Editor's Letters

by T. Austin-Sparks

March-April 1930

"Greetings; in the name of the Lord Jesus"

Beloved of the Lord,

In coming to you in this personal and direct way we are led by a strong and pressing constraint, and we want that, if it be from the Lord, this should be shared in prayer by all who have His interests at heart. Our desire is to be but a voice with the Lord's emphasis for the time; not to organise anything. Ezekiel in his vision did but speak the Lord's word in the power of the Spirit to the scattered and dry bones. The rest was spontaneous because it was of God. This is all that we desire or hope for, if it might be. The burden of our hearts is gathered up in the word "Fellowship." There is no end to the enemy's activities to destroy and prevent this amongst the Lord's children. It is his most fruitful and successful method of work and campaign. And there is nothing which means such loss to our Lord. The means used by the adversary are legion, and to try and catalogue them would mean just to miss that other one by which he would gain his point after all. So it is safest to watch the end first and then note the method. Between the open and unconcealed assertivenesses of the flesh to the fog or vapour of suspicion, doubt, reservation, there are labyrinthine ways and innumerable tracks by which that end is reached which sees fellowship broken or paralysed.

Then back of these there is another uncountable set of causes: intellectual, ecclesiastical, social, teachings, acceptances, temperaments, appreciations, levels of light and grades of maturity, etc., etc.. We do not want this letter to develop into a treatise on Christian unity, but there is one thing which seems to us to be a vital key to the greater part - if not all - of the difficulty. What a difference might be brought about if we fully recognised that the fellowship of believers is "The fellowship of the Holy Spirit," "The unity of the Spirit."

Every born anew child of God has - as differing from all others - something of the Spirit in common. It may be but in its infant stage, or it may be almost smothered and buried by many other things, but it is there, and with steady refusal to be put off by the other thing present or "to know after the flesh," that thing of the Spirit may be discovered, appreciated, led out, and made the basis of increase. Are we not too much put back by that which we do not have in common so that ALL is lost? Surely it is here that we begin. But then, oh that the Lord would in these days of such terrific spiritual resistance and inroads of the enemy bring a cry into all hearts for a standing together just as far as possible in spirit, and spiritual co-operation of all who are on the common ground of the "Name," the Cross, the Sovereignty of the Lord Jesus!

Perhaps in this matter there will have to be a great repentance and confession of sin. In a day when the people of God were torn and sundered, Hezekiah instituted a "sin offering" for all Israel after which he sent to gather to the Passover - the Lamb slain - all of Israel from Dan to Beersheba - who would meet on that common ground. Some mocked, but some ''humbled themselves." It is always so. It can only be by an appreciation of the Lord Jesus. Not to a teaching, or specific testimony (as such) or organised centre, but - whether to places on earth, or not - it must be in spirit. Fellowship is a thing of spirit upon a common basis of life and appreciation. We are to love all men, but we can only have fellowship where the Lord Jesus is the conic centre of occupation and exaltation. We are not concerned with the problem of whether there can be or is to be a great coming together of all Christians in union before the Lord comes. To face that mentally would paralyse. But we are concerned with the spirit of fellowship, which is the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit, to allow it to go as far as it will. So we bring our burden to you, and ask you to take it up with us before the Lord.

Knowing what we do as to the thoughts of many concerning us, we are perhaps bound to say something about ourselves in this connection. Whatever may be the impressions abroad, we want to say again with greater emphasis than ever that we stand with and for the whole Body of Christ! We are not a sect. We are not an organisation. We are not a headquarters with branches in different places. We are not a closed company. We do not say or think that we are in any special way "the Body of Christ," or that that which we teach is essential to make anyone a member of that Body. We have always and at great cost stood for all the people of God as one Church. We left denominationalism purely and solely because we saw this oneness of the Body, and that to press denominational interests and programmes - which we were regarded as under obligation to do - was to be inconsistent with that vision. The Lord's children of almost every denomination and connection used to come to the full message which we sought to give, and we could not thrust denominational enterprises before them. Thus, not being allowed to be free in title or nature we had to come out. But it was never our desire to set up something distinct and separate as such. We had a message, a testimony, it may be fuller than some, and we feel that the Lord has given us light, but, beloved, it is not bound up with us, it is for all the Lord's people who need it, and it is held in trust for the whole Body.

We have yet much to learn, and, as we have the Spirit's witness in us to the truth, we want to profit by His teaching of all those whom He is
leading in the way of life and light. When we speak of "Centre" as at Honor Oak, we mean nothing more than a gathering point for the Lord's children as unto Himself, and whatever may take place in time to come in the way of "development," it will not be intended to be a crystalising a separate movement, but only the fulfilment of that ministry which we have received of the Lord. We do so very much desire that all shall be the work of the Holy Spirit, He creating a need in others and providing for it. Not our imposing something on others and demanding, a toeing of our line. We pray that the Lord will ever preserve that which, being a taste of His best, shall make His children dissatisfied with the less.

Pray for us. It is in our hearts to seek a prayer fellowship of all those with whom we have contact, and we shall, from time to time, send a letter by which the Witness and Testimony readers all over the world may be brought into this oneness at the Throne of Grace, and so fulfil a ministry to the Lord in His Own House.

With assurances of love and prayer.

Yours in our Sovereign Lord Jesus,
T. Austin-Sparks

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