-and-such a job, so much", and a very heavy sum. The man whose house it was, looked at it and thought: 'My! How does he make all this up?' So he went to the builder and said: "Look, how do you make this all up? This is a big sum. Give me the details, will you, of how you make it up." So the builder said: "For materials, so much; men's time, so much; and one or two other details, so much." And the man standing over him said: "But that's only half the bill. What is the other half?" "The remainder is for knowing how!" Yes, more than half the bill is knowing how. That is wisdom!
Wisdom is 'knowing how', and I suggest to you, dear friends, that the real problem of building the house of God is not that of getting people and material, and not working on them, but the real problem lies in more than the other half - how to build. Wisdom to build. Wisdom is more than knowledge, it is knowing how. And the value of Divine wisdom is in its ability to build, and so to build, as will stand the test of the centuries, of life, of all time and remain intact, not only at the end of time, but throughout eternity. So to build is the essence of spiritual wisdom!
Now, the system of this world, as probably you know, you do know, the system of this present world order, including man himself, rests upon a lie. Rests upon a lie! The foundation of everything in the present world order has a lie in it. And man himself; well, of course he has blind spots about himself. Man himself is a lie. You and I, by nature, are a lie; we are false, we are not true to the original pattern; there is a lie in us. Some how or other that lie (and you know how and when) a lie was accepted: "Hath God said? Hath God said? God knoweth..." - the injection into the soul-life of the creation, of the race, of a lie, a falsehood. Jesus said: "He's a liar from the beginning, and the father of it." This inoculation, injection of a lie, it is right at the very root and core and basis of this present world order. And that lie is going to find out man and the creation eventually, because that lie is developing, and developing, and developing until it reaches full growth, and then it will be discovered, it will be shown to the universe how false this thing is.
John Ruskin, the great critic, went to Italy to look at some of the great buildings and the architecture there. He came back and wrote his famous book, "The Seven Lamps of Architecture". And one chapter was: "The Lamp of Truth", and he tells us how he went from building to building, and he came upon a building which had been very beautiful in its appearance at one time, but now the beautiful frescoes were spoiled by rain having got in. And the wonderful, supposed marble pillars had had their "marble" washed off. And the roof was slanting, out of the straight, and the building was deserted.
And he said: "When I investigated I found that there was a lie in the foundation". The builder had built falsely, insincerely, and he had put a lie in the foundation. And the end? An exposure of that falsehood in the well-nigh collapse of the whole thing, the desertion of it, was a monument to a builder's untruthfulness. A lie. And it is like that with this creation.
Make no mistake about it, you and I by nature are, at the very root of our being, false. There is a lie in us. We inherited it from the beginning, it's there in our nature. And in this whole present world system there is a lie, a deception, a falsehood, a misleading, a duplicity, a trick! And, how is it working out? Well, we in our day, dear friends, it's a remarkable time in which we are living. Oh, what has happened in our lifetime! In the lifetime of some of you youngest! But in the lifetime of some of us older ones, what has happened in the rapid development in this world! We are seeing all this development aren't we? In the universe, in man, it's coming to full growth.
And man calls it his wisdom; he thinks he's wise! Oh so wise, to send a man to the moon, to send men into orbit, to get out and walk in space, and to create all these atomic things. Isn't he pleased? Isn't he congratulating himself? Isn't he vaunting his wisdom? Isn't he in rivalry, on full stretch to beat the other one, to be still more clever? And there's such a lie in it, that the end of that wisdom is going to destroy this creation.
Now, don't you make any mistake about it, with all that they may do to counter, to obviate, they're not going to succeed. If Peter wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and here it is a question of whether you believe in the inspiration of the scriptures, if Peter wrote as an ignorant and unlearned fisherman could never have written on the atomic age, then this is going to happen! The elements are going to be on fire and be burned up with fervent heat, and all these things are going to be dissolved - a universal Hiroshima. It's going to happen. I don't want you to skedaddle to your shelters, but it's going to happen. It's prophesied and foretold that all these things must be dissolved. Whether the church will have gone before or not, that's another matter, but this is going to happen because there is a lie in the wisdom of man.
And James says: "The wisdom which is from beneath is devilish, demoniacal; the wisdom that is from above is peaceable, pure." This falsehood, this false wisdom, is destructive, and God is doing now what He did in the case of Israel. I wonder if you have ever noticed why the children of Jacob had to stay in Egypt four hundred and eighty years? The Lord told Abraham when He made the covenant they would: "thy seed" - told him they would be in Egypt, in bondage. Four hundred odd years! Why? Well, the answer may have more than one aspect, but the Lord has shown why in one particular: "The iniquity of the Amorite is not yet full." While these people are in that country being built up, a mighty people, a strong people, numerically a great nation, they are being prepared to occupy the land of the Amorite. The 'Amorite' is an inclusive phrase - the land of the Amorite. But God is not going to deal with the Amorite until their sin has got where He can stand it no longer. "The iniquity of the Amorite is not yet full". Oh, if this still applies, it is rather a sad, sad verdict upon what's happening today.
We listened to Billy Graham in London a week or two ago, night after night, he was uncovering the awful state of things in America, and of course, in Britain. And we know how it's possible, within, within living memory, the awful avalanche of moral decline. Oh, it's terrible how swift this is, amongst the youth and others. It's a shocking situation, and it's being done with impunity; with impunity! It's going on. The iniquity, the cup of iniquity is swiftly filling up.
That's one side, of course, of the picture; there is another side, thank God! But that is one side of the picture and it is a very vividly terrible side. Yes, the cup of iniquity is being filled up. You know, when Israel went into Babylon at last, it was for that reason in their case. I was shocked, shocked, and you would be shocked, when I was reading again through Ezra and Nehemiah. Well, this charge was laid to Israel's account, and that charge, and that charge. (No, I beg your pardon, not Ezra, Josiah; the great revival under Josiah). The account says this, and that, and that was laid to the charge of Israel, and then it came on one clause, "In Jerusalem he destroyed the house of the Sodomites" - the houses of the Sodomites... in Jerusalem? My, we've got down pretty low, haven't we? No wonder the judgment of Sodom must come upon Jerusalem, into captivity they must go, it's like the cup of iniquity being filled. This is the lie at the foundation, the false wisdom, you see.
Why am I saying all this? Because this building, this building that the Holy Spirit is doing and this wisdom given by Him for building this house for eternity will never be burned up, or consumed, or overthrown, or destroyed, this building by this wisdom is the embodiment of that which is absolutely and utterly contrary to the lie; it is the embodiment of the truth! The truth, with no lie, no falsehood. Our brother has put his finger upon one word with regard to that great building, the symbolism of this church, in the book of the Revelation: transparency. Transparency, nothing opaque, nothing double, nothing unreal, nothing untrue, nothing false, no duplicity, no insincerity. You know the word 'sincere', what it means? It just means that you can see through, right through: open, quite open - open to the light, nothing to be ashamed of, no question, no falsehood. This house is to stand as the undoing of the lie, the contradiction of "everything that maketh a lie" - the City, you see, "For without, for without the City, everything that maketh a lie". Oh, isn't this challenging, challenging to us?
This, of course, gives tremendous emphasis upon this matter of soul and spirit. Dear friends, it is truth in the inward parts, that is, it is in the spirit where the Spirit of Truth is. But our souls will deceive us up hill and down dale. Make no mistake about it, if you live, live on the level of your soul, if that is your realm of life, you are going to be deceived. If it is the emotional side of your soul where you live on your feelings, and in your feelings, your very large heartedness can lead you into terrible mistakes. Your very feelings can involve you in something that is a contradiction. It's true. Well, that's a field that we could profitably investigate, for it's true! Oh, if I am governed just by my feelings, how I feel, what mistakes I am going to make, with all good intention, with the best motive, like David bringing back the ark, yes, in his emotions, feelings, getting that new cart... and holding up the testimony for years, for many months. All things were brought to a standstill by his good motive soulishness. If he had been moving in the Spirit, the Spirit would have said: "Look here, you just come back to your Bible and I'll show you that it's not new carts that I use, it's living, sanctified people who are to carry the testimony." Well, there are many sidelines on this matter.
The same is true if you live on that other side of your soul - the intellectual. The intellectual - well of course it is obvious here, anybody who is always living in their head, in their intellect, is always in difficulty. Always in difficulty. Be careful that you are not there, and that you do not come back even after these messages with lots of merely mental questions! Mental questions. Go to the Lord, and say: "Lord, I don't understand this, I don't understand what is being said, but, Lord, if it's the truth, You give me light, You give me light!" You have to do that, we who minister have to do that continually. Here is something in the Word. Now, what does that mean? There's something there, it's in the Word. We know there is something there, but what, what is the Lord's meaning in that? Well, then, off to the bookshelf to see what this man says, and that man, and yet another man, and when we have done it all, oh, the confusion! Not one of them agrees with the other!
This book of Revelation, oh, the book shop is full of various and disagreeing interpretations of the book of Revelation. And when you've got them all you don't know what to make of it, do you? You're up here, you see, it's headifying! No, we have to go, not repudiating all help, but go to the Lord, "Lord, what do You mean by this? Now, Lord, the reality of the Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation, what do You mean?" and waiting, and waiting for days, it might be weeks or months about that thing, then suddenly, we see it! In some way it comes. Oh, how wonderful, how wonderful!
You know, I had a wonderful experience like that once, over Gideon and his fleece; real perplexity as to this, whether it's right, the right thing to experiment with the Lord with fleeces. And the Lord allowed Gideon, because he was moving in the time of the kindergarten, illustrations and so on, and so Gideon was accepted when he said, "Now, Lord, I'm going to put this fleece out overnight, and if in the morning this dry fleece is saturated with water... well, let it be. Let it be saturated with water without any rain or dew through the night let the dry fleece be saturated." It was so. Gideon continued, "Well, but Lord, but Lord... let me turn it round the other way! I'll put this fleece out full of water; drenched. And if in the morning it is dry, alright, then I'll believe, and I'll have to go and do this job." Well, the Lord did it. Well, in my perplexity about whether it's right to experiment with the Lord by putting fleeces out, you may have done it in your kindergarten, in your immaturity; you may even do it today, but I think it's a mark of spiritual infancy to do this sort of thing. However, we won't argue about that, and get into trouble.
But I was perplexed about this; what does this mean, and praying and thinking much about this, as to whether I dare tell people that they could put out fleeces, you see, and put the Lord to test in that way. The Lord brought me over to a passage which our brother quoted yesterday: "Death worketh in us, but life in you." Oh! This is the dry fleece and Gideon's going to lead Israel into Life; a ministry of life and salvation for Israel, through the man who himself is feeling himself so insufficient, so dry. Now, there are some preachers here, have you not had this experience, that sometimes when you have felt the most dry, the most dry, weak, and limited, and oh, so, so useless, and you have gone to your ministry, it has often been at such a time that most people have come and said: "Oh, what a blessing!" Is that true? Ah, but around the other way: sometimes we think that we are having a wonderful time, oh, the fleece is just wringing wet, saturated, we are having a glorious time! And no one ever comes and says anything about it! "Death worketh in us, but Life in you." And sometimes, the Life is in us (and now, of course, I'm just contradicting what I've just said) Life is in us when death is all around.
I don't know what your funeral services are like, but in the funeral services in England there is a paragraph: "In the midst of life we are in death." No! A thousand times no! If the spirit of Life is in us and death all around; the Midianites and Amalekites, and the children of the East like the sand of the seashore - death all around, and Gideon in life, in life! We reverse the funeral service: "In the midst of death we are in Life!" Paul had both experiences. And that, I'm using that not for its own sake, but an illustration, you see. It's just this matter, after all, of seeing: a sudden ray of Divine, heavenly light upon something that we did not understand, the Spirit of revelation illuminating something about which we were full of perplexity, either in the Word or in our experience and we being able to say: "I see! Now I see!" And you know, when you get that kind of seeing, you can't undo that! That stands.
We had a young man once, many years ago now, he has been a missionary in Ethiopia for many years - a lovely, beautiful life. He was with us in our gatherings in London for a long time, and you know, for about three years I was repeatedly hammering at: "Christ in you, the hope of glory", the meaning of the indwelling Christ. I was at it, he'd be sitting there, he heard it for years, and one day he came to me with a smiling face, a real teapot face! And he said: "Mr. Sparks, the Lord has shown me something: He has shown me that Christ is in me!" like he was telling me something, and I didn't know anything about this! You see? I just didn't know anything about it, it was something in the Bible that was foreign to me, because it had come to him like that, why, no one else knew anything about it - so wonderful! He was emancipated when something that he had been listening to for years, hearing the words, sitting, as we say, under ministry for years, then something made it spring into life and he was an emancipated man who went out to serve the Lord for years fruitfully in Ethiopia. We've often heard that, just this: "Now I see! I see! I see!" The Spirit of wisdom and revelation! That building, that is really building, that is how the building grows.
What am I to do? My time is gone for this morning. But may I just underline this, and then it's my turn this afternoon, as it happens, so I can go on from here.
The hallmark of the Spirit of wisdom in you and in me is our transparency, the truth. The truth... oh, what a pity we can't have another hour just at this point: the truth. Jesus said to the woman of Samaria: "Woman, believe Me, the hour cometh and is here when neither in this mountain Gerazim, nor in Jerusalem shall men worship the Father. The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship in spirit and in truth." Is then all this that is in Jerusalem false? All this that is in Samaritan Gerazim false? Yes. It's not the real thing; it is not the real thing. It has an outward form, an outward shape, it makes an outward impression, and people think it is a very wonderful thing, but it is not the true thing. It is in spirit and in truth that the truth is found. Jesus, looking at the temple, that magnificent temple of Herod in Jerusalem, with His disciples and with the others, the others: the critics, the enemies. He stood there, He did not point to the temple, but He was under its shadow and He said: "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again." They said: "Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt Thou raise it up in three days?" But John puts his little parenthesis of comment: "This spake He of the temple of His body, and after He was risen they remembered His words." What is the true temple that is being built? It is not a thing, however much it is the embodiment of man's ingenuity, and cleverness, and artistic ability, however impressive may be its forms, its procedure, its ritual, and all its vestments and everything else.
What is the building that God is doing? It is just Jesus Christ - our being built into Him and we being built into Him, into us. Christ is the temple. Christ is the temple. Christ is the House of God, and only that which is built into Him, the living stones built into Him, is the temple. "Wheresoever two or three are gathered..." not "in My name." There's your phraseology needing adjusting, unless you understand the meaning. "Wheresoever two or three are gathered into My name" that's the real meaning: into, into! Oh, the tremendous meaning of that Name! It is the Name, the Name is the embodiment of Himself, His incarnation, His humanity, His life, His death, His resurrection, His exaltation, and all that is true of Him is embodied in that Name, gathered into that: "There I am. There I am!" Be it garret or cellar or wherever it is, that's the house that God is building. How different are our ideas of the house!
Well, I must leave it there and pick it up there again, because we've got some very practical points on this matter, because this kind of building does require wisdom, you know. Oh wisdom... how we can, when we go to India, when we go to India as soon as we get to the threshold of any house, we have to take off our sandals and leave them outside. How to leave ourselves outside is the way of wisdom - to leave a whole host of things outside on the other side of the threshold (I speak figuratively) and there it is only Christ. Only Christ! That is the house of God. That is the wisdom which is from above! That's incomplete I know, it's the broken column, but for the time being, let us hold on and the Lord will carry us through.
Again, Lord, we have to say it is with Thee and for Thee, by the Spirit, to show us the truth, to illuminate our hearts and to guide us into all truth. Our part is to be open, submissive, committed. By Thy grace so it shall be, for Thy glory, in the Name of the Lord Jesus. Amen.