"... reaching forth unto those things which are before ...
toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus
(Philippians 3:13-14)

Previous issue | Next issue


Vol. 3, No. 3, May - June 1974 EDITOR: Mr. Harry Foster



T. Austin-Sparks

"But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both those that have wives be as though they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as not abusing it ..." 1 Corinthians 7:29-31.

IT is necessary that we should not misunderstand Paul's words, for he would never contradict himself. He who wrote: "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church ..." would never write anything that set aside or lessened the force of such a grand description of marriage relationship. Clearly he did not wish to minimise the importance of marriage; nor did he mean that weeping or rejoicing or other human activities should be obliterated; his remarks are set over against the existing situation in Corinth and they are introduced by the word 'But'. "But this I say, brethren, the time is shortened" (RV).

In his letter the apostle had been forced to deal with many unhappy features of current experience in the Corinthian church. There were so many inconsistencies, even contradictions, and so much which denied the Lord, that it was as though he became utterly wearied of it all and felt obliged to cry out in protest against using so much time and energy on the quibblings and carnality of God's people. He felt that he could not afford the time which he was having to give to the negative task of admonishing, correcting and remonstrating. He wanted to get busy with the positive matters of life in the Spirit, and groaned at the sheer waste of time produced by the internal conditions at Corinth.

FOR this man, who ever had his eyes on a wider horizon, there was still so much to be done. Paul was so aware of the tremendous forces at work against Christ and against His testimony that he felt that they were in an emergency situation. In his day there were signs of a great crisis in which Christian testimony might be curtailed; he sensed in the very atmosphere the tension which eventually brought him to martyrdom. Being conscious of the emergency state in which public witness, the work of the Lord, would be severely suppressed and the antagonistic forces would overflow the world in their attempt to destroy the testimony of Christ, he could not refrain from crying out about it to his brethren: "But ... the time is short! " He wanted them to get clear of their internal problems and difficulties so that they could buy up all possible opportunities for Christ. We need to be freed from self-preoccupation, so that we can redeem what time there is, for at best it is all too short.

I suggest to you that in this connection the Scripture is very meaningful for us now. There are so many problems, questions, differences of opinion, personal clashes, but ...! 'But' brothers and sisters, 'the time is short -- too short to be wasted on things of secondary or third-rate importance.' Even marriage, the sorrows and joys of life, possessions, fashions, earthly interests -- it is not that they are wrong but they provide a subtle snare to distract us from the real business of our Christian living. Nothing, from the inner circle of our domestic relationship to the widest circle of world events, must ever be allowed to interfere with our testimony for Christ. Those blessed with wives must not allow them so to fill their lives that the happy domestic circle becomes a preoccupation which absorbs all their time. There are some that weep, but they must not let their sorrow paralyse them with regard to the Lord's interests. There are those who can rightly rejoice, but they must watch that their delight does not subvert them, so that they give it priority and find themselves turned aside from their main concern which should have been for the glory of Christ. There is much in the world which can rightly interest. The Corinthians had already been told that " All things are yours; whether Paul or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world ..." (1 Corinthians 3:22). But Paul also told them that they must not abuse this gift, not use it to the full, not let it be their prime concern. Brethren, the time is short, and we must not allow anything in any department of our lives to encroach upon the interests of the Lord.

THIS is the cry of a man looking back and knowing that for him time would not last much longer. Paul was always feeling the cold hand of the past reaching out to remind him [41/42] of those wasted years which he so deeply regretted. He had spent such a valuable part of his early life in travelling along the wrong road, fighting against the Son of God; and he deplored those barren years. How much energy -- and religious energy at that -- had been utterly wasted! His soul was filled with sorrow about the failures, the lost opportunities of the past, and he was stirred to make sure that this should never happen again. He cried out in protest against the possibility of further shortening. Life is not as long as all this, that one can afford to have more failures, more lost time, more misspent energy. Life here on this earth is all too short. The man who looked back and grieved over those periods of his experience when his energies were bent on a course which brought no glory to his Lord, had to cry out in dismay at the prospect of still more waste.

IT is also the cry of a man who was looking around, being made conscious of the overwhelming need which everywhere abounded. Paul was deeply distressed over the crying spiritual need of Christians who seemed so muddled and powerless, as well as over the appalling condition of men without Christ, multitudes who had no vital experience of the transforming power of the gospel. And time was passing so rapidly. The demands on every hand were so great that it seemed most culpable to give them anything less than full and undivided attention. So it is today. Only the gravely insensitive can fail to register the seriousness of the circumstances which surround us. The needs are so great and the important thing to remember is that our remaining time is very short, and so are our opportunities for doing the Lord's work. It seems that the Corinthians were so taken up with their own affairs that they failed to realise how spiritual opportunities and values were slipping from their grasp. Paul was aghast that this should be so. He was no passive spectator himself, no self-interested neutral, but a man who realised the supreme importance of working the works of God while it was still day. He cried out against the paralysing work of Satan among Christians and the great power of darkness in the world. "The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving," he affirmed (2 Corinthians 4:4), and this darkening, blinding work of the devil forced him to warn his brothers that the time was drawing to an end.

HIS words were also the appeal of a man looking on into the future with eager expectation but who yet appreciated how much still remained to be done in these shortening days. His own course would soon be finished, and he felt that if he spent all the moments of all his days in utter devotion to Christ, it would still be woefully inadequate and he an unprofitable servant. The time was so short that he knew that at the end he would feel regretfully that if he could have his life all over again he would use it to so much better advantage. This might be a general and very natural emotion, but for Paul the important thing was to minimise it and be saved from unnecessary regrets at the end of his brief career. So it was that he urged his brothers at Corinth to join with him in making everything subservient to the one great consideration of the work of Christ.

Some of them were doubtless still young in years and therefore not so conscious of the swift approach of the end of earthly life, but the call to them was just as valid, for at best life passes all too quickly and the Spirit of God would surely impart to them something of His own urgency to buy up every opportunity for glorifying Christ. The Christians of those days lived in constant expectation of the return of the Lord Jesus in glory. "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye" they were told, the trumpet would sound for the termination of the gospel age (1 Corinthians 15:52). The Second Coming has not yet taken place, but to many of us it appears quite imminent, so that more than ever we need to take note of the fact that the time is shortened. It may well be that as we move rapidly towards that great day we shall find that there will be a closing in upon Christian testimony, with all kinds of new limitations being imposed on the servants of the Lord, and then Paul's 'But' will be even more relevant. It stands over against all the petty and unworthy preoccupations of Christians like those Corinthians who were inclined to fritter away the precious moments still remaining to them in unprofitable disputations and childish self-indulgence. Most of the matters raised in this letter would never have arisen if the believers had kept their priorities right and not forgotten how rapidly time is diminishing and eternity drawing near. The same applies -- and even more so -- to our own day and age. Brothers, there is no time to spare for the many unimportant and time-wasting differences and disputes which beset the Church [42/41] of Christ and dissipate its energies. There is something far more important on hand. The Lord's interests demand that we have done with all that has no eternal value and get on with the real business of life, which is the bringing in of the kingdom and of the King.


Reading: Exodus 14:10-18; Joshua 7:1-11; 1 Kings 19:9-18

John H. Paterson

WHEN Christians encounter difficulties or dangers, they usually reassure themselves by recalling the many great promises of God in His Word, promises that He will be with them and help them. Most of these promises were, of course, originally given to great servants of God, whose stories encourage us as we read them. We are stirred by the words of God to Moses, "My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest", or His assurance to Joshua, "As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee", and which of us has not in some time of need read over God's promises to and by Elijah, and sought to make them our own: "I have commanded the ravens to feed thee"; "Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail ..."? It is good to have this kind of reassurance in difficult times.

But if we read the sections of the life stories of these same three men of God, we see that there were some occasions on which God responded in a quite different way -- not with comforting reassurances but with a challenge. At a moment when each of these three men was facing a particular crisis, and one of them at least was having a nervous breakdown, God's reaction to their cries for help was 'What's all this fuss about?' Each of them in turn was challenged to account for their actions: "Wherefore criest thou unto me?" (Exodus 14:15); "Wherefore liest thou upon thy face?" (Joshua 7:10); "What doest thou here, Elijah?" (1 Kings 19:9,13). Coming as they do from the God of hope, peace and reassurance, these words may well seem surprising. We must try to understand them.

Moses and His Rod

Moses and the children of Israel were in acute danger. They had left the inhabited part of Egypt, but were not yet safely across the Red Sea when Pharaoh's army recovered its poise after the ten plagues and came in pursuit of them. In no time at all, the unarmed ex-slaves were trapped between the enemy and the sea (ironically, in the same situation as the Egyptians at the end of the 1973 campaign, but with the roles reversed). Clearly, unless God intervened, it was only a matter of hours before Israel's bid for freedom was ended. Moses seems to have expected God to intervene; he tried to reassure the people (Exodus 14:13) and meanwhile he himself was evidently praying hard. It was at this moment, however, that God reacted surprisingly, by saying -- if we accept the Living Bible translation of verse 15 -- 'Quit praying and get moving'. With the sea in front and the enemy behind, God said to Moses, 'What's all the fuss about? You've got your rod, haven't you?'

A rod: what could be more ludicrously inadequate than one rod with which to combat all the king's horses and all the king's men? But God was very clear about it; this was not to be a time for praying -- it was a time for using the rod. And, of course, anyone who follows the career of Moses from his commissioning to his journey's end knows why. The rod had become, as it was to remain, the symbol of authority -- God's authority, exercised by Moses. This authority Moses already wielded, but because this particular situation was extra dangerous, and seemed even more impossible than the ones that had gone before it, Moses was evidently looking for something special in the way of a deliverance -- extra power for extra danger. And God had to remind him -- 'You already have all the power you need. Get on and use it. Quit praying and get moving.'

We shall all no doubt sympathise with Moses, for we know this same feeling: 'This obstacle confronting me is so great and so frightening [43/44] that I shall need a very special provision of grace from God to be able to survive, let alone surmount it.' But that is not true; we already have all we need for survival and success. "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore ...". Sometimes, it is not a question of praying for more, but of using what we already have. 'Quit praying and get moving.'

Joshua and the Spoils of Jericho

The second of our three worried men was facing a very different situation. Joshua, the military leader of Israel, had just seen his forces defeated at Ai and, as a general, he realised the danger which defeat brought with it: Israel's aura of invincibility shattered, and the peoples of Canaan encouraged to form a great alliance to drive his nation back across the Jordan. Something clearly had to be done quickly and the worst of it was that, although Joshua knew that something must be wrong, he could not tell what it was.

Because we have the full story in Joshua 7, we know that the trouble was caused by Achan, who had taken some of the forbidden spoils of Jericho. But Joshua was in the dark. And confronted by this situation he seems to have asked himself, as well he might, 'What would Moses have done?' We can only guess, but we do know that Joshua had been with Moses, as his helper, at times when nobody else was present -- for instance, on Mount Sinai during the tumultuous days described in Exodus 32. And in those days, Israel had faced a disaster even more terrifying than the one that threatened after the first battle of Ai: it was the declared intention of God to wipe them out (Exodus 32:10).

Faced with the threat of imminent destruction, Moses had spoken to God and said, in so many words, 'You can't do that!' But what Joshua evidently remembered in particular was the argument Moses had used on that occasion, an argument so dramatically successful that the Old Testament records, simply and laconically, "And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people" (32: 14). Moses argued that, if God did as He had said He was going to, His reputation would suffer: "Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out ...?" There would be such a 'credibility gap' that the name of God would be brought into disrepute.

It was precisely this argument that Joshua, in his crisis, decided to employ -- the argument which had worked for Moses and might serve again: "O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies ... and what wilt thou do unto thy great name?'. Poor Joshua! The Lord responded immediately. "Get thee up: wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?" The very same prayer produced this totally, bewilderingly different response.

What are we to make of this? Once again, we have the benefit of hindsight. "Israel hath sinned": that was all the explanation necessary. God was saying to Joshua, in effect, 'Don't come here and talk to me about my reputation being in danger, just because you lost to the men of Ai. My reputation is in far greater danger from the sin among my people! Go and deal with that.'

We must not draw from this incident the wrong lessons. It cannot be, as some groups have from time to time taken it to be, an invitation to the people of God to launch a witch-hunt to find the Achan among them: the result has almost invariably been disastrous to the Church of God and its testimony. Nor does it encourage the individual believer to torture himself with worry lest he be the Achan who is responsible for defeat among God's people (although some have thought that, too); that way neurosis lies. Let us simply ask ourselves what light this story throws on the Christian response to crisis and say that, when we confront difficult or dangerous situations, there is always something we can do; one element in the situation which we can get rid of, and that is the element of sin. Doing so may not remove the difficulty or the danger, but at least now what we confront is a genuine difficulty, not one complicated by the admixture of our own disobedience, failure or mixed motives. There is no justification for delay in eliminating whatever part of the crisis is caused by sin, not even if that delay is caused by stopping to worry about the damage to God's reputation!

The late Ruth Paxson, that wise saint of God, was once talking to a younger Christian and asked her, 'Well Jane, how are things?' Jane replied, 'O, I don't know: there seem to be a lot of things wrong.' 'No' replied Ruth Paxson. 'For a Christian there is only one thing that is ever wrong -- sin.' She was being very precise: for a Christian, 'things' may be difficult, or trying, or obscure, [44/45] but that does not mean that they are wrong. It is quite likely the will of God which has arranged them in that way, so that through the difficulty of the obscurity the believer may learn the lessons of faith or obedience. But that is never the case with sin; it is never God's will or plan. Sin is always wrong. And the thing to do is to deal with it, without delay.

Elijah and the Still, Small Voice

The third of our three men may well have been the most worried of all, but to appreciate the story we must try to discover why. Admittedly, Elijah had been having a difficult time. He was fighting, apparently single-handed, against the onset of idolatry in Israel, an idolatry that emanated from the royal palace itself. But he had just gained the most spectacular victory of his whole career when, on Mount Carmel, he had maintained the reputation of Jehovah against 400 of the prophets of Baal. At that moment, we should expect him to be delighted: he may well have felt that the tide had turned, and that his one-man fight against Baal was won.

If so, he was soon disillusioned: Jezebel was out for his blood (1 Kings 19: 2). And at this point it does not seem too unkind to say that Elijah's nerve cracked. He ran for his life and we should all have done the same. But for Elijah this was out of character. It happened at -- we cannot help thinking -- the wrong moment, and it happened to the wrong man. Elijah was less of a coward than any man in Israel: over and over again, he had boldly confronted the king himself and denounced his sin. So why should a mere message from the queen have stampeded him?

Every Bible student must answer the question for himself, but here is a possible solution: Elijah was unnerved by the unexpectedness of what happened. Anyone familiar with the history of Israel's idolatry would have expected that the triumph of Carmel would be followed by a great national revival -- by the overthrow of the idolatrous regime. It had always happened in the past. To put no finer point on it, the incident on the mountain top should, according to all that Elijah knew, have been closely followed by Jezebel having her head cut off.

Quite the reverse: not only was Jezebel very much alive, but she was hot on Elijah's track. So now he was scared, disillusioned and bewildered. If even the miracle of Carmel could not topple the regime, what could? What, indeed? This was the point and, to make it clear to Elijah, God took His servant deeper into the wilderness, where they would be alone together. There Elijah experienced the earthquake, the wind and the fire, but the Lord was not in any of them -- not even in the fire, as He had been on Carmel. Instead, He was in the still, small voice -- and there He has been from that day to this.

It seems as if God was serving notice that a new phase of His working had begun; that, from now on, the man of God in the world of evil would always be nothing but a voice in the wilderness; that the image of the work of God in this era of His purpose would always be the small voice rather than the thunder or the fire. So, at least, it has proved to be: no more evil regimes have fallen at the word of the prophet. It is not that God's power had grown weaker: Elijah himself was to experience it on several future occasions. But God had chosen to work in this way. Centuries later, a man came in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1: 17) -- and the evil regime caught him and cut off his head. Centuries after Elijah, too, God's own Son came, and Him they crucified. And so it has continued to be, and the servants of God, beginning with Elijah, have had the problem of adapting to this, God's way of dealing with evil.

Let us pass immediately on to the lesson, as it comes down over the centuries to us. Elijah was going to have to accept that he would never be more than a voice crying in the wilderness and, at that, he might well be quite alone. But these were to be -- these are -- the conditions of service for God's men and women and what we must do is to accept them, not try to get them changed. If God did not change them for His own Son, He has no reason to change them for us! He certainly did not change them for Elijah; once again, as to Moses, He just said, 'Get moving!' -- "Go, return ..." (1 Kings 19: 15). And, of course, Elijah was not really alone as he imagined; there were 7,000 others who had remained faithful to God.

So let us not lose our nerve because we are standing for God alone, or because nobody appears to be paying the slightest attention to our small voices, or because evil flourishes all around. That is not an emergency situation; that is normal. That is precisely how God has arranged for it to be, for the present. But only for the present. For [45/46] Elijah there did indeed come the day of the whirlwind, when the chariots came from heaven and caught him away. And for us there exists the same hope and promise -- the end of the day of small voices and loneliness; the gathering hosts which no man can number, and the great voice filling the heavens, "Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb."


Poul Madsen

"And he saith unto me, See thou do it not: I am a fellow-servant with thee
and with thy brethren that hold the testimony of Jesus: worship God:
for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
" Revelation 19:10.

THE book of the Revelation gives us the testimony of Jesus (1:2 and 22:20). It is always He Himself who testifies in this book, even when the testimony is given through an angel or another messenger. But what applies to the book of Revelation applies in fact to the whole Bible; it is the testimony of Jesus Christ, for it is He who testifies through it all. This is why our Lord is called "the faithful witness" (1:5). He Himself said: "To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice" (John 18:37). With this background we understand two things: (1) that it is vital to keep the testimony of Jesus, and (2) that the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

(1) Keeping the Testimony of Jesus

This is the same as keeping what Jesus said and meant, and thereby keeping His word as Spirit and life. The testimony of Jesus is different from all other testimonies, not least those which may often be given at so-called testimony meetings. He Himself is what He testifies about. If He testifies of life, then He Himself is the life; if He testifies about light, He is Himself the light; if He testifies about living water, then He Himself is the living water. If He testifies about resurrection, it is because He Himself is the resurrection and the life; if He testifies concerning power, He Himself is it -- and so on.

But not only is it Himself of whom He testifies; what He testifies about He actually communicates to those who have ears to hear and therefore understand him aright. While most testimonies which we hear conclude with such words as these: 'I hope that you all may find what I have found', the Lord never says anything like that. He Himself is the embodiment of what He testifies and in speaking He makes it possible for those who listen and respond to Him actually to receive the living truth for themselves. By receiving His word we receive Spirit and life. That is why when He said: "This day is this Scripture (about deliverance for the captives and sight for the blind) fulfilled in your ears" (Luke 4:21), they did not need to wait for the fulfilment; He Himself was the fulfilment. Where He is present and speaks, everything is fulfilled. The important thing is to be able to hear Him, which was what the people of Nazareth could not do.

Keeping the testimony of Jesus means then keeping it in Spirit and life. This is the very nature of the gospel for, as it is sounded forth, it gives what it speaks about. This is a great mystery, but it is what lies behind Paul's claim that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation -- a full and comprehensive salvation -- to every one that believeth. The more I listen to what is being preached, the more I realise that the gospel is a rarity, and that in many places it has been relegated to the background and supplanted by a religious message to the religiously-inclined man.

Very much is said about consecrating yourself and being prepared to sacrifice everything. Much is also said about the necessity of humbling yourself and being broken and of the necessity for much more prayer than ever there has been before. In some directions there is eager talk about seeking power, and what may be called 'the baptism of the Spirit'. This preaching is usually accompanied with much fervour and [46/47] zeal, the object of course being to produce more earnest and fervent Christians. But such preaching is not really very different from what Catholics -- or even Communists -- impress on their followers. Their object also is to get people more willing to sacrifice everything, to consecrate themselves, to humble themselves and lay aside everything in order to reach the goal.

In all these cases it is an appeal to what is in man -- and in one form or another man likes to be appealed to. Jehovah's Witnesses (so-called) prove this. They make their appeals, and they seem to create more eager adherents to their cause than most evangelical churches do for theirs. Again, the Communists appeal to the deepest soul emotions of politically-minded young people, and they have produced giants like Tito and Mao, men who have suffered tremendously for their cause. The Catholics have so appealed to religious people that they have induced them to sacrifice everything, unconditionally -- think of the Jesuits -- and to submit blindly to a self-effacing humility which knows no bounds.

But nothing of this is the testimony of Jesus. This is not His work. In certain cases His name is used, but His nature is represented but poorly or not at all. This is because it provides what is the result of the will of man, of the will of the flesh, of the will of blood, which is in contrast to what is wrought by God alone. The difference between religious and political flesh is not very great. If you journey to the east, you will meet the holy men of Hinduism or Buddhism who can mortify their bodies and live in a poverty which would leave us speechless. The religious natural man can go to incredible lengths of self-abnegation. But let us remember that it was religious fervour of this man-made variety which most strongly and fanatically opposed the testimony of Jesus and finally rejected Him. They thought that they saw in Jesus a danger to holiness and the fear of God. They could not understand how blind they were, but rather thought that they could see more than others (John 9:40-41).

Keeping the testimony of Jesus is the same as seeing through all this appeal to man's efforts and rejecting it as worthless in the sight of God. Will not this lead to indifference, lukewarmness and powerlessness, the very condition that Christians should so earnestly avoid? The religious-minded person asserts that this is so, and will continue to assert it until the day of his death. But of course he is mistaken: the testimony of Jesus rejects the efforts of man's soul because it makes way for the power of God. While every other 'testimony' operates like the continual cracking of a whip, oppressing by its urges for more and more human efforts, the testimony of Jesus, the gospel, brings the enormous relief of spiritual liberation. The one who is so released is filled with gratitude and devotion, so that the law of God becomes his pleasure and he sacrifices with joy without even thinking that he is making any sacrifice. He never boasts of his whole-heartedness or consecration or anything of that kind, for he has nothing to boast about. Nor does he place impositions on others, but rather brings relief, spreading the liberating Spirit and power of the gospel wherever he goes. He does not lay claims to special power for he does not feel that he has anything at all; Christ is everything for him and in Christ he, like other believers, possesses everything by faith. However it is only by faith and to faith, and never a question of any personal virtue or effort of his. He is poverty-stricken in himself and does not try to give the impression of anything else. That is why Christ is all in all to him.

(2) This Testimony is the Spirit of Prophecy

"The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." It was an angel who, with these words, pointed out to John the essential nature, the spirit, of all prophecy, namely that it concerns what we have just described. In effect he was telling John that it is the living reality displayed in the person of Jesus Christ which is the great concern and enterprise of the eternal God. The testimony of Jesus is what prophecy is all about. This means that in a direct sense the whole purpose of the book of the Revelation is to produce the full expression of the will of God as found livingly in Jesus. In a more general sense the Bible, the whole prophetic word from first to last, is directed to this same end. God's utterances, His prophecies, are not just given to inform us of happenings in heaven or on earth, in the past or in the future; they have one specific objective, and that is to reveal the perfection of His own character in terms of human life. Jesus the faithful witness, Jesus the Man, Jesus the express image of the Father in terms of human life -- this is what the prophetic word is all about. [47/48]

But more than Jesus in His individual person, this purpose of God includes us who hold the testimony not just in words but in Spirit and life. God has spoken to us in His Son in order to make us sons. He has given us Jesus that we may become like Jesus, in Him and through Him living out the testimony of what God is like as revealed in His Son. To miss this is to miss the very essence and spirit of all God's Word. We cannot produce the testimony of Jesus. However much we struggle, consecrate ourselves, travail in prayer or plead with others, even to sweat and tears, we shall never be what God wants us to be. Our part is to receive the testimony in Spirit and life as from God, and by His grace to hold that testimony and so find ourselves in harmony with the whole purpose of the Scriptures.

Moreover those who keep this testimony find that they themselves are kept by it. In adversity and prosperity, in good days and bad days, in the apostolic era of persecution or in the tribulations of the end-time, they are kept true to God's purpose in Christ. They worship no man; they do not worship angels; they give all their worship to God, for the testimony of Jesus changes them into worshippers in Spirit and in truth. So it is that the power of God works. The Lord Himself works in and through us. We are crucified with Christ. We live no longer for ourselves, whereas this is what the merely religious person continues to do in his unceasing self-preoccupation. We live just for Him. We live the gospel way. No flesh gets any glory, but we never grow tired of praising, exalting, worshipping and serving our wonderful Lord.


Brychan Davies

OVER the last two decades a great deal has been written about Christian unity. All sections of the so-called Christian Church are concerned about this subject. Many hours have been spent in committee and in conference, debating and discussing all the various aspects of it. Many attempts have been made to formulate an all-embracing basis of faith with which every Christian can agree. Countless hours have been spent in attempting to understand the differing opinions of various sects and denominations within the Christian Church. But all to no avail.

True Christian unity is not a subject for discussion and debate. There is no room for disagreement on this fundamental doctrine of the faith. True born-again Christians are united in Christ. All are in Him, and all are members of His body. Every Christian, called of God, has been baptized by one Spirit into one body, and thereby joined to the Head, which is Christ, and to one another in Him. A wonderful miracle has taken place in the life of every Christian. He has become a new creation -- a new person altogether. His old past is finished: everything has become new. No longer is he a selfish individual, seeking his own ends and following his own desires, but he is a new creature, born again of God. He has been rescued out of the hand of the tyrant, Satan, and conveyed triumphantly into the kingdom of God's own Son. A new life has been implanted in him which is completely opposed to the life he lived before. His old self is dead and buried with Christ, and he is risen to newness of life. Whereas before he obeyed the law of the world, which is 'Every man for himself', he now obeys the law of this new realm which is: 'Himself for every man'. For all in this kingdom are members of one another. It is the kingdom of love, in which all are united to the Head, even Christ, and through Him to one another.

The great question now arises: How is this unity to be worked out? This is a vital, practical question, which must concern every Christian. If we say that we are all one in Christ, then we must be all one in practice. Our words must be borne out by our actions. But how? Where are we to begin? When we look around us and within our own hearts, are we not almost forced to admit that this is an ideal which can never be attained? But is it? Is not our God the God of the impossible? Did He not say that with Him all things are possible? And our faith is not in ourselves but in Him. He is able, and will do it. If this were not so then it would be futile [48/49] to continue. But because it is so, we can continue. How then do we begin to live out this true unity? "With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love." In one word, humbly. The outworking of true unity in any fellowship of God's people depends upon all in that fellowship being clothed with humility. Where there is pride and self-seeking, there is always strife. Let us never be a party to this. We are not in the Church to seek our own ends but to do the will of God.

HUMILITY is the hall-mark of the new life. It characterised our Lord's life while He walked on the earth among men. Did He not say to His disciples: "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart"? Did He not give the perfect example? He, the Son of God, could have walked this earth as the mighty monarch He is, but He chose instead the lowly things of earth. A stable, not a palace, to be born in. Nazareth in Galilee, rather than Jerusalem, to live in. The carpenter's shop, and not the Temple schools, to be taught in. He began His public ministry in Galilee, on the shore of the lake, and not from a prominent position in the temple courts. No invitation was sent out to the high priest and leading members of the Sanhedrin to attend the inaugural meeting. No, He walked with the lowly and with the outcasts; with them He travelled the highways and by-ways, His pulpit the mountainside or a borrowed boat on the sea. He took an interest in ordinary people, who flocked to hear Him as He taught them in a way which they could understand. His illustrations were taken from the things of everyday -- the sower, the corn of wheat, the leaven in the bread. He was clothed with humility.

He was also patient and forbearing. How patiently He taught His disciples! They were not always quick to learn. Often, after a day spent in teaching the multitudes, He was asked by His disciples to explain the teaching. They were slow to understand. They argued among themselves as to who should be the greatest; they turned away the mothers and their children from the Master; but through it all the Lord was patient and forbearing. The apostle Paul put it so beautifully: "Let Christ Himself be your example as to what your attitude should be. For He who had always been God by nature, did not cling to His prerogatives as God's equal, but stripped Himself of all privilege ... And having become man, He humbled Himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death He died was the death of a common criminal." (Philippians 2:5-8 Phillips). Do we measure up to this example of His? If, by grace, we do, then we can begin to work out that unity which is ours in Christ.

AS members of His body we are recipients of gifts to be used for the building up of the Church. To one is given the word of wisdom, to another the word of knowledge, to another faith, to another gifts of healing. To another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another divers kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. Some are called and equipped to be apostles, others prophets, others evangelists, others pastors, and others teachers. But all are in one body and members one of another. No one member is sufficient in and of himself. How we need to recognise this! What a tragedy it is to see gifted Christians puffed up with pride and a sense of their own importance. Christian, remember that the gift you have is a gift and not a reward. If it were a reward, you might be justifiably proud of it, but seeing it is a gift you have nothing to be proud of. What you do have is a responsibility to use your gift for the edification of the Church, and this is a responsibility which should fill you with humility and godly fear, not with pride and self-seeking.

If we are to live out the true unity which is ours in Christ and enjoy the blessings which flow from it, we need to use our gifts, not for self-aggrandisement, but for the building up of the body. In order to do this we need to recognise the limits of our own gifts. One cannot do more than that for which God has equipped him; if he tries he is sure to fail. We also need to acknowledge the gifts of others. How we need Christians with the gift of discernment, to discern the reality of the gifts of others and to help them to use their gifts and to take their place in the body as living members. Remember, all members are necessary to make up the whole. The greatest and most gifted member is only a tiny part of the body of Christ. God does not intend one member to fulfil all the offices, but needs each member to fulfil that office for which he is called and equipped. Then the true unity which is ours in Christ will be worked out. Then [49/50] the saints will be edified and will rejoice in the sovereign bounty of God. These gifts are for the edifying of the body in love. This cannot be over-stressed. In love. For love is the very life of God which flows through the body and binds all the members together. As blood is the life of the natural body, so love is the life of the spiritual Church. Without it there can be no true unity.

Now Satan wants to make Christians believe that the blessings of true unity are not for this life, but something to be looked forward to after we enter into heaven. He knows only too well that when Christians are united, of one heart and of one mind, his kingdom is certain to suffer disastrously, so he employs all his cunning devices to prevent the Church from living out the true unity which is hers in Christ. He often transforms himself into an angel of light, telling the Christian how good and humble he is not to strive after the fullness of God's will. 'Live a quiet, ordinary life' he whispers, 'be content with the blessings you have. Have nothing to do with believers who talk about the fullness of God. You will be able to enjoy that in the life which is to come. Be a simple, sensible person. You are not sufficient to live the life on the highest plane which some deluded Christians talk about. Don't spend too much time in their company; they are dangerous. Just accept things as they are.'

BROTHERS and sisters, of course it is true that we are not sufficient of ourselves, and not capable of living out and enjoying the blessing of true unity. But, speaking of the other Comforter whom the Father would send, the Lord Jesus said: "but we know him, for he dwelleth with you, AND SHALL BE IN YOU." Oh, what a glorious truth! It is as though our blessed Lord was saying: 'I know that you are not sufficient in yourselves to keep my commandments, but My Father has provided all that you can ever need in the gift of the Holy Spirit.' The surrendered, consecrated, Spirit-filled Christians who abide in Christ can enjoy the blessings of true unity here on earth. They are sufficient, for they are in Christ. It is of the utmost importance that the Christian know his position in Christ. The fact is that God in His wonderful two gifts, the gift of His Son and the gift of His Spirit, has given us all we need for time and eternity to live the full, victorious life on the highest plane. It is not God's fault if we are like spiritual paupers. There is placed for us in the Bank of Heaven a deposit that makes us spiritual multi-millionaires. God has done all on His part for us to live the life that glorifies Him. And now, as God's children, we must do our part. God cannot write our cheques for us. The cheques which are valid in the Bank of Heaven are already signed. The Name which is above every name is written on them. All we need to do is to fill in the amount and the date and then present them at the throne of grace.

What we need to grasp is that the fullness of the Spirit is not the privilege of the few but the prerogative of all. Since God has provided this fullness for every believer, it is our responsibility to see that we really are filled with the Spirit. As we have said, God has done His part. What is ours? We may get help in this matter if we refer back to the anointing of Aaron, which is a type of spiritual anointing. Of the various points, we select two: first that it was to be poured upon men's flesh, and second that it was a special anointing oil to be used only for that which had been given to the Lord for His service. Firstly, then, we may say that the Lord Jesus pours out His Spirit on the basis of the crucifying of the flesh with its affections and lusts (Galatians 5:24). The Christian who attempts to obtain a little of the best of both worlds will never know the fullness of the Spirit. But the one who has consented to the death of his old nature and reckons himself to be dead indeed unto sin and to the world, may know himself to be an empty and cleansed vessel which God can fill for His service. This brings us to our second point, which is that the oil or ointment was to be used for anointing that which had been given to the Lord for His service. It is so with the Holy Spirit. Aaron was called to the priesthood. This meant that his life would never be his own again, but was altogether consecrated to the service of God. He would have no property of his own, nothing that he could call his. He could have no ambitions of his own. His life, from the moment of his anointing, would be given up to obey the will of God daily. Aaron yielded to this.

CHRISTIAN, you are called in the same way -- called to be a priest unto God through Jesus Christ. The first step, then, is to yield your life back to God. You are not your own. You have been purchased. Have you ever handed yourself over to your Purchaser? Remember, [50/51] you yield yourself to God not in order to become His, but because you are His. This is only the first step, only the beginning of life in the Spirit. As you yield yourself to the Lord He will take you, as Moses took Aaron, and wash you. And then He will anoint you, baptise you, fill you -- use whatever terminology you like. He will do it. He will consecrate you to His service and equip you for it. But remember, this is only the beginning. The anointing of the Spirit, the baptising in the Spirit, the filling of the Spirit, is only the beginning of true life in the Spirit.

This has been true throughout the history of the Church. Whether the Christians so anointed have been lifted up into realms of ecstasy when they have been filled, or whether they knew only a deep peace and joy flooding their beings, or whether they accepted by faith without any feeling and only later realised what a wonderful change had taken place; it matters not. What matters is that we should be filled with the Spirit. God is calling us to a new walk in the Spirit, that the Church might be a vessel in His hand through which rivers of living water can flow to this parched and barren world. He has shown us our union with Christ, our Head, and through Him our union with one another. Will we accept by faith His provision of abundant life, and enter into the blessing of true unity? "Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! ... for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore."


(Studies in the epistle to the Galatians)


Harry Foster

WE continue straight on from our previous consideration of sonship, and are not surprised that Isaac is brought before us as an example of the true son. He was born of the free woman, and so he was free. Liberty, therefore, is the outstanding theme of chapter 5. We are reminded that we were "... called for freedom" (5:13) and told that "the Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all" (4:26). Furthermore we are urged to stand in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and to help us Isaac is presented as our example of what it means to be a free son.

Isaac was free. He had a half-brother, Ishmael, and those who looked on might well have judged that he was really the son who was free. Abraham, his father, never told him what he should do and what he must not do, but let him run wild. Before Ishmael's birth his mother had been told that he would be like a wild ass. This, however, was a false freedom, an empty freedom, as the so-called freedoms of this world always are. We look at the true son, Isaac, walking with his father to Mount Moriah, arriving there and building an altar, and then finding himself bound and placed on that altar. Is this what we call liberty? Well no, it is not what the world calls liberty, but it was in fact an expression of Isaac's true liberty, for his was the liberty of love. He had liberty to go with his father, liberty to submit to the father's good pleasure, even if it meant an altar. The natural mind would have called it a fight for freedom if he had struggled with his father, overpowered him, escaped from going on the altar or else climbed down off it and run away. And Isaac could quite well have done any of these things, for he was big and strong enough. But he was a son, and as such had the liberty of a son to be wholly committed to the father's wisdom and love. In a sense this was the climax of Isaac's life.

In Isaac's story we have an illustration of the Lord Jesus. He had liberty to stay in heaven. He had liberty to choose the best house in Jerusalem in which to be born. He had liberty not to die, or else to live first in a palace and walk from the palace to the cross. In this way He could have shed His blood for sinners, and indeed might have done it in a way which was calculated to appeal to men's idea of heroism. God is not looking for heroes: He is looking for [51/52] sons. And because the Lord Jesus was a Son He had liberty to go with His Father to the cross. The onlookers suggested that He should come down from the cross, but He was a Son, so He stayed there to complete the Father's will. So it was that when He was raised from the dead, the Father proclaimed "Thou art My Son ...". And that was the great day of liberty for Him, and for all of us who trust in Him. So quite clearly, the world's ideas of liberty and the true liberty of the sons of God are two different things.

We read in John's Gospel of men who claimed to be Abraham's sons and who were very offended when the Lord Jesus offered them liberty because they claimed to be free already (8:33). They were not very truthful about this matter. Abraham's family had spent many years as slaves in Egypt. Abraham's descendants had been taken away as slaves to Babylon. Even as these men spoke they were in an occupied country under alien rule. So it is that men so easily deceive themselves, claiming to have liberty and yet living in manifest bondage. We notice that the apostle appealed to the Galatians not to use their liberty as an occasion for the flesh (5:31). I am not sure how this can be done. To me it sounds like the talk about using the gifts of the Spirit in the power of the flesh. I really cannot think how this is possible. Probably what the apostle really meant was that the Galatians should not wrongly imagine that theirs was the true liberty of the sons of God, but rather recognise it as a false, and fleshly, liberty. Which brings us to the great contradiction of false liberty, of those who claim to be free and imagine that they are free, when in fact they are still slaves. What are symptoms of false liberty?

1. A Wrong Attitude to God

Those who indulge in false liberty have a mistaken attitude towards the Lord Himself. May we return to the scene of the two meal tables at Antioch? Before Peter sat down at his table of the circumcised I feel sure that he offered thanks to God. And yet it is clear that this table made for a situation which was in direct opposition to the revealed will of God -- it was a grave mistake. It seems strange that people could sit down together at a table and offer God thanks, when in fact they were displeasing Him. Yet the Old Testament abounds in examples of those who used and quoted God's name although they were disobeying Him. King Saul, for instance, still continued to invoke God even in his worst days of rebellion against God's will. The old prophet who beguiled his 'brother' from Judah to disobey the Lord, even had the effrontery to quote God for what he said. Such use of the Lord's name in the pursuit of our own ways is all too common, but it is a wrong kind of liberty. Indeed, it can better be described as 'taking liberties', which is a very different thing.

The whole subject of legalism -- of trying to make God come our way instead of humbly accepting His way -- is aggravated by the fact that those concerned vainly imagine that theirs is the life of liberty, whereas everybody else can see how they are becoming "entangled again with the yoke of bondage". Then again, we take liberties with God when we glibly assert that God has told us to do something, while to everybody else it is evident that He did no such thing. It is a fault of preachers that they tend to pontificate as to what God will do and how He will do it, only to be proved wrong by facts and events. Any so-called liberty is not real if it is not of faith, for supremely our spiritual liberty is expressed by our humble faith in God.

2. A Wrong Attitude to Others

False liberty also involves a wrong attitude to our brothers and sisters in Christ. I hope that you are not weary of my referring to Peter at Antioch. I have a sense that if he were here he would say to me, as he might have said to Paul, 'You have my full permission to tell the whole story if it can be of any help to them and glory to our Lord'. It seems to be a fact that our mistakes sometimes help people more than our achievements, provided that we are humble enough to accept rebuke and to put things right with the Lord. It seems clear that the two different tables at Antioch implied that in God's family there are first-class brothers and second-class brothers. What else could they have meant? Like the rest of us, Peter would doubtless have claimed (or taken it for granted) that he was one of the first class. We all do that. The other people are the ones who belong to the second grade, though Peter might well have hoped (as we do) that ultimately these inferior brothers would attain to the 'first table'. In the meantime, however, his action betrayed a wrong attitude to some of his brothers. [52/53]

There are, of course, many degrees of spiritual growth in the Christian life; but there is no suggestion that believers can be divided into two -- or more -- groupings. It is a wrong kind of liberty, this readiness to criticise and classify God's people. The 'emancipated' Christian sometimes feels qualified to put others right, but he should first consider how seldom the Lord Jesus did this to His disciples. It is true that He had liberty to say at any time: 'You are wrong, Peter' or 'You are wrong, Andrew', for they often were wrong, and He was always right. He had a greater liberty; the liberty to keep silent. Such liberty as that is all to rare. We usually prefer to have -- or take -- the liberty to tell people how wrong they are. Now the Lord Jesus did correct His disciples from time to time, but it is clear that He only did this when He knew that it would help them. We reprimand people because it makes us feel better, and we even say to ourselves at times: 'I have given them a piece of my mind; I have told them where they are wrong; and now I feel better'. The Lord Jesus had no wish to feel better Himself: what He wanted was to help his disciples. On one occasion He said: "I have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now."

So He had the liberty to be silent. Alas! our liberty is often to hurt and wound. Let us see what these Galatians, these sons of Abraham who claimed to be so superior, were doing. They were biting and devouring one another (5:15). Paul warned them that if they went on in this unbridled way it would only result in destruction. Things have not changed much. God's people are still behaving in this way, hindering and spoiling His purposes while they boast of a liberty which is really quite false. Our liberty is to keep silent. Our liberty, when we do speak, is to speak in love. Our liberty is to build up, not to pull down. False liberty is just the opposite. It divides up God's people. It almost happened at Antioch. It was happening in Galatia. And yet in both places those concerned imagined that they were upholding a divine truth. In our day the same things are happening, and for the sake of a 'truth' Christians denigrate and almost devour one another.

Divisions are never caused because believers think that they have an error, but always because they stand for a truth. They may even have several truths, but more often it is one special truth. It may perhaps be a very precious truth, like the Second Coming; it may be a traditional truth or a special doctrinal stress; but isolated truths which are not held in balance seem always to divide and not seldom to produce bondage among those who concentrate on them. It is only as any truth is given its place as part of the whole truth that it is a healthy truth. And of course the truth is in Jesus. Truths, as such, may make us slaves, but the Truth has liberating power. That is why the Lord explained His statement; "The truth shall make you free" with the additional words: "the Son shall make you free" (John 8:36). Such freedom ensures that a Christian will always have a right attitude to his fellows.

3. A Wrong Attitude about Oneself

I still have a third point about this false liberty; it not only makes you wrong about God and about your fellows, but also makes you wrong about yourself. I do not know whether Paul had a sense of humour, but imagine that he must have chuckled when he wrote: "If a man thinketh himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself" (6:3). Is there anything more ridiculous than a nobody thinking that he is a somebody? If only he could laugh at himself!

The name Isaac means Laughter. At first Sarah had laughed because she disbelieved God's promises, but afterwards she came to laugh with joy about her son, and I think that she must have been laughing at herself. Isaac was a free son, free to laugh and so freed from self-importance that he was able to laugh at himself. This may not sound very spiritual but it is a healthy state of mind to have. Sometimes -- like the legalist -- we have thought that we were somebody or were competent to do something, and then the grace of God has made us realise how absurd we were and helped us to laugh at ourselves. Others were laughing at us all the time, but we took ourselves so seriously until the Lord delivered us from self-deception so that we knew that we are nothing. Surely it is a mark of true liberty, to be able to laugh at yourself.

I can imagine that once Peter had recovered from the sting and shame of his actions at Antioch, he would laugh at his own folly. He had been a great man for God. The Lord had done mighty things through him, but He had [53/54] done them because of Peter's awareness that in himself he was nothing. "Why look ye so earnestly on us ...?" he had asked, after his first miracle (Acts 3:12). "Who was I ...?" he demanded of his critics (Acts 11:17). Those were wonderful days when Peter knew that he was nothing and nobody, and God worked mightily by means of him. Then he came to Antioch, to a church the founding of which owed nothing to him, and acted as though he was a somebody. Perhaps he even feared that he might lose his position, and folk might not realise who he was. It was a false liberty, as mercifully he later discovered. His letters reveal him as a man who made no claim to do anything and was consequently living in liberty. He did not care what people thought about him. He did not fear what they would do to him. He knew that he was nothing and that Christ is all, and that is the secret of true liberty.

The Gospel of Luke tells us how two children of Abraham were emancipated. There was a woman who was nominally a daughter of Abraham (13:16) but in fact had lived eighteen years of contradiction under Satan's bondage. We do not know how old she was, but feel sure that she was more than eighteen, so that she had not been born in this condition. She had been born free in this respect, just as all true Christians are born free. But at some point her freedom had been taken from her. We have no need to apportion blame, but only to be reminded that those who are born free -- whether in Galatia or anywhere else -- can get themselves involved in some bondage which makes them a pitiful contradiction of their new birth. This was Satan's work. And note that it was accepted by the ruler of the synagogue, who was such a slave to legalism himself that he begrudged the liberty which Christ offered. The Galatians were in danger of having a similar spirit. They wanted to observe days and seasons, so that all who entered their church would be bound down earthwards instead of being able to look up boldly to heaven. Is this what the Church is for? To impose burdens, to lay down procedures? To put people in the wrong? No, it should be the place where the Lord has liberty to give liberty. As the Lord set her free He pointed out that as a daughter of Abraham this was her birthright.

The other story concerns a man. The Word of God is very wonderful. Had there been two daughters, we might have drawn the wrong conclusion; and had there been two sons, the women might have felt left out. But no, there was a son of Abraham. He lived in Jericho among a crowd of priests and Levites, but his was an even worse bondage than that of the woman in the synagogue. He was evidently very rich, but he does not seem to have had a friend, until Jesus invited Himself to spend the day at his house (Luke 19:5). Satan had also bound this man, bound him with the love of money, and love of selfish ambition until nothing but the grace of Christ could set him free. It must have been a dramatic moment when Zacchaeus stood up and publicly announced his emancipation. It was very practical; it touched his pocket; it transformed his whole way of living. What all the legalistic inhabitants of Jericho could not do, what they really did not even want to do, what Zacchaeus could not do for himself, Christ did in one single interview. The Lord's only comment to the disgusted legalists was that this should be the experience of every son of Abraham -- he should enjoy the full liberty of the gospel.

This is what Galatians 5 told the Galatians. It tells us the same thing. You don't work towards freedom; you don't fight for freedom; you take it as a free gift from Christ, and you use it for His glory.


(Part of a message given at a Conference of evangelists)

Roger T. Forster

I THINK that the most obvious Scripture to be considered by those who want to learn about working for God is Second Corinthians, because in that letter Paul exposed his problems, his trials and difficulties, yes, and his own soul to those whom he loved and who were the fruit of his ministry.

It is significant to note that all through the epistle Paul stressed the importance of power. [54/55] None of us who are Christian workers ever get to the place where we do not long to have a greater experience and a fuller expression of the power of God. We are aware that we need God's power. God is the one who at the beginning commanded light to shine out of darkness; and in the new creation, in seeking to bring forth God's work in the new creation, the same power, if not more, is required. And we know our own failures. We long to know more of the power of God. This letter speaks of it all the time. From Paul's first reference to God's resurrection power (1:9) he continually focused on this matter until he closed with the passage which speaks of living by that same power (13:4).

His other theme -- in stark contrast with this one -- is that of weakness. From his confession of despairing inadequacy (1:8-9), through to his final claim that it was when he was weak that he was strong (12:10), the apostle stressed the fact that the gospel treasure is committed to earthen vessels, explaining that in conveying this treasure the Christian worker is conscious of being persecuted, pursued, perplexed and knocked down (though not knocked out!). We therefore conclude that the person who is working with God must know much of human weakness if he is to experience divine power.

This incredible paradox of man's sense of weakness and the exhibition of God's power is resolved in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, as all such paradoxes are: We read: "For he was crucified through weakness, yet he lives by the power of God" and find ourselves linked with Him in that: "we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God" (13:4). So this double line of experiences, these two conflicting kinds of knowledge, meet in the person of the Lord Jesus. It is the man or woman living in Christ who can begin to see these two things coming together in a productive, creational power which brings forth to the new life and new light of the new creation. We ourselves have no such creative power; with all our intellect, with all our emotion and with all our activity, there is no energy which can command light to shine from darkness for the production of spiritual life.

In directing us back to the actual creation scene, Paul pointed to the controversy of the gospel (4:6). There is the contrast between the old creation and the new, between the power of the devil and the power of God. Paul found himself in the tension of standing with God between the darkness of the world and the light of life, as if he had one hand on God and the other striking at Satan's kingdom of darkness. At the beginning of the creation there was a conflict; on one side chaos and darkness and on the other side God commanding that there should be light. So in the new creation there is a separation of light from darkness, with the servant of the Lord standing between the two and, as he does so, he knows the reality of his own weakness and insufficiency, but also proves the superiority of the power of God. It is painful, this tension of experience, but all true life is involved in tension, for there is always something to be overcome. So we are reminded of the two spheres of existence; there is the realm of darkness, blindness, unbelief and perdition under the rule of the god of this age, and there is the light and glory of a personal experience of Jesus Christ. And amid these two spheres of existence, the servant of God stands boldly to bring the one into the other.

Four wills are involved; there is the will of the worker, the will of the enemy of men's souls, the will of the captive who needs to be released into the liberty of the Spirit, and then lastly there is the will of God Himself. This last is all-important for, after all, whatever the servant of the Lord may will, and however much Satan's will is thwarted, and however much the captive will may be released, unless God takes a hand and Himself shines light into the darkness, there will be no spiritual, supernatural re-birth. Our consideration now, however, relates to the first of these wills, that is the responsibility of the worker with God between the two realms of light and darkness. We find here five 'don'ts' and five 'dos', which together make a sort of ten commandments for those working with God.

1. We do not give up (v.1)

This claim that we do not 'cowardly surrender' is repeated in verse 16. So there must have been times in Paul's experience when he was tempted to give it all up and throw in the sponge. This business of spreading the gospel, of bringing forth new creation, is such hard going and its pressure so great, that God's servant may well feel scared and ready to give up. But although Paul must have felt like this, he did not succumb, and he found that it was the mercy [55/56] of God which kept him going. This faint feeling was a part of his human weakness -- and ours -- and we do well to recognise it. Once we do this, we can laugh at the enemy, but if it creeps up on us unawares, we may imagine that it is something else, something to do with failure on our part, and lose our confidence in God because we have such feelings. Many people are discouraged from doing things for God because they are overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy. They truly love the Lord and want to express their gratitude to Him, but when the opportunity comes, they allow themselves to be put off. Once we accept that this faint feeling is a part of the cost of being in the business of a worker with God, we understand ourselves better, lay hold afresh on mercy and do not cowardly surrender.

2. We do not use questionable methods (v.2)

We have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, or the underhand methods. We are not going to use methods to convey our gospel which are in any way underhand, or in any way questionable. Now any means of communicating the truth of Jesus are legitimate as long as they do not confuse the message which we are trying to convey. Thank God that we can use any channel available unless that medium being used is going to compromise our message. But the medium or manner of conveying our message will always colour what we are trying to put over, and Paul said that we should be on our guard lest the means we use confuse the message which we are bringing. The question to ask is: 'Does this give a true image of the Lord Jesus? Does it adequately represent the gospel?' The manner in which we convey our message is bound to give colour to that message, so that people will consider the method and say that it is the message. It is most important, therefore, that our methods never cloud or misrepresent the gospel, making people think that it is something different from what it is.

3. We do not use craftiness (v.2)

We do not use the Word of God deceitfully, peddling it, using craftiness in the way that we put it over. There is a craftiness associated with the devil's operations; he is crafty, using the things of God for his own ends (11:3). As shown by his encounter with the Lord Jesus in the wilderness, he can so handle the Scriptures that they prosper his purposes rather than God's. It is not that he utters obvious untruths, but rather that he uses something which seems to be true, just twisting it so that it serves his own ends. There is an element in all of us which would make us use what is of God to bring credit to ourselves. Not least in the matter of our own piety do we tend to abuse the grace of God for personal aggrandisement. The servant of the Lord will never walk in craftiness, pretending to be an angel of light while in fact there are dark and unworthy motives in his heart.

4. We do not handle the Word of God deceitfully (v.2)

I have already referred to the phrase about 'peddling the Word of God'. This means to use it in some way which brings profit to us. The pedlar often tries to exaggerate his wares, to attract customers by pretences. We do not so handle God's Word, tampering with it in such a way as to leave out the parts which we do not like and over-emphasise those we do. 'Handling the Word of God deceitfully' carries with it the idea of cleverness, being just that bit too clever. I have heard it said, and I think that it is true, that when you are preaching the gospel the degree in which you display your own cleverness is the measure in which people will fail to see the Lord Jesus. This does not mean that the Lord is not clever, but that God's intention is that the gospel should be so elementarily simple that all can understand it. If we parade our own cleverness, then people will not see Christ but be distracted by our arts. We must therefore repudiate any tampering with the Word of God.

5. We do not preach ourselves (v.5)

This is very closely related to what I have already mentioned. We do not put ourselves forward nor promote our own interests. Of course there are times when we have to use personal experiences, and Paul was certainly not averse to incorporating in his message the account of his own conversion. There is a sense in which his experience was very closely connected with this creation passage, since God who commanded light to shine out of darkness certainly shone into his heart. The God who brought light to introduce His creation activities shone on the Damascus road and into the dark chaos of the life of Saul of Tarsus. It was so close to Paul's own experience that he could easily have used the story to illustrate what he was saying. But he did not do so. Was this perhaps [56/57] because of some divine restraint? Might it have been an unnecessary parading of himself? After all, we are not here to preach ourselves: we are here to preach Christ and to concentrate men's attention upon Him. It is not for us to offer ourselves as rather superior examples of Christianity, but only to magnify Him.

Now against these five negative things which we repudiate, there are five positive things which we practise.

1. "Manifestation of the truth ..." (v.2)

We make it our business to provide an open statement of the truth. Now the truth belongs to God, and it is given to us in trust. We are not permitted to pick and choose parts of the Bible, nor to put any slant on the Scriptures. Before we were converted, some of us hated humanity. We did not like people, so consequently we spent our time criticising them, running others down and emphasising their faults. Unhappily after our conversion we tend to do the same thing, only in theological terms, following our unregenerate tendencies to criticise and condemn. In doing this we may ignore the Bible's stress on the love and mercy of God. There are others of us who were kindly disposed towards people, even before we were converted, so afterwards we take pleasure in the sweeter, softer side of the Scriptures and tend to avoid mentioning such matters as sin and judgment. Both tendencies are wrong. It is true that Paul called the message "my gospel", but not for one moment did he ever forget that the gospel is God's good news, and must not be accommodated to any natural thinking of ours. We make an open statement of the truth. There are parts of it which we naturally dislike, but our likes and dislikes must never be allowed to obscure the truth.

2. "Commending ourselves to every man's conscience ..." (v.2)

We direct our message to the consciences of men. Of course we have to aim at their minds for understanding, and their wills for response, repentance and obedience, but supremely the gospel is directed to the conscience. This involves ability to realise in what direction different men can be made to feel shame. People may be conditioned by their birth and upbringing to react differently; some are sensitive on one point and some on another which is quite different. The man who walks with God needs to find by the Holy Spirit a divine way of bringing home a sense of guilt to the conscience of his hearers. One thing he must never do, and that is to turn aside from people as though they were hopeless and incapable of being reached. He does not let himself be governed by outward appearances, but seeks God's aid to pierce through the dense darkness and so to reach not just the understanding of desires, but the conscience "of every man".

3. "... in the sight of God." (v.2)

All planning and preparation, all speaking to folk or praying for them, and all preaching must be done under the oversight of God. Nothing must be regarded as out of the sight of God. Even as you talk to a fellow man you should be vividly aware of the Lord's nearness to you both. If I am only going to talk to people as in the sight of God, then I must obviously pray much more about what I am going to say. I must also pray about whom I am to speak to, and when, and how. I remember a German Christian who had been imprisoned by the Nazis for two and a half years saying to me: 'Brother, spend as much time talking to God as you do talking to men.' He also said to me: 'If you have two invitations to speak on the same day, always choose to go to the poorer.' It is a searching challenge, this claim to do all our work "as in the sight of God".

4. We preach the lordship of Christ (v.5)

This is our message, not ourselves but Jesus as Lord. The effect of such preaching, whether to non-Christians or to believers, is that it inevitably contains a challenge. The Word of God requires a response, because it comes through Jesus Christ and as He is Lord, He speaks from an authoritative position. We preach only Jesus, but we preach Him as Lord. We are not advertising ourselves; we are not promoting a philosophy; we are not propagating some good, ethical ideas; but we are proclaiming a person. Our gospel is intensely personal -- it is concerned with the face of Jesus Christ.

5. "... and ourselves as servants ..." (v.5)

So the fifth qualification for a worker is that he does not behave like a lord preaching the [57/58] servanthood of Jesus, but expresses Christ's lordship by himself becoming a servant of those to whom he goes. We have no right to go to the world with anything but service: we are here to serve. If we present ourselves as lords of the situation, either by the ecclesiastical involvement which we try to force upon our hearers or by our personal demeanour, even our tone of voice, people will sense that we are trying to be superior and will close their hearts to the gospel. Christ was the great Servant of God; He served His fellow men; He healed the sick; He fed the hungry and ministered to the needs of those around Him. So the man who is seeking to stand in this tension position between the world of darkness and the world of light, will find himself instantly being checked by the Spirit as to whether he is really acting as a servant to those to whom he goes, or whether he is trying to foist his superiority upon them. It is this servant demeanour which commends the gospel of Christ.

So much for the will of the worker with God. His efforts are directed all the time to securing a response from the will of the hearers, who can never take the veil off their own hearts, and would be no better off if they could, since they would still be facing in the wrong direction and therefore be in darkness. Their only hope is to turn to the Lord (3:16). Satan has blinded them and exerts all his will to keep them in darkness, but he cannot prevent them from making the simple act of turning to the Lord. At this point the will of God takes over, defeating Satan's will and accepting responsibility for the removal of the satanic veil. He can do this because He has annulled the darkness of Satan's kingdom because He invaded it in the gospel of the glory in the face of Jesus Christ. Two thousand years ago the Lord invaded the realm of darkness and wrested the enemy's authority and grip from him, so that now there is a greater authority. Previously we were under the devil's authority: he could keep the veil on our hearts. And now we have turned to the Lord and acknowledged His authority, and when a man does that the devil cannot say yea or nay about it. Christ has ripped the veil away because of what He accomplished at Calvary where He bore our sins and made an open show of Satan, triumphing over the powers of evil. So the supreme will is God's will, divinely, supernaturally operating to bring on to the scene the Holy Spirit who gives liberty and a saving light of the face of Jesus Christ. The worker cannot bring in the light. He can only cooperate with God in the ways which we have considered, making an open statement of the truth so that men may turn to the Lord and find the Spirit authenticating his message and delivering captive souls by an emancipating revelation of the face of Jesus Christ. Those who realise that they have this ministry, keep their eyes on the face of Christ and do not faint. They are working together with God.



Harry Foster

THE fourth name which Isaiah gave to the coming ruler was "Prince of peace" (Isaiah 9:6). The Lord Jesus is, of course, princely in His own enjoyment of the serene harmony of heaven, but this title means more than that, it means that He always gives triumphant peace when He is allowed to rule. The Bible gives great prominence to peace as one of God's greatest blessings. In both the Old and the New Testament it is used as the greeting which the Lord gives to believers and which believers should give to one another.

In the New Testament it is so often grace which introduces peace and rightly so, since for sinners there can be no inner harmony and no untroubled fellowship with God without the intervention and government of the Lord Jesus. It is not just that He gives peace but that He Himself is our peace (Micah 5:5 and Ephesians 2:14). No doubt the title points on prophetically to that coming rule of Christ when sin and strife will be no more, but it is relevant and valid here and now, for the gospel of His grace is the gospel of peace. [58/59]

Take an example from the New Testament. When Simon the Pharisee had been reproved, the group in his house broke up. Simon stayed at home, Jesus proceeded on His way to work more works of God and the forgiven woman was also obliged to move out, returning to a life which must have had as many problems as ever. The Lord Jesus did not invite her to share the company of the apostolic band; He did not arrange for her to be given shelter in some friendly home; He gave no indication that there would be any lessening of her temptations from within and from without; He voiced no earnest appeal that her neighbours should extend sympathy to her. No, she still had to go back and face a life full of tension and conflict. One thing, however, Christ did say, and this was most meaningful. It was "Go in peace" or more literally 'Go into peace' (Luke 7:50). If this is really what happened -- and I believe that it did -- then surely this was one of our Lord's greatest miracles. He is the Prince of peace.

I feel that I know something about this for, in quite another setting, it happened to me. I was deep in the Amazonian jungle with two Red Indians when I severely twisted my ankle and was forced to lie up. My companions were not Christians and were full of animistic fears of witchcraft, being quite capable of leaving me there to die alone if I had been unable to continue our trek. I knew this very well, but as I lay back and opened my Bible I found great comfort in Psalm 50.15, and so committed my case to God in prayer. Morning came, and we had to continue our journey. I found that although my ankle was still swollen I could put my foot to the ground and so on we went. I began by leaning on a stick but soon I was able to throw the stick away and walk quite normally. To me this was a miracle. It saved my life. But the physical relief was almost insignificant compared with the far greater inner miracle which had preceded it. For no sooner had that verse of the psalm been appropriated and my prayer prayed than I experienced a quite indescribable rest of mind. Apart from the physical discomfort I spent the whole night in as unruffled a peace as I had ever known in my own bed at home. I am far from placid in temperament, and my circumstances were calculated to strike panic into the calmest of men, but my heart and thoughts were completely taken care of by the peace of God which passes all understanding. I knew the reality and nearness of the Prince of peace. The Philippians were guaranteed that this would happen to them, too. The Thessalonians, surrounded by ominous evidence of their many enemies, were assured by Paul that the Lord of peace Himself could give them peace at all times in all ways (2 Thessalonians 3:16). The apostle could not offer them any prospects of easier conditions, but he could and did commend them to the Prince of peace. Has not the Lord left this legacy to His Church? Did He not say: "My peace I give unto you"? It is the Prince of peace who says to us all: "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful" (John 14:27).



Harry Foster

IN a little church on the west coast of Ayrshire in Scotland there is a tablet in memory of a man who made the supreme sacrifice of his life in the carrying out of his daily duty.

He was a postman, and in the course of his work used to carry letters to outlying farms and hamlets, often in rough weather. It so happened one day that there was a fierce snowstorm, so heavy as to make it dangerous for anyone to try to get over the hills. On that very day there were two letters for a farm some miles away from his office. The postman got ready to set out on the perilous journey, but his family and friends tried to dissuade him from going. The postman, however, had a very strong sense of duty, and refused to allow the stormy weather to hinder him from the delivery of his mail. So, [59/60] with a cheery word to his friends, he set off to battle his way through the blinding snow, carrying the letters in his leather bag.

He was never again seen alive. Some days afterwards his body was found in a frozen state, and all knew that he had died trying to fight his way through the snow with his letters. His friends and family were so impressed with his heroism that they subscribed to have erected in the local church a memorial stone which could record his act of supreme sacrifice in the fulfilment of duty.

But there is a sad side to the story. When they opened the bag and removed the two letters which had cost him his life, they found that the envelopes only contained bills which could easily have waited. The postman did not know this, of course; he had been inspired by the fact that there was a message to be taken and at all costs he must take it. In the event there was no message and his was a wasted sacrifice.

The gospel is the story of how the Son of God came down from heaven with a message, and how He laid down His life in order to bring that message to us. But His was no wasted sacrifice. He did not bring demands upon us or reminders of our debts to God; He brought the good news of God's loving gift of eternal life. So His memorial is not a stone tablet to a wasted sacrifice but the living testimony of those who have received His message and have found eternal life through His death. Each one of them can say: "He loved me, and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). Can you say this?

CHEERFUL GIVER -- The Woman with the two mites

"Cheerful Giver's story has helped me in my own spiritual life. It has reminded me that whatever and whenever I give, it should be to God Himself and not just to a cause. This, I think, was implicit in the contrast which the Lord made between her gifts and those of the rest. Their lavish donations were motivated by patriotic and personal pride, but were not genuinely an offering to God as hers was. And what shall I say about her giving all? The significance of the two coins was that it would have been so easy to have divided the sum, for even after one mite was given she could have withheld the other. It was the deliberate totality of the offering which was so impressive, and not only impressive but Christlike.

I ask myself, am I prepared to be outdone by a nameless widow who knew nothing of Christ's sacrifice on the cross? She had never sung 'I surrender all', but I have. She knew nothing of the last verse of 'When I survey the wondrous cross', whereas I know it by heart. I find myself challenged, not to get rid of all the money I have and put it in a collecting box, but to hold it all solemnly and conscientiously for God. As I hold a mite in each hand, I am tempted to think that while one must be given to God, the other is mine to do with what I like. I am wrong. Christ's standard -- and Cheerful Giver's standard -- is one hundred per cent. How can mine be less?"

(From SPEAKING ANONYMOUSLY by Harry Foster. Price 50p) [60/ibc]

[Inside back cover]


   Vol. 1   50p /$2.30
   Vol. 2   30p /$1.28
   Vol. 2 (Cloth boards) 37p /$1.60
WHAT IS MAN?   37p /$1.60
   Vol. 1   37p /$1.60
   Vol. 2   25p /$1.07
   Vol. 1 (Cloth boards) 33p /$1.39
   Vol. 1   25p /$1.07
   Vol. 2   17p /$0.75
OUR WARFARE   23p /$0.96
   CHRISTIAN LIFE   23p /$0.96
IN CHRIST   20p /$0.80
   THE LORD JESUS CHRIST   14p /$0.58
HIS GREAT LOVE   7p /$0.32
CHRIST -- ALL, AND IN ALL   4p /$0.15
   3p each ($0.10) or 30p per dozen ($1.00)    
   2p each ($0.07) or 20p per dozen ($0.70)    
1p /$0.04
Collections of various messages by T. Austin-Sparks    
   and others)

THE WORK OF THE MINISTRY Vol. 1 15p /$0.64

Vol. 2 16p /$0.69

Vol. 3 17p /$0.75
   The three together   45p /$1.92
Books for children    
By G. Paterson    
By H. Foster    
READY FOR THE KING   7p /$0.32
ON WINGS OF FAITH   10p /$0.43
BURIED TREASURE   10p /$0.43
Bound volumes of this magazine for    
   1972 & 1973 each 60p/$2.30


To be ordered from:
39 Honor Oak Road, LONDON, SE23 3SH. Telephone: 01-699 5216

Also obtainable from:

Ministry of Life, Testimony Book Ministry, Gospel Literature Service,
Box 74, Rt 2, Box 34241, P.O. Box No. 65,
Cloverdale, West Bethesda Branch, Bombay 1,
Indiana 46120, U.S.A. Washington, D.C. 20034, U.S.A. INDIA

   For orders totalling less than £1 -- please add 25 per cent.
   For orders totalling more than £1 -- please add 12 percent.
   For all orders to the U.S.A. -- please add 15 percent.

[Back cover]

1 Thessalonians 5:24 (Phillips)

Printed by The Invil Press, 4/5 Brownlow Mews, London WC1N 2LD -- Telephone: 01-242 7454

  • Alphabetical
  • Chronological
  • Topical
  • Alphabetical
  • Chronological
  • Topical
  • Alphabetical
  • Chronological
  • Alphabetical
  • Chronological