During a recent visit to the Far East I was told by a responsible servant of God of the influence and value of a little book which was our first publication, and has long been out of print. Strangely also the question has recently come up from other directions as to whether this booklet could be reproduced. On reading it through again, while there are some things which we would not publish in exactly the same words today, there seems to be much that is very up-to-date and may very well have a message for this time - more than thirty years after its first issue.
I therefore propose to give the substance of some of the chapters in a short series of Editorials or Leaders. The title of the book was -
The Release of the Lord
Here then is the first part.
Isaiah 61:1-3 (Lev. 25:10); Luke 12:49,50; 4:18,19; Acts 2:1.
“The Spirit of the Lord God
is upon Me; because the Lord hath anointed Me to preach good
tidings unto the meek; He hath sent Me to bind up the
brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the
opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the
acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in
Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for
mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that
they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the
Lord, that He might be glorified.”
“And ye shall hallow the
fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto
all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you; and
ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall
return every man unto his family.”
“I am come to send fire on
the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled? But I
have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till
it be accomplished!
“The Spirit of the Lord is
upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the
poor; He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach
deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the
blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the
acceptable year of the Lord.”
“And when the day of
Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one
The book which is known to us as
“The Acts of the Apostles,” and sometimes “The
Acts of the Holy Spirit,” might truly be named—
The Release of
Luke introduces it with the
observation that he had earlier written the beginnings of the
acts and teaching of Jesus; implying that continuation is now his
object and purpose. But what a change! The former
activities were bounded and limited by time and space, and, at
best, covered but a few square miles of Syrian soil. For
the most part Omnipresence was in chains, except for a few breakings
through of power at a distance. The activities and teaching
were almost entirely limited to a people of one nation and
tongue. Then, by outward urge, persuasion, and
encouragement, He caused His wishes to be carried out; and to the
dull minds of the spiritually unquickened He gave His spiritual
treasures; explanations and reasons being necessary to
confidence. Then, the necessity was laid upon Him of
a very slow disillusionment and unfolding as to what form the end
of the phase would take, because of the controlling personal
interests, even in the inner circle. Pride, ambition,
doubt, malice, self-assertiveness, self-confidence,
self-realization, self-defense, like barbed wires, circled around
and wounded Him whenever He sought to move forward. Ever
conscious from the beginning that world-dominion was His as
“Heir of all things,” yet He had not a place to lay His
head, and to be “crucified through weakness” was to be
What a change! Now He has
shaken off all His chains. Time and space no longer have
any power over Him. Geography, the material things, Satan,
demons, men, nations, thrones, all have been fully stripped off
by Him. Now, by an inward dynamic, in spite of every threat
and peril, men and women are moving out in every direction with a
passion for the glory of His Name. Now, not as an historic
figure, known “after the flesh,” but, by an inward
revelation of transcendent magnitude, He is known after the
Spirit. Now, the once dreaded, unacceptable, offending Cross is
all their glory. Now, suffering reproach has supplanted
pride; selfless, disinterested sacrifice takes the place of
ambition; a mighty energizing faith—not their own—has
destroyed doubt; they lay down their own lives gladly and suffer
the loss of all things for that Name.
In one strategic stroke He
begins with a multitude representing “every nation under
heaven.” See how this fire spreads without artificial
and forced agencies.
In the year 33 A.D., a few
Galilean fishermen were seeking liberty of speech in Jerusalem,
and were severely handled as men poor and ignorant.
In the year that Paul died,
how did the matter stand? There were churches in Jerusalem, in
Caesarea, in Antioch and all Syria, in Galatia, in Ephesus,
Sardis, Laodicea and throughout the west coast of lesser Asia, in
Phillippi, Thessalonica, Athens, Corinth, Rome, Alexandria, in
the chief cities of the islands and the mainland of Greece, and
the western Roman colonies.
There are some significant
omissions from this record of conquests. We never read of
the organizing of a missionary campaign.
Such things as deputations,
lecturers and lectures, exhibitions, appeals, advertisements, and
so on, with all their cost and expenditure of time, money,
energy, all to try to get Christians interested in the souls
of the unsaved, are never hinted at. Any reporting of
what God had done in the regions beyond was never by way of
propaganda or advocacy. Statistics as mental stimulants;
pathetic, tragic, sensational stories as emotional stimulants;
urge and drive as volitional stimulants had no place here, so far
as we can discern. The thing was firstly of the
Spirit, not of the soul. The endeavour to reverse this
order is undoubtedly the reason for a tremendous amount of the
weakness and breakdown of today.
Speaking generally, this whole
matter of the world-mission of the Church is on pre-resurrection
ground today. The Lord is not straitened in Himself, but He
is straitened in His people.
On the one hand, there is a need
of workers, for almost half the human race is without the
knowledge of Christ; and on the other hand workers are often
ready to go forth, yet there are no means to send them. A
third condition, almost more tragic, abounds, that of the
spiritual breakdown of many who do go, so that ‘converts’
are not really and genuinely born from above with the Spirit of
sonship becoming truly resident within. Demon powers
persist in dominion and challenge. A policy of slow
absorption of ‘Christianity,’ through education,
familiarization, and so on, as a compromise between failure to
work upon the basis of genuine regeneration and an honest acknowledgment
of the same with its practical implications, has been
adopted. Finally there are the many who return home with
Surely all this stands in direct
contrast to the spirit and experience of the New Testament.
It is not difficult to go on at great length making distinctions
between the two standards, that of the New Testament and that
which has largely been since, but the more important thing is to
display the secrets of that former glory.
We are convinced that He Who is
“the same yesterday, and today, and for ever,” desires
to have, and can have, His work on the same plane to the end of
the age, and that in some parts of the world it is happening in a
way very similar to the early days.
Here then begins an enquiry into
the nature of the work of the risen Lord in “the Church,
which is His body.”
We ask, first of all, is there
any phrase which embodies the conception, the motive, and the
dynamic of this spontaneous world-conquest at its beginning?
We think that there is such a
phrase, and it is this:
This accounts for everything
when possessing as it possessed them. Let us look it up.
“Who bare witness of the
Word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ”
“I was in the isle that is
called Patmos, for the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus”
“I saw underneath the altar
the souls of them that had been slain for the Word of God, and
for the testimony which they held” (Rev. 6:9).
“And the dragon waxed wroth
with the woman, and went away to make war with the rest of her
seed, which keep the commandments of God, and hold the
testimony of Jesus” (Rev. 12:17).
“I am a fellow-servant with
thee and with thy brethren that hold the testimony of Jesus”
“And I saw the souls of
them that had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus”
“Even as the testimony
of Christ was confirmed in you” (1 Cor. 1:6).
“They will not receive of
thee testimony concerning Me” (Acts 22:18).
“Our testimony unto
you was believed” (2 Thess. 1:10).
“Be not ashamed therefore
of the testimony of our Lord” (2 Tim. 1:8).
“Ye shall be My witnesses”
(Acts 1:8; same root in Greek as ‘testimony’).
“Must one be ordained to be
a witness with us” (Acts 1:22).
“This Jesus did God raise
up, whereof we are all witnesses” (Acts 2:32).
“Raised from the dead;
whereof we are witnesses” (Acts 3:15).
“Not to all the people, but
unto witnesses” (Acts 10:41).
“With great power gave the
apostles their witness of the resurrection of the Lord
Jesus” (Acts 4:33).
“And they overcame him
because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the Word of
their testimony” (Rev. 12:11).
The New Testament, read in the
light of these passages, shows very clearly that the remarkable
story which it recounts is that of a testimony. It remains
for us to ask what this testimony was. To clear the way for
the positive answer we must say something as to what this “testimony”
“The Testimony of Jesus”
Was Not a Teaching
There is nothing in the whole
story upon which to rest an argument or affirmation that the
Apostles went out to the world with ‘The Teaching of Jesus.’
They were not propagating new doctrines or a system of
truth. The teaching resulted from the acceptance of the
testimony, the expounding of its content followed that acceptance
and was kept for believers only. It was a result, not a
cause. The most they ever did was to substantiate their
testimony from the Scriptures, and affirm certain facts
concerning the Person of Christ.
“The Testimony of Jesus”
Was Not a New Religion
‘Christianity’ was not
set over against or alongside of other religions and made ‘comparative.’
It was some time before some of the Apostles themselves realized
the implications of their testimony in the matter of their being
emancipated from Judaism. Great as the change was, they did
not at first realize that they had been taken out of their ‘religion.’
Later they found that they were out and committed in spite of
their own prejudices, and had to do their thinking and discussing
after the thing had become a fact in embarrassing
experience. See Peter in the house of Cornelius, and the
events of Acts 10, 11, 15, etc.
“The Testimony of Jesus”
Was Not a New 'Movement'
No plans were
laid. There was no policy. Organization was entirely
absent, and any which subsequently had to be admitted was forced
upon them by the embarrassment of the very vitality of things,
and then it was of the simplest.
A thought-out campaign did not
exist. To set up, launch, form, bring into being, or found
a new society, sect, ‘church,’ community, was not in
mind. They did not set out for such, and although their
testimony gave distinctiveness to all who believed; although
outsiders labelled them and misinterpreted their motive and
purpose; the distinguishing feature was life.
What then was “The
Testimony of Jesus”?
All-inclusively it was the
proclamation and affirmation of a fact. That fact was—and
The Universal Sovereignty and
Lordship of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, established and
vindicated by the resurrection from the dead.
This testimony has two
sides. The objective and historic fact, of which they had
many infallible proofs, had become demonstrated in the power of
that resurrection by the Holy Spirit in “the church, which
is His body”—in all its members, in all its activities.
That life, which in Him had conquered sin, death, hell, Satan,
and had carried Him from “the lowest part” to the
“far above all heavens,” had been implanted in them by
the Holy Spirit sent down from Heaven.
The “testimony of Jesus,”
then, is that Jesus lives universally triumphant, and the Church
is the “pillar” (or monument) of that truth. It
is His resurrection Body, possessed of His risen Life and
administered by the Holy Spirit, as the repository of that Life.
The testimony of Jesus is in
effect a life—His Life. Not a mode of life, but a
vital, infinite force; indestructible, irresistible, incorruptible;
a vital force mediated to the spiritually dead wherever there is
a readiness and willingness to believe on the Lord Jesus.
It burst the old molds, “wine-skins”
of tradition, worn-out systems, man-made orders and forms.
It sets aside even those
things which were once raised up and greatly used by God, but
which have ceased to be living, and are only past history.
Even Judaism ceases to count here. The testimony of Jesus
liberates captives, and a word spoken by its power is as an
irresistible challenge to “let My people go.”
Lazarus must come forth when He, “the resurrection, and the
life,” commands through His Church. This life, issuing
forth from the risen Lord as within ‘the Body’ by the
Eternal Spirit, is the compelling power of the world-mission and
testimony of Jesus.
There is no precedent in the
New Testament for appealing for workers or missionaries. This
is at best but a sorry alternative or necessity. When the
Holy Spirit is really in possession and the life is manifested,
then He takes the initiative in all work and workers, saying,
“Separate Me... for the work whereunto I have called them.”
Great emphasis is laid in the
New Testament upon receiving the Holy Spirit. The Holy
Spirit is the Spirit of the universally Sovereign Lord—“the
Heir of all things.” His mission is world-wide,
cosmic. World-vision, world-passion, world-vocation, are
the inevitable, immediate result of the establishment of His Lordship
within. It cannot be otherwise. Then what is the
matter that this thing is not spontaneous with so many? Why
do not the Lord’s people spread the Testimony by simply talking
out of a full heart? Is this also the indictment of Acts
Is the cost a deterrent by which
the Spirit is quenched? It will cost. To no place did
the New Testament witnesses go with the “Testimony” but
what the enemy—the dragon—made war. It was up to
him to do so, for he stood to be a very great loser. It was
the battle for dominion. This was his unwilling compliment,
his unintentional congratulation. They represented something
and possessed something which made hell angry and afraid.
The Lord’s purpose and
method in this age is to bring into resurrection-union with Himself
two or three in every place and to ‘add unto them such as
are being saved.’
It is an accretion of life,
not enticement, ‘attraction,’ advertisement. Here
again the Holy Spirit takes the initiative when a true testimony
The greatest need of the hour is
a revitalizing of the Lord’s people with His risen life by
the Holy Spirit. May we soon see this, and come to the
place where everything—tradition, system, common
acceptances, forms and molds, prejudices, personal interests,
reputation, prestige, compromise, the opinions of others, policy,
and so on—will be sacrificed, if needs be, for LIFE, and the
true and living TESTIMONY OF JESUS. So shall He find His
release again and scatter the fire anew.