"... reaching forth unto those things which are before ...
toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus
(Philippians 3:13-14)

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Vol. 2, No. 5, Sep. - Oct. 1973 EDITOR: Mr. Harry Foster



T. Austin-Sparks

"Let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith
" (Hebrews 12:3).

"Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize?
Even so run, that ye may attain
" (1 Corinthians 9:24).

"Ye were running well; who did hinder you ...?" (Galatians 5:7).

"LET us run". It is not so much the running or the race that is in view but the goal, the prize. What is the objective of our running? Ideas about this vary greatly, and much evangelism limits it to the fact of being forgiven and going to heaven. When, however, we come to the New Testament, which is our final authority on the matter, we find that although blessings and heaven and glory are included, the real objective is a Person. The prize turns out to be a person, and that person, the Lord Jesus Christ. At this point in the letter to the Hebrews we are faced with a summing up and an exhortation, but it is clear that we must go back to the beginning of this marvellous document if we are to appreciate the force of its appeal.

The beginning of this epistle gives us one of the two or three classical presentations of the person of the Lord Jesus. I feel sure that if Paul did not actually write it, the writer was one of Paul's school, notably so in his apprehension of the matchless greatness of Christ. The first five verses provide us with a superlatively beautiful presentation of God's Son. It is to this Son -- Jesus -- that we are to look as we run. He is the goal: He is the prize. The letter has as its supreme object the setting forth of Divine fullness and finality in God's Son, presented to faith for faith's apprehension and appropriation. Fullness in Christ -- the gathering up of all into Him. Finality in Christ -- the completion and realisation of all in Him. It goes on to consider in greater detail what He is and what He has done, His manifold capacity and ministry as God's Son, turning then to an exhortation that we should keep this well in view and pursue our race with fullness and finality in Christ as our objective. Our lifetime will not be sufficient for us to attain to this: eternity will be required for us to discover what fullness really is.

If the goal and prize is Christ then the race will resolve itself into overcoming everything that is not Christ. The Christian life is a course, and a very strenuous course, calling for our utmost concentration, consecration and abandon. After all, progress can never be made unless there is something to work against, and strange as it may seem, friction seems almost essential to progress. One cannot run on ice, and one can only make slow and unsatisfactory progress on deep sand. There must be something against which one can press and push, something that provides resistance and which has to be resisted and overcome. So our race is a matter of overcoming, and supremely of overcoming the natural by the spiritual. Our three texts will give us three areas in which such an overcoming is called for in the Christian life. We find three contrasts.

(1) Natural Intellect or the Mind of the Spirit.

We begin with Paul's allusion to the Christian race in his letter to the Corinthians. He told them to run and later added: "So I run" (1 Corinthians 9:26). We do not have to look far to discover what you had to run against if you lived among those Corinthians. The letter begins with the complete contrast between the spiritual man and the natural man, showing that in this race the spiritual man [81/82] has to run against the natural, and defeat him. We must be careful to note that it is not a question of overcoming the natural man by the natural man -- that is a hopeless endeavour. No, the spiritual man is the new creation man, born of the Spirit and now the deepest inner reality of the Christian. The fact is that within the sphere of a Christian's being there is the natural man, who always hinders God's purposes, and the 'hidden man of the heart' who is governed by the mind of the Spirit. And the attaining of the prize is the result of the progress and growth of what is of Christ in the life and the leaving behind, often by conflict, of that which is not Christ.

Most of this letter is an exhibition of how the natural mind behaves in the things of God. Christian fellowship, even the Lord's Table and many other important features of the spiritual life were confused and muddled because the Corinthians were being governed by their own natural way of thinking. Our natural mind is a great obstacle in the race which we are running, cropping up all the time with its complexes, its arguments, its interests and its methods. When the Corinthians were brought into the Church they left behind their obvious sins but they carried over into their new realm the old, natural ways of thinking and reasoning which belonged to the world and not to the Spirit of God. But the apostle remonstrated with them: "But we have the mind of Christ" (1 Corinthians 2:16), so urging them to allow the cross to be planted between the natural mind and the spiritual. We shall only come to the fullness of Christ as we leave behind the mind of the natural man and move on more and more in the progress of the mind of Christ. On everything; every judgment, every conclusion, every analysis, every appraisal; we must ask the Lord: 'Is that Your mind, Lord, or is it mine? We may sometimes feel that we have the strongest ground for taking up a certain attitude or coming to a certain conclusion; we may feel that we have all the evidence and so are convinced; and yet we may be wrong.

The man who wrote the letter to the Corinthians knew from deep and bitter experience that this was the case. "I verily thought ... that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth" he said (Acts 26:9). There was no man who had stronger convictions as to the rightness of his course than Saul of Tarsus. The great revolution which took place in him when he came to Christ was that he had to say: 'I have been all wrong in my fundamental way of thinking'. After that confession he made good headway in the race because he was always ready to subject his thinking to the jurisdiction of his crucified Lord. This is the way of spiritual progress. We shall not get very far while we hold to our own opinions and our own conclusions, even though we may have the support of others; we have to learn to conquer our natural mind by submission to the mind of Christ. This is most important if we are concerned about spiritual progress. And spiritual progress is the increase of Christ -- there is no other.

(2) Natural Emotions or the Love of Christ.

Paul wrote to the Galatians: "Ye were running well: what did hinder ...?" Something had broken in and interrupted their running in the spiritual race. This was extremely serious and disturbed Paul to the depths of his being. It seems that in the case of the Galatians it was again the natural man, but this time in the realm of natural emotions. They seem to have been of that temperamental constitution which corresponds to Christ's words in the parable about seed falling into shallow soil. The seed was received quickly and earnestly, but did not go on to produce a harvest. There are some people who make an enthusiastic start in this way and make quite a stir about it, but then do not go steadily on. These Galatians were like that; they made a tremendous response; they loudly protested their devotion; and then they were very quick to drop out of the race. Why? Because they lived on their emotions, on their feelings, and these were changeable. This may well be a matter of temperament, but in fact something of such a characteristic can be found in most of us. We respond to an appeal, come under the power of a great emotion, and then slack off. In the words of the Lord Jesus: "When tribulation or persecution ariseth ... he is offended" (Matthew 13:21).

Clearly, then, if you and I are going to persevere to the end we must have a greater power than that of our natural emotional life. The only hope is [82/83] that it may be true of us, as of Paul: "The love of Christ constraineth" (2 Corinthians 5:14). There is all the difference between the natural and the spiritual in this matter of the energy of love. This word translated 'constraineth' is the same one used over the arrest of Jesus when it says: "the men that held Jesus" (Luke 22:63). They took a purchase on Him; they were not going to let Him escape; He was a prize, and they expected a reward for arresting Him. So it is that the love of Christ should hold or grip us, conquering our natural emotions by the mighty power of the Spirit. Our feelings come and go. They may be strong at times but they can also grow very weak. If we do not know something of the mighty grip of Christ's love, we will never go right through to the end of this strenuous race. After all it is the love of Christ which makes for the fullness of Christ. If we finally come to that fullness it can only be by the constraint and holding power of His love. "Ye were running well: who did hinder you?" The answer is, You ran in the strength of your own emotions, you ran as your enthusiastic response to God's call because it affected your feelings for the time. The letter to the Galatians is devoted to emphasising the place of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, for He alone can supply the necessary energy of love for us to go on running well.

(3) The Natural Will or the Will of God.

Our third text is taken from the letter to the Hebrews and is in the form of an exhortation: "Let us run ...". A comparison is made with Israel in the wilderness, as being an example of those who set out but who never finished the race. What was the matter with them? There is a reference which perhaps touches the secret core of their failure: "A generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not steadfast with God" (Psalm 78:8). This seems to indicate a breakdown in the matter of the will. It is true that the Hebrews to whom the letter was addressed may have been stumbled by the natural mind and natural emotions, but the main point of failure seems to have been -- like Israel of old -- in the realm of the will. Whether this natural will is regarded as weak or strong, it has a treacherous effect on spiritual life. There can only be real progress as this natural will is set aside in favour of the will of God. It was on this basis that the great Author of our faith set out on His race: "I am come ... to do thy will. O God" (Hebrews 10:7). What a battle He had to remain true to the will of God! Even with Him there was that which had to be brought under or set aside, and His was a perfect nature. Our natures are far from perfect, so clearly we shall need to be conquered by the will of God if we are to make progress in the race.

We should remember that the opportunity to know this all-embracing fullness of Christ only comes to us because of His infinite capacity for letting go. But for that He would never have come to us at all. But for that He would never have put up with life here on earth for one single day. The story of the laying aside of His glory, the emptying of Himself, His humiliation, His death on the cross, would never have been written if it had not been that He was able at all points to let go and accept the will of God. "Wherefore ... God highly exalted him, and gave unto him ..." (Philippians 2:9). God gives when we let go.


NICODEMUS    Reading: John 3:1-5.

If the disciples were present at this nocturnal interview they must have marvelled that the Lord Jesus dealt so uncompromisingly with this leader whose support might have given them some standing in the religious world. He who had welcomed men like Matthew now sent Nicodemus away with the firm insistence that he could only be accepted on the basis of new birth. Nicodemus wanted to bring his own knowledge and religious experience to enrich the apostolic band, but the Lord Jesus could not accept such an offer. Another nameless ruler who wished to contribute his material wealth was similarly rejected (Mark 10:22). With Christ we either begin at zero or we do not begin at all. Until Nicodemus had learned this lesson there was no alternative but to go back into the night.

From 'Daily Thoughts' by Harry Foster. [83/84]



Poul Madsen

"One of those that heard John speak was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon and saith unto him, We have found the Messiah, which is being interpreted the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone." John 1:40-42

GOD is a God of repetition, as we have seen, but He is not a God of uniformity. He has created millions of human beings, and all of them have two feet, two hands, a nose between two eyes, and two ears. This is repetition on a big scale. Yet each being is unique. None of them is exactly like the others. This is what our God is like, He is the God of repetition who hates uniformity. Satan is just the opposite. He insists on uniformity, and he often seems to have his way. All the big political powers are built on uniformity. You cannot become a big man in this world if you allow people to remain independent. Sometimes this principle seems to enter into the Church, so that people in a particular church seem just like one another. They are without originality; they have become copies; they do the same things, speak the same language and use the same phrases. This is most boring, and it is certainly not what it means to be holy. Far from being of God, such sameness is very, very human, and all too common.

Until now we have not been given the names of the two disciples of John who heard him and followed Jesus. In verse 40, however, we get a name, Andrew. Let us look at Andrew and find out what kind of a man he was. He is called the brother of Simon Peter, and I feel sorry for him for he is always so described. "One of his disciples Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said unto him ..." (John 6:8). "The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother ..." (Matthew 10:2). "Simon (whom he also named Peter) and Andrew his brother ..." (Luke 6:14). Almost the only place where poor Andrew is allowed not to be called Peter's brother is in Mark's Gospel, which was written under Peter's influence. In that list of apostles he is just called Andrew (Mark 3:18). I have a brother by the name of Ole, who is twelve years younger than I, and I certainly would not like to be called Poul, the brother of Ole. I equally doubt whether my brother would like to be called Ole, the brother of Poul. But Andrew is always called the brother of Peter. He was not so important as Peter, as we know, but still he became just as indispensable as Peter. He became a real man in his own right, a unique personality, as we can verify in these verses.

"ONE of the two which heard John speak and followed him was Andrew." Andrew heard without the help of Peter. He heard for himself, and then he followed for himself, without the help of Peter. He found for himself, without the help of Peter and, having found, "he first findeth his own brother Simon". The word 'first' indicates that he found others after Peter. It was he who found the lad with the five loaves and two fishes. Andrew was aware of that boy. Such were the qualities of Andrew, the brother of Peter. Humanly speaking he lived under the shadow of Peter, but really he lived in the light of the Lord, and therefore he had his own testimony, which he had not learned from Peter. He heard for himself: "Behold the Lamb of God". He heard that without Peter's help. And then he was able [84/85] to say: "We have found the Messiah". It is tremendous to listen to this. Andrew, the brother of Peter, heard that this was the Lamb of God and then, without Peter's help, he understood that this embodiment of meekness was also the Almighty one. The Lamb is the Almighty. It made his personality, to know this for himself. How had he learned it? Well, we have already noted what the Lord Jesus did about those who came to Him as a gift of the Father. Andrew came for himself, the Lord Jesus received him as a gift and gave him the Father's words, and Andrew received these for himself. Andrew, the brother of Peter, received through Christ the words which the Father had given. Those words were, of course, the Old Testament. We know that John the Baptist and his disciples had seen the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus and rest upon Him: "John bare record saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him" (v.32). It rested upon Him. And then Andrew, the brother of Peter, came to the Lord for himself and the Lord gave him the words about that resting Spirit. "And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him" (Isaiah 11:1-2). Andrew did not learn this from his brother Peter; he learned it from the Son of God. "The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord" (v.2). "With righteousness shall he judge the poor and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked" (v.4). The Spirit rested, abode on the Lord and Andrew, the brother of Peter, understood this and was able to identify Him as the Christ. He did not say: 'We have found a man and I think that he may be the Messiah', or 'We have found one and I should not at all be surprised if he turned out to be the Messiah'. No, there were no doubts in his mind and Andrew, the brother of Peter, was able to say: "We have found the Messiah" and in this way Andrew became a real man. He had found the Messiah, and in doing so had found himself. Like Paul, he could now say "By the grace of God I am what I am" and I am Andrew. He had become a great man, so great that he did not say 'I have found the Messiah'. It is only small men who have to speak about themselves. He forgot himself, in asserting that it was 'we' who had found the Messiah.

ANDREW was now a new man, and unique, even though he was still called the brother of Peter. He was an example of Biblical renewal, by which common men are made unique, real personalities. Our limited thought regards renewal in two ways. One is by repair. When my wife repairs my shirt. I say that it is like new. But repair is not Biblical renewal. The other way is by substitution, starting with new material, as though we had put Andrew aside and created another man. I buy a shirt and, of course, it is a new shirt. But neither is this the Biblical way of renewal. The Biblical way is not repair and it is not substitution, it is the miracle of renewal, so that Andrew is still the same Andrew, and yet an altogether new Andrew, a real man. This makes man the most interesting being on earth, and shows that the Creator respects what He has created. The Lord had created Andrew different from all others and then had given him a God-given personality. From the outside Andrew was unique, but now as an inner personality he was unique too. He had heard a wonderful message: "Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world". The sin was the self-centredness of the world. Through that message Andrew was liberated, delivered from self-centredness and got a new centre. His personality was no longer centred in his ego but in Christ, and so he became the real Andrew, though he remained the brother of Peter. This was true liberty, and Andrew could now say: 'I am what I am by the grace of God'. This testimony was convincing, because he was a real man, convincing even to his big brother, Peter. If my brother came to me and said something about having found the Messiah, I would probably reply: 'There are many crazy people nowadays!' Peter could have said the same. He could have answered: 'Oh, we have heard lots of that sort of thing. There are many idiots and fanatical people, so don't come to me with a story like that. After all, who are you to tell me anything? You are only my brother Andrew.' But as Peter looked at Andrew, it was as though he saw a new Andrew, a man quite natural, delivered, unartificial, not dramatic, but a real man whose testimony was most convincing. If you want people to believe your testimony you must be truthful, and you can only be truthful when you are yourself, and you can only be yourself when you are in Christ. If you copy others, don't expect people to believe you. Although Andrew was Peter's brother, he was such a new man, liberated and original, that Peter was ready to listen to [85/86] him. People will listen when they meet such a man. I am sorry to say that there are so few of them, for Christians tend to try to copy others instead of being themselves in Christ. Peter was, of course, much bigger than Andrew, for he was never called Peter the brother of Andrew, but always the other way round, yet he was ready to listen to this smaller brother and be brought by him to Jesus. Andrew made no effort to usurp Peter's place, to try to be superior to him, but was content as Andrew, the brother of Peter, to lead this brother to Christ. He was not asserting himself, not fighting for his own rights, but he was so free that he could be himself by forgetting himself and just living before the face of Christ and not before men. I wish that this spirit could be found more in our churches. The Lord does not want us to copy one another, for such copying opens the door to fear -- the fear of man. How many clouds would disappear in our assembly life if we had enough faith in God to allow our neighbours to remain what they are in Christ.

NOW let us look at Peter. "When Jesus beheld him ...". How did He look on him? May I ask you how you think Abraham looked on his dear old Sarah when she was ninety? I am afraid that she must have been rather wrinkled, with not much beauty left, as well as being barren. But how did Abraham look upon her? He saw the wrinkles, and perhaps a slightly bowed stature, and he knew of her barrenness, and yet he called her 'the mother of multitudes'. This was because he was looking at her in the light of divine promises, and in the light of divine power. We ask again, How did the Lord look upon Peter? Of course He saw the barrenness of Peter, and that is why He said, Thou art Simon. But He saw more than that. He looked at Peter in the light of His own power and intentions, and therefore he said: 'Thou shalt be called a rock'. The Lord spoke the word of faith to Peter, and because He spoke the word of faith, He imparted faith to Peter, creating through the word of faith and the spirit of faith that very rock nature which could never have been found in Peter himself.

This is a very important matter for our church life. How do we look at those who have come to the Lord, and how do we speak to them? You have a brother who has come to the Lord. You look upon him, see his barrenness and his faults, and you say that nothing good will ever come from him. If you say this, you will help to produce defeat in him, and you will be the one really culpable because whatever is not of faith is sin, and you have treated him without faith. The Lord Jesus is quite different. He produced faith in those men who followed Him. How seldom do you find Him correcting them? And you can never find Him expressing despair about them as though no good could ever come of them. He might have said: 'I have been trying for some years with you, but since it is obvious that there is no progress and no growth, I think that I will give you up'. Yet the very night in which they were going to betray and forsake Him, He still looked on them in faith and said: "Ye are they that have continued with me in my temptations, and I appoint unto you a kingdom". This was not because of any virtues in them but because He dealt with them in the light of His own power. It was in this spirit that He called Peter a rock. There seemed no reality for Him to base His words on. He could only speak in this way because He was either a foolish fanatic or the Son of God.

HE did not build on anything in them, but He had the grace and the power and the love as well as the wisdom to produce a Peter out of a Simon. Now He does not want us to be blind about one another's faults, treating everything with a blue-eyed optimism which pretends that all is well when it is not. No, it demands a life and walk with the Lord which exercises faith in Him and can reproduce that life of faith in others. You can never help a brother or sister by your doubts, nor by mere corrections, nor even by setting a high standard; what you have to do is to impart that high standard to them. Paul was a master in this art. He refused to know any man after the flesh, but knew everyone in Christ and through Christ. In this way he was a wonderful creator of men who were not caricatures, not imitators but real men. Not proud, and not with a false humility, but just themselves in God.

This is the basis of real fellowship, as the apostles showed. Andrew, the brother of Peter, has something to give even to Peter, and Peter, though Simon the weak in himself, is made strong in Christ to have something to give Andrew. Andrew has no inferiority complex, even though [86/87] he is always known in this secondary character as Peter's brother; and Peter has no sense of superiority even with his young brother, Andrew. They are just themselves, not trying to be like each other, and so are able to enjoy free fellowship in Christ. Such a life requires a real faith in God, for otherwise one will impose himself on the other and try to produce fellowship by means of fear. We can only have true fellowship in the freedom of faith and love. This does not mean that we have no standards, that anything is good enough. No, far from it, but it does mean that we must learn to look on one another with faith, speak to one another in faith, even though we may need to give a word of correction. The list of those who follow the Lamb is a very long one, and on it there is a place for us. Like Andrew, we may always be connected with some other name, but we must learn to follow for ourselves. Andrew must not try to be like Peter, and Peter must not try to make him do so. Nor must we get involved in artificiality or imitation. Our God is the Creator and the Redeemer, and He always works through the Spirit of faith.


(Studies in the epistle to the Galatians)


Harry Foster

MANY think that this letter to the Galatians was Paul's earliest contribution to the New Testament. Like all of his writings, this is not a treatise but a missive with a direct, personal message. It was written to meet an actual situation of need, written not to provide material for theologians but to show men that straight path of the gospel from which their feet were straying. Its writer remembered all too vividly how Peter, Barnabas and many others almost forsook that path (2:14); he realised the danger that the Galatians were in (5:7); and he wrote, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in order that the whole 'Israel of God' might be rightly guided in their Christian walk (6:16). This is the guidance which I propose to seek, using various headings which roughly correspond with the six chapters. They are: Revelation, Resurrection, The Holy Spirit, Sonship, Liberty and Fellowship. Our first study, based on chapter one, concentrates on the matter of revelation.

It is impossible for me to give you revelation. Indeed it is impossible to describe how to get revelation, for revelation is a miracle from God. The first public interchange which the Lord Jesus had was with the learned doctors in the temple. He was only twelve years old at the time, but He surprised them all with His wisdom. They marvelled at His words and no doubt discussed the matter after He had returned to Nazareth; but none of them had any revelation of who He really was. Then the last public interchange which Jesus had before His death on the cross was with a man who had little education and no instruction in divine things but, as he himself hung on another cross, this man had a flash of revelation. He perceived what even the well-taught disciples could not see, that Christ was the divine king who might be willing to make a place for him in His eternal kingdom. Even in those excruciating last moments, the Lord must have thanked the Father for performing this miracle of revelation to one of those least likely to be able to receive it.

TO Saul of Tarsus had come a much greater revelation as to the person of Christ, as he was able to testify; and his intention in writing was that his readers should also have a similar inward illumination. He wrote, therefore, not about ideas but about the Lord Jesus, His person, His cross and His resurrection. And he prayed before he wrote, continued praying as he wrote, and went on praying as the Galatians received his letter; with the one objective that Christ should be revealed in them too (4:19). There was nothing formal about this praying, it involved spiritual birth-pangs. In other parts of the letter he addressed them as 'brothers' but in this connection he spoke to and prayed for them as his 'little children'. They were getting far too conceited in their imagined cleverness and he longed that they might abandon all this false doctrinal dexterity and become again those 'babes' to whom the Father loves to reveal His Son. Paul was on sure [87/88] ground when he prayed like this, for his prayer was in line with God's good pleasure. This was the explanation of his own inner revelation -- "It pleased God to reveal His Son in me" (1:15). It was as though God had watched this religious fanatic, trying to serve Him and yet pursuing a course completely contrary to the God whom he wanted to worship. He had longed to show him the truth -- not just true ideas but the living truth as it is in Jesus -- and would have been glad to have had the chance to enlighten him with the knowledge of His Son. Then God's moment came: the inward revelation became a reality. This brought great pleasure to the persecuted Church; it brought even more pleasure to the transformed Saul; but the greatest pleasure of all came to the Father Himself, who likes nothing better than to give men an inward revelation of His Son.

IT is clear that revelation is much more than mere information. Saul the Pharisee possessed much information about Christianity without having any vital revelation of Christ. He knew many Scriptural facts, but they did not help him; in fact he fought them. We also may be enraged by divine truths, or we may perhaps be happy about them, but until something is done in our hearts by God's illuminating Spirit, it is just information and nothing more. When the initial enlightenment has occurred, though, then information can bring great benefit. Think of what happened to Saul when he was in Arabia. We have no certainty as to the exact time spent there, nor are we told how he was occupied, but the implication of his words is that he went there to be alone -- alone with God. What did he take with him? His Bible. Whether he took the actual parchments or not, he had an unrivalled wealth of Scriptural truth stored up in his Pharisee's mind and memory. When such knowledge was only in his head it did him more harm than good, but once the first miracle of revolutionary revelation had happened, then what was in his head could go down into his heart. He had a new Bible. He did not spend that valuable time in Arabia just going over and over his momentary experience of illumination but, having found the key to the Word of God, he was able to open it in the Lord's presence and find ever more unfolding light upon the Lord Jesus. Previously, if he had prayed at all, it would only have been for more understanding of the text, but now his constant petition must have been that the Spirit would unveil the Lord Jesus to his heart as well as to his mind. And if it pleased the Father to give Saul of Tarsus that first inward revelation, how very pleased He must have been to enlarge and deepen the revelation during the time spent in Arabia. Those must have been happy months. Saul, of course, would be thrilled as each day brought fresh light on the Word and showed him more of the Lord Jesus, but how happy God would be -- and always is -- to be giving fuller revelation of His Son.

What happened after this? Paul tells us that he went up to Jerusalem. On the road to Damascus he had met Jesus personally; in Arabia he had made rich discoveries of Christ in the Old Testament; but he still hungered and thirsted for the truth and, as he himself later wrote, "the truth is in Jesus" (Ephesians 4:21). It is striking that he used the plain name, Jesus, in this connection, so stressing the earthly manifestation of the Son of God. Truth is only to be found in Jesus. It was most important, therefore, that having identified Jesus as the Christ of the Old Testament, he must now learn New Testament facts about the coming in the flesh of this Christ. There is always a peril of our revelation being spoiled and distorted by our imagination. I sometimes meet Christians who claim that Christ is in them, and I have no reason to doubt this fact, but I must confess that they have ideas and procedures which do not seem to tally with what I read about Jesus in the Gospels. Surely we can only avoid our revelation being spoiled by imagination if we check everything by God's standard of truth, which is Jesus. Paul seemed to be of this opinion for he tells us: "Then after three years I went up Jerusalem ...". What for? "... to visit Cephas" (v.18 R.V.). The word here translated 'visit' is only used on this occasion in the New Testament and it is the Greek word from which we get our word 'history'. Fifteen days of history with Peter! Who better than he to give Saul the information he sought, for Peter had lived through those marvellous years of the history of the earthly ministry of Jesus and was able to describe them.

PAUL here states most emphatically that he did not get his revelation from Peter. Also that he did not get his commission as an apostle from Peter. We know that he did not get his education in the Old Testament from Peter. What did he get, then? Obviously, Peter's personal account of the things which Jesus had said and done, and how He had said and done them. Day after day, and into the night, the two men must [88/89] have gone over the historic details of those gospel years. To this new Saul, captivated by the Lord Jesus, it must have been well worth going to Jerusalem for that. One other man he did meet, so he tells us, and that was James. This seems to confirm my point. We would know, of course, that James was an elder in Jerusalem; its president at the Church conference there; and the author of a letter to the dispersed tribes. What we would not have known, apart from this reference to him in the Galatian letter, is that this was the same James who was half-brother of the Lord. Who, then, better placed than he to give Saul more historical facts about the home at Nazareth where he had lived in the closest contact with the Jesus in whom all the truth is to be found? It is impossible to imagine the profound effect on the apostle Paul of those two weeks in Jerusalem. But we need not envy him. We have much more. We have the rest of our lives which can be spent in learning more of Jesus by means of all four Gospels. You may say that you thought that the Gospels were meant for the unconverted, or that they contain elementary truths which should be left behind as one passed on to the Epistles. This is a fairly common mistake, but mistake it is, for whenever we read in the Epistles something about the Lord, we need to turn back to the Gospels to understand what is being referred to. I read, for instance, that Christ liveth in me, and then I need to get fresh light on how He lived, to know what this involves. I am told that I am to walk even as He walked, to suffer as He suffered and to love as He loved; but only the Gospels can inform me as to the true significance of such a walk. Is it too much to say that those fifteen days in Jerusalem produced a further revolution in Saul's thinking? If they were days of revelation they must have done so, for real inward revelation always produces transformation. So if you do not want your life to be turned upside down, then do not read the Gospels. But by not doing so you will not only rob your own life of spiritual value but deprive God of His great pleasure, which is to reveal His Son in you.

NOW, perhaps, we should go back a little and speak of the preparation for revelation. There is no question about God's wish to reveal His Son: the question is not 'if' but 'when' -- "when it pleased God to reveal His Son in me". Two points are stressed in this verse. One is that "He called me by His grace", and the other is, "who separated me from my mother's womb". Before the revelation, there was the call, and before the call the separation. Paul could truthfully tell Agrippa that the Lord called him by name, and spoke to him in his own language (Acts 26:14). Thank God that He knows our name and He knows our language. Saul of Tarsus had been under divine scrutiny for thirty years or more. From his birth God had planned to reveal His Son in him, and had ordered and overruled all his life to this end. Later the apostle may well have wondered why God had waited so long. There must have been times when he asked: 'Oh Lord, why did You not show me this earlier? Look at the years I have wasted! Look at the follies I have committed! How I wish that I had been given this revelation earlier.' If Paul did not complain like this, you and I are often tempted to do so. There is a simple answer. It is that Saul was not ready. God had to do a preparatory work in him, and the main feature of that work of preparation was one of disillusionment. He had to be disillusioned about his own efforts to please God. He had also to be disillusioned with his imagined understanding of the Word of God. He faced disillusionment even over his own praying and, hardest of all, disillusionment with himself as a man. When he had come down to that level, then God could meet him and show him Christ. The same applies to us. Are you full of ideas about what is divine truth? Are you convinced of the rightness of your own ways and the value of the sacrifices you are making for Him? Then, my brother, you are not yet ready for revelation. Perhaps the work of preparation is going on. It may be that you have now reached the moment of complete disillusionment with all else and, most of all, with yourself. This seems to be a necessary prelude to revelation.

And since revelation must be a continual process, it may be that new experiences of self distrust have to keep recurring. I notice at least two such crises in the life of Paul himself. The first was at Corinth. Paul had always felt a burning desire to evangelise Jews. At Corinth he was disillusioned. At Corinth he had to shake his raiment in repudiation of the synagogue, and turn to the Gentiles. He had no hesitation in doing this but it must have been a keen disappointment to him, so much so that the Lord decided to appear afresh to him, to assure him that many believers were to be gathered in Corinth, though they would not be Jews. He told the downcast Paul: "I have much people in this city" (Acts 18:10). It may be [89/90] that the Lord was saying to His servant: 'Forget your own desires and ideas in your work for Me, and keep on with My ideas. This is how we will go on together and you need have no fear.' So for Paul the night of disappointment became a night of new revelation. The Lord had appeared to him. The second occasion was connected with his appearance before the Jerusalem council. He had the brilliant idea of defending himself by claiming to be a Pharisee and so precipitating discord among them. His strategem worked, for Pharisees and Sadducees were soon quarrelling so violently that the Romans had to remove Paul from the council chamber. But Paul later felt, as many of us have done at times, that his cleverness was not what God wanted at all. We get a bad reaction when we take things into our own hands in this way. It is a bitter experience to realise that in spite of all our blessings and spiritual growth we can be betrayed into some expression of our old nature which gets us off the straight path of the gospel. It may well be that Paul was passing through some such experience of self-disillusionment, for that night the Lord again made a special appearance to him. The Lord did not discuss Paul's failure. He seldom does. He waits until the consciousness of them has shocked us, and then He comes and says: 'Be of good cheer. We will keep together and finish the work which we set out to do' (Acts 23:11). It is when you are most disillusioned with yourself that you are ripe for a fuller revelation of God's Son, for the whole secret of the Christian life is 'Not I, but Christ'.

IN conclusion we note that revelation is meant to produce ministry -- "... to reveal his Son in me that I might preach him among the Gentiles ...". So revelation is given not that I may sit at home and meditate on it, not that I might write some poems about it, and not even that I may tell other Christians about it. No, it is given so that I may go out and meet people who have never received it, and convey something of Christ to them. God gives people the revelation of His Son, but He usually needs a human agent to make this revelation actual. The book of the Acts describes three men who illustrate this fact. The Ethiopian eunuch had the Scriptures, but he needed Philip to interpret them to him. Cornelius was visited by an angel, but the angel insisted that Peter must be called to communicate God's message of revelation. Saul of Tarsus met Jesus on the way to Damascus, but he had to wait for Ananias to complete the work begun by that vision. None of the three agents wanted to do the work. Peter and Ananias said so very emphatically, and we presume that Philip must have been most reluctant to leave Samaria and go off into the desert. None of them preached a sermon. Philip and Ananias just talked. It is true that Peter did start preaching, but he was soon interrupted by the intervention of the Spirit, and did not get very far in his sermon. So even if we do not feel very willing, and even if we have no preaching gifts, we are still needed to be both recipients and ministers of the revelation of God's Son.


Reading: Luke 24

Bill Thompson

THIS resurrection story points us to the possibility of having fresh openings to new things, while still holding on to the values of the past. Our tendency is to imagine that the blessings God has given us are, as it were, the last word; and therefore we hold on to them as though there were nothing more to follow. When the three disciples had their experience on the mount of transfiguration they were so overwhelmed with the glory of the Lord Jesus that their immediate reaction was a desire to perpetuate that experience. Everything was so wonderful that they felt the need to settle down with it, not realising that they could take its values with them and yet move on to new discoveries of the infinite greatness of Christ.

"The Lord has yet more light and truth to break forth from His Word" is not merely a thrilling thought from a hymn but a real possibility, if only we are open to such new light. One of the perils of wide-margin Bibles is that we may use them to provide fixed rails for our thoughts, and so develop a closed attitude towards the Lord's new speaking. Our notes and underlinings may be helpful, but they should never be allowed to have this kind of effect. Perhaps from time to time we should start a new Bible. This would be good for trade, but it might also be good for our spiritual growth and progress. Certainly we must watch out for anything which would hinder our spiritual life by making us closed when we should be open. So quickly we get into a rut, and unintentionally feel that we are only safe so long as we confine ourselves to [90/91] what we have always been used to. It is very important, though, that we should constantly allow the Lord to open up new areas of our being. I have recently had my attention drawn to seven openings which may be found in this chapter, and have found help in considering each one of them separately.

1. The Open Tomb (vv.2-3)

This is a resurrection chapter and therefore we are not surprised that it begins with an open tomb. This, in fact, is where everything begins for us as Christians, for there is no patching up of our old life, but the bringing in of an entirely new one. Those who know the power of resurrection life and live in the good of it have no need to be always reverting to the past, but have new faith for new experiences of God's power. Faith is not something which can be stored up, as though we could draw on a fund of reserve faith. "I live by the faith of the Son of God" means an ever present and ever fresh experience, coming livingly to us from the risen Christ.

The opened tomb was the expression of God's power to do something which had never been done before. That is why these two could not understand it and walked on to Emmaus with hearts that were slow to believe that God could do it, concerned and perplexed as we always are until we have learned to be governed by the principle of the opened tomb. We reason around things and make an effort to explain them, while all the time God is asking us to believe that He means what He has said, and is well able to fulfil His promises. The opened tomb is His great guarantee that He has the answer, not in terms of explanations and appeals to reason but in the person of His risen Son. This kind of life is full of joyful wonders, as we see the working of the God of the impossible. It is a feature of our age that we have lost our capacity to wonder because so many extraordinary things are happening. God's wonders, however, only begin when man's efforts are exhausted, and the resurrection of Christ is meant to lead us into constantly new and unexpected proofs of His ability to open up the deepest grave in which we may find ourselves.

2. The Opened Home (v.29)

The Lord did not force His way into this Emmaus home. He never does that. He stayed with the two disciples because they opened their door to Him and begged Him to come in, so He not only went in but sat down with them. He had been with them as they walked along the road, but it was when He sat down with them in their home that the real revelation took place. The Lord sets great store by homes. A true church is only an extension of the family and the home, where things are possible on a larger scale than is possible in an ordinary dwelling. It is unlikely that there will be a church really open for the Lord's revelation of Himself unless it is based on homes which are just as open to Him. How can we expect to share His glory in the assembly home and at the assembly table if we do not have our own homes and tables open to Him? Yes, and open to others, also, so that they can get a fresh revelation of His love and power among us. Whether it be by entertaining the visitor in our private homes or welcoming the stranger in our assembly home, we will always find that such an action brings the Lord in a new way, making it possible for Him to reveal His glory.

3. Opened Eyes (v.31)

We might have thought that this experience would have come before the opened home, but in this case it did not do so. It seems that it was when they opened things up to the Lord that He was ready to open up things to them. Until this they had received a very full and heart-warming exposition of the Scriptures, but even so their eyes had not been opened to recognise Him. Bible study is very important and very rewarding, but the end in view should always be a new seeing of the risen Christ. We may wonder why He waited so long before revealing Himself in this way. Clearly He regarded the Bible explanations of what had happened as being of primary importance. He did not show Himself as a kind of emotional vision, but led them step by step through the Scriptures, and only when the truth was clearly established in a Biblical way did He let them see who He was. For them there could be no opened eyes without the Word of God, and the same is certainly true of us.

4. The Opened Scriptures (v.32)

This again may seem to be out of sequence, but I do not think that it is, for it seems that when our eyes have been opened to behold Him we must be taken back to the Scriptures and study them in the light of our knowledge of Him. The Word will lead us to Him but He, in turn, will lead us back to the Word. Really it is only He who can adequately open it to us. How much more there was in the Old Testament than the disciples had ever realised. No doubt they considered themselves well taught in the Word, and [91/92] yet as they enjoyed His personal tuition it all opened up to them in quite a new way. In some senses theirs was a unique experience, and yet He has promised that in the same way His Holy Spirit -- that other Comforter -- will do the same for us. It has been a feature of evangelical Christians to claim an open Bible. It should be a feature of all who know the Lord personally that this open Bible should be daily opened anew to them by the Lord Himself.

5. Opened Minds (vv.44-45)

In this case we notice that the openness was not just of the eyes but of the minds. Is there any difference? It seems that there is, for Paul prayed for the Ephesians that "the eyes of their understanding should be enlightened" (Ephesians 1:18), and from this we presume that He longed that those who knew the Lord and read His Word should be given an insight into the divine purposes involved. I believe that the word employed by Luke is a strong one, meaning 'to open fully'. It involves more than a casual grasp of truth, such as so often characterises those who feel that they are familiar with it, that they have heard it all before and know it all; rather implying a deep and detailed apprehension of the mind of God by intensive instruction. We must ask the Lord for this. Our quest must be not just a neat fitting together of prophecies or sentimental applications of comfort, but an entering into the mind and purposes of God as they are contained in His Word. The Lord took the whole of Scripture, right from the beginning, opening it up to His hearers and also opening their minds to grasp His meaning in a living way. There must be no area of our minds which is not open to Him. If we are so clouded by tradition or natural limitation that His purpose escapes us, then we must appeal to Him to open up our minds and give us capacities which we do not naturally possess. It was not just that they had open minds, though that is important, but that the risen Lord actually worked upon them to open their minds by His divine power.

6. Opened Heavens (v.51)

Everything had been leading up to this, the opened heaven. It was open to receive Him, and one day it will be opened again as He returns; but to us the glorious truth is that heaven is no longer closed, but opened wide to the believing heart, as Stephen found in his hour of greatest need. We are not to envy the two on the road to Emmaus, or the rest of the disciples who saw the Lord, for in our spiritual experience He is just as real and just as near to us as He was to them. The heavens have received Him, but they did not close behind Him. They remain open so that we can pray and praise at all times and in all places. This is one of the great benefits purchased by the sacrifice of the cross and made real in the resurrection and ascension; the possibility of living under an open heaven.

7. Opened Lips (v.52)

It was not that the disciples had previously been speechless -- far from it -- but that the opening process brought new release into their lives, and wondering worship found expression in both praise and testimony. Into the dead and formal exercises of the temple worship came men whose mouths had been opened to bring living praise to God. This they did continually, for every day brought fresh realisations of the wonder of their risen Lord. We may not feel able to voice the glories of Christ as we would wish, but we can obey God's word to Israel: "Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it" (Psalm 81:10). Only sin and unbelief can close our lips, so, with a living faith in a living Saviour, we should be delivered from the silence of defeat and know the blessed victory of lips divinely opened to speak His praises, and to share in the Church's worship. An opened tomb should result in opened lips.



Roger T. Forster

OUR last consideration of the temple will deal with its four main materials, and our whole concern is to learn more about the Lord Jesus by this means. The temple was the shadow, but we must not merely equate each material with some special aspect of Him, for He did not come just to present this feature and that, as though gold spoke of one truth and stone another, but rather to help us turn from the shadow to the reality. A shadow is flat, it is black and white, but the Lord Jesus gives a third dimension and rich colour to the truth. Whatever we can say of [92/93] any aspect of truth, it will be quite inadequate to reveal Him, for He is so much more. We have no intention of trying to provide dogmatic interpretations, for whatever we can find in the temple is completely swamped and surpassed by the living Lord. It is He who gives meaning and character to the shadow, and not the shadow which compasses the truth about Him. Of course there is a very clear connection between the type and the reality, so we expect to learn more about Him as we concentrate on the various ideas suggested by the four main materials and how they were used.

We find that quite a number of Gentiles were involved in the making of the structure and its furniture. This seems to point on to the present day of widespread gospel activity in Christ. Even as Solomon prayed, he looked up to heaven as God's true dwelling place, knowing full well that all human projects have real limitations. God's work is always bigger than men think, and this was evidently too big for the Israelites alone. From Tyre and Sidon Hiram sent the trees which had first been cut down in his kingdom and then floated down the sea coast as rafts. There was also another Hiram -- he was at least a half-Israelite -- who went down to the Jordan valley to teach the people how to work in brass. In addition to these, Solomon arranged shifts of Israelites to cut stone out of quarries in their own areas. Then lastly there was the gold which had been accumulated by David and others in their military victories. So we see that there were four main materials which were wood, stone, gold and brass, and we find that each was dealt with in a different way. We will notice that they were alike in the respect that their treatment was a rough, harsh one. They were:

THE WOOD which was cut down (or hewed) (1 Kings 5:6).

THE STONE which was chipped out (or 'hewed', but a different word is used) (1 Kings 5:17).

THE GOLD which was spread out (or overlaid) (1 Kings 6:20).

THE BRASS which was scoured (or burnished) (1 Kings 7:45).

(1) THE WOOD. Cut down.

Israelites were sent up to help the Sidonians to cut down the trees, but we note that this wood had to be paid for. "And Solomon gave Hiram twenty thousand measures of wheat for food for his household, and twenty measures of pure oil; thus gave Solomon to Hiram year by year" (1 Kings 5:11). The wood, then, had a price, and Solomon paid it. May I suggest that we too have to pay the world a price to provide material for God's dwelling? This may sound strange, but when we look more closely at what it was that Solomon paid we will perhaps agree that unless we are concerned to provide the spiritual equivalent of the wheat and the oil to those in the world around us, there will be no release for God in our lives. Unless we are supplying the men and women around us with wheat -- that is spiritual food -- and oil -- which represents the touch of the Spirit -- there will be little in our lives which corresponds to the cutting down of the trees. Solomon had to pay Hiram, who was a man of the world and had no part in God's project, with wheat and oil, which suggests that we have to offer to the world the spiritual bread and the Spirit's oil which speak of the very substance and presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is what the world needs; for lack of Him it is hungry, dissatisfied and unhappy; so we need to get involved with this world if we are to become like trees cut down for the Lord's house. To be cut down by the cross we have to be exposed to the world. It is true that some of the cross's sharp cutting is done by our carnal brothers, but it is mainly our going out to meet the needs of a Christless world which results in our being cut down, for it is in this pursuit that we realise the inadequacy of our own natural lives and find the cross working in us. We become like those proud Lebanon cedars which were laid low by the axe; we find ourselves in a sort of baptism, like their journey down the coast by sea; we die, and yet we live again to His glory.

There is nothing like being confronted by a hostile world, with all its threats against what we hold most precious and dear, to make us appreciate our utter inadequacy and inability to meet its challenge. The whole thing is too big for us; we cannot go on; we find ourselves felled and laid low. So it is that we experience practical crucifixion, by being exposed. We do not get to know the cross by thinking about it as a subject, but only by moving out in the will of God and proving the reality of His new life in Christ. It was turning point in my own experience when I found myself confronted by a large crowd of atheistic and agnostic students at Liverpool University. It was my first experience of this kind, and imagine my feelings when the C.U. president turned to me and said: 'I'm scared stiff of this crowd. What can I say?' Now he only had to give a brief introduction for three minutes, [93/94] whereas I had to talk to this hostile audience for three quarters of an hour. At that moment I felt that I just could not do it. I am glad to say that the Lord came in with His divine power, but for me it was like an execution. I was being cut down to provide, I trust, some spiritual values which will be preserved in the temple for all eternity, but it happened while I was paying the price of wheat and oil to those needy people around me. When I speak in this way I am talking not just of evangelism, but of being exposed and cut down, just like those cedars of Lebanon.

We gain some impression of spiritual realities when we think of the various types of wood which were used for the temple. The cedars spoke of that which is enduring and incorruptible, reminding us of our expectation that with the return of the Lord Jesus we shall be given incorruptible bodies. Then there was the wood of the fir trees, which was especially used for the flooring. This wood was chosen because it was strong and very enduring, able to resist the heavy wear and tear of life. Then, of course, there was the olive wood which was used for the doors and some special features and furniture of the temple. Olive trees were not grown for timber. Their value was found in the olives from which oil was extracted. They therefore represented sacrifice, for someone would find it very costly to cut down such valuable trees.

(2) THE STONE. Chiselled Out.

The stones which were used for the temple had to be chipped and chiselled out of the rock formations in the land of Israel. Spiritually this temple material is described as 'living stones'. There was a real sense in which their original state, as part of the natural rock, was one of death. They were only potentially associated with a living purpose until their 'livingness' was made actual by their being hewn out of their native rock and brought all the way to Jerusalem to be incorporated into the divine edifice. Now in speaking of the living stones Peter says that God began by laying the foundation stone in Sion, pointing out that it could not be moved, being tested and honoured, so that the other stones must derive their nature and position from Him. "Unto whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God and precious, ye also as living stones are built up a spiritual house ..." (1 Peter 2:4-5). As we are disconnected from the rock of nature and brought to the foundation stone of Christ, we become living stones.

Now the stones used for the construction of the temple were truly substantial. Whereas the tabernacle was frail and could theoretically have been blown over, the temple certainly could not; it was immovable. In the New Testament we see that it is only that which is of the Spirit which is solid and everlasting. So it is that as we keep coming to Christ, there is a substantial and lasting work of the Spirit which unites us to Christ and provides values which are solid and established for ever. But the 'coming' always involves a drastic work of chipping and chiselling us into shape for God. We notice that these stones were cut out in such a way that they could be used to make little chambers, abiding places, along the walls. There were three storeys, each one larger than the one below. These chambers were dwelling places, and the Lord seemed to make a close connection with the many abiding places in the Father's house when He called to us to abide, or dwell, in Him. He proceeded to describe the outcome of such abiding: "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit ..." (John 15:7-8). The experience of obtaining answers to prayer is explained as 'fruit', and there is nothing more thrilling than to be proving the power of God to answer prayer. The material of which God's house is constructed is of those who -- like the stones -- are cut out from their own natural realm and chiselled and chipped so that they can be incorporated into Christ, and then live the life of abiding, of communion with God and of receiving answers to their prayers.

(3) THE GOLD. Spread out.

Most of the temple's gold, and indeed the silver too, was donated by David who had gained it from his battles. He was a man of war, and so was not allowed to build the temple, since such building needs peace. Now David fought to get the gold, having to face and defeat his foes to obtain it, but even so this gold had to be dealt with in a particular way before it actually had a part in the temple. It had to be molten, to be spread out, exposed, and then applied. The battles point to those spiritual conflicts in many realms in which the Christian is meant to gain the victory by faith, and to possess spoil for God as the outcome of his triumphs. There are so many temptations, difficulties in the personal life and problems in relationships, which can yield values for the house of God if they are met and overcome through Christ. But first they must be brought back to the Lord, exposed and laid out before Him, just as David's gold was melted and then [94/95] poured over the various parts of the temple (1 Kings 6:21).

Exposed to God. Why am I making such a big point of this activity? Because it is not just the apparent victory which is preserved in God's house, but the fact of it being brought back to Christ, laid out before Him, poured out in thankful worship, which results in that glory for God which will never be lost. If it were not so, then we would be faced with the problem of men whom God manifestly used and yet who have no lasting heritage of spiritual glory. In the Old Testament we might cite Balaam, who had wonderful experiences, whose prophecies encouraged God's people, and who yet perished as he ran after the wages of unrighteousness. Or in the New Testament we have to consider Judas who worked for the Lord and performed miracles, including casting out demons, and who yet failed to bring anything back to the Lord to expose it before Him. On the other hand, David's psalms show how all his battles and victories were brought back to God in praise and worship; he kept nothing for himself put poured it all out before the Lord, acknowledging that everything came of divine grace. In this way he points us to the proper use of our spiritual triumphs, namely that they should overlay everything with the outpoured gold of praise and worship. If we looked at the various directions in which the gold was spread, we would find it over the whole altar (for prayer), over the floors (for walk), over the doors (to welcome people in), over the innermost place (for communion and revelation) and also as links in a chain which made a partition, not so much to keep people out as to direct their way in (the links of a fellowship of love). This process, then, of being poured out or spread out before the Lord, is an essential part of the realisation of God's purpose in the Church.

(4) THE BRASS. Scoured.

We are told that the brass was made bright by being scoured. A lot of brass was used on the outside of the temple, and it had to be polished and burnished so that men might see its beauty as it shone in the sunlight. Of course the brass had to be melted down, and a foreigner went to teach the Israelites how to cast and prepare it. We read of this Hiram, whose father came from Tyre, that "he was filled with wisdom and understanding, and cunning, to work all works in brass. And ... he cast two pillars of brass ..." (1 Kings 7:14-15), and further we are told about "the pots, and the shovels, and the basons; and all these vessels, which Hiram made for king Solomon for the house of the Lord" and that these were of bright brass (verse 45). This brass was first melted down, then placed in moulds of clay; then afterwards it had to be scoured and scraped until it shone brightly. What does this teach us? Surely that there is something which provides material for God's house which, in a sense, we do not have to do anything about, we only have to bear it. This scraping which we must bear is the tribulation which works patience. There are dealings which God has with us in this present time of light affliction which will result in a great weight of glory. The trials work for us. All we have to do is to accept them. God will make sure that the scraping and scouring goes on, dealing with us in those situations which are necessary for the affliction to do its work. There is no other way.

Most prominent among the brasswork were the two pillars, Jachin and Boaz. These were not designed to hold anything up but just stood as symbols of strength and stability. Now the Lord spoke to the churches about men being made pillars -- presumably of brass -- in the temple of God (Revelation 3:12), on the condition of their having kept the word of His patience. The point seems to be that such men kept the word of His patience at a time when there was nothing else that they could do but just stand and endure. It was not that they did something spectacular, but only that they remained patient amid all the scraping and scouring of affliction, and as they thus stood and endured they became bright shining pillars in God's house. Jachin and Boaz were prepared by the wise and cunning Hiram, but the one who is working with us is our infinitely wise and skilful Lord, who knows how to prepare us for this wonderful destiny of being a radiant expression of His strength and His stability in the eternal temple of our God. We read of Stephen standing for God in scouring circumstances and being given a vision of the Son of man also standing (Acts 7:56). This is God's purpose for each of us also, that we may be so ready to accept the burnishing, scouring trials that come upon us for Christ's sake, that we ourselves may stand as and where He stands in the bright glory at God's right hand.

Here, then, in the materials and their various treatments, we find four aspects of Christ which we are called upon to share as we move forward in the will of God to become His eternal house of glory. [95/96]




T. Austin-Sparks

STRICTLY speaking this incident applies most directly to the matter of the salvation of a sinner, but it has general principles of a wider scope and fuller application which can profitably be considered by the Lord's people. We are not occupied with the study of a book of the Bible or of the life of Elisha, but are seeking through them to learn more of the Lord in the power of His resurrection. It is the power and fullness of resurrection life which give meaning to the ministry of Elisha.

Naaman is a representative of the natural man, as that man is both outwardly and inwardly. He was a great man in the eyes of his king; he was a man of reputation, of position and of ability; and yet together with all that greatness he had the power of death working in him. Death was actively master of the situation, so that his whole life was under the reign of vanity. Everything could only at best go on for a while, and would inevitably pass unless something intervened. This is a typical illustration of man as he is by nature. Happily, however, the man was brought into the realm of the divine, the initiative being taken by forces outside of himself. Naaman was not the first to move, for his wife's little serving maid was the instrument by which the link was made between him and the source of life. Sometimes quite small things become the means in the hands of the Lord of bringing about such a link. Insignificant things, humanly speaking, are often used, and it is a thing to note in this story how the Lord's means and methods were of a different character altogether from what Naaman would have considered as suitable in his case. Grace often acts for our good through means which we might despise or take little account of.

Through this simple and apparently insignificant instrumentality, Naaman was brought within the sphere of the ministry of life. It may have seemed almost like a chance expression, as the little serving maid said to her mistress: "Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! then would he recover him of his leprosy". Perhaps it was little more than a sympathetic ejaculation, but from it there eventuated a working of God's power which had great issues. Men sometimes organise tremendous movements, with much high-pressure persuasion, which yet fail to get results, whereas the Lord effects His great ends in extremely simple ways which seem almost incidental. There is a wonderful simplicity and quietness about the methods which God uses. We must take account of this, so that the very simplicity of His ways do not catch us in an unwatchful state. If we are expecting some sensational intervention, some voice from heaven, we may miss those simple movements of life which God wishes to employ for the fulfilment of His purpose. So it was that from this simple exclamation of a little slave, Naaman ultimately came into direct touch with the man who could cause him to know the fullness of life triumphing over the death which was working in him. In a sense, his difficulties began when he visited Israel, for it was there that his real state was made plain. He knew that he was a leper, and this cast a shadow over his whole life, but the true character of his condition as a man was not disclosed until he came directly into touch with the means of his deliverance.

TO describe what happened to him in New Testament language is to say that his difficulties arose from having to accept the fact that he was in serious need and was prepared to go to certain lengths to have his need met, but when he was faced with the full implications involved, he found that this was too much for him. As a natural man he required some recognition of his own qualities. After all, he was a man with a reputation, held in such honour that it seemed reasonable for him to be treated with due consideration. When, then, it was proposed that he should adopt a course which seemed quite disreputable, he found himself confronted with what Paul calls: "the offence of the cross". "Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? May I not wash in them and be clean?" It was quite unacceptable to a man like him to be treated in this fashion. This kind of problem presents itself to different men in different ways. For some it is an intellectual matter, and if everything is not dealt with in the realm of the intellect, then they feel that it is beneath them and not worth considering. Others have different approaches which minister to their self esteem in one way or another. But whatever men require of God, He for His part will not deviate one hair's breadth from his own stated ground of the cross. For Naaman, the Jordan meant the place where all consideration [96/97] of reputation or position had been set aside, and God could not offer him any alternative to this. Naaman had his battles, as many others have since had, but there was and is no blessing until man accepts the verdict of the cross on himself, and that is the emptying out of all self esteem or effort.

It may seem a simple matter to state that the divine judgment of man in the cross is the condition for fullness of life, but it is a truth which is as important to the believer as to the unbeliever . Unfortunately a great deal of gospel preaching tends to lay all its stress on the blessing and satisfaction of man, so obscuring the fact that the cross has ruled out man by nature. This means that full surrender has to be taught to experienced Christians, who should have made such an unreserved committal right at the beginning. So it is that many of us spent years floundering along in measures of weakness and ineffectiveness, because we had not realised the full implications of the cross in setting aside ourselves in order to make way for Christ. We saw that Calvary meant life for the sinner, but we did not clearly perceive that Calvary set the natural man aside; and it was not until we came to this that we began to enjoy fullness of life. We had tried to carryover a great deal of our natural life on to new creation ground, and to use it in God's service, so finding that it became a constant burden and strain, whereas the purpose of the working of the cross in us is that all things should be of God.

FOR Naaman the full implication of the cross was presented, no consideration whatever being given to his flesh. He came with his pomp and retinue to the house of Elisha, and sent in to announce his arrival, but the prophet did not as much as rise from his stool to look out and see this remarkable visitor. He simply went on with whatever he was doing and sent out the message: "Go, and wash in Jordan seven times ...". This big man felt that he was receiving very offhand treatment; he was stung into a rage and about to abandon the whole project, saying: "Behold, I thought, he will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and recover the leper". But Elisha had no intention of taking account of man by nature. It is a painful lesson for the servants of the Lord to learn. The Lord does not in the least render respect to what a man is in himself; not even as to what a saved man is in himself. Elisha's reaction was symbolic of God's, namely that He does not take into view what man is by nature. Calvary has set that aside in order to make way for life, life in its fullness. It seems just the opposite to those who are having to learn these lessons. There seems to be no life at all and very little hope as these principles are being applied. Taking up the cross and denying ourselves is something of a very radical character when it is wrought out in spiritual terms. It is self denial.

Naaman was fully tested as to his sincerity by the fact that he was told to wash seven times. The story has nothing to say about his stopping short after the second, the third, or the fourth time; and this shows that he was determined to go right through with the issue. His servants had reasoned with him, and he had listened to reason. His only alternative was to go back to his own country in the same living death in which he had set out. Because of the seriousness of the issue, he determined that he would go all the way. On any other ground than that of complete consecration, he might have stopped after the second dip in Jordan, disappointed that nothing had happened, or complained after the third, fourth or fifth, that nothing was happening. But he persevered until the seventh time, as we must also if we mean business with God. God has placed before us an issue, which is nothing less than life triumphant over death. This applies to saints as well as to non-Christians, as Paul's words clearly show: "Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect ... but one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind ... I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus." "If by any means I may attain unto the resurrection (Greek -- out-resurrection) from the dead." This seems to be a resurrection which is a reward rather than the general experience; some expression of the power of His resurrection which is not merely automatic.

THE truth is that this principle of death and resurrection governs throughout the whole Christian life. Between the initial expression of His resurrection in our conversion, and the ultimate full expression in the out-resurrection from the dead, there are continual crises, progressive developments of that life, and each fresh stage issuing in further fullness is marked by some crisis of this very character, namely as to how much more of self we are prepared to leave behind. It may be that at a given point our own personal will is set up against the Lord's [97/98] will, or that a form of sin is present that we are not prepared to give up. On the other hand it may not be in the realm of definite and positive selfishness, but in points of a finer character in this matter of preparedness to set aside in a new way some position, some relationship, and to move on with the Lord into a new realm which is costly, and which means a repudiation of our own ways, or feelings or ideas, in order to attain unto that fuller power of His resurrection. We shall be challenged in this way continually if we are moving on with the Lord, for the knowledge of the power of His resurrection is bound up with the extending of our faith to some further point than ever before. As we go on with the Lord we shall be faced with such crises, and we must be prepared to accept this recurring principle of death and resurrection. It calls for more faith than ever before, but it is the way of life and increase. Naaman went the whole way with God, and God went the whole way with him, even to the seventh degree.

After the seventh time Naaman was not only made whole of his leprosy, but his flesh became like that of a little child. The effect was more than deliverance from the working of death; it was a new experience of fresh life. For him, typically, it was like beginning all over again as a babe; a whole new world was to open up before him. That is the effect of every fresh breaking through into resurrection life. Every time we are touched with some new experience of His life, we are conscious that we have come into a new world. There are new possibilities. The limitations of the past have become as nothing in the fresh possibilities which have come to us on the ground of this measure of risen life. We notice some immediate expressions of this newness:

(1) A new attitude towards God's servant. Previously Naaman had been very angry with Elisha, and wanted to storm away from him in a rage. Now, however, he gladly returned to the prophet, no longer demanding recognition of his own position, but eager to have fellowship with the instrument of blessing. The broad application of this is that the basis of all Christian fellowship is life. Dividing elements are always an expression of spiritual death, and when this is put away and resurrection life is shared, then true fellowship is established.

(2) A new worship. A genuine knowledge of the Lord in resurrection life, inevitably produces genuine adoration and heart devotion. Mere acceptance of a teaching does not have this effect. Association with a movement because of doctrinal excellence does not produce it. If, however, we come to a personal knowledge of the Lord in the power of resurrection, our lives become characterised by a deep, personal devotion to Him. This is all important. The mark of resurrection life is not ability to talk about it, or to teach it as a system of truth; it does not even consist of occupation with the outward expressions of fellowship; it involves concentration on the Lord Himself. Let us never be found talking about the teaching which we have accepted, or which is represented by certain people in certain places, but only about Him. If our teaching does not have this effect, then there is either something wrong with the teaching or with our apprehension of it. Worship becomes the dominating feature of those who know him in the power of resurrection.

(3) The third thing noticeable is that Naaman wanted to offer a gift to the Lord. This has always been a feature of a new experience of life. It was certainly so at the time of Pentecost. When the Lord gives us new spiritual fullness, we want everything in our lives to be at His disposal. At any rate that was how it was with Naaman.

We notice, though, that the proffered gift was refused by Elisha, the apparent reason being that it might become a peril to the giver, Naaman. Elisha had no difficulty about accepting material kindness from the Shunnamite, but he refused to accept anything at all at the hands of Naaman. The peril which Elisha discerned was that Naaman might have returned home feeling that after all he had played some small part in his own deliverance, and had paid for it. The Lord never wants any gifts, any resources, placed at His disposal if they carry with them the slightest suggestion of being acts of patronage. So Elisha, recognising that even at this point, there might creep in some little bit of that natural life which loves to have satisfaction in itself because of what it does, made sure that Naaman gave no gift. He sent him away with the blessing but with no possibility of personal gratification.

This underlines the tragedy of Gehazi, who went after Naaman and deceived him into making such a gift. We do not know if this harmed Naaman at all, but we do know that it brought Gehazi under a terrible judgment. The warning remains with the story, but our attention must be held by the positive call to a growing knowledge of the Lord in the power of His resurrection. There is no life except by death. There is no gain except by loss. God's way is always seven times in Jordan. [98/99]



Harry Foster

WITH disarming candour our brother and fellow sufferer, John, tells us how he became so overwhelmed by the greatness of his visions on the isle of Patmos that he did his best to worship a heavenly being, and was only prevented by a stern reproof from the angel in question (Revelation 19:10).

It was enough to bewilder the strongest mind, this succession of singing multitudes and trumpets and beasts and fearsome outpourings of judgment. Nevertheless it was none of these which swept John away: he boldly faced and faithfully recorded them all. The prospect which sent him crashing to the angel's feet was the truth which should completely overwhelm us, which is the revelation of the Lord Jesus as the Bridegroom. John the Baptist had referred to this aspect of Christ's glory, but without identifying the bride (John 3:29). Again, the Lord Himself had told parables about His wedding (Matthew 22:1 and 25:6), but had not indicated who would compose the bride. Paul had yearned over wayward Corinthian Christians (2 Corinthians 11:2) and sought to inspire the saints of Ephesus in the light of this great 'mystery' (Ephesians 5:32). Now, however, John saw the vague prospect changed into thrilling reality. Amid the chorus of heaven's Alleluias he heard that the marriage of the Lamb had come, and was confronted with the stupendous fact that justified sinners are to provide the Bridegroom with His beloved wife.

John collapsed, as well he might. Great indeed is this mystery of the eternal intimacy of Christ and His Church. At first John could not believe his eyes and ears. The angel had to stress that "these are the true sayings of God" (Revelation 19:9). Was not every word of this revelation true? Did John ever have cause to doubt the angelic utterances which had been coming to him during those days of heavenly vision? Why, then, this special insistence that these words about the marriage supper of the Lamb were authentically from God? Surely because the truth is so stupendous that it seems incredible and takes one's breath away. If only the false claimants to be the special 'bride of Christ' and the theological disputants about her identity, and the rest of us who glibly take prophetic truths in our stride, could truly realise what this marriage means -- what it means to us -- we would fall as prostrate as John did.

Yet the important point is not what it means to us, but rather what it means to our Lord. This is to be His Day. He planned for it. He suffered and died for it. He patiently and persistently pursues His sanctifying work in the Church for this -- for His own wedding day. We should feel like John the Baptist; what does it matter what our part is, let us find our supreme joy in His felicity. Blessed indeed are they which are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb, so that they can witness what Isaiah meant when he affirmed: "He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied" (Isaiah 53:12).

A thousand years after the wedding day, Christ's consort is still called: "the bride, the Lamb's wife" (Revelation 21:9). All the initial wonder of this closest of all relationships will only give place to ever fresh and deepening wonder, as the saints live and reign with their most beloved Bridegroom. Incredible as it may seem, John again committed the blunder of trying to worship an angel, apparently as the effect of this full vision of the city which is the Lamb's bride (Revelation 22:8). The herald angel refused John's worship, but rather claimed to be a fellow-servant with him and with the rest of us who serve God here on earth. From this it would seem that this supreme climax of man's history with God, the marriage of His Son, is also the objective of heavenly service as well as earthly. All God's servants are to concentrate on bringing about the Father's determination that His Son should find full satisfaction in His bride.

It is important for us to note that it was given to her to be dressed in righteousnesses (Revelation 19:8). Why the plural? Perhaps this is a reminder that the imputed righteousness so freely given to believers is to be accompanied by the appropriation and expression of imparted righteousness. Our preparation consists in learning to live righteously and godly in this present world. This is our first priority. If we claim Christ as Bridegroom we must be careful to make ourselves spiritually ready for the day of His supreme happiness. [99/100]



Harry Foster

'THERE is a new tenant at Ivy Cottage at the other end of the valley,' said the agent, and then added, 'He is an educated man who must be down on his luck, so I kept the rent low. Is that all right, Sir?' 'Yes,' replied Sir Somebody Rich, the lord of the manor, 'Yes, I suppose so. I'll look in and see him when I ride round that way.'

Sir Somebody owned all the valley and was very rich. He never seemed to have time for God, though he was a kindly man. He enjoyed riding around the countryside so, a few days later, he stopped at the cottage and saw the new tenant, Mr. Pilgrim, sitting outside in the sun. He made himself known and, as they chatted, he found that Mr. Pilgrim had spent his active life as a missionary, and had now retired and come to spend his last days in the tiny two-roomed cottage. 'But you should have a better home than this,' objected the squire, but then he realised that his tenant had very little money and said no more about this. As he rode away, though, he felt it a pity that such a man should have wasted his life and could only think of him as 'poor Pilgrim'. After that he began to call on him from time to time, but when the conversation turned to spiritual matters he grew uncomfortable. The retired missionary explained that, far from wasting his life, he had spent it in the best possible way, adding that his greatest joy would be to introduce the Saviour to his visitor. 'What me?' asked Sir Somebody, 'Oh, no. I am much too busy to waste my time on religion. I am going to enjoy this life in my own way, and leave the next until I am ready to die.' Mr. Pilgrim tried to explain that a man is not ready to live until he is ready to die, but the lord of the manor didn't like this, and from then on contented himself with a nod and a greeting whenever he passed that way.

One morning it was different, though, for Mr. Pilgrim hurried out of his cottage and stopped the horseman with a solemn warning. He said that on the previous evening as he dozed by the fire he thought he heard a voice saying: 'Tomorrow the richest man in the valley will die.' It seemed so positive and so clear, and he had thought of nothing all night but those words: 'the richest man in the valley'. Now everybody knew who was the richest man in that district, and none better than Sir Somebody Rich himself. What was he to think? At first he was taken aback, especially as Mr. Pilgrim seemed so earnest as he begged him to take the warning, but then he laughed it off and rode on. But he could not forget the words, 'the richest man in the valley', and, feeling a bit nervous, he decided to go straight home and spend the rest of the day quietly. In the afternoon he did not feel very well, so he went to bed. But not to rest. The words kept ringing in his ears, and as the day wore on he began to feel quite ill. So ill that he sent for the doctor.

In spite of several calls the doctor delayed. It was evening, and the squire was feeling very ill now when, at last, the doctor hurried in, excusing himself by saying that he had been suddenly called to the other end of the valley. A man called Pilgrim had been taken ill, and after a short time had passed away. So there had been a death in the valley that day! 'Poor Pilgrim,' said Sir Somebody, not without a certain relief that it was not he after all, but the doctor replied: 'You would not call him that if you had been at his deathbed. Rich Pilgrim, I call him. In fact I think that he was the richest man in the valley.'

Suddenly it all became clear to the rich landlord. The richest man in the valley had died, but it was not he. He was not the richest. This man whom he had always thought of as 'poor Pilgrim' was richer than them all. He had left almost nothing behind, but had taken his value with him into eternity. Sir Somebody would have to leave it all behind when he went. What had he to take with him? Nothing. Perhaps, after all, he was the poorest man in the valley. And what about you? Jesus said that it would be no profit at all for someone to gain the whole world and lose his own soul (Matthew 16:26). Only eternal life from Christ can make us truly rich. [100/ibc]


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