question concerning every instrumentality raised up by
God in relation to His purpose is: What justifies His
maintaining it? There are evidently some things which do
not justify His preserving such instrumentalities.
the first place, because God originally raised up an
instrumentality - it came from Him... it was His
work initially in bringing it into being - that does not
justify His keeping it. We should take serious account of
that fact - that because God raised up a thing, it does
not mean that God must of necessity keep that thing right
through, no matter what its state or character may be in
the course of time.
because God has greatly used a thing which He Himself
raised up, that does not justify His preserving it.
because that thing has had a wonderful history of
devotion to Him... and has at some time been a very real
and full expression of His grace and power... even that
does not resolve itself into a claim upon Him to keep it;
and He does not regard Himself as under any obligation to
preserve even that.
we have to press the point still further: Because at any
given time many commendable things are to be seen in that
instrumentality - things which the Lord Himself may
praise... there may be not a few such things...
nevertheless, even that does not justify God's preserving
it in its place; even that does not mean that He may
never consider putting it out of its place, or that He is
bound to refrain from so doing.
issue with every one of the seven churches of Asia
(Revelation, chapters 2 and 3) was whether, under the
Lord's permission, they could go on or not - whether they
could continue before the Lord. The Lord had them before
Him, shall we say - had them in His hand - and was
determining whether He could keep them or whether He
would have to put them away; whether He would have to
remove the "lampstand" out of its place or
whether it could go on in relation to Himself. So the
question was clearly one of continuing in relation to the
Lord's purpose or of passing out.
have seen bodies cross the sky at night, coming from afar
and gaining in brilliance, it seemed, as they got nearer
to us... flashing on their way and then disappearing
altogether from view in the darkness of the sky. Here are
these churches of Asia - "stars" brought in out
of the eternal counsels of the Godhead - flashing in with
the glory of His grace, some of them to pass right out...
to fade from view, lost to sight.
is a very thorough sifting of anything. It might be
thought that if God raised up a thing - if it came in the
first place from His own hand, if God had used that thing
and blessed it, if it had shown the features and
characteristics of His grace and of His love, and if it
still had in it many things which God, looking with His
eyes as of a flame, could commend - surely that is enough
to argue for its continuance before the Lord.
that we are speaking about instrumentalities; we are not
speaking about souls. We are not dealing with the
question of salvation; we are dealing with the question
of service to the Lord.
is it... and what is it alone... that justifies God in
maintaining any instrumentality in relation to Himself
and His purpose? It is not that the instrumentality has a
lot of good things. It is not that it had its origin with
Him. It is not that it has a great history, a great past.
It is not that it has a name, a reputation - the same
name carried on as it once had in more glorious days. It
is that there is today the same undying flame of
Divine Life in its mighty testimony against the
power of death all around. That is God's justification.
When you come to analyze the state of
these churches of Asia, you find that in five of them, at
least, there is a variety of elements of which each is a
contradiction to the Holy Ghost - a contradiction to the
Spirit of Life. That thing - being within the
vessel, the instrumentality... amongst the Lord's
people... constitutes an element of death and
provides Satan with his foothold, his place; and all
unconsciously for the most part amongst those people, the
testimony is definitely contradicted and nullified.
will resort to anything - his methods and his means are
numerous - to get some foothold for death into a Divinely
constituted instrumentality, so that that whole thing
becomes a contradiction right at its very center. It has
a name, it has good works - it has many things which even
the Lord Himself cannot judge, because they are good; but
the thing by which alone the Lord can be justified
in maintaining that instrumentality has been countered.
enemy does not mind how many "churches" there
are, or how much preaching there is, or how much
religious worship; I do not know that he minds very much
how much orthodoxy there is - what we might call sound
doctrine. What he is against is Life. You can go to
multitudes of places, and so far as the preaching is
concerned - so far as the things said are concerned - you
can find no fault; but you have no sense that there is a
vitalizing. There is no energizing, no impact, no moving
of the people to register the testimony of the risen Lord
against the forces of evil. The enemy is getting them all
quietly, nicely, snugly into spiritual death. It is not a
question of what was at one time... or what is today...
counted as good, but rather: Does the Lord have that
central, basic, essential, indispensable thing for which
He has ever raised up His instrumentalities, whether
individuals or companies, and brought them into
relationship with Himself... that for which He
apprehended them - that which was intended to be their
applies to all of us. We have all been apprehended of
Christ Jesus, and there has been a purpose behind that
apprehending. We have not been apprehended just to be
saved. Our salvation is but basic and introductory to
something very much more. Then, as to collective
instrumentalities, the Lord gathers His own together to
form them into a corporate vessel of Divine purpose. He
raises up such instrumentalities from time to time. But
whether they be individuals or companies, the one
constant danger is that the essential thing in the
Divine thought in raising up - in apprehending - that
vessel should somehow be lost, while many other things
was the Church raised up for? I do not believe that the
Lord originally thought of having a general Church and
then a special one within it. I can never believe that
the Lord was going to be content with having a general
mass of believers and then a company called
"overcomers" in the midst. That never has been
the design of God - it is what we might call an emergency
state of things. It became essential because of failure.
It seems to me that the very word "overcomer"
declares very loudly that there is failure somewhere. The
Lord's purpose for all His Church as a vessel -
which nevertheless may only be realized in a few - is
that that vessel should maintain the testimony of a Life
which has conquered death... and will conquer death right
to the end. It is a Life question.
is the testimony of the New Testament that God raised
Jesus from the dead... and that He is alive for evermore.
That is the essence of the testimony. So the whole thing
resolves itself into a matter of a testimony in Life - a
testimony of Life. Is the flame burning as at the
beginning, witnessing that Jesus lives and is triumphant,
even over the dark, deadly background of this world? That
is the question for the Lord's people.
have no doubt in my heart as to what the issue of our
time is. I have not the slightest shadow of a doubt but
that the issue of our day - of this hour in the Church's
history - is more than ever the issue of life and death
in a spiritual sense.
trust that we shall know that God is not only making us
aware of the great issue which is at stake for His
people... and not only warning us about the perils of
it... but assuring us that He comes mightily to our aid
and shows us what is on our side in the battle.