occasion of these editorials is a widespread and serious
exercise concerning the nature of the local expression of
the Church. As we pursue this enquiry we are getting ever
nearer to the heart of the matter. The fragment at the
head is, we trust becoming clearer as to its real
significance for every local representation, from the
"two or three" gathered into the Name, to
whatever greater number there may be. Let us, then, bring
it right back to this: it is not an expression or
representation of some THING, even be it called
'The Church', as extra to or apart from Christ, but the
presence and expression of Christ Himself. To this
essential reality we now apply ourselves along one more
of the lines which meet in Him.
PETER AS REPRESENTATIVE
all agree that, while the full revelation of the Church
has come through Paul, Peter was the point at which both
the intimation was given (Matt. 16:18) and the actuality
broke in (Acts 2). While much - too much - has been made
of this by historic ecclesiasticism, we do agree that
Peter was in an outstandingly significant place in the
beginning of the Church in this world. So we are going to
look at Peter with a view to getting to the most
fundamental factor of all in the Church and the churches.
Peter sat down to write his circular letter to "the
elect, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia,
Asia, and Bithynia", he began with a doxology. That
doxology hinged upon the living hope springing up with
the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Peter,
perhaps more than all men, had cause for a doxology over
the resurrection of Jesus!
take Peter as representative of all those who had become
followers of the Lord Jesus in the days of His flesh; not
only of the twelve, but evidently quite a large number
beyond the twelve. There were the seventy; and, beyond
the seventy, many more who followed Jesus, and had some
attachment to Him. Peter can be taken as, in a very real
sense, representative of them all.
THE DEVASTATION OF THE CROSS
thinking at this moment particularly of the EFFECT of
the Cross upon him, and upon them all. The utter
devastation, and then the despair, that the Cross of the
Lord Jesus brought upon them. For we are told they were
'all scattered abroad'; and we know how, even before the
Cross became an actuality, any reference to it brought a
terrible reaction. From time to time the Lord did just
make some mention of His coming death, and, as He did so,
many went away, followed no more with Him (John 6:66).
Then again, others said, "This is a hard saying; who
can hear it?" (6:60). Apparently off they went as
well. The very thought and prospect of the Cross was
impossible of acceptance. When it came, Peter, as the
very centre of that whole company, is found most
vehemently denying, with a terrible denial, any
association with Christ - just because of the Cross; and
they all shared that, even if not in word and in the same
form of expression, for we are told that 'they all
forsook him and fled' (Matt. 26:56). And He had said to
them: 'You will all leave Me' (John 16:32) - and it
meet them after His crucifixion. We meet those two on the
Emmaus road, the very embodiment of despair. For them,
everything had gone, was shattered. All their hopes, and
their hope, were eclipsed - 'We had trusted...', or 'We
had hoped that it had been He that should redeem Israel'
(Luke 24:21). Now, everything was gone, and the hope laid
in His grave.
time to time we meet Thomas, and we know what Thomas
thought about the Cross. He again was in the grip of an
awful despair and hopelessness - loss of faith, loss of
assurance. As we move through those forty days after the
resurrection, we find the Lord repeatedly having to
upbraid them, rebuke them, because of their unbelief.
'They believed not', it says (Mark 16:11,13,14). 'Some
doubted' (Matt. 28:17). We can see what a shock the Cross
had been. I have not used too strong a word when I have
said that the Cross was nothing less than a devastation
for every follower of the Lord Jesus. And right at the
heart of them all was Peter; we could say that it was all
concentrated in him. It must have been, in view of what
he had done. Put yourself in his place, if you can, and
see if you would have any more hope for anything, or for
THE ONE SUPREME ESSENTIAL
there were forty days of this: forty days of appearances,
disappearances, of coming and going; a build-up,
steadily, of the fact that He was risen; overcoming day
by day that despair and that unbelief; building up a new
hope. But even after forty days of all that, the most
vital thing is still lacking. You might think, 'Well,
given all that, they have enough to go on.' But no: the
most vital thing, even at that point, is still lacking.
What is it? It is CHRIST WITHIN! All that - yes!
but not CHRIST WITHIN - yet. Hence the
restraint: 'Tarry ye in Jerusalem, until ye be endued
with power from on high' (Luke 24:49). 'Don't move yet.
With all that you have, you really have not yet got the
vital thing, the essential thing.' And that thing is Christ
IN you, the hope of glory. Christ IN
why the apostles were so particular as to converts
receiving the Holy Spirit before ever they felt assurance
about their conversion. Thus, there were all the reports
- there was no reason to believe they were false reports,
mere rumours - about things happening in Samaria. Had not
the Lord said that they would be witnesses unto Him in
Samaria (Acts 1:8)? The report comes back of things
happening, of people turning to the Lord, real
conversions taking place in large numbers. Why not be
satisfied with the report? It is a good report, and there
is surely no reason to doubt it. But no; the apostles are
not just satisfied with that. They sent down from
Jerusalem, and when they were come down, they laid their
hands upon them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit
(Acts 8:14-17). We see again and again, how that happens.
For them, things were not really settled until they were
sure that Christ was on the INSIDE - that Christ
was IN them; which is saying the same thing as
'receiving the Holy Spirit', the Spirit of Jesus. That, I
say, is why the Lord said, 'Tarry; don't move yet!' And
that is why the apostles were so meticulous on this
matter of 'receiving the Holy Spirit'.
too, is why the Holy Spirit gave evidences, in those
times, that He had come within. We believe that this
book, the Book of the Acts, is a book of fundamental
principles for the dispensation. When principles are
being laid down in the first instance, God always bears
them out with mighty evidences that they are true
principles - that these are governing things for all
time. God puts His seal upon them. So, when they received
the Spirit, there were the evidences of the Spirit. They
spoke with tongues; mighty things happened. It was clear
to all, without any doubt whatever, that the Spirit was
on the inside; Christ had entered in. That universal
Christ, transcending all human language; that Christ of
Heaven, transcending all earthly things - He had come in,
and the evidences were given.
no mistaking this, that the matter of CHRIST WITHIN is
the fundamental essential of Christianity. You may have
the mightiest facts - the mightiest facts of His birth,
of His marvelous life, His death, His resurrection - and
they are the mightiest of facts - you may have them all,
and may all be im-potent, non-potent, until He is inside!
That is a tremendous statement, but it is borne out by at
least this threefold truth: Tarry - don't move
yet; the essential has not taken place after all! Make
sure; leave nothing to chance let it not be just an
emotional revival in Samaria! Whatever there may seem to
be on the outside, to prove that something has happened,
make sure that it has got inside! Make sure that Christ
is IN - the Holy Spirit is IN! Make sure!
For, as we shall see as we go on, you may have so much -
and then, that vital thing being lacking, there may be
calamity, as with them.
mighty hope does not rest merely upon historic grounds -
that is, upon the ground of the historic Jesus. This
mighty hope rests upon inward reality - Christ in you!
That is super-historic! And for the full, full meaning -
the 'mystery which hath been hid from all generations' -
it has been there through ALL generations - 'but
is now made known, which is Christ in you, the hope of
glory' - we have to go to Paul.
THE INSUFFICIENT FOUNDATION
for a general approach to the matter. Let us now in
greater detail consider Peter, and the others whom he
then, as to THE HOPELESSNESS, ultimately, of a
merely outward association with Christ, however
sincere. There is no question about the sincerity of
Peter or of any of those followers. They were sincere;
there was a devotion to Jesus; their motives could not be
called into question; it was well meant - there is no
doubt about it. They had left all and followed Him; and
to follow Jesus of Nazareth in those days involved them
in a considerable amount of trouble, at least with the
high-up people, and the prevailing system. Their
association with Him undoubtedly meant something.
while perhaps they were not able fully to see and
understand; while they were not in the full light of who
He was - the FACT of who He was was present with
instance, there is the fact of the INCARNATION -
the FACT of it: that this One amongst them was
God incarnate, was the very Son of God, was God come down
from Heaven to dwell in human form. There is the fact.
They were in closest touch with that fact every day of
there was the fact of His PERSONALITY: and there
is no avoiding this, that that was a personality! I mean,
there was a Presence where He was, that was different;
that made itself felt, that registered. His was a very,
very impressive Presence, beyond that of anyone else with
whom they had any association, or of whom they had any
other knowledge. There is a mystery about this Man: you
cannot fathom Him; you cannot explain Him; you cannot
comprehend Him: He is more; He is different. And wherever
He comes, His Presence has an effect, and a tremendous
effect. The FACT of His personality!
then, although we do not know how far it went, there was
the fact of MARY and her secret. We do not know
to how many she spoke of her secret; we are told that she
'hid all these things in her heart' (Luke 2:19,51). But
we do know that some knew about it. We know that she told
Elisabeth all about it; and Zechariah knew it; and John
the Baptist knew Mary's secret. She was there with them
all. There is the FACT of Mary and her secret -
without pressing that too much; but it is there.
there is the fact of the MIRACLES - we cannot
very well get away from them. Miracles in the realm of
the elements - the sea and the wind; miracles in the
realm of nature - as our hymn says: 'It was spring-time
when He took the loaves, and harvest when He brake'.
Miracles in the realm of sickness and disease, and even
death: His healing, and His raising from the dead, such
as the son of the widow of Nain. These were FACTS.
And then, in the realm of the powers of evil - muzzling
demons and casting them out, and delivering the
demon-possessed. These were all facts present with them.
It is a tremendous accumulation of evidence.
the fact of the TEACHING: that, without
special education, He bewildered, confounded and defeated
the authorities of His time - all the men of information
and knowledge, the scribes, the lawyers, the best
representatives of the intellect of Jewry. They picked
out on occasions their best intellects, to go and try and
catch Him in His words; and these very men had to ask the
question: 'Whence hath this Man this, having never
learned?' (John 7:15). There was the FACT of His
a tremendous build-up. What a situation! They had all
that (and how much more that embraces!) - and yet, whilst
being in possession of that whole mass of mighty facts
and realities about Him, and whilst living in the closest
association with Him, it was possible for them to know
all the havoc and the despair of the Cross. I venture to
say that you and I would probably think that, if we had
only a bit of that, we should be safe forever; never have
any reason whatever to doubt our salvation. And they had
it all, and yet here we have them after the Cross in
abject despair. I have not exaggerated; I do not think
one could exaggerate in this matter. When it came
to the supreme test, all that did not save them; there
was lacking the one essential to make it all vital, to
make it the very triumph in the trying hour. That one
essential is Christ - THAT Christ - in you. So
long as all that is still objective, on the outside,
though you may be in the closest association with it all,
there is yet something lacking. And that lack may spell
disaster, for it did with them.
resurrection a new hope was born; by the resurrection a
new power came into the world and human life; by the
resurrection the way was opened for that Christ to change
His position from Heaven - from outside - into the inner
life of the believer. It has all got to be 'Christ IN you,
the hope of glory'. This is just the essential nature of
this dispensation in which we live. In the former
dispensation, the Spirit moved from the outside UPON.
Jesus said: 'When He is come, He shall be IN you.'
That is the change of dispensations; that is the
character of this present dispensation - the Spirit
within. What is the secret of the Church's power? What is
the secret of the believer's life, strength, persistence,
endurance, triumph against all hell and the world? What
is the secret of ultimate glory? It is Christ IN you;
in other words, that you have really and definitely RECEIVED
the Holy Spirit.
important this is! - that you and I shall KNOW that
our Christianity, our faith, does not rest upon even the
greatest historic facts, but that we KNOW that
Christ is inside; we KNOW that we have received
the Holy Spirit. That is the secret of everything.
carry this a little further, and consider the next thing:
the hopelessness of work for Christ without Christ
called unto Him whom He Himself would; and He appointed
twelve, that they might be with Him' (Mark 3:13,14); and
He chose seventy, and sent them forth, and gave them
power over unclean spirits, over all manner of diseases,
and they went forth, and they returned with great joy
saying, 'Even the demons are subject unto us in Thy Name'
(Luke 10:1,17). Tremendous! 'Heal the sick' - yes; 'raise
the dead; cast out demons; freely ye have received,
freely give' (Matt. 10:8). And they returned with great
joy: it was done; they had seen it! And you have this
picture after the Cross of these same people - the SAME
PEOPLE - devastated! You say: Is that possible? Is
that real? If you know your own heart, you will know it
is possible. But what is the meaning of this?
case of the 'twelve' and the 'seventy' we have set forth
a strange, wonderful, and almost frightening fact. It is
that, within the vast scope of the sovereign rule of God
- which is only another definition of the 'Kingdom of
God' - within the sovereign rule of God, many things
obtain which only EXPRESS that sovereignty. They
are not of the essential and permanent essence of God
Himself, as in the nature of things; they are the WORKS
of God. I say, within that vast scope of His rule and
His reign, God has countless instruments of His
sovereignty - be it official, be it providential - which
He just uses in His sovereignty in relation to His end.
There is a purpose to be served, an end to be reached,
concerning His Son, Jesus Christ: it has got to be made
known in this world that the Kingdom of God has drawn
near, and that Jesus Christ is the centre of that
Kingdom. And, in order to make that known, God will
employ sovereignly even the Devil himself! His
sovereignty gathers into it many, many things which are
not essentially of the nature of God.
you have been amazed sometimes, and perplexed and
bewildered, why God should use that, and that and that;
and such and such persons. You have been inclined to say:
'It is all contrary to what I believe to be necessary to
God for His work. I see that the Bible says that
instruments have got to be according to God's mind in
order to be used.' But history does not bear that out. As
I say, He has used the Devil, and the Devil is not
according to God's mind. There is a sovereignty of God
spread over in relation to His end.
you have said that, it is a frightening fact when you
come to the work of God. I mean this - that we may be
working for God, and doing many mighty things as
employees of the Kingdom of God, the rule of God, and
then, in the end, be cast away! In the end, we ourselves
might just go to pieces. Here it is - this strange thing,
that these men went out, twelve and seventy, with this
'delegated authority' - this DELEGATED authority -
and exercised it, and mighty things resulted; and then
these same people are found, after the Cross, with their
faith shattered; nothing to rest upon. What does it say?
THE DEFICIENCY MADE GOOD
God, the book of the Acts transforms the whole
situation! Because the book of the Acts brings in this
mighty new factor: that Christ, who had delegated the
authority, is now indwelling as the authority Himself.
And the works now are mighty works, but they are not just
works FOR the Lord - they are the works OF
the Lord. It all goes to prove this tremendous fact: that
it is "Christ IN you" that is the
indispensable necessity for life and for work. All that
they had in their association with Him, and then all that
they were allowed to do by His delegated authority - all
fell short of being something that could make them
triumphant in the hour of the deepest testing. And that
his finger on it at Ephesus, if you remember, when he
said: 'Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you
believed?' (Acts 19:2). It was ever the apostles'
question, and ever their quest. They knew afterward, if
they knew anything at all, that nothing, NOTHING, will
stand up to anything, save Christ Himself indwelling.
can, of course, take that both ways. There is the
negative side - the almost frightening possibility that
there should be all that, and then disaster at the end.
But let us take it positively. What a marvelous thing it
is that we are in the dispensation when the one thing,
above all others, that God will make true, is
"Christ in you" - Christ IN you! No
wonder Peter burst forth with his doxology: "Blessed
be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who...
hath begotten us again unto a living hope by the
resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead"! You
need to be Peter to be able to speak as he spoke; to have
gone through the awful shattering, into that unspeakable
depth of despair, loss of hope, to be able to say "a
living hope" - a LIVING hope! And what is it?
"Christ IN you, the hope of glory."
there is no hope for us individually; there is no hope
for our companies, our churches, our assemblies; there is
no hope for Christianity - unless and until the living
Christ, with all the tremendous significance of His
coming into this world, of His life here, of His Cross,
of His resurrection, has come, by the Holy Spirit on to
the inside of things, of people, and churches; until it
is "Christ IN you". All the other may be
there - the creed, the teaching; you may, with all
sincerity and honesty, say: 'I believe in God the
Father...' and so on - it may all be there, and yet there
may be disaster where that thing is the most frequently
the impact of Christ that matters. In those early days He
could not be present without it being known; and that is
the thing that you and I need; that is the secret of the
Church's power. It is the presence of Christ on the
'inside' of you and of me, and of all of us as people
together; "this mystery AMONG THE NATIONS, which
is Christ in you". You are among the nations; and
the deepest, the profoundest, the most inexplicable thing
is "Christ in you", as you are amongst the
nations, "the hope of glory."
It is a
question of HOPE. It can be touched by a deep and
terrible despair; it can see disintegration and
disruption. What we need is a mighty, mighty hope, a
living hope - that is, Christ, Christ risen, Christ
Himself! We need to get beyond even the resurrection, to
where we are able to say: It is Christ present; to what
Christ means, as WITHIN us.