We continue our consideration of what is brought to us in the Word of God in the New Testament, as to Christ having been designated the horizon of a new creation by resurrection. Without referring you to the specific scriptures which have been foundational to our meditation thus far, may I add one or two to them now, from the letters in which we are moving at this time, the letters to the Corinthians; a paragraph in the first letter and a paragraph in the second.
The first letter, chapter 2, at verse 7: "But we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, even the wisdom that hath been hidden, which God foreordained before the worlds unto our glory: which none of the rulers of this world hath known: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory: but as it is written, Things which eye saw not, and ear heard not, and which entered not into the heart of man, whatsoever things God prepared for them that love him. But unto us God revealed them through the Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For who among men knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so the things of God none knoweth, save the Spirit of God. But we received not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is from God; that we might know the things that were freely given to us of God, which things also we speak, not in words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Spirit teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. Now the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: they are foolishness unto him; and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually judged. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, and he himself is judged of no man. Who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ."
The second letter, chapter 3, at verse 16: "Whensoever it shall turn to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty..." there is an alternate rendering, "Where the Spirit is Lord". "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit is Lord, there is liberty".
We have been, shall I say trying, to see that the apostle Paul, in approaching the confused, tragic, Christ-dishonouring conditions and situations in the church in Corinth, made it his business to show to them that all that kind of thing was just the proof of the first Adam's sin and failure. It was really the outcome of satan's complicity with man and man's complicity with satan at the beginning which started up this whole history in the world, and which had found its way into the church in Corinth from the world, through the same medium as it came in in the beginning; that is, the soul of man. It's always like that when the soul life is projected with a self-motive, a self-interest, a self-strength - that provides a very easy and useful way for the forces of evil to move in and do what it has ever been their object to do - what they first of all did in heaven before they were cast out, and then what they did in the earth; that is, to bring about a state of confusion, of disruption, of disintegration, rivalries, factions, divisions, and what-not of that kind. That is the history which began when Adam opened his soul to the evil powers.
And we know that the Old Testament is just full of that history. And we know, moreover, that that is exactly what is in this world all the way through its history. And never has man been made more aware of that than he is today. What a state this world is in! You might say it's almost hopeless, if not utterly hopeless: confusion, strife, antagonism, disruptions, rivalries, factions and what-not - it's accentuation which is extending and exhausting all the wit and wisdom of this world to cope with it. It has ever been like that, and it's like that in the world, it's a cosmic discord shot through the universe. And in Corinth those forces found an opening because these people were so much living on what the apostle here calls the natural level and side of life. And so you find in the church just a repetition of what is in the world: divisions and confusion and so on.
Now, over against that, the apostle was here in these two letters stressing that that belongs to a side of the Cross which knows nothing really in experience and history of the power of Christ's resurrection - that Christ in resurrection is of an altogether different order from that, in as much as the Last Adam is so far removed in character, in nature, from the first Adam. Thus the apostle puts this matter of resurrection into the context of that situation where the world had, in its spirit, seeped into the church. He puts right into that context this large amount in these letters on the matter of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and of our resurrection with Him.
He shows that Christ in resurrection is of another order; that He is of a spiritual order. "Though," said the apostle, "we have known Him after the flesh..." probably thinking of himself in the earlier days of his life when he knew all about Jesus of Nazareth, all that there was to know about Him. He had fully informed himself of that: the man, the man of Galilee, the Galilean Jesus, what He had done, what He had claimed, what He had taught and what had happened to Him. He knew all about that human history: "Christ after the flesh...". And he says, "Now," (and this note is said as the completion of his statement) "that He died for all, therefore all died, all died, that they which live will henceforth live not unto themselves but unto Him who for their sakes died and rose again. Henceforth, we know no man after the flesh, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now we know Him so no more."
That kind of knowledge is closed, is finished, and our knowledge of Christ now is of a different character simply because Christ is of a different order in resurrection.
Christ in resurrection is a spiritual Person. It doesn't mean He's disembodied or a body-less person; we know very differently from that. But He is of a spiritual order - altogether different from men as we know them. "And," says the apostle, "there is no knowing Christ now, at all; there is no knowing Christ, there is no knowledge of Christ, and the only way which He can be known, which is by experience, is only by those who also are spiritual people!" This is fundamental to the very beginning of the knowledge of Christ: a spiritual order of person having made the beginning, to a new creation Life by a definite work of the Holy Spirit - all of the Spirit - and from that time being constitutionally different. Their life is required to be on the basis of that beginning, a progressively spiritual life.
Well, our statement here is that Christ in resurrection is the first of a new spiritual order of humanity, of mankind. And over against that the apostle is very emphatic, as we have pointed out: any man or any woman who leans toward their own natural level and realms of life is put under an embargo, is in a state of deadlock, under a handicap where knowing the Lord is concerned. "The natural receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God." And what a thing to say! They are foolishness to him, the things of the Spirit of God, "Things which eye saw not, ear heard not, and entered not into the heart of man. Things which God foreordained for us, are foolishness to the natural man, and he cannot know them."
Written over him, whatever he may be in this world, great in any way whatever, written over him so far as the things of the Spirit of God is concerned, is the word: CANNOT. Cannot! You just cannot. The apostle will enlarge upon that, he will speak about the mind being darkened, "And if our gospel is hid, it is hid in them that are perishing, in whom the god of this age hath blinded the mind". Minds blinded, darkened. That's the handicap.
Well now, what does this mean to you? That's, you may say, negative; not very inspiring, and I grant that! But it does lead to a positive side that is tremendously inspiring. Paul never believed in mere negatives and we ought not to believe in negatives. He leads on! And he has all this which we have read and more, about the Spirit.
You notice that in the first letter, chapter 2, in verses 10 to 16, that is, in six verses, Spirit is mentioned six times and spiritual is mentioned four times. Spirit. And you have taken note of what is said there about the tremendous possibilities and potentialities that are given with the Spirit, the Holy Spirit. The state of utter hopelessness, helplessness and impossibility is changed completely when it comes to the Spirit. Closed doors are thrown open wide, "God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit... the Spirit searcheth all things, yea the deep things of God" and so forth.
And then in this passage in the second letter, chapter 2, "Where the Spirit is Lord, there is liberty". And you'll notice the context, the immediate context is that of the veil.
The apostle says about Israel that whensoever they read the law, the Word of God, a veil is over their hearts. A veil is over their heart; here is the darkened understanding. "But when he shall turn to the Lord, the veil is taken away." The embargo is removed. The handicap is set aside.
"Now the Lord is the Spirit!" and it is upon that that I want to dwell in the time that we have at our disposal just now. It is the necessity, the necessity for the absolute sovereignty of the Holy Spirit for this Life in the new creation and all that it means. I repeat, and still stress: the necessity for the absolute Lordship or sovereignty of the Holy Spirit for all that is within the horizon of Christ in resurrection.
Christ gave the teaching, in essence and in principle. Christ did the work in life and in death. Christ covered the whole ground in Himself, in His teaching, and in His work and finished the whole, so that He could say, "It is finished"; or more accurately: "It is complete!" That is what we are, in part, celebrating today - the cry, all but the last on the cross, "It is finished. It is complete!" When He could say that, He could say the next and last, "Father into Thy hands I commend My Spirit" - not even commit my spirit, commend my spirit. There's a difference.
It is one thing to commit, it's another thing to commend. A commendation, is something honourable, something honoured. We sometimes use that word, well-meaningly but I think faultily, when we say that we commend ourselves to one. Who can do that? Who can do that? But we can commit. The good thing is He commends us, at last, to the Father. Commends us! However, that's by the way.
Now, what I was saying is that He perfected everything in life, teaching, and work and then went to the Father. What did He do when He went to the Father? Well, while it is not stated exactly in this way, there is plenty of evidence that this is what happened: in presenting Himself to the Father as the embodiment of a perfected work, the Father then comes (and it is a manner of speaking) to the Holy Spirit and says, "I deposit all that with You, to go down there with that charge and responsibility and commission, to make it good in those who will believe." The Lord Jesus provided the Holy Spirit with everything of teaching, of life, character, and work. The Lord Jesus deposited it all with the Holy Spirit, or provided it for the Holy Spirit, and it is in the good of all that, that the Holy Spirit has come. And none of it is possible - not a fragment - without the Holy Spirit.
Herein lies then, this necessity for the absolute sovereignty or Lordship of the Holy Spirit. It is taught in the second chapter of 1 Corinthians, as we have seen. It is definitely stated in the verse of 2 Corinthians chapter 3. But I said the Lord Jesus provided the ground; in teaching, in life, and work. The Lord Jesus Himself had taught this very thing! The Holy Spirit only came to make what Jesus had taught actual. We know it wasn't actual before He went and before the Spirit came; none of what He taught was actual until the Spirit came, but He had taught this very thing.
We are so familiar with the gospel by John, but I still think our familiarity robs us of a lot of its wealth, its riches. And we think we know John 3, we've only got to mention a certain man's name, and of course we know.
Nicodemus, but do you recognise, dear friends, that the very heart of that interview and intercourse between Nicodemus and the Lord, is this very thing?
On the one side the Lord Jesus is drawing Nicodemus out to the point of utter, hopeless despair as to understanding what He's talking about. And the Lord Jesus has spoken what to you and to me now, seemed to be very simple words! To us, we understand, but when He said that to Nicodemus and drew him on, at last Nicodemus heaved a tremendous sigh, like a sigh of despair, "How can these things be? How can these things be?" "Art thou the teacher in Israel and understandest not these things?" He's heaping it on; poor Nicodemus! "If I have told you earthly things and you've not understood, what if I tell you heavenly things?" You see the hopelessness of the situation with this man: a teacher, a learned man - a man, from this world's standpoint, of much knowledge - utterly hopeless and helpless. And realising in he, though He may not have used the language, that the veil was over his heart, certainly.
Now then, that's the natural man at his best. The Lord Jesus comes over [to the point] and He strikes this note that we are striking tonight. He strikes it with an illustration and an application: "The wind bloweth where it listeth, thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit."
I will not stay with the details of how that fits into Paul's statement that we have read, "He that is spiritual judgeth all things, and he himself is judged of no man", he is altogether a mystery; that by the way. "Thou canst not tell... so is every one that is born of God". "Thou canst not tell", but the point that I'm particularly after is this: "the wind bloweth where it listeth" - the wind blows were it likes! Where it likes! You cannot choose which way the wind will blow, you cannot decide the course of the wind, indeed, if you know anything about it, you know that it is a sorry thing to try out conclusions with a hurricane. See what you can do with a gale, with a hurricane! Can you command it? Can you control it? Can you direct it? It's taken things into its hands and no man will say it may, no man can give it any commandment, it has taken over! It has taken over! If you have ever seen the results of one of these great storms of wind, rooting up trees and plucking up houses, carrying them far and wide and spreading them everywhere, you know quite well that the wind bloweth where it likes! "So is every one that is born of the Spirit".
The point that the Lord is making is this: the Holy Spirit is sovereign. "And you, Nicodemus, like everyone else who wants to get into the kingdom of heaven, or has any hope whatever of coming into the new creation, you have got to let go to the Holy Spirit - recognise and accept His absolute sovereignty. You are not going to dictate to the Holy Spirit about anything. He is not going to suffer any of your restrictions, limitations, embargoes or anything that you like to put on Him, He will just not accept it. He will say, 'Accept My Lordship, or go your own way.'"
Now we're going to show that this is not just imagination or exaggeration. The Lord Jesus said that when the Spirit came. Is that not exactly what happened? What about Pentecost? "The sound as of a mighty rushing wind." What happened that day? Well, if the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost did not take over, then what did He do? If He did not take things out of men's hands, and take supreme sovereignty and Lordship, well then we've misread the story. He just did! He established that day a law which we are going to see. He followed up, but in the first place, He took over what the Lord Jesus had said, "The wind bloweth at His own discretion, by His own judgement, as He wills..." and on the day of Pentecost when the wind blew, that was the effect. It was something established that day, He fulfilled the word of the Lord Jesus.
Now, follow: it is not long after that, according to John's record, that we find the Lord Jesus at Sychar's well, or Jacob's well, by the village of Sychar in Samaria. You know the story of the woman who came out to draw water, and the conversation that ensued. And then how the Lord Jesus skillfully headed her up and said, "Go call thy husband...". She said, "I have no husband." He said, "Thou hast rightly said thou has no husband, thou hast had five husbands, and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband." Then said she, "Sir, I perceive that Thou art a prophet! Our fathers worshipped God in this mountain," pointing in the direction of the Samaritan temple in Mount Gerazim. "You Jews say that in Jerusalem men ought to worship." Jesus said unto her, "Woman, believe Me, the hour cometh and now is, when men shall worship God neither in this mountain nor at Jerusalem. God is a Spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in truth. Such the Father seeketh to be His worshippers."
You notice the question of the Spirit comes up again. The Spirit has been illustrated or symbolised in the water of the well, and now the question of the Spirit is here; "in Spirit and in truth". But what does He say? "The hour cometh and now is," meaning that the new hour of a new dispensation has arrived with Him. They are then on the very threshold of the new dispensation of the Spirit, this is a new hour or a new day, a figurative word. And He said, "In this new hour, this new regime of the Spirit, neither... nor... but!" Got that? Neither! Samaria or Jerusalem? Neither. Nor. But in Spirit. A whole regime is wiped out with that comparison and contrast. A whole history is obliterated with that statement. He said, He said, "Wheresoever two or three are gathered into My Name, there I am in the midst." Neither, nor, but in the Spirit. In the main: wheresoever.
Note: when Jesus used the great word, "Whosoever" to Nicodemus, He struck a fatal blow at Judaistic exclusiveness. He felled it there and then! "No, no, no, not Israel as the exclusive body to be saved, whosoever believeth in Me!" It was a fatal blow to all exclusiveness in the matter of salvation.
Now to the woman He says, "Neither, nor, but!" And that's a fatal blow to all localising of the church of Christ and fastening it down to any place, any geographical spot, any locality. He says, "Wheresoever two or three..." Neither, nor, but wheresoever... in Spirit and in Truth. That's the ground of the church. That's where Christ is, and where Christ is, the church is. And as we have been pointing out, this is the expression of the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit. He demands it.
Alright, the book of the Acts is the whole wonderful story of the Holy Spirit, isn't it? Well, you can take out various instances which so demonstrate this. If you take out Peter, in Joppa, going up onto the housetop, fasting and praying, getting that vision of the sheet let down, filled with all manner of creeping things. The voice out of heaven, the voice out of heaven saying, "Rise Peter, kill and eat." Peter the Jew, Peter the Hebrew, Peter the Israelite says, "Not so Lord!" The thing was done twice. Peter's in a dilemma - a dilemma created by his own interpretation of Old Testament scriptures and what this thing is saying to him that seems to contradict them. It's upsetting all his traditional beliefs and positions! And there arrived the three men there and then, and that's the other side of the story as far as Cornelius far away is concerned. And there arrived the three men and Peter was apprised of their arrival, "Three men are downstairs wanting to see you." He went down and they told him the story of Cornelius and the angel having spoken to him. An angel to Cornelius, but note: the Spirit said to Peter, "Go with them". The Spirit said go with them.
And I expect he went with his dilemma, fear, perhaps in terror, with this tremendous thing that he was being compelled to do against all his upbringing, teaching, tradition and everything else. Well, he arrived, and he told about things, finding there a large company gathered, "he began to speak unto them, and as he began to speak unto them, the Holy Spirit fell upon all that were gathered there". Oh, this awkward Holy Spirit! Why does He butt in like this? Forgive me for saying it like that, but you see, it's most embarrassing that He does this sort of thing! He fell upon all that were gathered.
A mighty thing happened. And then Judaism rose up. When he got back to Jerusalem, the elders called him for an interview and hauled him over the coals for going in to this Gentile and sharing with him. What was Peter's answer? "If God gave unto them the same Spirit, the same blessing as He gave unto us at the beginning, who was I, that I should reject God?" So he's come to it, "the Spirit bloweth where He likes and when He gets His way, it's no good, it's no good withstanding Him. Who was I to withstand God?" Withstand God! To have refused would have been to do what Israel did, and lost everything.
For Stephen he'd gradually led the leaders of Israel right up, up, steadily up, to the point where at last he struck his blow (which for him was fatal so far as his life was concerned on this earth) but he struck his blow, when he said, "Ye do always reject the Holy Ghost". And that cost Israel much more than it cost Stephen: everything for two thousand years, and we don't know how much more.
Do you see the point? The Holy Spirit demands an absolutely free way, clear way, unquestioned way of Lordship and sovereignty if all the values of Christ in resurrection as the horizon of the new creation are to be known. And this is a story, this book of the Acts, of coming into the glories of Christ risen; indeed it is.
Now, this apostle who is saying all this, is himself the supreme example. Paul's teaching about the Holy Spirit issued from what had happened to him. We said this morning that the Bible is the book of living people, not doctrines and systems, orders and forms, and things, but a book of living people. It's people, people, everywhere: individually, collectively, that God is interested in. And He's interested in them from the standpoint of spiritual experience.
And when Paul speaks about the Holy Spirit, he's not giving us just teaching or a doctrine, he is speaking of that which happened to him! What happened to him? What did he think had happened to him? What did he conceive to be the thing that happened to him? He puts it in one word, and it's a very expressive word and is very much in kinship with what we're saying, he said, "That I may apprehend that for which I was apprehended by Christ Jesus." I was apprehended by Christ Jesus!
Have you ever been apprehended? I hope the arm of the law has never lighted upon you to apprehend you, but if you have been at any time, you know quite well that it isn't the arm of a policeman, it's the arm of the whole power of the realm that comes through that hand. The whole realm is at work when that hand comes upon you and you've not just to resist that hand, you've got to reckon with the realm - all the law of that realm has apprehended you. That whole kingdom has come down by that hand and laid hold of you. That's how Paul thought of what happened to him, "I was apprehended, I was brought under arrest, I was mastered, I was taken prisoner!" From that time, ever and always he delights in speaking of himself as, "I, Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ. I Paul the bondslave of Jesus Christ, the apprehending robbed me of all my personal rights to myself and handed them over to Him. Master!" He is, I say, the supreme example of this Holy Spirit "blowing where He listeth" taking things into His own hands and bringing those concerned under His Lordship, His sovereignty.
Now, dear friends, it is not necessary to enlarge much upon that, we have stated the truth. The application, is this: if you and I want to enter upon the life of real heavenly fruitfulness and know the working of His power in us - and don't misunderstand me; not the feeling of His power, for there the majority, the majority in whom that power has worked mightily, oh so mightily, have not been very conscious of it - not been very conscious of it. Don't confuse consciousness of power and the working of power.
You and I are here today because of the working of that great power, but few of us have just sat down to feel the power working. But if we do want that that power shall work with all its fruitfulness, with all its glory to God in the end, if really we want to enter into this Life of new creation and its fullness, to explore and exploit the horizon of Christ in resurrection, it can come in no other way than this way, the way that Paul went, the way that Stephen went, the way that John went, the way that Nicodemus was called upon to go, the way that all must go... that is, the way of a complete capitulation to the Lordship of the Holy Spirit.
No setting up of anything to bind the Holy Spirit.
No constituting of any framework into which we are going to "invite" the Holy Spirit.
No laying down of rails upon which we expect the Holy Spirit to run.
Let the Holy Spirit have His way to make spiritual men, to make us spiritual people, to make a spiritual order. This, this inept habit of men all the way through of putting their hands upon something of God to constitute the crystalizing into some system and order, and quench the Spirit – drive out the Life. That's the dark side of church history. No, no, we will never go wrong if the Holy Spirit is in charge. The order will never be faulty if He is Lord. There will be right order, there will not be license in this blessed liberty, there will not be confusion. No, if He is Lord it is a matter, it's a matter of being committed, utterly committed.
Hands off to the Holy Spirit. Hands off to the way of the Spirit, committed to the Spirit, recognising that what the Lord said in those simple words, "The wind bloweth where He likes; so is everyone that is born of God..." Neither, not, but... in the Spirit. And noting that the Holy Spirit took up those seemingly simple, yet eternally profound utterances and carried them into effect and made them real in the church at the beginning and who shall say that He'll not do it again? Who will say that the Spirit has changed in this matter? Give Him a chance, let us give Him a chance!
Hands off: the hands of our minds, our reasonings, our views - fixed and unalterable - the hands of our interpretations. Let's stand back for the Holy Spirit, and give Him a way in us individually and in the companies to which we belong and we shall see that is what He's looking for. He will bring in the risen Christ, that all that He is as the horizon in resurrection will be there.