"A Candlestick of Pure Gold: of Beaten Work" Exodus 25:31

"The Testimony of Jesus"
Revelation 1:9

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September -- October, 1971 Vol. 49, No. 5


39 Honor Oak Road, London, SE23 3SH

IT will be readily understood by all our friends that the home-call of our beloved brother, Mr. T. Austin-Sparks, who founded the paper A Witness and A Testimony 49 years ago and continued to edit it until his recent passing, has created a situation calling for a fresh seeking of the Lord on the part of the trustees.

That concern has been deepened by the further removal into the presence of the Lord, on 14th June 1971, of Miss Beryl Guy. Miss Guy was known to many of our friends, and especially to all who have attended the yearly conferences in Switzerland, as Mr. Sparks' "right hand" in all practical matters, as well as for her own spiritual contribution.

There has therefore been much prayer regarding the future, for it has not been taken for granted that the paper, however greatly appreciated in the past, and right up to date, must continue.

The trustees wish to record their gratitude to the Lord for the manifest tokens of blessing which have attended the ministry of A Witness and A Testimony and of all the literature, and to His people in all parts of the world for the fellowship which has made it possible.

After prayerful consideration, a decision has been reached whereby, under the editorship of Mr. H. Foster, a magazine with a new title will be published, dedicated to the same objective as prefaces this issue -- and all previous issues -- of A Witness and A Testimony, and will continue to carry articles from the ministry of Mr. Sparks.

There is a quite unanimous conviction on the part of the trustees that A Witness and A Testimony is so identified with the personal ministry of Mr. T. Austin-Sparks that publication of the magazine under its present title should cease after the end of 1971.

The new paper will go out just as long as there is justifiable demand for it, and the prayers of all our readers are earnestly coveted that it shall continue to serve the spiritual objective of the ministry which saw the inception of A Witness and A Testimony. - The Trustees [89/90]


(A message given to young Christians in October 1970)

[T. Austin-Sparks]

I HAVE been wondering if I could define and sum up your conference in three words, and I think I have them: the Word, the Work and the World. We are going to speak a little about these but first we will read some fragments of Scripture.

"And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us" (John 1:14). The word "tabernacled" which is used in the margin of the English Revised Version, is the correct translation here.

"This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a testimony unto all the nations; and then shall the end come" (Matthew 24:14).

I am going to re-translate that verse into what is perhaps a more literal and true translation:

"This good news of the sovereign reign shall be preached in the whole world to set the evidence." We will come back to that later.

"This is the sum of the things for the tabernacle, even the tabernacle of the testimony" (Exodus 38:21).


We begin with the Word, because that is the basis of everything. Everything must be according to the Word, out from the Word, and governed by the Word. The Work, which comes next, is the purpose, or expression, of the Word. Then comes the World, which is the sphere in which the Word has to have its expression.

Perhaps I should say that I am treating you as a group of students and am not preaching to a congregation, so I am expecting that you will follow quite closely every word that I say, for I am weighing up my words very carefully and there is a great deal more behind them than there seems to be on the surface.

As far as the Word is concerned -- and I am now referring to the Scriptures -- we must always look at any fragment of Scripture in its wider context. Do remember that, when you come to read any part, any sentence, even any single word of the Scriptures, because it is the Word of God it has a much wider context than the thing itself. It is not just a word, or a sentence, or a verse, or a portion of Scripture in itself. It has a much greater setting, and you will be greatly helped, and it will be of really vital consequence, if you can see that wider context. In other words, look for the fuller content of any part of the Scripture, for it has much more in it than lies on the surface. There is an inexhaustible depth in anything that proceeds from God. Indeed if it is true that the Bible, the Scriptures, are God-breathed, inspired of God, coming out of God, then they are as full as God Himself. There is not a little mind behind that word, that sentence, that statement or that argument. It is God's mind, and that mind is inexhaustible. You will never fathom its depths, but it is there in every fragment.

Please try to remember that when you are reading the Word of God. Do not just read on and on, but take it fragment by fragment and seek to see both its wider context and its fuller content.

Now that is not just technical. I am speaking to you as one who has been with this Word of God for over sixty years, and I have found this to be of immense value. You see, the Bible has been preached and taught for some two thousand years now, but at the end of that time there is still something new to be found in just a fragment, as far as words are concerned. Take any one of these texts, so-called, on which people preach. You may have heard hundreds of messages on it, and if you are as old as I am, you will have heard preaching on it many times in many parts of the world, but, you know, it is never exhausted. There is always something new and fresh about that well-known bit of Scripture. How often we hear someone get up and announce his text, and our reaction is: 'Oh, we know that one! We have often heard people talk about that one!' but, if the person speaking is really under the anointing, before he or she is through we have got something quite new on that old, well-worn bit of Scripture which we have heard so many times before. I am enunciating something of tremendous importance. This that comes out from God is as big as God Himself, and can you exhaust God? Can you really get to the end of God's mind? Never! Indeed, after all our years, however many they may be, we are saying to ourselves: 'Well, when I get to Glory I am going to ask for an explanation of that bit of Scripture that I have known so well. I am going to ask Paul what he meant by that statement, and the Lord what He meant by that one. I know there [90/91] is something more there that I have not been able to fathom.'

I need not labour this, but I want to stress, first of all in relation to the Word, that its depth and its fullness are quite inexhaustible because it comes from God, and therefore it is as full as God Himself.

We are going to take an example. Our first passage was John 1:14: "And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us." The Greek word 'logos' is used, so we have: 'And the Word, the logos, became flesh and tabernacled among us.' Let us break it up. 'The Word, the personal expression of God, became flesh' -- not 'always was', but became, and that is a point, a time in eternity. We do not know when it happened exactly in the mind of God, but, of course, we know the date in history. But there was a juncture, a crisis, a terminal point between the pre-existence of the Word which was God in the beginning and His becoming flesh -- "and tabernacled among us." As I have already said, that is the correct translation, for that same word is used many times in the Scriptures. The last time is in the book of the Revelation: "The tabernacle of God is with men" (21:3).

Now we begin to open out. John is writing his Gospel with a full Jewish background, and I suggest that you get down to that Gospel and track down carefully every allusion to the life, history and constitution of Israel. You will have to search very closely, but you will find that it is all there. Where does he begin? "... and tabernacled among us." 'He took up His residence in a tent.' The Greek word cannot be exactly translated into English, for it would sound too awkward if I said: 'and entented among us.' You see, John is right back with Israel in the wilderness where we read of "the tabernacle of the testimony". The tabernacle is in John's mind, for it is part of this whole Jewish system which lies behind all that he is writing. He has a lot to say about the system, and you will find that he speaks about the manna in the wilderness and Jacob's well. Yes! It is all there.

John has this whole Jewish life and constitution at the back of his mind as he is writing and he begins with the tabernacle. In effect, what he is saying, or meaning, is that what the tabernacle in the wilderness was long ago, Jesus is now. He has supplanted that tabernacle. It is dismissed and He has taken its place. The great transition has taken place. Presently the temple will come up in the same way with the woman of Samaria: "Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship" (John 4:20). Jesus said: "Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall ye worship the Father." What has happened? Mount Gerizim, the temple of the Samaritans, has been dismissed, and the great temple in Jerusalem has been dismissed. Someone has taken their place. Well, as I have suggested, read through this Gospel again and mark as many of the allusions to Israel's life and history as you can.

We return to the tabernacle. First of all, God commanded: "And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them" (Exodus 25:8), so the object of it was: "that I may dwell among them." This is the same word again, although it is in Hebrew, and God was really saying: "that I may tabernacle among them."

Then look at the making of this tabernacle. It is a revelation from heaven, and nothing whatever is left to the inventiveness or judgment or thought or imagination of man. The pattern is given in the Mount, and you notice the meticulous and scrupulous exactness of God over this. "According to all that I shew thee, the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the furniture thereof, even so shall ye make it" (Exodus 25:9). Nothing was left to man. Man, with all his imaginative, emotional, intellectual capabilities, is ruled out, set aside. He has no place in the making of this tabernacle. God is very particular, so much so that when two of Aaron's sons made incense which was not according to the prescription, it was called "false fire". It was not according to the prescription given by God, so He came down and you know what happened. It meant complete destruction the obliteration of everything in this connection that was not God's thought or mind, but was of man .

Why this very stringent jealousy of God over this tabernacle? Because His thought does not begin and end with this thing called the tabernacle. His thought is so much bigger, fuller and greater than anything that can be measured. And what is God's thought? Nothing less and nothing other than His own Son, Jesus Christ, and every detail of this tabernacle in the wilderness symbolically, and of the Person in incarnation actually, is meticulously according to God's mind. This is the One who came and tabernacled. There is a detailed, scrupulous correspondence with the mind of God, and that was what was governing the tabernacle in the wilderness. In God's intention, mind and thought that tabernacle was an expression, a representation of the Lord Jesus in His character and nature.

That is the fuller content of: "The Word became [91/92] flesh and tabernacled among us." So, you see, we cannot just go on reading the Bible on and on! We have to get this fuller, wider context, and the far greater setting of each fragment.

Well, that is the Word, and remember that you cannot go on with the Work until you have got that, because there is so very much that is of man's conception, genius, idea, imagination and activity in the things of God, but God is not dwelling in all that. He is not there, for the very object has been lost or missed. To put that in another way: If God is going to come in, tabernacle, reside, be present, everything must be according to Christ. How meticulous Christ was Himself about that! He had His Father's mind, and here in John v you will hear Him saying: "The Son can do nothing out from himself". That is what the Greek says, not "of himself". You see how you have to weigh every little word! What is coming out from us? "The Son can do nothing out from himself, but what he seeth the Father doing: for what things soever he doeth, these the Son also doeth in like manner" (verse 19). 'The works that I do, I do not out from Myself. The words that I speak, I speak not out from Myself. It is the Father that speaketh, and it is the Father that doeth the works.' He is in touch with the ultimate thought of God in every detail. Was God in Christ? Has history proved that God came in through that One? Well, you have the answer to that.

That is the Word, which governs and is the basis of everything, but we must go on.


What is the work of God? You, of course, are very concerned about the work of God. Now, please do not quote me out of context. You are concerned with the salvation of souls, and that is quite right, but ..., and when I put a 'but' in it means that there is a question. You are concerned with the spreading of the Gospel. Quite right, but.... What are you concerned with? Well, you can make a list of answers to that question. Why are you here at all? Why are you a Christian? Why are you going out to the various places to which you are going? Perhaps you would comprehend it all in this one sentence: 'I am going out in the work of the Lord. I have committed myself and my life to the work of the Lord.' Please, what do you mean? These answers that you will give may be quite right as far as they go, and yet this 'but' is there, and it is a very challenging 'but'. It might be a very devastating 'but', for it might put us right out of our work. It might be a 'but' that causes the Lord to lay us aside from His work for a time. This 'but' may account for so many things.

What is the work of the Lord, dear friends? Will you take this to heart? Again, please do not say that I have said: 'The work of the Lord is not to preach the Gospel, and not the salvation of souls', for I have said: 'Yes, it is' to those. These are means, but they are not the end. They are the means to an end. What is the work of the Lord? What does our passage of Scripture indicate?

"The Word was made flesh and tabernacled among us." Why did Jesus Christ come into the world in the flesh? To save men? Yes. To bring men to God? Yes. To make known the Kingdom of God? Yes. But is that all? Are those ways, or are they the end? Again, I ask the question: What is the work of the Lord?

The work of the Lord is to bring God into His place in this world. That is all. In your being where you are, in your being a Christian and a servant of the Lord, in your preaching the Gospel or in your doing any of these things which make up the sum of your work, the challenge, the test is this: Is God present? When we meet one another, do we meet the Lord, or do we meet an enterprise, an undertaking, a piece of work, an organisation, or a lot of people interested in a thing? Is the presence and the impact of our life the impact of God upon a situation?

Let us come to our passage in Matthew 24: 'This good news of the sovereign reign shall be proclaimed in every nation in order to set the evidence .' In the Greek, the word is 'testimony', or 'witness', and you know what a witness is -- one who has a testimony. In no court of law anywhere will the judge allow you to say: 'Now, I heard this. I was told that. I believe that it was so and so. I read it.' To that the judge will say :'My dear man, I do not want to hear what you heard, what you think, what you believe or what you read. I want first-hand evidence. Reading and hearing is second-hand and I do not accept that as evidence.' Do you not think that this is challenging where our witness, our testimony is concerned? The fact that you are in a situation is evidence of what? 'This good news of the sovereign reign proclaimed in all the nations to set the evidence' -- and of what is the evidence? That this earth is God's by right. 'This earth, and this patch upon which both my feet stand, is God's, and not the devil's, nor man's. It is God's by right of creation and by right of redemption.' If you take that position you have God on your side.

That has been the battle all the way through. It began when Abel took the position with an altar, [92/93] testifying that this earth is the Lord's by right, not only of creation (Cain got as far as that!), but of redemption, by right of precious blood. And the devil came out and slew him -- and yet, did he? "He being dead yet speaketh" (Hebrews 11:4).

We come to Noah. By this time the whole creation has been wiped out, except for those few in the ark. Then they came out, emerging from judgment, death and destruction, and the first thing that Noah did was to build an altar upon the regenerated, renewed earth. In so doing, he said: 'The earth is the Lord's.' Men had robbed God of His place. The imagination of every heart was evil and men would not have God in their thoughts, so He said: 'That is not what I created the world for. I created it for Myself, for My dwelling and tabernacling.' So Noah put up an altar and there the Lord's rights were recognized.

Abraham went up and down the land, and wherever he put his feet he built an altar, and in so doing he was saying: 'This belongs to God. His rights of creation and redemption are represented here.'

We think of Moses. Israel came out to be constituted a nation by way of an altar, which was constructed on the threshold of every dwelling, for that was where the lamb was slain. From the basin which caught the blood of the lamb on the threshold a circle was made, which meant that that home and that family were encircled with blood, and out through that circle of blood they emerged as God's nation. It was by way of an altar. They may not have understood all this, but the meaning was: 'We are the Lord's ! We are redeemed by precious blood. The Lord's rights are recognised and acknowledged by our very existence, for all the first-born of the Egyptians have died. Our survival is on the ground of redeeming blood, for we are the Lord's.'

You go on through the Old Testament, and all these altars were leading up to the great altar of the Cross which included, comprehended them all with one inclusive, comprehensive meaning. What was the battle of Calvary? Well, you can say many things about it -- atonement for our sins, and so on -- but all that is included in one thing: the rights of God in this world were being fought out in the Cross. You are not surprised, then, that when that battle has been fought, the cosmic forces against God having His place have been stripped off and the battle of God's rights has been settled by redeeming blood, the next great event in the history of this world is that heaven opened and down came the Holy Spirit to tabernacle in the Church, the new tabernacle of God, the corporate Body of Christ. God is here, and now the work of God is to set the evidence, that is, to bring the Lord into His place.

Sometimes you can do no more than stand. Many of the Lord's servants have been able to do nothing more than just stand where the Lord put them, 'withstand, and having done all, to stand'. Sometimes they are not able to preach, not able to do what they call the work of the Lord. Let us get that straightened out, for sometimes to be unmovable and stand for God's rights in a place is the greatest service that we can do for the Lord.

Well, this ought to revolutionise our idea of the Lord's work! What is it? Much more ought to be said, but it is simply bringing the Lord in where we are.

I expect you have principles that you have been enunciating in this conference and at other times, but this is one upon which I want to put an emphasis. The principle of this work of God is a corporate principle, and no one worker ought to be left alone. The minimum requisite of the New Testament in the work of God is two. Be careful about isolating yourself, detaching yourself. The devil will make a mess of you and the testimony if he can get you isolated. This standing together is a representation of the principle of the Body of Christ, and Paul said that the body is not just one member. Always watch this corporate principle, because sometimes, if we have not got another alongside to stand with us, we will go under. We need one another to stand together.

This is devastating and challenging. It says to me continually: 'Does it work out that the result of your being here, as a Christian, as a so-called servant of God, is more of the Lord? Because you have come this way, because you have been here, does it mean that there is more of the Lord?' Oh, how much we can be taken up with what we call the work, and the Lord is expressed so little! That is why I said that the Lord Jesus was so meticulous and scrupulous in seeing that everything was according to the mind of God. Take that to heart!


The testimony of God and His sovereign rights -- which is only another way of speaking of the Kingdom -- are to be planted in every nation. It is not that every nation is to be saved in its entirety in this dispensation, but the testimony is there to set the evidence in all the world.

That, of course, will open the door for a lot more to be said -- and my time has gone! But [93/94] why was that tabernacle in the wilderness right at the centre of a nation? What was it for? And if you look at the terrible tragedy of Israel, why were they set aside, why have there been these two thousand years in which they have been in what the New Testament calls "the outer darkness"? It was because their testimony in the nations broke down. They were raised up, constituted and governed by God and by heaven in order that in the nations it should be known that God has the rights in this world, by creation and redemption. Israel's presence was meant to be, in effect, the presencing of God. So, when the purpose is lost the thing is dismissed. God will have no more use for an enterprise when its purpose is lost and He will dismiss it. And the purpose is the bringing in of Christ. That was the history of Israel, and it is the history of many things in which the Lord manifested Himself, but which eventually lost the purpose of their existence. They went out on other lines and other things, and have been dismissed by God, like the tent in Shiloh which became an empty shell, and like the temple in Jerusalem, wrecked and ruined, and dismissed from God's purpose, for its object was lost. Shall we pray: 'Lord, don't let that happen to me! Don't let the thing for which You have brought me to Yourself lose its purpose and I no longer bring You in. Does my presence mean Your presence?' Let us pray like that, for there must be the impact of God.

That is the Word, that is the Work, and that is what we are in the world for. You are going to be scattered among the nations, and what are you going to do? You will preach, yes, it has to be proclaimed. You will labour, you will suffer and you will be very busy, I am sure, but remember this: There must be that life in secret with God which means that when you come out from the sanctuary, the secret place with God, the presence of God is with you and registering just where you are, and if men are insensitive, the devil won't be! He knows where the Lord is. He is the arch-enemy of God and of God having a foothold in this world. He is the prince of this world and is not going to tolerate any interference with his kingdom without a fight.

Yes, bringing the Lord in has been a battle all the way through, but this is the work of the Lord, and this is what we are here for. - T. A-S.


[Harry Foster]

Reading: Psalm 14

WE might hesitate to describe Christ as the Bridegroom if He Himself had not made use of the title. He was not the first to do so, for there are a number of Old Testament allusions to this relationship between the Lord and His people, and there are also some typical figures, such as Adam, Isaac and Boaz, to illustrate it. The first New Testament reference to the idea is found in John the Baptist's confession that his Spirit-filled ministry had as its objective the coming of the heavenly Bridegroom to claim His true bride, and that Christ's increase is associated with His experiences as Bridegroom.

The last references fill the final chapters of the book of the Revelation, where the marriage of the Lamb is seen to be the grand climax not only of the book, but of the whole history of God's dealings with men. All His servants, the four living ones, the four and twenty elders, the great multitude, the small and the great, all unite in one tremendous Hallelujah chorus of rapturous joy over the fact that "the marriage of the Lamb is come" (Revelation 19:7). The whole universe of God will felicitate the Son, for this will be HIS DAY, His marriage feast. The event seemed so overwhelmingly wonderful that even the beloved John was so overcome by his emotions that he tried to worship the angel who revealed it to him. There seems to be no doubt that this will be one of the supreme events of all time. So that the title of Bridegroom is of superlative importance.


The title of Bridegroom alludes to a relationship, the name having no meaning unless there is also a bride; so that this stresses more than any other title possibly could that Christ's union with His people is not only a life union, it is also a love union. What is more, it is a reciprocal love union. The Head loves His body, He needs and uses it for self expression; the King loves His people, over whom He watches like a Shepherd caring for His flock. In the same way the Bridegroom loves His bride, but in this case He not only loves, but He is [94/95] also loved. He is everything to her, but she is also everything to Him; He needs her to make His destiny and happiness complete.

There are four marriages described in the Old Testament which can help to illustrate different aspects of the way in which a wife can be complementary to her husband and provide that which is essential to his perfect self realisation. The four brides are Eve, Rebekah, Ruth and Esther.


Adam needed Eve in order to constitute a family unit. Human life is unbalanced and incomplete when it is limited to one individual; God's order is based on the family. The nation of Israel was also formed on this same family basis, with prominence given to fathers' houses. Then, again, the New Testament churches were shaped and ordered around this basic conception of family rather than confederation. From Adam and Eve's beginnings we learn that the individual's life is incomplete if he remains alone, which indicates to us that in adopting this description of Bridegroom, Christ is gladly accepting the fact that His own fulfilment in terms of divine destiny requires the companionship of a heavenly bride.

Moreover, the passage in Genesis states that such a union requires self-renunciation; the man must leave all else to be joined to his bride. This was demanded of the first man, and is certainly fulfilled in the case of the Second Man. When the Lord Jesus described Himself as the Bridegroom He proposed to implement the relationship by sacrificing His very life, for there are no limits to His love for His own; it passes knowledge.


Isaac needed Rebekah to give meaning to his inheritance. The notable feature of his marriage was the initiative taken in the matter by his father, Abraham. The beloved son was the sole heir, all the vast possessions and limitless future prospects being reserved only for him. This explains Abraham's concern about the choice of a bride for him, and the solemn oath extracted from the servant about her selection; it was because the father wanted a worthy partner for his heir. Since the heritage was to mean so much, not only to that family but to all the families of the earth, Abraham pondered long and seriously over the matter and then took every possible precaution to find this girl who could be Isaac's fellow heir.

So far as the historical fact is concerned, we readily appreciate all that was involved, but when we transfer the implications to the spiritual realm we may well be dumbfounded, for we are confronted with the magnitude of our responsibilities and the wonder of our calling. Can it really be that we are called to joint heirship with Jesus Christ? Is that what He meant when He prayed so earnestly for "the men whom thou hast given me out of the world' (John 17:6)? Yes, Christ is indeed the Bridegroom, and the hope of our calling and goal of our predestination is to be partners in His inheritance.


Boaz needed Ruth just as much as she needed him, for a kinsman had to do more than repurchase the lost inheritance; he had to take the impoverished widow to be his wife. It is one of the implications of the beautiful story of redemption told in the book of Ruth that the redeemer-kinsman himself was enriched by his generous act. Boaz was a rich man, but a lonely one; he had many friends, but he was without a wife; there were many on whom he could bestow his generosity, but none with whom he could share it. Ruth's other kinsman was not in this condition, so he could not fully be her redeemer, but Boaz could and did fulfil that function.

Boaz had great wealth, but he lacked one whom he could love and who could not only receive but also give back to him. He was obviously aware of this, for his first response to Ruth's appeal was not to say what he would do for her, but to thank her for her generosity to him: "Blessed be thou of the Lord, my daughter, for thou hast shown more kindness in the latter end than at the beginning, inasmuch as thou followedst not young men, whether poor or rich" (Ruth 3:10). This was true grace, showing to the lowly not condescension but rather appreciative gratitude, and it was true love also, for a love relationship cannot be perfect if it contains any elements of condescension.

Ruth had great capacities for devotion, and she brought them all to Boaz. Her union with him gave meaning to his great wealth and enriched him still more, for although he gave Ruth much he also received much as the result of his redemptive action. For our part, we have Christ as our great Kinsman-Redeemer, and in His case too there seems to be a sense in which He could still be unsatisfied at heart if His vast and generous giving did not receive a right response; if His people could receive His wealth of love and not give back [95/96] to Him the bridal devotion of which she alone capable.


Ahasuerus, with all his magnificence, was not complete without Esther to share his throne. This is a very poor illustration of the spiritual truth, especially in view of the character of the royal husband, and is not really the main lesson of the book of Esther. At least, however, the story contains a hint of what is elsewhere suggested in the Old Testament and so eloquently described in the Psalm from the pen of the ready writer, where the king's glory is enhanced by the fact that at his right hand stands "the queen, in gold of Ophir" (Psalm 45:9). Her vocation is to administer the kingdom with him, a matter which is developed in Revelation 20 and 21, where the bride is shown as the holy city, central to the whole of God's universe and ablaze with His glory (Revelation 21:24).

Perhaps dignity is the best word which aptly describes her calling: she will not only be called a queen but she will be queenly. "All her splendour is the splendour of a princess through and through" (Psalm 45:13 -- Knox). Esther had twelve months of preparation, "six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with sweet odours and with things for purifying"; we have a lifetime, for one of the main purposes of all God's dealings with us is to prepare us for our reign with Christ.


Christ has not yet finally presented the bride to Himself. He will not do so until she is "glorious ... not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing ... holy and without blemish". The truth is that He not only died to purchase her but now lives to prepare and beautify her, and not until the sanctifying work is done can the marriage be regarded as fully realised. This is a truth which applies to us individually, and helps to explain some of the trials and difficulties which the Lord permits to come into our lives, for they represent His faithfulness in preparing us for the great Day. The relationship of Bridegroom to bride also applies to our life together, for though there may be many guests at the marriage feast, there can be only one bride. The Spirit's sanctifying work is therefore directed to our unity in Christ, seeking to remove the spots and blemishes in our corporate experience, so that in our life together we may find ourselves a true "king's daughter", gloriously clothed with inwrought gold (Psalm 45:13).

For this very reason the command is given: "Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near" (Hebrews 10:25, R.S.V.). What Day? Why, His Day! The Day when the royal Monarch finds complete fulfilment for His kingdom because His consort is able to share the throne with Him, the Day when the marriage of the Lamb is publicly announced, and His bride comes down out of heaven from God radiant like a fair jewel.


We now consider three New Testament passages which apply the test of God's Word to all who are called to be included in the bride. The first speaks of betrothal or engagement, for this is really the nature of our relationship to Christ at the present moment. "... for I espoused you to one husband, that I might present you as a pure virgin to Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:2). In this passage the essence of the bridal spirit is described as "a sincere and pure devotion to Christ". Not by their own efforts or on their own merits but by the election of grace, the Corinthians were called into partnership with Christ and so betrothed to Him, yet the apostle was jealous over them and fearful that they might fail to go through with their engagement vows. The serpent who deceived Eve, that very same serpent, is still alive and still busy, seeking now to rob Christ of the satisfaction which should come to Him through His bride by seducing her to other interests and meaner loves. He need not succeed, but will any of us dare to affirm that in our case he cannot do so? If there were no perils for the Corinthians -- and us -- then we may find ourselves obliged to charge Paul with foolish jealousy and unnecessary fears, or even with using insincere and dishonest threats. None of us will do that.

The second passage speaks of the actual presentation of the bride (Ephesians 5:27), and does so in a context of grace, for the theme of this great letter is that redemption is not by human righteousness, but by divine grace and through faith alone. The same letters however, explains how the gracious sanctifying work is done, namely "by the washing of water by the word". Christ is all eagerness to present His bride to Himself, and for this reason seeks our submission and co-operation as He applies His cleansing Word to our daily conduct. The prospect of meeting Him as Bridegroom should act as an added incentive to pay heed to that Word and to give it a ready response; His words are not the commandments of the lawgiver, but the tender [96/97] appeal of the Bridegroom. Do we treat them as such?

Finally, we have the thrilling passage concerning the marriage supper of the Lamb, where it is stated that the royal bride has made herself ready, a hint of a similar emphasis made concerning the wise virgins who were ready when the midnight cry announced that the Bridegroom was coming. The expression employed to describe the fitness and suitability of the bride's dress is that it is like beautiful white linen (Revelation 19:7-8). God will never be satisfied with show; He requires reality and so speaks of the fine linen in terms of righteousness, in terms of character and behaviour, righteousness not only as a gift but as expressed in actions; not only righteous thoughts and desires, but righteous deeds. This in itself is a solemn challenge to all of us who are waiting for the coming of the Bridegroom.

Nevertheless, we must not make of this noble subject a legalistic matter of fear or duty, but rather think of a call to deeper love to our great heavenly Bridegroom. The relationship of Bridegroom and bride is essentially one of mutual and reciprocated love. Married love is different from all others, for it is at one and the same time the most unselfish and the most demanding; it gives without qualification or reserve, but it can only be ideal if the other partner does the same. Christ will always be faithful and devoted, generous and self-sacrificing, for this is His true nature, but if He is to be a successful Bridegroom it can only be for those whose spirit and attitude fully reciprocate His love. However faulty human marriages may be it is inconceivable that the eternal heavenly marriage union should be a one-sided affair, leaving Christ with a bride whose submission is grudging or half-hearted. His is the love which provides the origin and inspiration, for it all begins with Him; but He expects and must have from His people that sincere and pure devotion which befits His bride.

As John the Baptist assured us, the crux of full spiritual joy is to hear the Bridegroom's voice. If we make this our aim and pleasure we will find the Holy Spirit's guidance and support, and need have no qualms about our readiness for the midnight cry concerning the coming of the Bridegroom. -H. F.



[Graham Scott]

"GOOD day, Captain", drawled the pilot as he climbed the last few steps on to the bridge. He was a tall, thin Australian, brown from his life in the sun. "Full ahead, and steady as she goes," he called out as he handed the Captain the mail and newspapers he had brought on board with him. The ship began to gather speed away from the pilot station at Thursday Island as we headed for the Torres Straits.

It was my first voyage around the 'top' of Australia, through the coral reefs and islands that block most of this narrow stretch of water. The entry in the ship's log reads: "Courses to Captain's orders and pilot's advice." The Captain was still in control, but now for safety the ship must steer to the pilot's advice. "How like life!" I thought. Even though you ask Jesus to be your pilot, you still have command of your will and must make your own decisions to obey Him.

At first the pilot's job seemed so easy; there was nothing to it. Then, checking the course the pilot gave for a particularly narrow stretch, I saw that the ship was heading straight for a hidden reef marked on the chart. The water all looked the same, but under the surface sharp coral waited to rip the bottom out of any ship that passed too close. As we went closer, however, I saw that the tide was drifting us down so that instead of hitting the reef we went straight through the gap in the centre. Of course, we couldn't see the tide any more than we could see the reef, but the pilot knew how the tide was running, and where the danger was, and the course he gave was just right to bring us safely through.

Later we passed a rusting old wreck, stranded on a reef, and I asked the pilot what had happened. "Well," he laughed, and said, "they thought they could do it without a pilot. They were doing all right, too, while they could see everything". "What happened?" I asked. "A dust storm blew up," he replied, "and then they couldn't see the marks or the beacons. They thought they were on the right course, but they didn't allow for the tide." "Could they have had a pilot if they had wanted one?" I [97/98] asked. "Not out here," the pilot said. "You can only get a pilot at the pilot station. Once you get yourself into difficulties it is too late to think about getting a pilot."

I looked again at our pilot. Life was so much easier and safer with a pilot on board. I felt sorry for the captain of that ship that was wrecked, and I wondered if they ever gave him another ship to try again. How much worse if we wreck our lives through not having Jesus as our pilot, for we only have one life to live.

Soon we were through the dangerous waters, and away went the pilot, but as we headed out into the open sea I knew we would be meeting a pilot again. Nearly all the ports in the world require a ship to have a pilot on board if the ship wants to enter. Without a pilot on board you are not allowed in, which is just like life again. We might make a mess of our lives through not having Jesus as our pilot, but, worse than that, without Jesus we will not be allowed into the port of Heaven.

There is one more thing about pilots on ships that I think you ought to know. A ship with a pilot is required to fly the pilot flag so that everyone can see that there is a pilot on board.

We find that David, who wrote Psalm 31, knew where to go for a pilot. In verse 3 he asked the Lord to lead him and guide him. If you read the Psalm you can discover many of the troubles and difficulties we can meet on the voyage of life, but David had a good Pilot on board. "Do you want a pilot? Signal then to Jesus." "This is our God ... He will be our guide for ever" (Psalm 48:14). - G. S.


[Roger T. Forster]

Reading: Acts 13:26-43

EASTER morning meant the end of one conflict: "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:55-57). That is the end of the old conflict with death, and every Christian who has experienced the resurrection power of our Lord Jesus Christ can confidently affirm that death has lost its sting, namely sin. We can rejoice in the assurance that God has done something about this last great enemy and that we need be no longer held in its bondage. We can know emancipation from its prince who wields the weapon of death, even Satan.

So resurrection morning is a wonderful early morning experience for every Christian man and woman that keeps them fresh in the delight that God has answered that old conflict with which man was faced.


But, in another sense, the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ was the beginning of a new conflict. Everywhere the apostles went in the book of the Acts they proclaimed Jesus and the resurrection. From the very first moment, when Peter stood up in the midst of those antagonistic authorities, men who had put Christ to death and wanted Christians to be put out of the way, he preached: 'You put Jesus Christ to death, but God raised Him from the grave', and, of course, it started a conflict. Or, if they went into the synagogues, as they did in Antioch of Pisidia, and, indeed, in the synagogues throughout the Roman Empire, they would proclaim Jesus and the resurrection, and straight away trouble would start. Wherever Paul went he was the cause of trouble breaking out, because he preached the resurrection of Jesus and men had to take sides. When he was standing before the pagan university at Athens he once again proclaimed that God was going to judge the world through this one man, Jesus Christ, whom He had raised from the dead in order that all men might have assurance and belief. Some mocked him, arousing the controversy again.

Right the way through the Acts the resurrection not only marked the end of an old conflict, the conflict against death and sin, but introduced a new one, and that same conflict is going on to-day wherever Christ and the resurrection are being proclaimed. The second Psalm, which prophesied the resurrection of our Lord Jesus, begins like this: "The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord, and against his anointed", and as we read on in that Psalm we begin to see that the whole conflict is because God has spoken to the grave, to the earth, to the tomb in which Christ lay for those three days, and said: "Thou art my Son; this day I have begotten thee." And there broke out of the [98/99] grave, through the resurrection power of our God, a new challenge to the powers of this world, and men rose up together, assembled tumultuously, gathered together, argued, and got themselves into the place where they resisted God.

In the fourth chapter of the Acts, when the Apostles Peter and John had been brought before the Sanhedrin and had once again been cautioned: 'You must not say these things nor preach them in Jerusalem', they went back to their own company and told the disciples the things that they had suffered. Immediately the company burst into song, for it was just wonderful that they were counted worthy to suffer for the Lord. As they burst out into praise they used this second Psalm again: "The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ ... And now, Lord, ... grant unto thy servants that with all boldness they may speak thy word, by stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus."

The resurrection causes a conflict. Now, why? Would you not think that people would be only too pleased that death has been answered? Do you not think that people would like to have some message from the other side of the grave to meet man's number one problem? Would you not think that man would be delighted to receive something like the resurrection of Christ? Why is it a conflict?

There is instigated an antagonism because people are proclaiming Jesus and the resurrection, and I would like us to see that this whole thing is focused upon one word, and the one word which is really at stake in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the word 'sonship'. That is the problem; that is the issue which is being raised out of the grave as Jesus rises again.

You see, it was for this reason that Jesus had been put to death. He had been tried before the Sanhedrin and put on oath: "I adjure thee", said the high priest, "by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God" and Jesus answered: "Thou hast said." You see it was Sonship, whether He was the Son of God, which was the issue that put Him into the grave.

It was the same issue when God spoke into the tomb on the third day and said: "Thou art my Son. This day have I begotten thee", and Christ rose out of the grave as God's declared Son.

The apostle Paul and the disciples declared the resurrection in these terms. Paul said at the beginning of the letter to the Romans: "God ... declared him to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead" (1:4), and when John had told us his story of the Lord Jesus and how He rose from the grave, he could not hold himself back and burst out: "These are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through his name" (John 20:31).

Sonship! And it was the bursting forth from the tomb of the Son of God that somehow or other began this whole conflict, for in one way this was the vindication of God concerning the claims of Jesus Christ that He was who He said He was. In another way it was the substantiation of man's feelings, his sensitivities, his spiritual leadings and revelations as he groped for God's purpose for humanity. God is not just power, presenting a philosophy that says: 'Might is right', nor is He just an energy that maintains the universe. The resurrection declares that God is a Person, and that Person is a Father, for here is His Son. In another sense the resurrection was a declaration that this is God's purpose for man: 'Out of the grave, sonship. This is what I want to say to mankind', and it is round this one issue of sonship that the difficulties, the problems, the battles, the conflicts and the controversies are raging. That is why Easter morning was the beginning of a lot of troubles in the world, the beginning of the problems that you and I perpetrate as we go on proclaiming Jesus and the resurrection; for there are many who do not want God to be a personal Father, which the resurrection declares; they do not like to feel that they are meant to be His sons, which is what the resurrection declares; and they do not like the claims of Christ, and the way in which He lived, which are authenticated by the resurrection from the dead. That is what caused the controversy and antagonism. God did something in the natural order of affairs that upset men.

Men are so used to death, for everyone dies. The Bible is forever speaking of people dying, and now Someone has risen again and that has upset the whole natural order as men know it. But God is saying: 'Look? I am a Father, and you are meant to be sons. Look at the Person of My Son who makes His claims upon your life' -- and the conflict begins.

Did you notice that in this passage from Acts 13 which we read the apostle Paul used three verses from the Old Testament to establish that it was prophesied that the Lord Jesus would rise from the grave? In verse 33 he used the verse I have already quoted from the second Psalm: "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee." That verse is saying something very special about [99/100] the resurrectional sonship of the Lord Jesus: "Thou art my Son; this day, the day of resurrection, have I begotten thee." Then in verse 34 he quoted from Isaiah: "I will give you the sure mercies of David", which were that there would be One to sit upon the throne of David for ever. These are God's sure mercies and promises to His people and they would have to be by resurrection, for it was going to be for ever, and death would not bring it to an end. Finally he quoted in verse 35 from Psalm 16: "Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." With those three verses from the Old Testament, two from the Psalms and one from Isaiah, Paul pressed home the point that God has raised Jesus from the grave, and each one of those verses highlights the issue of sonship in a special way and brings before us the Sonship of our Lord Jesus from a different angle, in a different light. I want to suggest to you that our Lord Jesus is the Son of God in three different ways, and each of these verses quoted by Paul shows Him from a different angle.


First, we take the last quotation in verse 35: "Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." There we see the Lord Jesus Christ as the eternal Son of the Father. He is the Holy One, the One who is separate and distinct from all others. That is what holiness means: One who is apart from everyone else, who is set apart to the Father's delight, the darling of the Father's heart, the One who existed from all eternity, delighting the soul of God, the One who is eternally the begotten of God, the One whose Father is the eternal Father, for He is the eternal Son. And that One was not allowed to see corruption. How could He? He was eternal. He always had been and always would be, and if you put One who is eternal into the grave of time, the very eternity of the situation has to break out, and that is what happened on Easter Day. Men had put something which had eternal life right down under the worst thing that material existence can do, death, and it had broken out in resurrection. The eternal God is being demonstrated. Was it not a garden in which the Lord Jesus was buried? It was not surprising, therefore, that, having put a Seed into the ground, He would burst forth again. It was not surprising that there would be a breakout of life, because the eternal life of God had been buried in the temporal life of man and had broken out again. That is what the eternal sonship of our Lord Jesus is demonstrating to us.

Of course, that could be seen before the resurrection. When the Lord Jesus became a man, when the eternal Son was brought into this temporal, earthly scene, God was stretching out in time and showing, in different frames like pieces of photographic film, all that He is in eternity. We see the very greatness of God in how small He could become; we see the humility of God in the Babe carried in the arms of His own creation, we see the compassion of God as He put out His hand to the leper, or put out His hand of friendship to those who were despised and rejected; we see the love of our eternal God as He gave in the Cross a demonstration that no man had greater love than this and He laid down His life for His friends. In every aspect of the life of our Lord Jesus we see the eternal wrapped up in time, so that He could say: 'If you have seen Me, the Son, you have seen the Father.' God was accommodating Himself to our time scene. He, who is eternally thus, stretched out in time in the different frames of the experiences of the Lord Jesus on earth and said: 'See, I am like that, and like that . You cannot see all at once who I am in eternity, so I am going to stretch it out for you and you can see all the different aspects that I am at different times.'

So the eternal Son is showing us the eternal Father. He, who is eternally begotten of God, is revealing to us in time what God is like, so that He could say: 'Your sins are forgiven you', He could claim lordship over the Sabbath, and He could do things on the Sabbath day so that men would say: 'He is making Himself equal with God.' He would say: 'I only do what I see My Father doing.' If you want to know what God is like, just look at Jesus Christ. If you want to know what God is like in our terminology, in our time-space system, go to Jesus of Nazareth and you see the infinite, eternal God concentrated into the space of a man and unfolded in time. That is what Jesus claimed.

Then He was put in a grave, and the fact is that eternity broke out of the grave and said: 'Now all that I said was true. I am showing you what God is like. I am the revelation of the Father's heart.' The resurrection was the authentication of all that Jesus had said, all that He had done, and all that He had revealed. If He had not risen from the grave all that would have been lost. How would we have known that God was a Father with a Father's heart? How would we have known of His fatherly compassions? How would we have known that we were meant to love our neighbours, to go the second mile and to turn the other cheek? All these things would have been just wild speculations and guesswork if God had not vindicated [100/101] this revelation of Jesus through the resurrection. God did something when Christ broke out from the tomb on Easter morning which declared: 'This is what I am like', and He put His stamp and seal to the Sonship of the Lord Jesus.

That is the first thing that the resurrection is doing for us. God could not let His Holy One see corruption. It was just not possible, for He is eternal, and although the body might show the marks of time and death upon it, yet there was an inner life which was eternity itself and could never be broken.

At the risk of being slightly complicated, I ask you if you have ever seen the beauty of this: The Lord Jesus said: 'I do not go to the Cross alone. My Father goes with Me', and Abraham and Isaac demonstrated that the Father was there already. "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself" -- and yet on the Cross Jesus cried: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Was He really forsaken? Well, He was, in one sense, for He experienced everything that a Godforsaken man would experience, but I want to assure you of this: the Father and the Son were never torn apart. It could not be so, because of eternal life. The Father and the Son were one on the Cross, although Christ was experiencing everything that a hell-bound, condemned man would experience. The eternal life of the Seed could not be torn apart, and it was still there, even on the Cross, the Son knowing the Father and the Father knowing the Son. "This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3), and it was life eternal for the Father to know the Son and for the Son to know the Father. That could not be split or broken; the Holy One could not see corruption; and all that God is has been authenticated in the resurrection of the eternal Christ. He was the eternal Son of the Father.

Now, in a sense, we do not share that, for we are not of ourselves eternal. That is Christ's uniqueness. He is the Holy One, the Father's only-begotten Son. But we do taste eternity, we do share eternal life now, and that very life has been put into us, so that when we became a Christian we had a sense that there was something eternal, final and complete about it all. It was something to which nothing could be added or taken away. That was eternal life beginning to register deep within us. Although we may now have lost the thrill of it all, was it not part of the thrill of our resurrection morning that everything that we did was charged with eternity because we were sharing eternal life through the Son? We had been dragging our feet down the Emmaus Road, thinking that nothing ever seemed to turn out in quite the right way, and, then, suddenly we saw the Lord, and eternity had come right down into time and we raced back to Jerusalem as fast as we could. My, life had become worth living now! "The Lord is risen indeed!" Eternity was charged into time, and that is what it means to be a Christian. Everything we do has eternity vibrating out of it, and everything in which we are involved has eternity wrapped in it. It belongs to God, and the trivial things are eternal things, because there is eternal life in us. We cannot be the unique, eternal Son, for there is only One, but we can share that eternal life that is in Him, and when that happens that is the resurrection morning for us.


Secondly, we look at verse 34: "I will give you the sure mercies of David."

The Lord Jesus was the Son of God in another way, and that was by being supernaturally conceived in Mary of the line of David. Do you remember that when the angel visited Mary, he said: "That holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God"? It was the Holy Spirit who was the Father of this Sonship -- "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee" -- and the baby Jesus, who is called here "Son of God", was fathered by the Holy Ghost.

Now this sonship is again unique, for, while we may have a supernatural new birth, we were not born physically in a supernatural way. A new kind of Man was being brought out of the line of David and He is called "Son of God" in this second sense: not the Son of the Father, but Son of God, conceived by the Holy Ghost. He is called Son of God because He has a job to do, a purpose to fulfil. Israel had once been called 'son of God', because they, too, had a job to do and a purpose to fulfil. They were to be supernaturally brought out of Egypt to do it, and God said to Pharaoh: "Israel is my son, my first-born" (Exodus 4:22). They were called 'son of God' because, for a Hebrew in Old Testament days, that implied an instrument for God's purpose. They lost it later, and the Prophet Isaiah had to re-emphasise it: "Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect in whom my soul delighteth" (Isaiah 43:1). If you remember, it was during His earthly ministry that the Lord Jesus heard those words from heaven: "This is my beloved Son , in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). [101/102]

The Son of God was here on earth because He had a job to do, and that was the second unique thing about the sonship of the Lord Jesus: His job was to reign on His father David's throne, and to bring about the kingdom, the order and the authority of God in a reckless, anarchist world which was against the Almighty; to reign for ever and ever over the affairs that God has made.

With this in mind, this second sense of sonship is fulfilled when the Lord Jesus is brought up from the grave and will reign for ever and ever. Do you remember that when David had these promises made to him they were given in these terms: "I will set up thy seed after thee ... and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son" (2 Samuel 7:12-14).

This, then, is the second sort of sonship. The Son has a job to do, and that is to reign on the Throne. Mark begins his Gospel by saying: "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God", and this Son, who at the end sat down on the right hand of God on the Throne, went about with the disciples everywhere working with them. God, in His amazing grace, gives us a little taste of this unique kind of sonship. Did you not notice that when you became a Christian and the first resurrection morn began to dawn on your newborn soul, for the first time in your life you were in an atmosphere of purpose ? 'I am a son of God. I have something to accomplish, and there is a meaning in what is going on.' Perhaps sometimes you found that you were surrounded by death, but the power of the resurrection, which lifted Christ out of the grave, worked in you. You thought: 'My, there must be a purpose in that I have got through this thing', after you had felt that everything was so hopeless and finished. But there was a power of resurrection in you that went on, and because it was in you, you went on, too. Otherwise you would have been left behind, but you have not been. God has a purpose for you, something for you to accomplish.

Not only did the Lord Jesus go through death, but He sat down and is "far above all principality and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named", as we read in Ephesians. There have been times when names and pressures and satanic powers seemed to be pressing you down and you thought: 'This is terrible!' But there was something in you that said: 'No, this has a purpose'; you used the name of Jesus and you broke through because every power is under that name.

Or there were times when He sat down and "put all things under His feet". But you say: 'Well, all things do not seem to be under my feet!' How do we impress the earth, put our imprint on it and put it under our feet? At times we do not feel very much like that, but this is a life of purpose, of doing something, of getting somewhere, and that is the Son of God. Even through those moments when you feel you cannot do it, God is printing His imprint; Christ, the last Adam, the Second Man, is leaving His prints everywhere. We have enough of the prints of Adam, the first man! Oh, the ugliness of our civilisation! But the feet of the Lord Jesus leave an imprint of purpose in us and through us, and all things are under His feet.

"And gave them to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all." That purpose is to fill everything, and that purpose of sonship in your life and mine is that Christ should fill every particle that we move in. The resurrection of the Lord Jesus was establishing His office as Son of God, which was His uniquely, but we are included in its outworking.


Third, in verse 33 of Acts 13, Paul, speaking of the resurrection, quotes: "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee." Does that mean that the Lord Jesus was not the Son of God before the day of resurrection? That cannot be, for we have already seen that it was the Father who sent the eternal Son, and, as God became man, he was called the Son of God. So what does it mean that on the resurrection morning God could say: "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee"?

Well, this is the third aspect of resurrection, a third sort of sonship. When God said: "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee", there was a begetting out of the womb of the earth, or, as Psalm 110 says: "from the womb of the mornings thou hast the dew of thy youth." So there burst forth, in the early morning of the day of resurrection, a new sort of Man who eternally would have the dew of His youth upon His brow, and God said: 'Now this is my Son.' In that sense the Lord Jesus is not unique at all, for He becomes the first of many sons who are going to break forth out of the earth at the voice of God, and be clothed with bodies like unto His body. These are the sons whom the Lord Jesus has brought to glory. He is bringing many sons to glory; He is the firstborn from the dead, the firstborn of many brethren. In this sense the Lord Jesus utterly, totally and completely shares His Son of God-ship with us, and that is why we can be called sons of God. It is not [102/103] because we get a taste of His eternal Sonship, nor because we get a taste of His eternal purpose to reign in God's order, but because God is making Him the pattern, the firstborn, to which every other son is to be conformed, even to the resurrection body which we shall bear.

Did you not notice that on your resurrection morning, when you became a Christian, there was not only a touch of eternity about your soul, not only a touch of purpose that began to move into everything, but there was also a touch of glory? He is bringing you to glory, so was there not glory in your own heart that responded and said: 'I belong to something which is beyond description. God's biggest thought for me as a man was that I should become like His Son. Oh, the glory of it is eating into my whole being and is thrilling me!' Your resurrection morning was a glorious morning, when you were being led to glory.

That began in Christ's resurrection, and we share this sort of resurrection with Him. God has spoken to us and said 'You are My beloved son. This day have I begotten you', and then will come a moment when it will be completed, and the resurrection will mean that the earth will give up its dead, and out of the earth will come the glorious sons of God to share in the glory. The earth will respond to that moment, for it is waiting for it. Paul says that it is groaning, and waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God. In that moment, when out of the graves rise those who have been conformed to the image of God's Son to be with Him, the whole f creation will respond and will come back to a glory which God has ordained for it. And the sufferings which perhaps we have already tasted in this age will be nothing compared with the glory that will be revealed in us.

The resurrection morning is the herald of the moment when the whole earth will be brought into the liberty of the glory of the sons of God through what God has been doing through you and me. That is why you taste glory today, because God has been preparing for the glorifying, for the releasing of this groaning universe, and He is doing it in you and me. Is there a bit of eternity there, a bit of purpose there? There is a preparing of that glorious liberty which one day the whole universe will taste and experience.

Is it not a terrific thing to be in God's purposes for men, summed up in the little word 'sonship' which is highlighted by the resurrection, and established through the resurrection, around which the conflict rages? We are in that! We cannot share His eternal sonship, nor His uniqueness in the way in which He came into this world, in His birth and His new humanity, but we can share completely and utterly those words: "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee." The resurrection experience begins to exalt us with the highest dignity which any of God's creatures can bear, for we are called 'the sons of God', and we delight in our Father and His name. - R. T. F.



[T. Austin-Sparks]

Reading: John 11

WE turn again to this eleventh chapter of the Gospel by John, and I would remind you that this chapter represents the culmination of the life, teaching and works of the Lord Jesus during the days of His flesh. This is quite evident, for you notice that in verse 47 it says: "The chief priests therefore and the Pharisees gathered a council, and said, What do we?" The rest of the chapter shows that this was the last of a number of such councils, and it was in this last council that they decided definitely and finally that this Man must die. So here we have that which marks the culmination of His life and work at that time. The finality is not by the act, but is the fullness of the very purpose for which He came, and, more than that, it is the fullness of Divine counsels.

Behind this chapter there are two things. There are the eternal counsels of God coming to their completion in His Son at this time, and then there are the counsels contrary to God which are seeking to bring that Son to an end, to destroy Him. The Divine counsels are summed up in what is in this chapter. No doubt you have read it many times and perhaps you think you know it. If you were asked what John eleven is about most of you would say: 'Well, of course, it is the chapter about the raising of Lazarus from the dead', and perhaps that is all that you would have to say about it. [103/104] In so saying (forgive me if this sounds a bit critical of your apprehension) you indicate how really you have missed the way. Of course, we have all said that in time past, but as we have gone on we have come to see something more, and that is that this chapter contains all the major features and factors of God's ways unto glory. Have you grasped that? The end of all God's ways and works is glory, His own glory. It sometimes seems a tortuous way, as these sisters felt it to be while it lasted. It sometimes seems to be anything but glory, and you might very well decide, as perhaps these sisters decided at a certain point, that the end is not glory. You might feel that all this sorrow, distress, disappointment and despair could not lead to glory, but all that, from God's standpoint, is the way of glory and is unto glory.

Let me repeat: when God takes anything in hand -- and you really must lay hold of this! -- the end is going to be His glory. You need make no mistake whatever about that! The end of all God's ways is His glory. Read your Bible in the light of that, and you have the whole Bible in one chapter -- the eleventh chapter of John.


I have said that this chapter contains the main features and factors in the ways of God unto glory. What are some of these main factors?

A very big one is the incarnation of the Son of God; the Son of God taking flesh; God manifest in the flesh. Is that not a big one? The very purpose and object of the incarnation, of God taking flesh, becoming incarnate, is found in this chapter. Hold that for a while.

Then there is the method of God in redemption. Redemption is a big factor, is it not? No one will dispute that! In the eternal counsels of God redemption is a big factor, and the method of redemption is the substance of this eleventh chapter of John.

Another thing -- and I am quite sure that, while you will have agreed with those other two, if you know anything at all about God's ways, you will agree with this -- God's ways are very strange, and are beyond human explanation and comprehension. While God is in the process of moving towards His end, it is very difficult to follow Him. The Apostle Paul, who knew a good deal about the Lord, said of his experience: "Pressed out of measure" (2 Corinthians 1:8), or, as another translation has it, "beyond our measure". The Lord is always a bit ahead of us. It would not do for us to be equal with Him, would it? We would soon be taking the place of the Lord! If we were right upsides with Him in everything our dependence upon Him would very soon go. So the Lord gets ahead of us, beyond our measure, and puts us out of our depth in order to enlarge our capacity. We would never grow if that were not true.

The simple way in which John's Gospel illustrates that is in chapter 10:4: "When he hath put forth all his own, he goeth before them". Well, of course, you have sometimes taken that as a comforting statement, but there is profundity in every clause of the Divine Word, and this Gospel in particular reveals that. "When he hath put forth all his own, he goeth before them" -- He always is ahead of them, and they are always a bit behind Him. In a sense, He is too much for them. They have to move on, and still move on, if they are going to come up to where the Lord is, and when they get there, they find that He has gone ahead again. They have to keep going, to keep running all the time.

The Apostle Paul explains this when he said right at the end of his full life: "That I may know him" (Philippians 3:10). 'I have not caught up yet. He is still beyond me.' The mystery of God's ways, the strangeness of what we call 'Providence', is a major factor of God's ways, and that is in this chapter.

Another thing, which is not by any means a small thing, is the farsightedness of God. How much beyond our seeing He is! Or let us come to this chapter -- how much the Lord Jesus was beyond the seeing of these sisters and the disciples! They just could not see beyond this present happening and experience. The thing that was immediately before their eyes was their horizon. But God, in Christ, was moving here on the principle of farsightedness, beyond the incident, beyond the present. However big this was to them, He was far beyond it. His horizon was far outreaching this thing, and He was acting accordingly. The farsightedness of God is no small factor in the ways, the works and the dealings of the Lord, and it is all here in this one chapter.

How unfathomable are the ways and the works of God!


Now, having said that, let me step back for a moment and remind you of something here which we must get hold of. Do believe me, dear friends, when I say that it is not just the teaching of John's Gospel in one or all of the chapters with which I am concerned. This has to come right into our very [104/105] own history. It has to be taken out of the Bible, out of the history of Jesus during His time on this earth, and put right into our history, and we shall never get anywhere unless that is true. It is applied truth, and not theoretical truth that is here.

So let me say this: The thing that comes out at us as we quietly and thoughtfully dwell in this chapter is that the Lord Jesus has the situation in His hands. Let me put that in another way. If this is God incarnate, then it is God with whom we are having to do here. When you come to this chapter you see how the Lord Jesus has everything in hand, and in His hands, and He is not letting it go out of His hands all the way along.

Look at the various aspects! He said He would go back into Judaea. The disciples immediately reacted: 'No, the Jews recently sought to kill You there. You must not go back there!' You see the move to take things out of His hands, to govern His movements, His judgments and His decisions, but He is not having it. He has taken this thing in hand, and, disciples or no disciples, He is going on. There is something that He is after, and He is in charge. Messengers are sent to him about Lazarus when He is away somewhere else, and undoubtedly the message means this, although it is not recorded: 'Lazarus is dying. Come, please! Come quickly! Come as quickly as You can!' The beloved sisters would have said that, but to do as they wished would have taken the matter right out of His hands and ruled His judgment, ruled His feelings, governed His movements, set a time that He did not set, and taken it over. No, He abode where He was. He had the situation in hand and was not going to let it out of His hands, although the appeal was from those whom He loved. It is stated that that was so. The situation was one which could appeal to any sympathetic heart, but that was not going to decide this thing. It was in His hands and He was going to decide the ground upon which He worked, the time in which He worked, and when He was going to move, and nothing would alter His decision. The Jews, of course, ever ready to criticise Him and discredit Him, and put Him in a bad light, said: "Could not this man, which opened the eyes of him that was blind have caused that this man also should not die?" All these forces were at work in every realm, from the centre to the circumference of His relationships, to get Him under control, but He was not having it. He had this matter in hand, and that is a very important thing. Why? He stated it: 'This sickness is not unto death, finally, absolutely. This sickness is not going to end in death, but is for the glory of God.' And what then? "And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there." Oh, what are you going to make of that? Put yourselves in the position of these sisters with a beloved only brother slowly passing out, in the grip of this apparently fatal sickness. Their hearts were wrung with distress and anxiety, were breaking, and they had seen to it that He knew about it -- and this was His attitude: "I am glad for your sakes that I was not there."

Well, you see, He has got hold of this situation and is in charge. We are dealing with God. He is in charge, and if He is working to a certain end you cannot hurry Him, you cannot take over from Him and make Him do what you want Him to do. He is going to reach His end, and it may be a very trying way for our flesh and our natures, but He will get there, for He is in charge.


We sometimes sing, rather glibly and without watching our words too carefully:

"How I long to climb to the utmost heights!"

I wonder if we realise as we sing that that the utmost heights are only reached through the utmost depths! You and I, dear friends, will never reach God's end except along the pathway of brokenness. That is what this chapter says. While we are whole, and substantial, and well-knit, and self-confident, we will never reach His end.

You see, God, right at the beginning of the Bible and of human history, planted something in human experience which became the law of all true knowledge of God from that moment. The great issue in the Garden was knowledge of good and evil. Man made a bid for knowledge, under the instigation and inspiration of the devil, and God came along on that declension, on that breakdown, and established a law by which He said: 'You shall never have true knowledge except by this law. Everything that is going to be true and real in the future is not going to be gained so easily as you thought.' The law of travail was planted right at the heart of human life. Travail was introduced as a law for the future, and you and I know very well that true love only comes out of travail. Put it another way: we never value anything that has cost us nothing. We can let it go very cheaply if we have not paid any price for it, but if we have paid a price, if it has been costly, if it has meant something to us of real suffering, or sorrow, or great trial, that is infinitely precious to us, and we do not let it go easily.

So God came right in at that point and put this law of travail into human life and human history, and said: 'You tried to get everything cheaply, but [105/106] you will not get anything that is worth having without cost in the future.' And from that point, you notice all through the Bible, until you come to the travail of His soul, the travail of the Garden, the travail of the Cross, of which Isaiah had said: "He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied", that out of travail is the preciousness. It is the law, you see, that there is no reaching the heart of God and having true knowledge without costliness.

Peter learned that by a deep way. He tried to get things cheaply. "It is good for us to be here, Lord. Let us build three tabernacles, one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah", and I suppose, although he did not say so, he meant: 'We will have some tabernacles, too. We will stay here.' Peter was like that, but he went the deep way of utter devastation by the Cross of the Lord Jesus, and years afterwards he wrote: "Unto you therefore which believe is the preciousness" (1 Peter 2:7).

The last picture of the Church is of the city, and its gates are of pearl, which is the very symbol of agony, of blood, of tears. That is how it is made. It is costly, and very precious because it costs.

I said that this is a comprehensive chapter, did I not? We will come back to it. Here are these dear sisters, and how they are baptized into the passion, the agony of the Cross, and how they are having to know a tasting of death in order that they might know the preciousness of resurrection life! There is no other way to it.

"I am glad for your sakes that I was not there." He was farsighted, and saw that, although He was running this risk of being misunderstood -- for everybody, sisters and all, were misunderstanding Him and were incapable of comprehending Him -- He must accept the risk. He saw beyond, to the ultimate. And what is the ultimate? "Said I not unto thee, that, if thou believedst, thou shouldest see the glory of God?"

The end of all God's ways is glory. How rich and how full all this is! We are in the presence of God, and when we are there we are in the presence of profoundest realities. Oh, that we might have the grace, when the Lord has us in hand and is dealing with us, not to wrench ourselves out of His hand, but to remain there unto the inevitable glory!


I am so hesitant, dear friends, just to add words to words. I do want to make sure that what I am saying is going deeper than your heads, than Christian theory and doctrine.

First of all, as we said last time, there has to be the basic and utter committal to the Lord. Now, of course, I suppose there are few of you, if any, who would not say that you have surrendered your lives to the Lord, and perhaps you say that you are utterly given to the Lord. You don't know what you are talking about! I am sorry to say that, but it comes out of very long experience. We shall never get beyond the point where there is no more battle to get perfectly adjusted to the mind of the Lord. It does not matter how long you live here. If you are walking with the Lord there will be, right to the end, occasions when you find it is not easy to accept some new revelation of the mind of God for you. Indeed, you will have a new battle every time on this, and that is what I meant when I said: 'You don't know what you are talking about!' That is not, of course, to discourage or discount any consecration that you have made, but there has to be a basic, initial, fundamental committal, when we say: 'Now, Lord, I do not know all that it is going to mean, or how it is going to work out, or what it is going to cost, but I put myself into Your hands. I am Yours. I am committed. You are my Master, and I want you to have the absolute mastery of my being. If at any time it becomes difficult for me to yield to Your mastery, I am going to seek grace to adjust to it.' There must be something of an attitude taken which is complete committal.

I ask you -- not with the sum total of all that it means known to you -- has the Lord got the mastery of your being, of your life? As we have already said, this touches every point and aspect. Has He got the mastery in your business, in your business relationships, in your business transactions? Are you doing business that does not lie in line with the glory of God, that is, are you doing business that is a contradiction to the glory of God?

I knew a young fellow once who had got on very well in business and had tremendous prospects, but he was in the biggest tobacco firm in Europe. He had a good position, with great prospects -- and he came up against this matter as to whether the Lord was glorified in his doing that kind of business. He decided eventually that that kind of thing was not to the glory of God. As he saw it working out, he found that it was contrary to the glory of God in human lives, so he surrendered his position and came right out of the firm. For a time he was tested by his action and by the position which he had taken of faithfulness to God. The Lord looked after him in the end, but I am not throwing that in to say that you will get a reward, or will get compensation. [106/107]

The point is: not policy, but principle. The world is governed by policy, by what is politic and what is diplomatic. That is the whole spirit and law of this world, but the Lord Jesus is not policy nor diplomacy, and the principle is the glory of God.

That is what it means to be committed. Is your home in the committal, your domestic relationships, your social life and relationships?

And so we could go on. It is just not a matter of getting on your knees and saying: 'Lord, I am Yours. I give myself to You absolutely', and then when the Lord comes along the next day and says: 'What about his?' to say: 'Oh, I did not mean that!' The Lord is very practical!

Forgive me for speaking like this, but we must, for we are in very serious times, and God is coming near to His people in order to sift out. The end is going to be a tremendously sifting time amongst the Lord's people. Peter says, speaking about the time of the end: "The time is come for judgment to begin at the house of God" (1 Peter 4:17), and if it begins with us, where will the sinner and the ungodly be? We shall be sifted down to this: Is your priority in life really settled, and is that priority the glory of God? If so, whatever happens, you will go through and you will reach God's end, the glory. "It is God with whom we have to do!"


In this chapter we are dealing with the ultimate things, the primary things and the eternal things. I am going to say what may perhaps be a very difficult thing for you to accept, but it shouts at us and we cannot get away from it, much as it hurts us and we do not like it. The attitude of the Lord Jesus towards the situation and all concerned with it is God's attitude towards human life as it is. Here in this chapter you find human life represented by a number of different aspects. You have the Jews, the scribes and the Pharisees. Well, you are not perhaps surprised at God's attitude towards them, but move on into the heart of the chapter. Here are these dear sisters, and there is this man Lazarus, as far removed from scribes and Pharisees and ruling Jews as could be, humanly. You would say that they are lovely people, but what is the attitude of the Lord Jesus? He is non-committal, holding a reserve. It says that He stayed where He was for two days, and that when He came at last Lazarus had been dead four days. Four days had elapsed between receiving the news and arriving there, and, as you know, they mentioned to Him the state of things which naturally would have prevailed. Why did He let Lazarus die? He could have raised him, for He had healed many others and raised other dead. Why this one who was so beloved? Why did He allow the sisters' hearts to be broken, torn with this sorrow and this distress? Why this attitude? This is God's attitude to humanity at its best in Adam as well as at its worst. This humanity at its best is something that in Adam God has set aside, and He is not going to patch it up. He is not going to give it medicine to cure it. He says: 'It must die!' The only possible thing is resurrection, a new life altogether, something different from the natural and earthly even at its best.

Do you think I am exaggerating, or going too far? I want you to pick up this Gospel and read it from end to end. Why the marriage in Cana of Galilee? Why did He attend, why did the wine fail and why did that terrible predicament arise? "They have no wine", says His mother, in a kind of appeal and expectation that He would do something. Consternation is over the whole thing. There is no resource left. It is an end of the very thing that makes life. "Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come." It had been the appeal in a predicament, the appeal of an opportunity, the appeal of a mother's heart, the appeal in a difficult situation, but, no, He would have none of it, for there is something more in it than just patching up this feast. There has to be something that is above the natural, and that is newness of life, and not the old thing patched up. This old thing must die, and then resurrection alone is going to be the answer. That is the explanation -- something different. God's attitude is that the old creation is bankrupt, and the only prospect is a new creation life. "This beginning of his signs did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested his glory" (John 2:11). Glory is the end of God's ways. How? In something that is beyond all natural possibility. Cana is the beginning and Lazarus is the end of the story.

In between -- I cannot stay with them, but I will just remind you of some of them -- there is Nicodemus, with all his religion and all his learning, to whom Jesus said: "Art thou the teacher of Israel and understandest not these things?" (John 3:10). All the religious knowledge, learning, position and tradition are bankrupt. 'You must be born from above. This natural life of yours, though it be all like that, will not get you through.'

There is the man at the pool of Bethesda. He was for thirty-eight years lying in that position, struggling every day to get on to his feet and into the water. Try that, perhaps a dozen times every day for thirty-eight years, and see whether you have [107/108] much hope left at the end! Without the use of the pool and without any artificial aid, He who is the resurrection and life comes on the scene and there is another sign, another showing of how hopeless the natural is until Jesus comes in, but He comes in with another kind, another order of life.

Then we come to the woman of Samaria at Sychar. What a story of moral bankruptcy that is! "Go, call thy husband ... I have no husband ... Thou saidst well, I have no husband, for thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband." Everything has been exhausted in that realm, "but the water that I shall give shall become in him a well of water springing up unto eternal life" ... "Sir, give me this water" (John 4:14-15).

So John goes on with his Gospel until we come to Lazarus, and there in one chapter all this is gathered up, showing that the glory of God is the end -- "Thou shouldest see the glory of God."

The glory of God is not something that God can do in human life, for He is not going to patch that up. Men can do that. You call in the doctors and they may help to keep this thing alive for a time, but God says: 'No let that die. The glory is not in that kind of thing. It is something absolutely new and different.'

The end of all God's ways is like that. I do trust that you will interpret everything in the light of this. Have you suffered? Have you been knocked about? What are you doing about it? Are you putting it merely and only into the category of things common to man? No, the end is glory, and when you come through you will see the glory of God in the newness of resurrection life. - T. A-S.

(To be continued)


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