first part of this consideration has been a general
survey and statement as to the nature and purpose of the
Church (universal) and the churches (local). We proceed
now to look at foundations, but some things already said
need elucidating and enlarging, and the matter now to be
considered will serve this purpose, and touch vitally the
beginnings of the Church in both its aspects, the
universal and the local. At a point we made a statement
which, if not rightly understood, could lead to a false
position and to unfortunate results. It was this: 'The
recognition of the Church is an event which is of such a
revolutionary character as to emancipate from all merely
traditional, historical, and earthly systems: as see the
Apostles, and especially Paul.'
important it is that that should be kept in the context.
In other words, how necessary it is that the
'recognition' should really be an EVENT. There are
many who 'break away', and become 'free-lance' people or
movements, on any other ground or occasion than a
spiritual crisis of seeing the POSITIVE way of the
Lord. This often leads to more limitation and negation
than was found in the position which they have left. It
is true that Paul, at one point, came to a definite
crisis over Judaism, and as from that day said: "Lo,
we turn to the Gentiles" (Acts 13:46b). But that is
not how he, or the other Apostles, came into the Church.
Something happened inside before it happened outside.
Their spirits went ahead of their bodies or reason. They
inwardly migrated; the Holy Spirit took them even where
they had not contemplated - or perhaps intended - going.
It was all a spiritual movement, not something of men. It
was the Holy Spirit inculcating the significance of
now brought to those more positive features and
principles of a Divine movement. The first of these is
far from easy to state without the risk of
misapprehension. Even the very words used are open to a
false interpretation. This is because we are in the
presence of one of the many paradoxes with which the
Bible abounds. The paradox here is that of Christ
satisfying the heart, and yet the Spirit reaching on and
ever on. Nevertheless, when rightly understood, this
first feature is perfectly clear throughout the Bible,
and clearly seen in all God's movements. Since the very
constitution of man, from his first digression, is always
to digress - and history is one long story of human
digression from God's way - all God's return movements
have been the result of another element powerfully at
work. This element is what we may call-
The Divine Discontent.
very heavily underscore the word DIVINE! While 'The word
of the Lord' may have come to Patriarchs, Prophets,
Judges, Apostles, resulting in a commission and a
mandate, it is very easy to discern that, either before
or by that word, there was found in them an unrest, a
dissatisfaction, a sense that there was something more in
the intention of God. Inwardly they were not settled and
satisfied. Maybe they could not define or explain it.
They did not know what they wanted. It was not just a
discontented disposition or nature. It was not just
criticism, or querulousness, or 'disgruntledness', a
spirit of being 'agin the government', as of a
malcontent. GOD was not satisfied, and He was on
the move. These sensitive spirits, like Abraham, and
Moses, and Samuel, and Daniel, and Nehemiah, and a host
of others in every age - Old Testament, New Testament,
and since - have been God's pioneers, because of an
inward link with His Divine discontent.
course, this is one aspect of all spiritual progress, but
it is very true of every new thing of God. We shall yet
lay down the basis of the difference between natural and
spiritual, human and Divine, discontent, but for the
moment we are concerned with the fact and the principle.
If this discontent is a truly Divine activity, it will
not be a matter of mere human frustration. It will have
nothing to do with natural ambition or aggressiveness. It
will resolve into a sheer issue of spiritual life or
death. It will become a soul-travail.
and worldly interests will fail to govern. What is
politic from the standpoint of advantages in this life
will fail to dictate the course. There may be a Divine
restraint as to time, but the inevitable ultimate issue
is known deep down. A crisis is known to be imminent, and
the issue is one of obedience to the way of the Spirit,
or surrender to policy. If the spirit is pure, and the
life in God selfless, there will be a growing sense of
'not belonging', of having already moved on, or being out
with the Lord, and it is only a matter of being 'obedient
to the heavenly vision'.
often, when we have come into something new of the Lord,
we have been able to say: 'This is what I have been
looking for and longing for. I did not know what it was,
but this answers to a deep call in my heart which has
kept me dissatisfied for years'. So, just as the
confession or salvation of an individual is always with
the sense of having come home, a local church should be
to the company a coming home, the supply of a deep need,
the answer to a deep longing; just 'my spiritual home'.
The spirit has been on a spiritual journey and quest, and
now it has found - or is beginning to find - the answer.
This quest will never reach its end until we are all at
Home at last; but SOMETHING directly in line with
the end, and of the very essence of the full, should be
found in the local 'family' representation.
made it clear? Do you see that 'churches' should not be
just congregations, preaching places, or places for
religious observances? They should be, in their
inception, constitution, and continuation, the answer to
God's dissatisfaction; that which provides Him with the
answer to His age-long quest in the hearts of all
concerned. If there is one thing that God has made
abundantly clear, it is that He is committed to the
fullness of His Son, Jesus Christ. That fullness is to
find its first realisation in the Church, "which is
the fullness of him". Therefore God will only commit
Himself to that which is in line with that purpose. As we
have said elsewhere, it can be taken as an axiom that, if
we are to find God committing Himself, it is essential to
be wholly in line with His object at any given time.
But God MUST
have a clear and free way. The Church and the
churches are not now the starting-point of God, although
they should stand very near to it. Some serious work has
to be done before there can be a true expression of the
Church in any locality. So, a cursory glance through the
Bible will make it clear that the very door to the House
of God was the altar. It barred the way, and at the same
time led the way, to the Sanctuary. In the New Testament,
of course, it is Christ crucified in direct line with
Pentecost, the Church, and the churches. The Cross bars
the way and points the way.
the Church is reached (so to speak), that is not the end
of the work of the Cross. When we have come in, the Cross
still governs. Thus it comes about that, in the New
Testament, we have a very great deal about the Cross IN
the Church and the churches. It is quite clear that, when
spiritual progress toward the ultimate fullness of Christ
was arrested or impeded, or when things became defiled or
disordered, the Holy Spirit, through the Apostles'
letters, or by a visit, brought in the Cross with fuller
meaning or stronger emphasis. This can be seen
immediately, when we read such letters as those to the
"Philippians", "Colossians", and
"Hebrews", with the Cross as the key. It is
back to Christ crucified that the Spirit invariably leads
or calls, when purity, truth, life, power, and liberty
are in question.
then, is the particular relationship of the Cross to the
Church, and to the churches themselves?
the Cross says that in any true expression of Christ,
individually and collectively (which is the sole object
of their existence), there is no place for man by nature!
Christ crucified goes beyond the door, which is
atonement, justification, righteousness as acceptance
through faith. Christ crucified is, in representation,
the devastation of the whole race of the old creation,
with its nature. The agonized cry of God-forsakenness,
the accompanying signs in a darkened sun, earthquake and
rending rocks, all comprised the mighty 'NO' of God and
of Heaven to that creation. That was the all-inclusive
climax of every pointer by death through the past ages.
death of Christ was infinitely more than the martyrdom of
Jesus. It was universal and eternal. In that
all-comprehending veto was involved every realm affected
and infected by Satan's corrupting influence and touch.
To bring back into any sphere of God anything that lies
under that ban is, on the one side, to deny and
contradict the Cross; and, on the other hand, sooner or
later to meet certain devastation. This was very early
demonstrated, as a sign-instance, in the case of Ananias
and Sapphira (Acts 5), as well as by others in 'Acts' and
at Corinth who intruded natural reasoning, passions, and
behaviour into the realm of the Holy Spirit's
jurisdiction. It is as though the Holy Spirit took hold
of the Cross and smote them to death, or, in some cases,
very near it.
very much tragic history contained in what we have here
said; not least the weakness, reproach, confusion and
ineffectiveness of the Church and the churches. The
natural man serves himself of the Church. In it he
displays his importance, his lust for power, his craving
for self-expression (very often in ministry itself), and
many other aspects of his selfhood - that Satanic thing
which was begotten in the race when the supreme 'I'
gained man's will for an act of spiritual fornication;
for that is what it proved to be.
churches, it is all too often - and too much - that we
meet people themselves, and not supremely Christ. At the
beginning, the essential thing, as we shall see more
fully presently, was SPIRITUAL men, as standing
over against the 'natural man'. As the Church universal
rests solely upon the foundation of Christ crucified,
buried, and raised, so the churches must take their
character from the foundation. Every member must be a
crucified man or woman. Every minister must be a
crucified man, and EVIDENTLY so. No man should
preach on any other ground than that he is compelled by
the Holy Spirit. He should have no NATURAL liking
for preaching. Preaching ambition should be crucified! We
verily believe that before a true church-expression can
emerge, the foundation of the Cross must be deeply and
truly laid with devastating effect upon all 'flesh'.
the Lord means to have such an expression, the applying
of the Cross will explain the meaning. This will not,
and, in the nature of things, cannot, be all done at
once. The movement toward fullness is progressive. So,
again and again, that movement is marked by the fuller
adjustments, releases, cleansings, of new and deeper
works of the Cross. For greater fullnesses of Christ,
there must be deep despair of any virtue, ability,
resource, other than Christ risen and present in the Holy
Spirit. We cannot 'form' or 'found' churches like this,
but the Lord can bring into being a nucleus of
well-crucified leaders, building therewith and thereon.
If we put together Matthew 16:18 and John 12:24, we shall
see that the first is a declaration of purpose and
intention; the second is the way in which it would come
about. That way is the organic way, i.e. through
death and resurrection, in which every grain shares, and
to which all the grains, severally and corporately, are a