It is probable that our readers
may often wonder - and with good reason - what the difference is
between many of our 'Editorials' and the other parts of the
paper, i.e., other messages. This is our answer and explanation.
It is that, unless there is an
occasion for some special announcement by the editor, the object
of the 'Editorial' is to focus the whole of our essential and
particular ministry upon some basic and inclusive feature. It is
ever important, in the many aspects of the truth which have their
place in this ministry, to keep always present something that
will help to answer the question: What is it all about? That,
then, is our object as we offer this, one further 'Editorial'.
There is a vast amount of
history stretching through all time behind this present pointer,
and, with an open Heaven, a considerable volume is required to do
it justice, and not a mere page or two. The tragedies which
thrust themselves upon our consciousness from every direction and
in every connection - in the world and in Christendom - demand an
explanation, and, although we are under no illusion as to the
acceptance of the explanation, nor cherish any false hope that
such explanation will make much difference, it has always been a
part of God's way to speak, irrespective of acceptance or
rejection, and to leave the issue with those who will give heed
to the challenge.
In searching for a
sentence that will serve as a window through which what we have
in view can be seen the one that seems most potent is
Curse of the Earth Touch.
To understand what
is meant by those last three words is to have an explanation of
an immense amount of history, spiritual and temporal.
We must begin by
re-emphasizing the fact that this earth lies under a curse. This
is emphatically stated both in Genesis 3:18,19, and Romans 8:20-23.
effected redemption by His Cross, that is but potential as to the
creation and only spiritual in the case of those who are "In
Christ". Both the "creation itself" and "our
body" await "the manifestation of the sons of
God", the consummation of the redemptive work. Believers
alone are delivered from the "curse". Meantime, the
creation groans under it.
This earth is to
be destroyed and purged by fire 2 Peter 3:7,10-13. These words of
so many centuries ago are so much more easily understood now by
all men than they were when written. The rapidity of progress
toward this consummation in less than our lifetime surely cries
"the day of the Lord is at hand". So, the curse is
present; it is rapidly gathering momentum, and very few - if any
- parts of the earth are escaping from its closing in for the
final phase and climax.
The nature and
features of the curse, as the Bible everywhere reveals, are
frustration, thwarting, bafflement, discontent, abortion,
confusion, travail, breakdown, and an ever-defeated struggle
against despair and death.
There are three
realms in which these elements are clearly discernible.
elements are plain to be seen in the world. Call it what you
will; explain it as you may try to do; the fact remains that
chaos deepens and extends so that the accumulated brains and
highest training in national and international councils are out
of their depth in the solution of the problems confronting them.
This is so obvious that we need not use time and space to argue
and prove it. We are no more pessimistic than the Bible is with
regard to the later phases of this world's history, and never was
there a time when its description of things at the end could be
agreed with more than now - "Men fainting for fear, and for
expectation of the things which are coming on the inhabited
earth; for the powers of the heavens shall be shaken" (Luke
21:26). We do not need this first aspect of the situation to be
put into writing. We are reading it every day in our newspapers
and in the happenings in all the nations.
The second realm
is that of Christendom in general. Here again we are confronted
with a situation which is extending all the 'World Councils' to
their limits. It would be far from profitable to gather up the
things being said and done in the realm of 'Christianity' which
clearly indicate that 'Christianity' is in the casualty ward in a
critical condition, needing every expedient, appliance, measure,
mechanism, and recourse to justify its existence. Some
'Christian' leaders go as far as to speak of this as 'the
post-Christian age'. This is all very horrible and terrible, but
the common language of 'our unhappy divisions', 'our man-made
divisions', etc., etc., and all the feverish efforts to patch up
by compromise; the sacrifice of that which cost so much, and so
forth, only evidence the fact that things are not all well in
Christendom; far from it!
But, for us, the
saddest and most grievous aspect of this situation is to be found
in that realm which can be called 'Evangelical'. It is not too
strong a thing to say that we have come to a time when the
atmosphere is saturated with a spirit of suspicion, fear,
skepticism, discrediting, distrust, misgiving, loss of
confidence, etc. There is literally nothing which escapes the
lash of criticism, the paralysing touch of reservation or
question. It is positively amazing how quickly and easily good
people will accept what Paul called (as to himself) "evil
report", and in accepting it without investigating and
"proving all things", repeat it and warn others of
those concerned. A famous preacher once said to the writer about
a certain Christian leader that 'the grapes of Eshcol would turn
to raisins in his hands.' This spirit of suspicion and criticism
withers the fairest blossoms and dries up the most beautiful
fruit of the Spirit's producing. Many a ministry of Christ has
been ruined by it, and the hand of the Lord withholds bread and
wealth because of it, so that a characteristic of evangelicalism
in our time is superficiality. There is "a famine of hearing
the Word", and this is a judgment upon the spirit which
treats the Word so cheaply as not to regard it as something
worthy of the most jealous concern.
But we have to
press on to our conclusion, and in doing so we have to observe
and ask further questions.
Why is it that so
many things which have greatly served the purpose of God have
eventually fallen apart; broken up; and have little more than a
great past to live upon? Why is it that the Lord Himself has not
circumvented this and preserved intact these instruments and
vessels that He has used?
Why is it that
division upon division follows almost endlessly the course of
many things which have been very jealous for an utter position as
to Bible truth? These and many such questions have but one
answer. That answer is THE EARTH TOUCH.
somehow, that blighting contact has been made. There has been a
gesture toward this earth. Man has put his hand on
heavenly things and tried to bring them on to this earth. It
might be a 'New Testament Church' of a composite nature: certain
things taught, enacted, and done in conformity to the record in
the New Testament; a certain order, technique, and construction;
these things have been drawn together for a creed, a form of
procedure, and made the 'basis', the form and standard, the
'constitution' of a body, an institution, a society: man's mind
and man's hand defining, controlling, holding. The verdict of
history is that God will just not commit Himself to any such
When the Church
first actually came into being, it was "born from
above", composed of such as had had a tremendous - we might
almost say, a terrific - crisis, a devastating crisis in relation
to the Cross of Christ. When the churches came into being, in
every case, it was a local repetition of this inward upheaval and
revolution. The churches were never made by man or men, be they
the greatest Apostles. The Apostles did not take a 'Blue Print'
of New Testament churches wherever they went. The outcome of
their work was a crisis, a climax to an old creation and the fiat
of the new. What followed of order and knowledge was organic, not
organized; spontaneous, not imposed; life, not legality; and -
above all - heavenly, not earthly. It was only when man pulled
this down on to the earth that things went wrong.
God has many times
made a new move with something heavenly, but invariably there has
been a tremendous impact of Heaven upon those first brought into
it. There was such a fundamental severance between earth and
Heaven in them, in which 'all things were new'; an inward break
that - for them - set two worlds apart and irreconcilable. If
tragedy came later it can be seen to have been on two counts.
first-ones violated the very principle of their own history by
seeking to crystallize that history into a form and framework for
others. They presented or imposed a set form instead of keeping
in full view the meaning of "Christ crucified" and travailing
for the crisis in others.
2. Then others
have come in, but on either false or inadequate ground. They have
felt the life, seen the good (objectively), and have wanted the
values. But all has been without the cost and the crisis: no
brokenness, no shattering crisis, no open Heaven, no travail;
just the blessing, and - perhaps - place. Their former
mentalities, traditions, ambitions, were untouched; their natural
judgments intact. The earth touch has thus been made and the
character of things has changed. A story of confusion,
contradiction, and loss of measure, impact, and heavenly glory
has slowly, almost imperceptibly begun, and only at some later
crisis has it broken upon that people that a change has come
about which spells decline.
Oh, this earth
touch! How deadly it is! When will the Lord's people understand
the essential meaning of their union with Christ in Heaven!
We must leave it
there for now; maybe more later.