by T. Austin-Sparks
Initials of those giving answers (where known) refer to:
S.A. - Samuel Alexander
T.A.-S. - Theodore Austin-Sparks
P.W.F. - P. W. Faunch
L.O. - Lady Ogle
G.P. - George Paterson
G.T. - George Taylor
P.W.F. There was one thing emphasised earlier, that the way of escape for the individual and for mankind from the bondage and from being shut out of the heavens by the power of the enemy, is the way of the cross. And as the Lord leads us on in the spiritual ministry, life, and warfare, He shows us that truth and works it in us in a deeper and deeper way. And one sees the spiritual principle of that in Scriptures that we before perhaps interpreted more or less on the surface. Now it is laid on my heart to read a few verses (Matthew 16:13-28; 5:19), just to see that in the gospels, and in the words that the Lord spoke to them in the days of His flesh, are enshrining principles that afterwards are declared more fully.
The Church, the Divinely Given Authority
Now, this is a new revelation the Lord gives to His disciples. It is the first time He definitely says "I will build My church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it". This is evidence that there will be conflict between the gates of Hades and the church, and the Lord for the first time delivers the authority of binding and loosing to Peter as representative (Matt. 16:19). The Lord Jesus, the Captain of our Salvation, who is the overcomer from the very moment that He intimates this purpose of His to the disciples, He begins to show the way by which He will get to the throne. And He intimates therein the way by which His disciples will get to the throne (Matt. 16:24). There is a question there of voluntary choice - "If any man would come after Me...". The Lord does not compel any of us to come after Him: "If any man..." but "If any man would..."; there is something the disciple must do: not simply trust the Lord, but also deny himself. Not simply trust what Christ did on the cross, but he must "take up his cross and follow Me". The further we go in spiritual life and conflict, the more the Lord opens this to us and the deeper rooted we find this principle to be, and the failure of the recognising of it. The failure on our part here and there on obeying this active principle accounts for the defeat which we may sometimes experience.
Q. Taking up the matter we touched yesterday of giving a fuller message, I think it is a difficulty that you may know the message experimentally and see it spiritually and yet not be able to express it. I think there it is difficult to get the message over in its fulness to the people. It is difficult to get that full side of things over. Touching the realm of principalities and powers, to get it over in an intelligent way, to get people to see the nature of the background of the universe. You can preach the sovereignty of the Lord and make statements about the other thing without people seeing the true nature of things.
A. T.A.-S. Doesn't that come here in Ephesians 6, "And for me, on my behalf, that utterance may be given unto me..." (v.19). We need, in a full ministry as presented here, a good deal of prayer co-operation. We are always conscious that when there is a big thing on, it is a far bigger difficulty to get it. Sometimes you are conscious of a real withstanding of your message and not getting it over as you should. Praying people is the need. There was a time when I had greater boldness than I have now, when I would stop and say, "I am not getting my message out" and we would get to prayer and then it would come through. Or I had a secret sign with certain people and they got to prayer and we got through. The proof of the need. And of course, when you are miles away, alone, the difficulty may be greater. This is what the Lord is trying to bring us into these days. The Lord must bring us into much stronger prayer co-operation for all ministry that is of this kind.
P.W.F. Then of course there must be always our dependence upon, and there must be surely, the supply of the Holy Spirit giving us at the time and in the particular company where we are ministering the word for that people and adapting us and our message to the need at the moment. There is no rule or method by which we can arrive as to how we are to present the message of the background of things to any given audience. People appreciate the sovereignty of the Lord, but it is difficult to deal with it in relation to the background of such things in the presentation of the Lord, of God, itself. For instance, if you read the parable of the sower, the Lord gives in a verse there, "Then comes the devil and takes the word out of their hearts lest they should believe and be saved", a verse by which you can introduce the whole subject.
T.A.-S. I think there is one factor that we must not forget, not overlook, that while we are dependent upon the Lord for the message and for enablement to give the message and that it is not out from ourselves at all, there is that (I was going to say "sanctified common sense"), seeking the grace to bring that message to folk in a way in which you help them to begin with, to get hold of what you are after. You can come with the impact of such a weight that they cannot understand you at all. You have got to come down by the Lord's enablement, to them. It is no use dealing with people who have nothing to work on as with a company whom you are quite used to. You have to try and help them into your message, and give them a simple leading to what you are after. That is the value of any scriptural illustration you can give. Go back to the Old Testament and use an illustration to help them in. You do not rule out that and take it for granted that these people understand all that you have to say to them, you have to come down and help them in that way. You must not say, "We can give the fullest we have and count on the Lord to give the people understanding of what we are saying". He would help those listening to come along and get it through alright; this is very simple, but perhaps just where we have taken too much for granted very often.
S.A. That is, the method of the presentation of the message, what lies behind is to be sure that we have the Lord's Word for the occasion. So many seem to take the view that so long as you are presenting truth, it is alright. In this ministry it is something much higher than that. It must be the Lord's word received with the hour.
L.O. Very often the difficulty is that they have never had and have not got a full understanding of God's act in Calvary. They do not see the behindness of Calvary, what the Lord Jesus did Himself, and in that way seeing really who the Lord was. If they saw that, they would understand the part that principalities and powers have. To the ordinary company very often they have no further knowledge than the Lord dying to redeem them from sin and why Calvary was necessary and what the Lord did. When you bring in principalities and powers they are frightened and do not understand it.
Q. There have been occasions when, although being sure of the Lord's word, you go to a meeting and hardly got into the room when your spirit goes dry and you cannot get the message out, your words are chopped. This is sometimes helped out by corporate prayer. Is there a way of checking the atmosphere as one feels it? Can we check it before we go in with the message?
A. T.A.-S. We knew a good brother once who was much used of the Lord in very difficult conditions. He used to run a gospel meeting, an evangelistic meeting in a cinema on Sunday nights and all sorts of people came to that who would never go to church, but the thing was very difficult, he found such resistance in the atmosphere to a free message in the Spirit, that he adopted this procedure. Before ever the cinema opened, he went in and went from seat to seat and put the blood of the Lord Jesus on each seat, he sprinkled the blood of the Lord Jesus in that place against the powers of darkness and he had crowds of conversions, wonderful times. Whether you adopt the procedure or not, there is something in going in and taking the place for the Lord beforehand in the power and virtue of the blood.
P.W.F. Could the praying company get into the house and spend time along this definite line? In view of the nature of the conflict pleading the Name of the Lord Jesus and by faith asserting and establishing the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ in that house, that place.
T.A.-S. It does not do to leave things until you are up against them. You must go ahead. There can be a great offensive in taking a gathering ahead, to capture a situation a week before. Very often the enemy likes to drive you out and you have to hurry it through and find something lacking all the way through.
Q. Is it possible when going out to a ministry like that alone, to let the sense of being alone come in and give ground to the enemy? When Paul asked the saints to pray for him, they would not necessarily be with him. Would this sense of being alone give ground to weaken?
A. T.A.-S. Yes, it is always an advantage to the enemy that you are alone. If the Lord had His way, He would never let us be alone. Paul had his worst times when he was alone. But if it cannot be helped, if you are alone, it is as well to remind the Lord and the enemy that you are not alone. We have found great help when out alone in definitely standing in the prayer of the Lord's people for us and in the fellowship of saints with us at that time.
P.W.F. And when you are alone there is a little bit of heart preparation that can be made beforehand when all the other praying is through. You realise that you are going there in the will of the Lord, that He is with you, there is the taking of the armour we were thinking about, and definitely taking that position that you are in the Lord and the Lord is in you. And before you go into the building take hold in the Name of the Lord, take that meeting in the Name of the Lord and go into the meeting therefore as from the presence of the Lord in the position of ascendency. I have sometimes forgotten to do that and had a bad time, but it does work.
Q. An incident was related regarding a particular meeting when there was much conflict, but suddenly a consciousness of a release in spirit in the messenger. Almost immediately it was the release of the Lord in corporate ministry, but the thought was, is it not possible for that to be operative when members of the Body are geographically separated?
Q. Isn't it possible to know a sense of isolation even when you are with members of the Body?
A. P.W.F. That is the value of the ministry out from an assembly of the Lord's people and the assembly going out with you in spirit. And it makes all the difference in ministry - it calls for faithfulness to those who are not on the platform, but who are in the ministry at home. And that is the thing that needs to be brought home to the members, that they really have an intrinsic part to play.P.W.F. These experiences we have, such as hinted at just now, what a difference it has made to me personally, in a lonely ministry, when one has been in real spiritual fellowship here and the folk have known and have been taking it up in prayer. It has meant a difference in one's ministry which proves the truth of the principle that is being emphasised in these days of the necessity for the power of God to be operative, for the necessity that others, that the children of God, are in prayer concerning it. What God has to do, whether it be the meeting of the need of some souls in a gathering, or whether it be in the development of the next stage or item in His dispensational programme, this proves the fact that the Lord works with the prayers of His people. And the thing particularly before us these days is this, that the next item so far as we know, of the prophetic programme of God, is the translation of a company represented by that man child in Revelation 12. And if these principles are Divine principles, then it means there is a sense in which the corporate co-operation of the church in prayer is going to be a factor in bringing to birth that man child. It would be a helpful thing, a good thing, if we individually came to an understanding with the Lord concerning that, as to whether that is revelation to us and whether we give ourselves to the Lord to co-operate with Him in that. This conference will fail unless thereby some should come to an understanding with the Lord and really come into a new place of prayer ministry along this line.
P.W.F. In order that prayer ministry may be effective, there is only one condition to it, and that is the way of the cross - very really, and very rigorously. There must not be allowed into the individual life or ministry anything that is of the old man or that is of the soul life as such, there must be a positive denying of self, taking up the cross. And in such a ministry and life as that, you and I will really know our taste of the experience of being crucified. It is in the depths of those experiences in which that crucifixion is being wrought in, that revelation comes. These things become real to us in the depths. The revelation came to Job in the depths. You see where he says, "I know that my redeemer lives." If you and I are coming to the place of real spiritual revelation and effectiveness, it will be in the depths of experience.
Q. What are the outstanding things that the Lord has said to you in this conference? How has the Lord been dealing with you?
Miss Gerster: I feel that if the Lord cannot raise a really true spiritual prayer ministry among the Lord's people everywhere, it will be very hard for the Lord's people now, because of the tremendous conflicts which are becoming more and more intense and which cannot be met alone. Also what I learned is that conditions on the mission field are such that with that which the Lord's missionary children have, they cannot meet the need now, and they do not know why. They seek to be loyal and true to the Lord, try to preach the gospel fully and truly, but they are up against things they cannot explain. A missionary servant in Damascus, a very fine young man, ministered among young people and became exceedingly distressed because there was tremendous antagonism raised against him among the Moslems because he had some success. And then he gave way; he only fought up to a certain point, and he felt so alone in the country and the missionary friends did not stand with him. They would rather he should escape than seek the Lord's interests, because the Moslems tried to kill him, or to get at his reputation, and the thing became so dangerous they asked him to leave the compound. A further incident regards one who in the mosque denied his faith in Islam and the whole family was baptised. He was steadfast in the faith for about three years and then the hostility was so terrific that he could not bear it any longer because he had no fellowship. He is going or has gone back to the Moslems and denied everything. He is a broken man because he cannot be a real Moslem and is not a Christian. There is a tremendous need for real prayer fellowship.
P.W.F. We were mentioning the necessity for there being fellowships of prayer, symphonised groups of the Lord's children who can come together and lay hold in intercession for the strengthening of isolated members of the Body and for the whole of the ministering company of the Lord's servants who are so under-equipped. That is the point. Prayer ministry should be the outcome of these days.
Miss Featherstone: There is a great need to pray for our missionary brothers and sisters; earnest devoted servants of God, but not equipped. As we have been saying, as God is showing me these days, eyes need to be opened to see these things they are up against, and what God has provided to meet that need. Especially to see what the Lord has provided. Many are willing to receive, and are sincere before God.
T.A.-S. Do you feel there are many who are open to receive light on this matter?
Miss Featherstone: I know of one little group of half a dozen people. When I see how God had been preparing my heart, and I believe that there is that same sense of need though not discussed, not expressed, but I think it is there. We have problems that we cannot express. Another thing. It has been partly expressed this afternoon, I believe that we have suffered and perhaps have been barren in results because of our isolation. Although associated nominally, we have been quite alone in the interior of China without any solid prayer backing. Many know us and pray for us, but there has not been a Body, a band who have really taken us. Perhaps this is the key to a great deal of suffering because of lack of results and a sense of shortcoming in the profession among God's children. God has given us to see and know the victory of Calvary for our own life and service or we could not have remained; so up against things that we would have been off the field long ago. We have had the assurance that some are behind when we are there for the Lord and many times we have claimed deliverance from physical danger on those lines, that we were there for the Lord Jesus Christ and we claimed that territory for Him.
S.A. That brings up the question of going forth.
Miss Featherstone: I am associated with the Baptist church and Miss Taylor is not associated with that. God is showing me that we cannot be freelances.
T.A.-S. If that testimony of laying hands on those who go out and letting them go, which is so clear in the Word, really did mean what it is supposed to mean, it does mean that the whole assembled company at that time relate themselves to that going forth. The idea of ordaining people to the ministry in an ecclesiastical formal way is missing the whole mark, for that testimony is undoubtedly the declaration of the fact that this ministry is not the ministry of those individuals, but it is our ministry as a whole. And if we follow that out to the full, every movement of those going forth would be followed in definite prayer with the Lord continually. I think there is a need for a great deal of strengthening in that testimony. You see, if that is the Lord's order, any freelance kind of thing is completely contrary to it, and what is more, anything freelance in the church which is His Body rids the individual of their adequate covering, because if hands are laid on the head, there is a spiritual meaning in that in bringing that head under the covering of the Body, under the Headship of the Lord Jesus. That act is spiritually intended to bring those people into line, under cover of the Head. If they go freelancing they have not that covering; they are exposed. And you find that the independence of a freelance person gets an awful lot of knocking about and sometimes smashing. The reason is that a principle (the law of the Body) has been violated.
T.A.-S. And that raises the other question as to whether the Lord is not seeking again to recover His order unto effectiveness, because coming up into the heavenlies into spiritual position is not our coming up as individuals, it is coming into line with the Lord's heavenly order of the Body. This authority in Christ is corporate, so that you have to recognise the laws of the Body and abide by them in order to get into the place of power. And if they are neglected or violated, then there is some weakness and some measure of defeat and loss. That is what impressed our brother Imberg last month. The thing that saved the situation for him was the coming to the realisation of the corporate nature of the thing. And he was full of it, that his ministry was not isolated, but a corporate ministry. And it put him in a strong position when he recognised that.
T.A.-S. This helps us to recognise that authority in Christ is not the authority of the individual and we cannot individually exercise it. It is only the prerogative of the Body of Christ and the Body is represented in a company even two, or three, yet it is corporate in principle.
Q. If as an individual you recognise and take your stand?
A. T.A.-S. Yes, but one feels you need to be in very definite prayer relation with children of God along that line somehow somewhere. The Lord would still call for the specific backing. You could recognise that every child of God was with you and in that general way claim the fellowship of the Body, but there is something other and more specific than that, that is to a company of people who represent that Body who are specifically related so that you are of this company. And that specific company hear all your burdens; you cannot tell all the Body, so it is this specific company. There has to be responsibility for you somewhere spiritually. This is a point to recognise in your fresh going forth to China.
T.A.-S. I do not think it can be overemphasised that the authority is not to be exercised, wielded, by one individual. It is not that the authority of the Lord is committed to you or me and we go through the world in His Name commanding things. The authority is committed to the church, and in our relationship with the Body of Christ, as we remain in cover, hidden. The authority may be exercised, but some of us know from practical experience that it is a mighty dangerous thing to seek to wield that authority in an isolated way. It comes back on you. There is a place of cover and that is the reason why the Lord does not punish you and me; we do what we know, but we find ourselves ultimately in a position that we cannot go on any more. He shows us we are out of gear, out of order, and that is the nature of the Body and means to some of us that we have to come in under cover.
L.O. Do you think there has to be a recognition - "I will give unto thee the authority." The authority always remains with Him, the Head, and through a recognition of that authority in Him you have to wait for the Lord's time and exercise that authority, and only as the Spirit rises up. It is He Who rises up in the spirit. In the case of Paul, he knew the authority of Christ but he had to wait until that movement of the Lord Himself. Some say, "I have the authority in Christ". It is not that person, it is with the Lord, and until it is His moment, there is not that rising of the Lord Himself.
T.A.-S. You cannot exercise it willy-nilly and think because there is a situation, you ought to deal with it. So many people say, "Why don't you deal with it?" You cannot very often. And the enemy draws you out and keeps you occupied with a case and makes a fool of you and you try to deal with that case, and clear up that case - you have been drawn out. At one time I very rarely opened my mouth on the subject before there was a "case" waiting for me and I was tied up with "a case" and it was such a mess and mixture that it would take weeks and months to get to the bottom of the thing. The enemy tried to get me out on this. You cannot deal with anything willy-nilly as it comes along. You have to have the Lord's own uprising within in a thing of this nature. That is dealing with authority in a specific way, but recognise in Christ there is the authority; the church has the authority in Christ, but by the movement of the Spirit.
G.P. An incident mentioned here of a gathering at Loughton, one of this company was about to respond to the Lord's call to give himself up for service and is leaving for a special course of training. Before he goes the friends feel they want the other friends to recognise their responsibility for him and so they have convened a special gathering with the desire that the local company shall say that this young man is not going off on his own, but they as local friends have a responsibility. The only bond they come together on - they are scattered among the local churches - it looks as though it is a movement to constitute a company and out from that company to allow one and another to go out on ministry; they need to be formed into something more concrete.