"... 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)

Previous issue | Next issue


Vol. 2, No. 6, Nov. - Dec. 1973 EDITOR: Mr. Harry Foster



MY wife and I have just returned from a most inspiring visit to the United States and the Far East, where we had the privilege of meeting Watchman Nee's sister and a number of his former fellow-workers. It is therefore quite fitting that in this issue I should be able to recommend to all readers the book which Dr. Angus Kinnear has written about this faithful servant of Christ. The book is called Against The Tide, and is published by Victory Press at £1.95. (The American publishers are Christian Literature Crusade of Fort Washington, Pa.)

Like the author, I had the joy of meeting Brother Nee when he came to Honor Oak before the war, and in company with many others prayed regularly for him until we heard of his Homecall in China last year. For a long time now Dr. Kinnear has put in much concentrated and devoted work on the production of this story of Watchman Nee's life. It is a work of outstanding value which merits and will receive a longer description in our January issue. Meanwhile I content myself with an observation on the matter of prevailing prayer. This is stressed throughout the whole book, and is especially emphasised in the closing paragraph.

My recent experiences have given me even greater encouragement to believe that there is a close connection between God's activities and His people's prayers. We are often obliged to go on praying with little or no evidence that our prayers are being answered. For various reasons God Himself prefers to hide what He is doing. Perhaps He needs to do this because He knows how prone some of us are to take glory to ourselves, as though some credit were due to us for praying. All the glory must be reserved for our great Hearer and Answerer of prayer.

We must remember, too, that the enemies of God's Son are everywhere looking for opportunities to hinder or spoil His work. This is certainly so in the Far East. Let us then go on praying for His Spirit's work among the Chinese people, never growing weary of our task of intercession, and doing it as an expression of inward concern which does not have to be kept going by thrilling publicity. God is working. Let us go on praying.

I hope that you will read Against The Tide. Any Evangelical bookshop will get you a copy. - Harry Foster


Roger T. Forster

THERE are many reasons why men suffer, but the believer has the comfort of knowing that in his case God can use the suffering both for his own education and for the blessing of others. This was true in the case of Job, but there was an additional and very important explanation of his sufferings, and this is that he was a battlefield between God and Satan. It is this kind of suffering into which God sometimes calls His people.

There is a war on in the spiritual sphere, and when we commit ourselves wholly to the Lord Jesus, it means that we are allowing Him to put us into the battle and even to use us as His field of operation. If we do not realise this we may find ourselves in an experience like that of Job, and then be tempted to cry out, feeling that we are being unfairly treated. In this way we can even contribute to our own suffering by the pain of misunderstanding God and His ways. We therefore consider Job's story in the hope that it will help us to know what it involves to be one of God's battlefields.

"... The Lord said to Satan ..." (1:8)

You remember how Job's story runs. He was not a bad man. In fact he was such an unusually good man that God Himself described him as "a perfect and an upright man". Moreover it was not Job's fault that the whole business began. Neither, in the deepest sense, was it Satan's fault, since he does not like being dragged on to a battlefield where he senses that he might not win. No, it was God's initiative, for it was He who said to Satan: "Hast thou considered my servant Job?". In this conflict it was the Lord, therefore, who precipitated the issue of the [101/102] conflict as to whether His kingdom is really a kingdom of love. Satan poured scorn on the idea that Job could love God just for what He is, asserting that this man, like the rest of humanity, only served God for what he could get out of Him. He challenged God to take everything away from Job, and prophesied that this would explode the myth that love is the final word in this universe. Satan was really insinuating that God is not so lovable as all that, and that the idea of Love ruling the universe was absurd.

Satan's attack is really concentrated on the throne of God. Deceived humanity is all too ready to take up his sneering assault on the idea of love ruling this world. Have you never found it hard to believe in the love of God in our sort of world? Yes, this is the battlefield for us all. Satan failed to move Job by robbing him of all his possessions, but came back again to the fight by asserting that Job had not been proved an unselfish lover of God by his reaction because he had not been touched where it really hurt. Now God could have used this world's philosophy that might, not love, is on the throne, by driving Satan from His presence; but this would have been no real answer and would have left the issue of love undetermined. So He moved out against the devil by permitting him to make Job's very body a battlefield, allowing him to afflict the bereft man with new and more personal, bodily sufferings. The Lord clearly relied on the power of His own love to sustain His servant even in the face of such adversities. God is love. Satan denies this, and God chooses men to be the battlefields upon which the issue can be decided. This explains the story of Job.

"Who can withhold himself from speaking?" (4:2)

For the poor patriarch, the carrying of the battle into the realm of the body was bad enough, but then it was pressed into the realm of his soul. Even with his boils and the foolish attitude of his wife, Job still loved and worshipped God. But then the real satanic onslaught came, and this time it was through his so-called comforters. They were the trouble. It is the theologians who are the trouble; not necessarily the university graduates but the self-appointed experts who feel so confident that they know all about the person and the ways of God, and are ready to give a pious, short-cut answer to a man under trial. These three all attacked Job, instead of comforting him and, roughly speaking, they all said the same thing. The first of them, Eliphaz, was a man who based all his arguments on a personal experience. He had had a supernatural visitation which had made him tremble and made his hair stand on end. On the basis of this he felt qualified to condemn Job. He gave the impression -- as such people do -- that if only Job had had a similar experience to his, then he would understand and would be one of the 'in-group'. Of course it is possible that the wise and true things which Eliphaz said could have been applied to many others, but they did not fit Job's case. Instead, they hurt him so much that he began to wonder, according to the reasoning of Eliphaz, whether he had even lost his God. It was bad enough to lose his possessions, his children and his health; but it was infinitely worse to lose his God. Satan is fiendishly cruel and causes us dreadful agony of soul by insinuating -- sometimes through well-meaning friends -- that God is somehow against us.

"Inquire, I pray thee, of the former age ..." (8:8)

The next one to come on the scene was Bildad. He was one of those orthodox traditionalists who can think and talk only of the past, seeking to apply theology in a second-hand way. He wanted to refer everything back to 'the fathers', imagining that there was something sacrosanct about the men of the past. 'They understood it all', he said to Job, 'but we who were born but yesterday cannot expect to do so!' He represents the kind of traditional applier of Bible verses who knows all the answers, using the wisdom of the men of old to assure Job that he was suffering because he was a sinner. 'I know all that' Job said in a pained voice, 'I know it all, Bildad, but it does not apply in my case which is different from the stock examples which you have in mind when you quote the old sages. Go easy on me! My circumstances cannot be explained by what men have said in the past.'

"My understanding answereth me ..." (20:3)

Then Zophar broke in. He was a bombastic windbag, just waiting for his opportunity to speak bluntly. He weighed in against Job, insisting that he must be a sinner and that if he were not so obstinate and ignorant he would admit as much. Zophar was the kind of man who prided himself on his commonsense. To him Job's fault was obvious if only he would listen to some plain speaking from a candid friend. So it is that we [102/103] may be buffetted by Satan, who can use superficial theology, passed on in a second-hand way, to oppress us with that which may be correct and orthodox but does not apply to us. Or he may use the down-to-earth commonsense which offers its stock religious remedies which bring us no easement at all.

"Then was kindled the wrath of Elihu ..." (32:2)

But this was not the end. These three were followed by the angry young man, Elihu. It is sometimes good to be challenged by the intolerance of youth; it demolishes complacency and sometimes unearths things which have been neglected or overlooked. So Elihu swept aside the unhelpful counsel of the old men, and claimed that he had up-to-date inspiration from God. This is exactly what we need -- not the well-worn catch phrases of dogma, but the fresh awareness of the reality of God and the fact that He can speak to us today. Elihu was right enough and stressed a very important truth, but he still pursued the same line as the other three and perhaps was inclined to mistake emotion for inspiration.

All this shows us the intensity of the battle which went on in Job's soul. He might have said nothing if he had not been stung into replying by these attacks of his would-be 'comforters', who implied that he had lost his experience, lost his theology, lost his commonsense, his inspiration and his God. We must never forget that Job was not in a position to read the first two chapters of his book; so he did not know what was going on behind the scenes, he did not know that his experiences were the expression of a battle between God and Satan. We who have the book, and the New Testament too, do know, but when the trials come to us we are apt to forget this aspect of them and are found in much the same condition as Job was. And too often we have to listen to the same sort of comment and advice as was given to that long-suffering saint.

"Then the Lord answered ..." (38:1)

Suddenly, as Elihu was in full spate, continuing his attack on Job's integrity and pressing home the very non-Christian idea that God's greatest attribute is a brute force which men must learn to submit to, God Himself broke in on the discussion. His first words were rather ironical, as He pretended not to be sure whether Job had been present with Him when He formed the creation, and asked if it was perhaps Job who commanded the dawn to come every day. This irony was important, for it not only reminded Job that there are lots of things in this majestic universe that he did not understand at all, but also called upon him to trust God when he did not understand His ways, still believing that He was on the throne. Part of Satan's tricks in this battle is to try to lodge in our minds the idea that there are some areas in this world where Jesus Christ has not been made Lord. Is not this the case? We are constantly tempted to accept the thought that there may be some area in our life, in our assembly, in our circumstances or in the spiritual world where He does not reign supreme. We can only overcome this temptation by faith in God's absolute sovereignty. To a modern Job, the Lord might well have spoken in scientific terms, reminding him of the much that is still unknown. If so it would be to the same effect, pointing out the areas of man's ignorance in order that we might realise more of the mystery of divine wisdom and majesty, and might trust when we do not understand. This is the great message of the cross.

The second line taken by God was to enumerate proofs of the consistency of His works -- the way the eagle flies, the behaviour of the ostrich and her young, the sequence of nights and days, etc. We have not got a capricious God! We have not got a God who changes His mind every day, but one who is always consistent in upholding His universe. And as, by the words of the Almighty, the wonders of nature came before Job's eyes, he had to realise that there must be suffering in a consistent universe like this. If God were constantly changing things and doing miracles just to keep us happy, the whole of life would be resolved into meaningless machinery instead of being composed of men and women who make responsible choices. In the second part of God's explanation to Job it was pointed out that there has to be suffering, because only so can we live and love as freewilled human beings, and stand for God in His battles.

The third section concerns the hippopotamus and the crocodile. The point of the detailed description of these two fearsome creatures seems to be to remind Job that God could easily have made him as tough and formidable as these brutes. But did he want to be like that? Did he want a God like that? Take a good [103/104] look at them, Job, and then say if that is your idea of life as you would wish to know it.

"... now mine eye seeth thee ..." (42:5)

Of course it is not. We all agree that we are glad that God has made us in His own image, with all the challenge, the joy and perhaps the pain of being able to choose to keep in the battle as well as to opt out of it. God is not only almighty power: He is almighty love. That is why the twelve legions of angels did not descend to prevent Calvary, and why He allowed His dear Son to bleed on the cross. And that is why we sometimes bleed, because our reigning God is not the god of this world, whose philosophy is that might is right, but the God whose glory it is to rule by love. So God did not intervene to shield His servant Job from trials. And in the end Job vindicated his Lord's trust, for he said: "though he slay me, yet will I wait for him ...". Job will still serve his God, come what may. In this way, then, God was able to show through His suffering servant that His kingdom is not based on the obedience of expediency but on the obedience of love.

"... him will I accept ..." (42:8)

We find that Job was doubly blessed at the end. This is not just to make a happy ending to a sad story, but to remind us that the man who goes through the battle with God will come out with a double portion of glory at the end. In Job's case the double portion had to be in this life so that we could all learn the lesson, but ours will await us on the great day when this groaning creation enters into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. In that day we will all agree with Paul that our present suffering is only a light affliction when compared with the great weight of glory which we shall enjoy.

The Lord Jesus was the great battlefield for the fight of God, and Calvary the scene of an eternal triumph of faith in the Father and love to Him which completely defeated Satan. The cross was the place where the full victory was finalised and is therefore infinitely precious to God. But we are to share His cross and ourselves be battlefields where deep down within us there is a victory for the love of God. One day, when all the scars of suffering have been covered over with glory and we stand in the presence of our Creator and Redeemer, God will find joy in us, and we shall thrill at the wonder of His joy. Do you believe this? Then say 'Amen' when next you have to pass through the fires. This is the real meaning of the cross. It means that I do not understand what is happening here in the earth, but I trust that in everything God works good with those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. This is victory.

I want to conclude by pointing out the immediate blessing which came to Job. When God had spoken to him, he was able to reply: 'Oh, God, I can see You now. I do not necessarily understand it all, but I see You'. If we see God in this way, then we can trust Him in the sufferings and go right through to the end of the battle. Do you want to know God? Look at Jesus Christ. Do you want to know man? Look at Jesus Christ. Do you want to understand the problems of man? Look at Jesus Christ. Do you want to understand the problems of God? Look at Jesus Christ. Do you want to understand the problems of God and man? Then look again at Jesus Christ.


(Studies in the epistle to the Galatians)


Harry Foster

IN the spiritual life nothing is valid and nothing is lasting unless it is in the power of resurrection life. It was this kind of life to which Paul referred when he described how he now lived "in the flesh" (verse 20). Such life defies explanation. Indeed how can any man define life? I can neither describe it, nor can I produce it. I can, alas, easily contradict it, and bring death into my own spiritual experience or into that of the fellowship of my church. The reason for this can be simply stated. I have an old nature which is so inveterately corrupt that it always leads on to spiritual death. God's answer to this problem has not been to change that nature but to crucify [104/105] it, so making way for the new life which comes by faith in Christ, and which is therefore resurrection life.

This becomes quite clear when we think of our eternal future, for its blessedness will result from the fact that there will be no 'old man' there. Death will have delivered from its blighting influence. So death conquers death? It does indeed, so long as the first death is that of the Lord Jesus. We expect to live in the fullness of life in the future because of Christ's miraculous death-conquering death and life-giving resurrection. This chapter, however, is not occupied with the after-life in heaven but with the daily circumstances of God's people here on earth. Even so it finishes with Paul's claim to be enjoying a foretaste of heavenly experience right here and now. He had found relief and deliverance from self in the cross of Christ, and so was able to assert that he was proving the marvellous reality of Christ's risen life even as he lived here on earth. It is the cross which makes this possible.

Now it is a sad fact that we can believe in the cross of Christ and yet contradict its implications. This is precisely what was taking place at Antioch, as Paul's narrative reveals. In his book of the Acts Luke made no mention of this sad incident, and indeed it was not a pleasant story to recount. Paul, however, evidently felt constrained to put it on record in his earnest endeavour to warn the Galatians, who -- like Peter and the rest -- were themselves straying from the straight path of the gospel. He probably did not consult Peter about making the disclosure, but I feel confident that had he done so, Peter would have consented, for a spiritual man is always humble enough to realise that a frank account of his failures can often be of more practical help to people than the recitation of his successes.

ANTIOCH, as we know, was a miracle church, brought into being by God's sovereignty and characterised by an unusual degree of divine grace. One day, though, spiritual death threatened to corrupt the purity of its gospel testimony and so menaced its very existence as a true expression of Christ's body. Many failed to recognise the peril, for it needs real discernment to perceive spiritual blight when it first approaches. Paul had such discernment. In Jerusalem he had refused to permit legalism "no, not for an hour" (verse 5) for he knew how calamitous its effect would be on gospel truth. Now, as soon as he saw the church at Antioch dividing up into two separate groups, around separate tables, he denounced those responsible in the strongest terms. To him it spelled death. The clever gentlemen from Jerusalem would doubtless have given it a more attractive name; Peter, who had taken the initiative, would doubtless have had a different explanation; but the man of the Spirit had no hesitation in calling it by its right name. He actually employed the term 'deceit' to describe their behaviour. He did this because in moving away from Jesus they were moving away from the truth, since "the truth is in Jesus".

By this act of separation among God's people in Antioch there was a contradiction of the cross, and apparently the main responsibility for it devolved upon Peter. By so doing he brought in spiritual death, just as any of us will do every time we move away from the ground of the cross. He brought it in not by bad sinfulness, and not simply by wrong doctrine, but by just reverting to what he was by nature -- by building again the things which he had destroyed (v.18).

We have no need to resort to guesses as to what it was in Peter's nature which had caused the trouble, for we are explicitly told that it was fear: "he drew back and separated himself, fearing ..." (v.12). We remember that at the time of the crucifixion he had been so overcome by fear that he had denied his Lord. He could not help doing so: this was his nature. There may well have been some explanation for this fear in his heredity or upbringing, but this I will leave to the psychologists. I only know that what you are, you are, and Peter seems to have been constitutionally a fearful man. Of course he shouted loudly at times. Fearful people often do. He waved his sword and talked in rather aggressive ways, but this is common enough in the case of the fearful. At this point some will want to interject that Peter was completely changed at his conversion, and may well assert that there never was a more remarkable case of transformation than that of Peter. All his fear seemed to have gone. He became a bold and courageous witness to Christ. All this is true, but it does not mean that Peter's 'old man' had been changed, but only that he was delivered from himself by the cross of Christ. The essential type, with its physical and psychological characteristics remained, just as a rock remains when the waters [105/106] rise and cover it. In his case the waters were the new life of Christ, but at this juncture in Antioch it seems that the level of that water was temporarily lowered, revealing that the rock had not melted but was still there. Our natural life is like the rock: it will persist as long as we are here in this body. If the life which we now live in the flesh is to be in accord with the will of God, it can only be so as our faith maintains the divine fact of our crucifixion with Christ.

NOW this was not an unknown doctrine nor an unexperienced reality in Peter's case, but it appears that at Antioch something happened which made him take his eyes off the Lord. We do not know exactly what it was, though we are told that he was afraid of the visitors from Jerusalem. But what was he afraid of? Was it of losing his position, for after all it had been generally acknowledged that he had the ministry to the circumcision (v.7). He and Paul had shaken hands on this very matter and, although their agreement had given recognition to Paul, it had also confirmed the status of Peter. Perhaps Peter feared for his position. If so he may have been the first but he was certainly not the last. How many assemblies are divided and weakened because in them there are men who are afraid of losing their responsible position. And women too! This concern for one's own place is a very deep thing in the human heart, natural enough, but disastrous to the spiritual life of any church. Peter may have been rather offended by the procedure of some of the Gentile Galatians. It is never difficult to discover faults in others when you take your eyes off the Lord. We do not need to speculate on details, for we know that the main cause of the trouble was Peter's old nature. The cross was no longer setting that aside and so he reverted to his Jewish instincts.

This had two results. The first I have already mentioned, namely that Peter -- the openhearted Peter -- became involved in "dissimulation", or hypocrisy. He may not have realised this, but Paul could see it very plainly. The other result was that he influenced others to do the same. A man acting in the flesh can often do this, and the greater the prominence of the man, the more powerful is the influence. Peter therefore became a man who was not only allowing spiritual death to invade his own life but was spreading its deadly effect upon others. You may think that I am being hard on Peter, but I simply follow the reasoning of Paul, who certainly must have seemed hard at the time. Notice, though, that if he started speaking to Peter personally he soon passed over from the 'thou' to the 'we' (v.15). Frankness made him speak in this way to Peter, but common honesty made him admit that we are all the same. And we are! My nature may not be the same as Peter's, but whatever it is it will always introduce death into the realm of spiritual things unless it is countered by the cross.

THE other main character in this story is Barnabas. Clearly it was an even greater shock to Paul that Barnabas should get himself involved in this departure from the straight path of the gospel, for he writes: " even Barnabas". Now Barnabas was certainly not a fearful man. He was not afraid of anybody. He was not afraid of the Twelve, for it was he who took Paul to them. Later on he showed that he was not afraid of Paul himself, and ready to quarrel with him. Clearly, then, he had not the same nature as Peter, and yet he was just as much an offender and no less a factor in the menace to the truth of the gospel. Can we perhaps get any hint as to how the old nature of Barnabas helped to bring in spiritual death? I think that we can in the words: "... even Barnabas was carried away with ..." (v.13). The operative word here seems to be 'with'. Barnabas was a nice man, sympathetic with everybody and easy in nature. Luke gives him the most unusual compliment of saying that he was "a good man". One might well say of him that he had such a good nature that it could not do harm, but it is not for us to say whether what we are by nature is nice or nasty, since we are told that the old man "... waxeth corrupt ..." (Ephesians 4:22) and must be "put away".

This Scripture reminds us that the old nature in man is really only one, just as the new nature is one. The New Testament does not talk about this matter in the plural, but always refers to the old man -- that is, the fallen nature which we all have. It may be Peter's old man -- he is fearful. It may be Barnabas' old man -- he is very agreeable. Or, of course, it may be Paul's old man, since he is the third character in this incident. We know what he was like by nature, determined even to the point of being aggressive. He himself says: "I advanced in the Jews' religion beyond many of my own age among my country-men, [106/107] being more exceeding zealous ..." (1:14). How came it, then, that he so strongly resisted this Jewish legalism? And if he changed his viewpoint, how came it that he did not act in his old high handed agressiveness?

It seems to me that if he had acted according to his own nature he could have done one of two things. He could have turned Peter and the others out, saying: 'We will have no two tables here. This is the table of the uncircumcision to whom I am the acknowledged apostle, so you can take your table somewhere else.' That would have been a dreadful tragedy, but it is the kind of thing which has often happened in our days. Or he could have walked out himself, which is what believers so often do. He did not need Antioch. God brought many other churches into being through his ministry. They thought the world of Paul in Thessalonica. Philippi would have received him with open arms if the church there had existed in those days. But again, what tragedy would have been represented by his walking out impatiently in this way, as so many others do walk out and then go around proclaiming why they could not stay in such a carnal community.

Paul did neither of these things, and he gave the explanation of why he did not by saying that his natural life had gone to the cross with Christ (v.20). Now at first sight his words may sound a little boastful, as though he were saying: 'I was different, because I know what it is to be crucified with Christ', but it is certain that it was not in this spirit that the words were spoken or written. There was no 'ego' in his statement, for the words actually read as though he had said: 'With Christ crucified (I)', the emphasis being on the first two words: 'With Christ'. It is impossible to reproduce this in English, but we can content ourselves with the knowledge that the only two occurrences of 'ego' are: "I died ..." (v.19) and "yet not I ..." (v.20). If therefore we ask about the natural life of Paul, the answer is that his 'ego' died and that he now lived on the basis of 'yet not ego'. Is not this what the Lord Jesus demanded, that those who were to be His disciples should say 'No' to their ego? "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Mark 8:34). This is the secret of new life. A man is crucified with Christ and yet he is very much alive, for he tastes the reality of Christ's resurrection. It may well be that Paul needed to say no more, for Peter well knew the words of Christ and the blessed reality of union with Him through the cross.

NOT that Paul dared to say: 'We have been crucified with Christ', nor did he say: 'You ought to remember that you have been crucified with Christ'. As we saw in chapter 1, spiritual truths only have power when they come to us in terms of divine revelation. I cannot assure you that you have been crucified with Christ, any more than Paul could say the same to Peter and Barnabas, although theologically it was and is perfectly true. What is needed is more than information, it is revelation; and we may well believe that at this point the living truth came home with power to the hearts of Peter and Barnabas, for they, too, could say: "I have been crucified with Christ ... yet no longer I, but Christ ..." and this would resolve all the difficulties at Antioch -- or anywhere else for that matter.

Observe that Paul does not recall the outcome of his protest. This suggests the spiritual stature of the apostle. Had he not been a truly crucified man he could not have resisted recounting to the Galatians how Peter and the others had conceded that he was right and that they were wrong. Most of us are all too anxious to prove that we were right after all, and that the others were wrong and had to admit it. It is as though Paul's response to Peter, if he did make any apology, would have been to say: 'Dear Peter, we are all wrong. Only Christ is right.' This, surely, is why he passed so quickly from the 'thou' to the 'we' (verses 14 & 15). We are all of us sinners. None of us has any standing, apart from Christ. The old man in anyone of us is a terrible menace to the purposes and work of God. This is why we must always be glad and ready to accept the verdict of the cross, so that there can be a manifestation of the one new man in Christ. How can one man sit at two tables? And all believers are truly one man in Christ Jesus, as chapter 3:28 affirms.

How thorough had been the work of crucifixion in this former Pharisee! From his boyhood Saul of Tarsus had been taught to say a daily prayer which included the words: 'I thank Thee, O God, that Thou hast not made me a Gentile, a slave or a woman'. This makes all the more [107/108] wonderful his assertion that within the sphere of this new man which has emerged by way of the cross, there is no room for Jews, freemen or males, any more than for Gentiles, bondmen or females. Paul's new prayer was to thank God that the cross had put him right out of the picture, leaving the only significant factor in his life the glorious truth that Christ lived in him. God takes it for granted that Christians accept this verdict of the cross: "They that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh ..." (5:24).

WE return to verse 20 of our chapter to remind ourselves that God requires faith from our side to make this matter operative. We cannot raise ourselves; but nor for that matter can we crucify ourselves. We do not need to. The work has been done for us. Call Paul a theologian if you like, but this was not so much theology as effective testimony. To have been crucified with Christ, to receive resurrection life from Christ, this was a matter of vital faith to the apostle every day. Not every day was a day of crisis, but when the crisis came he was in faith communication with his Lord and so was able to foil a satanic attempt to divide and destroy the church in Antioch. For us, too, not every day is a day of crisis, but the crises will surely come, and they will make evident whether our apprehension of the cross is merely doctrinal or whether it is the secret of a triumphant spiritual life of resurrection power. When we get to the end of this letter we will discover that Paul had no regrets about this daily experience of union with Christ in His cross. On the contrary, he was able to say: 'I glory in the cross. It smites me every day. It wounds me again and again. I die daily. But hallelujah for the cross, since that is the secret of true life -- the wonderful resurrection life of the Lord Jesus.'


Reading: Psalm 15

Alan L. Barrow

THIS psalm gives us a very impressive picture of the type of life that God approves and, if we were to believe what some people try to tell us about the remoteness and inaccuracy of the Old Testament, we might be surprised to find it there. In fact there is nothing more relevant than this passage. It strikes a chord in us. It is not only the life which God approves but that which we approve and wish to live.

I want to refer in particular to the words: "He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not" (verse 4). First of all, however, we need to consider the command given by our Lord: "Swear not at all" (Matthew 5:34). So far as I understand this, it means that there must be no question of double standards in our speech, as though we must speak the truth if we preface our words by such an expression as 'honestly' or 'cross my heart', but are excused from absolute veracity if we do not guarantee the truth in this way. No, there should be no need for special assurances by oath, for we must speak the truth all the time. For this purpose, then, we take the matter of swearing to mean promising. The sort of person of whom God approves is the one who keeps his promise even when such behaviour is unexpectedly costly.

We are not considering those who say what they are going to do and then do it, but with those who promise and then find that it is to their hurt. It often happens that we say that we are going to do something, only to find that it involves rather more than we had thought, and makes bigger demands on us than we had anticipated. We naturally shrink from what is going to hurt, and tend to look for some way of escape. It may be that some easier or cheaper alternative presents itself. It is true that we gave an undertaking, but we had not bargained for the hurt it would cause us, so we would be very glad to forget it all. The whole point is this. Are we ready for that sort of hurt? Is it a matter of established principle with us that when that sort of hurt emerges, we brace ourselves and say: 'Yes, all right. We have given our word. We have said what we were undertaking to do. Hurt or no hurt, we continue.' If we have not accepted this as a basic principle of our Christian life, then we will prove to be unreliable and by no means the sort of person described in this psalm. [108/109]

Of course, it is so easy to excuse ourselves. I have tried to think of some of the ways by which we try to get out of promises which prove costly. We can say that the circumstances have changed. We feel that this should be excuse enough. Things are different from what they were when we made the promise. Or we can say nothing at all, and escape by just letting things slide and hoping that nobody will notice. Even if they do not notice, we have failed in a basic quality of character. We have shown that we are not really dependable.

A POLICE SERGEANT once told me of an experience he had when he was posted to a very difficult station in the centre of London. Making the point of these difficulties, the officer-in-charge told him the names of four men whom he could always rely on. Subsequent enquiries showed that each of the four was a committed Christian. It should always be like this; bosses, principals, heads and others should be able to count on the absolute dependability of true Christians. One does not have to be bright or clever to be dependable. One does not need to have particular gifts. It is a very simple thing, and yet it is increasingly costly in contemporary society, where people feel free enough to change their serious undertakings, provided that there is no final, legal sealing of the contract. The same attitude is commonly adopted towards the matter of marriage. Modern society says that if it hurts more than you bargained for you should break it off. Now most of us find at some time or other that married life is not all 'take', but involves a great deal of giving too. There are moments in some marriages where the 'giving' is so costly, and perhaps so unexpectedly demanding that the world judges that it is not worth it. The Christian is never to adopt the world's standards; he is committed to the will of God and part of that will consists in swearing to one's hurt and not changing.

To continue faithfully with our original agreement is an important part of human relationships. Dependability is essential for true fellowship. We do not live in this world on our own. We have relationships with others which are tremendously important, for they concern our standing before God. The most important of all is obviously our relationship with God Himself, and for this it is absolutely axiomatic that we stand by what we have sworn. It is also fundamental that we be dependable in our fellowship relationships, since He has united us with others and the union cannot function for the glory of His name unless we are reliable in all our ways.

SURELY it is a valuable exercise to face up to this challenge. One thing will obviously emerge, and that is that we must be more careful of what we say. We must not be swept into rash, enthusiastic promises without considering what they involve. It is, of course, so pleasant to be able to make helpful promises. Our main motive may be to impress people or we may be genuinely anxious to give assistance, but the crucial point is, do we carry our promises into execution, even when it is most inconvenient to do so. Of course an even worse fault is to commit other people, in your church or in your group, saying: 'leave that to us. We will attend to that'. It is more than likely that the others will let you down, and then you may feel that you have a valid excuse for opting out yourself. But have you? Are you really one who goes by God's standards rather than men's? It is not that this matter is so exceptional, as was the great historic case of Jephthah the judge. Swearing to one's hurt is part of the fabric of Christian life. If it were so exceptional it would not have found a place in this psalm. Life is full of the 'hurts' which come from the unexpected cost of fulfilling an undertaking. Above all else, we must not involve the Lord by saying that our guidance has changed. It says nothing about that here. If we had resolved to do some evil thing, then of course God would convince us and constrain us to renounce our purpose, but I cannot believe that God provides special guidance just to get us out of the inconvenience of keeping our word. Nor must we imagine that God is always so keen to save us from 'hurt'. He did not protect His Son from hurt, and is not committed to treating us in any different way.

IN fact we may get light on this psalm if we apply it to Christ, who certainly proved Himself fit to dwell in God's holy hill. How dependable He always was! When He came into the world He described his future behaviour in the words: "I delight to do thy will, O my God ..." (Psalm 40:8). Now if ever there was a statement, a promise, which was tested to the very limit, this was it. If ever anyone swore to his own hurt, the Lord Jesus did. This statement of intention was carried right through to the end -- the bitter [109/110] end, for the cross is always painful. If by 'delight' we imagine superficial happiness or ecstatic feelings, we realise that the prophetic words could never have meant this. No, what He meant was that He intended to find a deep, heart satisfaction in keeping His undertaking to do the Father's will, cost what it might. So He never thought in terms of evasion, of excuses, of leaving it to someone else, not even of calling in heavenly legions to deliver Him, but kept to His original undertaking to do the Father's will. In Gethsemane there was no doubt about the 'hurt' of it. He cried out in anguish that if there were any other way it might be shown to Him. But He was God's true Man, and as such He kept His word, praying: "howbeit, not what I will, but what thou wilt" (Mark 14:36). So Psalm 15 presents us not only with a standard and a challenge, but with a Person. He is the Person who will "never be moved" from His place at the Father's right hand.

Recently I was called for jury service, and received some instructions which contained a paragraph under the heading 'Excusal'. Among other things it said: 'To be called to service on a jury necessarily involves to some degree a burden upon every person called. It is only for exceptional reasons, therefore, that excusal from service can be granted.' How truly this applies to us as Christians. Those who are going to serve will necessarily find that this involves to some degree a burden. It was certainly true of Christ's service. It necessarily involved for Him a burden to a very large degree. Unlike the burden of jury service, however, this one will result in our being conformed to the image of Christ, which is God's objective whenever He places a burden upon us. What is being achieved in our lives now is something which is not only for time, but will affect our relationship with God for all eternity. It is all part of His work through Christ to number us among those who can sojourn in His tabernacle, and dwell in His holy hill. So let us ignore the 'hurt'. Let us gladly accept the 'burden'. One day we will thank God for it, when we leave behind the "light affliction" and enter into "the eternal weight of glory".




T. Austin-Sparks

WHEN we reach this part of the life of Elisha, we come into touch with an ultimate feature of the power of resurrection, that is, relationship with the throne in heaven. What comes out of the sixth and seventh chapters of second Kings is that secret, mystic touch which Elisha had with the throne above. It is clear that behind the events of a more incidental character, there was a secret but very real communion between Elisha and the throne in heaven. The very plans of the Syrian king and his purposes were divulged. Elisha had inside information apart from men and from all human observation. He was in touch with the Fountain Head of all knowledge, and by reason of his hidden, spiritual touch with the throne, he was able so to advise and so to act as to frustrate plans which would have resulted in death and destruction.

Using New Testament language, we would say that Elisha was not ignorant of the enemy's devices, but cognisant of them. He had spiritual perception, spiritual knowledge, knowledge which sprang from a spiritual union with the throne of government in the heavens. When the king of Syria sought to take him, he was aware of the divine resources of the heavenly hosts which were available to him, and successfully prayed that his servant might have his eyes opened to the reality of this union with the throne of God. Then he was able to use that power of the throne to bring blindness on the great Syrian host. As a result of his relationship with the throne he took command of the opposing forces and became able to rule and command them. So it was, in New Testament history, that on his voyage to Rome Paul began, humanly speaking, by being a prisoner, and concluded by being in command of both the commander and of all under his command -- the ship, the crew, and everything else. It was simply a case of spiritual ascendancy by being in touch with the throne. In a sense [110/111] the same truth is embodied in the relief of the siege as recorded in chapter seven. There was a terribly devastating famine, with horrible and ghastly aspects; and the next day there was food obtainable for nearly nothing. The hosts of the besieging army were turned back by a rumour, and it was done in such a way as to leave abundant provisions to meet the needs of God's people. It was by the word of the Lord spoken by the mouth of Elisha that all this happened.

So we see the power of life triumphant over death, but in this case linked with union with God's throne. This should make us realise that the supreme issue and intention of knowing Christ and the power of His resurrection is that even here in this life we should know union with the throne, and with the Lord upon the throne. This fact stresses the fullest, highest and deepest feature of Elisha's experiences of the triumph of life over death. He commenced his spiritual ministry by virtue of a relationship with his master who had ascended into heaven. The spirit of Elijah having fallen on Elisha made the two one, so that Elijah in heaven and Elisha on earth shared a oneness of spirit. All that transpired in the life and ministry of Elisha was simply an expression of what was implied by Elijah being in heaven.

In all these we can quite distinctly see the type of the exaltation of the Lord Jesus to the right hand of the Majesty on high. He has on this earth the Church as His instrument, united with Him by the Holy Spirit, and therefore in vital union with the throne where He is. The Church is here to express the power and dominion of that throne of the ascended Lord. All believers, individually and collectively, are called into such union by the Lord Himself.

1. The Fact of Union with the Lord

The Word of God makes this fact very clear. If we take John's Gospel we find that such union is one of the great features of the book. It is illustrated in various ways, chapter by chapter, first by illustration and then by direct teaching. Having shown it to be the deepest reality of the relationship between Himself and His disciples, the Lord began to speak about going away. He talked to them of not tarrying, of being there with them for but a little while and then going to the Father. By such utterances He provoked in them considerable concern, so that they were greatly troubled. Then, when that anxiety and dread had reached a certain point of intensity in them, even bringing them to a state of overwhelming depression, He changed the whole course of things with His word of exhortation: "Let not your heart be troubled ...". From that point He went on to show that all He had been saying about union with Him was to be of a deeper, stronger character than all His earthly association with them. He showed that although He was going, yet He was remaining; although He would be in heaven, He would still be in them. The union is a tremendous reality, far more real than any association of people on the earth.

Moving from John's Gospel to his first Epistle, we find that the same fact is emphasised there: "... our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son ...". That is the basis of the epistle, this fact of union with the Lord in heaven. It is not merely the relationship between a god and his worshippers. There is a relationship between the gods of heathenism and their worshippers, but it can never be called a union. It is not the relationship between a Creator and His creation. It is not a relationship between a master and his servants nor of a workman and his tools. All of these represent some kind of relationship, but they never involve a union. What the Lord has designed is something very different from all this, though it is sadly true that many people do not get beyond the fact that God is their Creator. They may know Him as the only true God and seek to be His worshippers, but even so they are not enjoying vital union. God has willed such union. This is a fact which is revealed throughout the Scriptures.

2. The Nature and Place of this Union

The nature of this union, which carries beyond all lesser relationships, is that it is essentially spiritual. It is a union of spirit. "He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit." "... they that worship Him must worship him in spirit ..." because "God is a Spirit". This goes deeper than any other kind of union. One cannot go any deeper. Therefore the basis of this union is life. This is what John brings out so clearly in his Gospel, first by way of illustration and then by way of direct statement. Also in his epistle he writes: "... God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath the life." This is a statement based upon the basic declaration that our fellowship is with the [111/112] Father and with His Son. The fellowship is explained as being that of possessing His very life. The basis of union with God is that God's life is given to us in new birth; and upon that God builds everything. In order to reach and realise all of His thoughts God had to put into man the very essence of His being, His very life. God cannot realise spiritual, eternal, universal intentions on the basis of natural life. The Scriptures make it very clear that man's own natural life can never be the basis of the realisation of God's purposes. This means that for all His hopes God first of all provides His own basis which is His life and not ours. He puts the basis of His hope within us at new birth, and on this basis He proceeds to the development of all His thoughts and the realisation of His intention. That life brings light. The life is the light. Without the life there can be no light. Light is essential, because man is not a will-less creature, but is destined to realise God's ends by cooperating intelligently with Him on the basis of the one life. Therefore light is necessary; and if we walk in the light with Him we have fellowship. So the basis of union is life; life issues in light, and obedience follows.

We notice that in all these activities of God in bringing about spiritual union with Himself, His instrument is His Word. Life comes by the Word. Light comes by the Word. In the beginning of the creation, in bringing the creation into living union with Himself for His purposes, it was the Word first of all which was the instrument. In the re-creation, or regeneration, it is again the Word. "In the beginning was the Word", and continuation is always by the Word. That is why the Lord Jesus said: "... the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life". So that life and light by the living Word are the basis of union with God.

The place of union is "the inner man of the heart", to use the New Testament phrase, a phrase which Paul was fond of using: "... our inward man is renewed day by day", "... that he would grant you ... that ye may be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inward man". What is the inward man? It is our spirit, the innermost place of our being. That is the seat of union. It needs no saying that union is not first of all physical in character. Union between us and God is not in its genesis of a mental kind, neither is it of an emotional kind. Union between us and the Lord is not in the realm of our soul at all in the first instance. It is in our spirit. It is a matter which goes deeper than our soul, deeper than our reason, deeper than the powers of the natural mind either to analyse or understand. It is deeper than our emotions, deeper than our feelings. The fact of union with the Lord, when it is established, abides when our feelings seem to contradict it, and when all our power of reasoning is completely confounded. When in the realm of the reason and in the realm of the feelings there seems to be evidence that the union does not exist, it still remains unchanged. It is an important thing for the Lord's people to settle that union between us and Him has nothing whatever to do with our feelings or reasoning. If we sit down at times and allow our reasonings to carry us along, we shall conclude that the union does not exist, because there is so much which argues against any such union. If we allow our feelings -- or our lack of feelings -- to be the criterion, we might even abandon our whole position and even consider it to be a myth. From time to time we have feelings which seem to contradict the fact of our union with the Lord, but happily these make no difference to the union, which has been established by God. Those who depend on their feelings or demand to have everything explained in an intellectual way will find themselves in great difficulty, for the spiritual life is something which goes altogether beyond the range of man's mind. It is a great blessing to have realised this fact of union on the basis of new birth, though of course it calls for care not to violate the laws of this new life, for deliberate disobedience may render the power inoperative for the time being. Our great need is to keep on in the light as we know it, and give the Lord our heart obedience. There may be times when the sense of the Lord's presence may have disappeared from our soul consciousness and when our minds seem to be in confusion, but the great fact of union abides. The Lord is more faithful than our feelings.

It is a great comfort to know that even if our feelings vary and our sensations change, even when we seem to drop down out of the realm of the higher ecstasies of the spiritual joy and feel rather flat, that the Lord has not changed and our basic union with Him is unaffected. We can hinder God by disobedience and by sinning against the light, but even then: "... if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the [112/113] Father ...". This comfort is given to us in John's letter about fellowship with God. He simply says: "... our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son ..." and tells us to "... walk in the light, as he is in the light", with the assurance that as we do so: "... the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth (keeps on cleansing) us from all sin".

In the book of Leviticus we are told that there is a distinct provision for those who sin unconsciously. Consciousness is not our final rule. The final rule is God's standard. After all, our consciousness is limited, whereas God's standard is absolute righteousness. God has provided in relation to His own standard. This should help us very much, for it assures us that God has made provision to cover all His demands fully and not just to the measure of how much we are conscious of those demands. God's work is deeper than anything which belongs to us.

3. The Issue of Union is Government

All the features which we have mentioned are traceable in the sixth and seventh chapters of 2 Kings. Note the place of darkness, spiritual darkness, as represented by the servant of Elisha, who could not see spiritual things. How did he come to apprehend them? Firstly through his union with Elisha, who knew the power of resurrection life, and then by reason of this, he himself came into the light. And the means was the Word of God. What was the result? Authority, ascendancy, dominion. So he passed from the realm of fear -- "Alas, my master! how shall we do?" -- to a place where he knew the truth, namely that: "they that be with us are more than they which be with them". We come into a place of spiritual strength by enlightenment through union in life.

This takes us out into the full range of God's intention. By illustration, we notice that in the order of creation there was first darkness, then the Word of life, light, order, and then man placed in dominion. This provides an illustration of God's intention in the spiritual relationship between Himself and His new creation -- chaos, darkness, the Word of life, light, fellowship, dominion. If we follow this right through, we see that the purpose of God in Christ, as revealed in the New Testament, is to bring man to the throne. This is indicated in John's Gospel by the words: "... where I am, there ye may be also". That, in a spiritual way, was brought about at Pentecost by the Holy Spirit. From that time onwards, the Lord's people were seen in the place of absolute spiritual ascendancy and dominion. It is fully represented in the life of the apostle Paul, right up to the end. Whatever were the circumstances and conditions of his life down here on earth, he was spiritually in union with the throne above, so that even in a prison he never called himself Caesar's prisoner but the prisoner of Jesus Christ. In his Roman prison, in spite of earthly limitations, he was able to move about in the limitless expanses of the heavenly places. He was no prisoner. He knew spiritually the meaning of union with the Lord above, and this was the secret of his fruitfulness and effectiveness.

From time to time definite statements are made as to this thought of God. "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne." This represents God's thought. Now it is spiritual: then it will be literal. Now it is inward union with Christ in His throne, sharing spiritual power and ascendancy over all other forces: then it will be manifested in its full, literal way -- universal dominion through the Church.

This is the very nature of resurrection life. It is all bound up with our apprehension of the death, resurrection and exaltation of Christ. The death of Christ put away the man who could never reign. Because of his sin Adam could never come to the throne; God could not put a man like that in dominion. Adam lost his calling to have dominion, for God could not bring fallen man to the throne. The death of Christ, however , put away judicially the kind of man who can never reign, to make room for the kind of man who can. The resurrection of the Lord Jesus was the bringing in of another Man who can reign, and in Him we are also called to the throne. The very essence of our resurrection -- union with the Lord Jesus is the union of one life between Him as there in the throne and ourselves as here. We need to apprehend the exaltation of the Lord Jesus as being our exaltation representatively. When He died, we died; when He rose, we rose; and what is true of His death and resurrection is also true of His exaltation, namely that we were exalted in Him. This is a spiritual reality. That which is born of the flesh has been put aside: in resurrection the spiritual [113/114] man is that which is born of the Spirit. This is not just some objective truth, but is made real by reason of His ascended life being now within us, the Holy Spirit having created the living link between Christ in heaven and ourselves as here. The fact that He is above all means that in Him we are also above all.

This is mere theory unless we learn to live on the basis of His resurrection life. If we have still tried to live a Christian life on the basis of what we are, we can never come to the throne. When, though, we know the secret of living on His life by the Holy Spirit, then progressively we learn that there is a union between Him in dominion and ourselves in the power of His life. Resurrection life is in itself the very life of Christ in dominion, and whenever resurrection life has its way in us, it brings us into dominion. Whenever there is a free working of His life in us, it puts us into a place of ascension, lifting us above in spiritual power.

4. The Law of Union is Faith

So faith in the Lord Jesus becomes something more than we had perhaps realised. Faith in Christ is the recognition of what He is at God's right hand for us and as us. There is a Man, Head of a new humanity, who has passed right through and realised in every detail all God's thought for us. The Man in the glory has everything for us that is needed to bring us to God's end. Christ is our victory; Christ is our life; Christ is our wisdom; Christ is our sanctification. There is nothing in all the catalogue of that which is needed to bring us to God's full thought which is not fully provided for in Christ, and faith makes this living by taking it and acting upon it.

Is the enemy raging? Christ has conquered and is the Victor. Faith brings Him in, and puts Him over against the situation in which the enemy is so active. Whatever it may be that threatens to limit our coming to God's thought, Christ is well able to provide the answer. But He does so along the line of our faith. What you and I have to learn is to bring Christ into the situation on our behalf, so that we may live by Him. There will always be a list of 'I cannots', so far as we are concerned, but we need not stop with 'I cannot', for that is just where His 'can' begins -- "I can do all things through Christ ...". It is a challenge to us as to faith in Christ. It is bringing Christ into every situation. We know the power of the throne because we know the exalted, reigning Christ. We accept God's assurance: "And he put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all". Faith recognises this; faith appropriates this; faith applies this.

Union is a progressive thing. Faith at present operates in the direction of our union in Christ with the Father, and works out to bring us into experimental union with Christ on the throne. Life in the power of His resurrection is essentially in its nature throne union with the Lord. Our business at present is to learn how to reign by the one Man, Jesus Christ.



Poul Madsen

"The following day Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me. Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. And Nathanael said unto him, can any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see. " John 1:43-46

WE now consider Philip. He may seem to have been the least important of these first three. We are never told that he had a brother. He is not called Philip the brother of anyone. Nor is he called the son of anyone, for nothing is said of his family. The only thing that we know about him was that he came from the same city as Andrew and Peter. In spite of a wonderful beginning we find him in this Gospel as a man of slow growth. At the end of their training period with the Lord, Philip said to Him: "Show us the Father", and on this occasion the [114/115] Lord Jesus felt it necessary to rebuke one of His disciples, a thing which He seldom did. "So long time I have been with you, Philip, and you do not yet know Me. He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father."

Philip was slow, but he was very important; he was nobody much but Jesus would not go back to Galilee without him. So we read these wonderful words: "The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee and findeth Philip". We are impressed with the fact that the Lord could not do without this unimportant man. This is typical of our Lord. Whom does He choose? The big ones, the important ones, the powerful ones? No, the foolish, the weak, the despised, the things which are not. Philip belonged to this group. I like to think of my Saviour preparing His journey back to Galilee. Everything was in order but He could not go without Philip. So he found Philip. He looked for him until He found him. The same is true of you and me. He will not go any farther without us. He is truly the Good Shepherd, leaving everything to find one precious sheep. We know that Peter was brought to the Lord by Andrew. Nobody brought Philip; but since Peter and Andrew were from the same city, we might guess that they had told Jesus about Philip. There are times when we ought to bring people to the Lord, and there are other times when we ought to tell the Lord about people. The Lord, therefore, having heard about Philip, found him and said the two words which until now we had not heard from His own mouth: "Follow me". We have already considered what this implies; it means moving out of darkness into light, it means ministry, it means fellowship. Even more than this, though, it means honour: "if any serve me let him follow me, and he who serves me, him will my Father honour". So Philip was invited to be honoured by the Father.

THIS makes the matter of following a glorious gospel, a wonderful gift from God. Although the way may be narrow, the honour of the Lord is to be found there. The way may lead to the cross, but it will bring honour from the Father at the end of the road. So Philip was to be received by the Father and given honour by Him. This is gospel indeed -- good news -- a wonderful gift from the Lord. By it you are invited to go on the road that leads to divine honour . Honour is a very important factor in human life; it brings true power. You have either to seek the honour of God or the honour of men. Philip was from Bethsaida where they did not honour the Lord. Christ did wonderful miracles there, but they did not honour Him, and He cried: "Woe unto you, Bethsaida ...". Philip, Andrew and Peter came from that city. It must have meant that they lost all their honour in their home town if they followed the Lord. But they did follow Him, and so they were no longer accepted in Bethsaida. This is a most important feature of the character of a man, if he deliberately accepts the dishonour of the world to get the honour of the Father. It is the most important thing in the Church. "How can ye believe, if ye seek honour one from another?" "Follow Me." To do this is to receive the honour of the Father. People will not honour you. Your fellow Christians may misunderstand you, but you do not stand before men but before God. The Lord Jesus always sought the honour of the Father, and this gave Him tremendous power. He enjoyed marvellous liberty, for He did not have to look to the left or right to see what others thought of Him, but was simply governed by what His Father thought. Jesus said: "Follow Me", and little, unimportant Philip responded to the call, in spite of all his weaknesses. He was delivered; he was made an apostle; he gained the honour of the Father. Some day you will find his name in the New Jerusalem as one of the most important names up there, and all because that morning, before He left for Galilee, the Lord found Philip.

We notice that now He had called three men from Bethsaida, Andrew the brother of Peter, Peter the son of Jonas, and little Philip. There were three men, which was quite adequate according to the Lord's way of counting for, as you know, He said that where two or three were gathered together in His name, He was there in the midst of them. So, being three, they were the maximum; the minimum is two, and all the rest lie in between two and three! The Lord was with them, and where the Lord is there is fellowship, there is power, there is prayer, and there is the Church. What a gift to Bethsaida, but Bethsaida ignored it. They actually constituted the local company. I do not know if they realised this themselves, but that is not important. The more you are occupied with the Lord, the more the Church is there. The more you are occupied with the Church, the less the Lord is there and of course if the Lord is not there, there is no Church in functioning reality. The Church is never self-centred, it is centred on the Lord. [115/116] Andrew was Christ-centred, and so was Peter and so was Philip, so everything was therefore in life and functioning reality. They followed the Lord and at that time did not know much more than just to follow; but after all what is there more to know? If you know how to follow Him, and do so, then you do not need much more. It is a question of life, spontaneous life -- life in the power of first love, life in pure light. You may possibly say that such life is typical of children, but in fact children following the Lord have much more power than adults who follow their own ideas. It could have been a wonderful beginning for Bethsaida, to be so blessed as to have this group of three with the Lord in their midst, but Bethsaida would not accept it and refused both to honour their Lord and to honour them. However they still had power to pray for Bethsaida, for following the Lord implies prayer.

BUT we must have another look at Philip. What did he actually do? The answer is quite simple: Philip did just the same as his Master, as is made very plain in the text. We read what Christ did: "He findeth Philip" (v.43) and then we read what Philip did: "he findeth Nathanael" (v.45). So he did exactly what His Master had done. Then what did Philip say? He said exactly what his Master had said. Jesus had said: "Come and see" (v.39). Philip's words were exactly the same: "Come and see" (v.46). So Philip did and said what the Lord had done and said, which is not surprising but very natural to one who was following the Lord. They were the words of the Lord, and yet they were Philip's words. Jesus worked through Philip. Jesus spoke through Philip. And yet it was Philip who acted and Philip who spoke. Philip was himself, but himself as linked with Christ and, therefore Christ worked through him. One saw Jesus in Philip, for he was now a man made free to do what he had never previously been able to do and never been able to say. This, very simply, is ministry.

I could, of course, paint a very different picture. I could imagine Peter going to Andrew and the two of them going to Philip, and then the three sitting down to plan what they could do for the Lord. They might have had bright ideas as to the different tasks each would undertake, and then they might have taken their good ideas to the Lord, only to have them rejected. This is what we sometimes do. Rather than waste time and energy making plans which seem good to us and then having them set aside by the Lord, is it not better to follow Him and discover what His plans are? What is true ministry? It is simply following the Lord, which was what Philip did. It is so simple, yet it is tremendous and it makes us free. I cannot understand the Church in our day. In industry men are rationalizing all the time, while in the Church things are made more and more complicated. The vital rationalization is to do only one thing -- to follow the Lord. Just that. Look what happened in the case of Philip. He followed and then he found Nathanael. Sometimes we are so busy with our plans and what we are trying to do for the Lord that we have no time to go and find Nathanael. Philip, however, followed, did what the Lord did and said what the Lord said, and there was no end to the fruitful results which followed. Even now they continue. Little Philip would have found this hard to believe. The Father honoured him, honoured his word and his work, and still goes on blessing them.

As Philip gave his testimony to Nathanael, he did so as a member of a body, so that although his ministry was personal it was not detached. For this reason he did not say: 'I have found' but he said: "We have found." We may wonder if this was correct since the Gospel tells us that it was Jesus who found Philip. The truth is, of course, that Philip was seeking and the Lord was seeking, so that the result was that Christ found Philip and Philip found Christ, and was able to affirm: "We have found him ...". He clearly felt that it was inadequate to make the matter too personal since the totality of his salvation could only be experienced in fellowship with the others. It is always like this. The Lord is too big for the one whom He saves, so when that one is incorporated into fellowship, then the totality of his wonderful experience is found together with the others. It was so tremendous, that which little Philip experienced, for it brought him into the divine fellowship. Just as the temple is not the sum of its stones, but something more which expresses the architect's idea, so Christians together are not only the sum of the individuals -- in this case they were three -- but an expression of the architect's idea. The architect was God, and together they had entered into His idea: divine love, divine liberty, divine fellowship. They had found everything, but they found it together, because only in this way can the governing idea of the Godhead be realised. [116/117]

WE notice that Philip said: "We have found Him ...". He did not try to say what he had found or how it had affected him. I am a lawyer by profession and can assure you that if two witnesses were brought before a judge and asked to testify, if one got up and said: 'I am so happy', and the other said: 'I have been filled with joy', the judge would interrupt and tell them that their feelings were of no interest to the court. He would tell them that they had been called as witnesses, and witnesses are never allowed to speak about themselves, but about what they have seen. If, in spite of this, one of the witnesses persisted in telling the judge that he was so thrilled with joy, he would probably be fined for wasting the court's time. When he gave his testimony, Philip did not speak of having found peace or being happy or joyful. He said nothing about his own feelings. Indeed such testimonies about feeling happy are often unconvincing because if a man is really happy, he does not have to keep talking about it since it is obvious to everybody. It may well be true that because you are not so happy really, you try to make yourself happy by saying that you are, and trying to prove it to other people. I know of a dear brother who quite often gives his testimony from the platform. He once testified that he was filled with love and loved all men, but when he came down from the platform a person went up to him and criticised his testimony, with the result that he immediately got very angry with his critic. A testimony can never be about yourself; it must be about what you have seen. Philip did not even go on to say 'We have found Him who has made us so happy', though that might have been allowed. But it was not necessary. If you have found the Lord you do not need to speak about yourself, for if you really follow Him everyone can see and sense the result. Why draw attention to yourself, when you know Him?

What a pity it would have been if little Philip had tried to draw attention to himself when he was able to quote the great authority of the Word of God! How much better to say: "We have found him of whom Moses and the prophets have written!" By saying this he made no attempt to set himself up as an authority -- he did not need to do so, for he had the greatest authority when he referred to Moses and the prophets; and the remarkable thing was that he asserted that the one of whom Moses and the prophets had written was Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. These words show how completely revolutionised his life had become. The other Israelites murmured, Bethsaida murmured; they all said: "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?" They were blinded by prejudice, but Philip had received light from God and knew for certain that this Jesus was the one on whom all the Scriptures focused. If you have seen that, not only by intellectual study but by heart revelation, then your whole life will have been transformed, and you will have only one desire -- to follow. To follow Him! To know Him better! To serve Him more truly!

WE must notice a fourth point about Philip's ministry, and this is connected with Nathanael's home town. We are not here told where Nathanael came from, probably because John was restrained by the Spirit and not allowed to disclose it until the end of his Gospel. How good it is for a man to be restrained as well as inspired, when the Holy Spirit has a purpose in view! So at last we are told that Nathanael came from Cana of Galilee. We turn back to the start of chapter two and we find that on the third day there was a marriage in Cana. So it looks as though John was seeking to save us from being too facile about the ways of God. His mysterious working deserves our deep consideration. His purposes for the revelation of the glory and power of His Son at Cana required the link of the man from that town, Nathanael. So we see that little Philip was being used for something very much bigger than he could have known; by following Jesus and contacting Nathanael he was opening the way for the initial display of Christ's glory. All Philip did was to follow the Lamb, but his following opened up the way for Nathanael, for Cana of Galilee, for the marriage feast and for the turning of water into wine. Little Philip shows us that ministry is a marvellous mystery of cooperation with the Lord. It is so different from the human ideas of service. Man makes plans which may seem wonderful, but through them he may miss Nathanael and fail in providing the link with Cana and its consequent glory. How true it is that the little things, the hidden things, are the gateway to the revelation of the glory of God. In a sense we are all little men, but we are very important to the Lord, provided we follow the Lamb joyfully and do not have big thoughts about ourselves. Our following may lead to a Nathanael, a Cana of Galilee and a new revelation of the glory of the Lord Jesus. [117/118]



Harry Foster

THERE are times when the Old and New Testaments seem to telescope together, so that we get the impression that the people of God in ancient times were living in the good of the personal fullness of the Lord Jesus. Take the statement by Paul that the Rock from which living water flowed to the thirsty wilderness wanderers was really Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4). Quite clearly the Holy Spirit wishes us to learn something more about our wonderful Lord Jesus from this part of Old Testament history.

That God is Himself a Rock is everywhere affirmed in the Scriptures. The true believer has always been able to claim that God is his Rock -- or even more personally 'My Rock'. The symbolism is full of comfort. For the traveller under the scorching sun, the rock provided shadow (Isaiah 32:2). For the homeless, the rock offered shelter, since to be hidden in the clefts of a rock was a sure dwelling place where one could really be at home with God (S. of Songs 2:14). A great deal is also made of the fact that as rocky elevations made natural fortresses, so perfect security was provided for those who could find a position above their enemies by being hidden in a rock (Psalm 27:5-6).

We who have fled to Jesus for refuge are able to appreciate the spiritual counterpart of these blessings. For us, Christ gives safety, protection and a sure dwelling place. Our world is like the shifting sand of a desert. It offers no reliable security and no lasting home. How gratefully, then, do we declare that the Lord is our Rock of ages.

The particular reference made by the apostle, however, refers to the rock from which flowed life-giving water for the thirsty people of God. One blow from Moses' rod released those pent-up supplies of water which the rock had been holding within itself, so that everybody's thirst was fully satisfied by the mountain stream which God provided for them. We understand that the striking of the rock was typical of the sufferings of our Saviour on the cross, and may feel that the serious sin of Moses in striking a rock the second time consisted in a typical suggestion that there could ever be the need for a repetition of that unique and sufficient sacrifice which our Lord Jesus made once for all. Whether or not this was the reason for God's severe dealing with him, there is no doubt that the instruction given to Moses on that second occasion was that he was only to speak to the rock and there would be an abundant outflow of refreshing water.

Taking up these two historical experiences, the apostle wrote of "the spiritual rock that followed them", so reminding us that our Lord Jesus is always near at hand, and can be relied on to pour us out refreshing streams of His grace wherever we may find ourselves in our journey through this world's arid wilderness. The Israelites were not camels, able to take in big supplies of life-giving water and then live for days on their portable reservoirs. No, they had no personal reservoirs, and nor have we. We are in constant need. Thank God that our living Rock is also constant. God smote Him once on the cross, and from that great moment of sacrifice He has become for all believers a boundless source of freely flowing grace. It is enough for us to speak to the Rock, to call on the Lord, to affirm our simple faith as to His "one sacrifice for sins for ever" (Hebrews 10:12); and as we do so, we find that all the characteristics of the Old Testament rock are valid in spiritual reality for us.

It may be that the disciples were not able to express themselves in this way, but how better can we describe their experiences during the gospel years than to say that Jesus was to them a constantly present Rock? He never failed them. Not only in the tumultuous three years of public ministry but through the shattering uncertainty of the last few days before the cross; in the mock trials before the civil and religious rulers; in His journey on the so-called 'Via Dolorosa' as He passed by the weeping daughters of Jerusalem, and even in the dreadful events at Calvary, He maintained an unmoveable dignity which quivered under the blow of divine forsakeness, but recovered for the final shout of triumph at the end. He proved Himself to be the everlasting, unconquerable and life-giving Rock.

The Church is built on this divine Rock (Matthew 16:18), and its members may freely drink of His life-giving streams. And when this [118/119] universe is shaken to its foundations under the final judgments of God's wrath, we who have fled to Jesus will enjoy safety, victory and the satisfying experience of the fountains of living waters which flow from our beloved Rock (Revelation 7:17).



Harry Foster

WE often grumble about our weather here in England, but if we had a little experience of a very humid climate with the thermometer up to 95°, we might be more grateful to be cooler. At least that is what I have found in recent journeys. Imagine travelling in a car under such a fiery sun! To open the windows would be like opening an oven door to let in blasts of witheringly hot air. Happily people do not have to suffer in this way, for there are cars fitted with air-conditioning apparatus so that, provided all the windows are kept shut, the inside of the car remains cool and fresh.

In Los Angeles our Chinese friends were going to take us to an important conference about two hours' drive away from the city and, to provide for our comfort, they had been able to borrow such an air-conditioned car. So there we were, with our bags all packed, ready to be driven off to the conference, when the Chinese lady who was to drive the borrowed car, drove up to the house to collect us.

But she had bad news. There was enough petrol -- or 'gas' as they call it there -- to drive a short distance, but not enough to get us to the conference camp. The owner of the car had left the ignition key, but had forgotten to leave another very important key, the one needed to open the lock of the petrol-tank cap. We were quite ready to fill up the tank with enough 'gas' for the journey, but there was no way of getting it into the tank. The engine was in good condition; there was no difficulty about the flow of petrol from the tank to the engine; but the trouble was that the entrance to this tank was closed and locked. Fearing that people might steal her petrol, the owner of the car had had a lock fitted to the cap. This did not matter, provided the driver had the key of this lock, but the kind friend who had lent the car did not think to hand over this key, and so we were left stranded.

Various suggestions were made, but as they were in Chinese I could not understand them. When, however, the driver went off alone in the car, it was explained to me that she had gone to the locksmith to ask him to force the lock. This seemed a good idea, so we went back into the house with our luggage, fully expecting that after a short delay we should be able to set out on our journey.

However another disappointment awaited us for, when the lady driver returned, she had to report that the locksmith had refused to do what she asked. This was not because the task was difficult, but due to the fact that she was not herself the owner of the car. She explained that it had been lent to her by a friend, but the man rightly said that it would be illegal for him to break open the lock without the owner's permission.

So we were back in our old predicament. Here was a car which could be started, which could go part of the way, but which could not complete the journey. One friend suggested that we should set out in faith, but the others rejected the suggestion, since it is never any use starting a thing unless one has the resources to finish it.

Well, in the end a solution was found to our problem, the cap was opened and the tank filled with the petrol which would enable us to finish our journey. We were late; but we got there in the end. I will not stop to tell you just how it was done, because the real purpose of this story is to remind you that the Christian journey can only be satisfactorily completed by those who keep open the intake of divine power. However well you may start and run at first, you will never reach your spiritual destination if something is locking up the channel of inflow of the Holy Spirit. You must have the key to that intake, and you must use it. The locksmith could [119/120] have broken open our cap but he would not. The Lord could easily force His own power into your life, but He will never do that. So if you have mislaid the key, find it again and use it to open up your being to the free flow of the eternal life of the Lord Jesus. The key is called 'Faith', and the Bible tells us that God will always respond to it. "He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him" (Hebrews 11:6).


[Eric Fischbacher]

YESTERDAY one of the elders gave us a very powerful message on the question of revelation, his point being that if we seek fresh revelation from God, we must be prepared for what goes with revelation -- the thorn in the flesh. This means an experience of the cross, and he pointed out that the cross not only accompanies revelation, but is often the basis for it. We seek God for a fresh revelation of Himself and of His will, but when we find ourselves plunged into difficulties of one kind or another, we are offended. Yet this is God's answer to us -- not a blinding flash of light, but another situation of frustration in which God will reveal Himself and at the same time bring us into a new humility. He described the thorn in the flesh as something which makes us hang our heads in shame every time we think of it, and whenever we are inclined to be puffed up about what God has done, we remember, and blush, and recall our impotence in that direction. - Hong Kong Diary . Dr. E. Fischbacher



The bound volume of the 1973 issue of Toward The Mark
will be available at the end of the year.
Price 60p ($2.00) per copy, plus postage [120/ibc]

[Inside back cover]


   Vol. 1   50p /$2.30
   Vol. 2   30p /$1.28
   Vol. 2 (Cloth boards) 37p /$1.60
WHAT IS MAN?   37p /$1.60
   Vol. 1   37p /$1.60
   Vol. 2   25p /$1.07
   Vol. 1 (Cloth boards) 33p /$1.39
   Vol. 1   25p /$1.07
   Vol. 2   17p /$0.75
OUR WARFARE   23p /$0.96
   CHRISTIAN LIFE   23p /$0.96
IN CHRIST   20p /$0.80
   THE LORD JESUS CHRIST   14p /$0.58
HIS GREAT LOVE   7p /$0.32
CHRIST -- ALL, AND IN ALL   4p /$0.15
   3p each ($0.10) or 30p per dozen ($1.00)    
   2p each ($0.07) or 20p per dozen ($0.70)    
1p /$0.04
Collections of various messages by T. Austin-Sparks    
   and others)

THE WORK OF THE MINISTRY Vol. 1 15p /$0.64

Vol. 2 16p /$0.69

Vol. 3 17p /$0.75
   The three together   45p /$1.92
Books for children    
By G. Paterson    
By H. Foster    
READY FOR THE KING   7p /$0.32
ON WINGS OF FAITH   10p /$0.43
BURIED TREASURE   10p /$0.43
Bound volumes of this magazine for    
   1971 & 1972 each 50p/$1.00


To be ordered from:
39 Honor Oak Road, LONDON, SE23 3SH. Telephone: 01-699 5216/4339

Also obtainable from:

Ministry of Life, Testimony Book Ministry, Gospel Literature Service,
Box 74, Rt 2, Box 34241, P.O. Box No. 65,
Cloverdale, West Bethesda Branch, Bombay 1,
Indiana 46120, U.S.A. Washington, D.C. 20034, U.S.A. INDIA

   For orders totalling less than £1 -- please add 25 per cent.
   For orders totalling more than £1 -- please add 12 percent.
   For all orders to the U.S.A. -- please add 15 percent.

[Back cover]

1 Corinthians 1:7

Printed by The Invil Press, 4/5 Brownlow Mews, London WC1N 2LD -- Telephone: 01-242 7454

  • Alphabetical
  • Chronological
  • Topical
  • Alphabetical
  • Chronological
  • Topical
  • Alphabetical
  • Chronological
  • Alphabetical
  • Chronological