"A Candlestick of Pure
Gold: of Beaten Work" Exodus 25:31
"The Testimony of Jesus" Revelation 1:9
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|May -- June, 1968
||Vol. 46, No. 3
DATES TO REMEMBER
MAY we remind our readers everywhere of the following special
gatherings which will be taking place, in the Lord's will, later this
year, and earnestly ask for your prayer fellowship for these ministries?
July 8th to 15th
Atlantic States Convocation at Camp Wabanna, Mayo, Maryland, when
ministry will be shared by Mr. DeVern Fromke, Mr. Stephen Kaung and the
Those wishing to attend should write early to: Mr. E. L. Chase,
1370 Ray Street, Norfolk, Virginia 23502, U.S.A.
September 7th to 16th
Conference at Aeschi, Switzerland. Further details and forms of
application for accommodation can be obtained by writing to: The
Conference Secretary, "A Witness and A Testimony", 30 Dunoon Road,
London, S.E.23, England.
"WHITHER THE TRIBES GO UP"
"Gather my saints together" (Psalm 1:5).
IT was a beautiful thought in the mind of God when, in His Divine
economy. He prescribed for the periodic convocations of His people.
Away back in the time of Moses He commanded that all the males in
Israel should journey three times in every year to some place of His
appointment [45/46] (Deuteronomy 16:16), the
details of which are worth noting. It is clear that David laid great
store by such convocations. Psalm 122 is (by its heading) attributed to
David, as were other "Songs of Ascents", or Pilgrimage. It was due to
division resulting from spiritual decline that such gatherings ceased
for so long, until Josiah had a great recovery celebration (2
Chronicles 34:18-19). It was therefore a sign of spiritual recovery and
strength when the Lord's people so gathered from near and far.
We can briefly summarize the values in the Lord's thought for such
1. They were times when the universality of God's Church, or "Holy
nation", as on the basis of the Passover (the Cross) was preserved in
the hearts of His people. "They left their cities"; that is, they left
exclusively parochial ground. By the gathering from all areas they were
preserved from all exclusivism, sectarianism, and the peril of
isolation. They were made to realize that they were not the all and
everything, but parts of a great whole. Thus the everpresent tendency
to make God in Christ smaller than He really is was countered.
2. Thus, they were times of wonderful fellowship. People who belonged
to the same Lord, but had either never before met, or had been apart
for so long, discovered or rediscovered one another, were able to share
both "their mutual woes, and mutual burdens bear", or tell of the
Lord's goodness and mercy. Loneliness, with all its temptations and
false imaginations, was carried away by the fresh air of mutuality. New
hope, incentive, and life sent the pilgrims back to their accustomed
spheres with the consciousness of relatedness.
3. They were times of consolidation. The Psalm says: "For a testimony
unto Israel." The testimony of the great thing that the Passover (the
Cross) means in the heart of His people. A testimony to the unifying
power of the blood and body of Christ. The gatherings held a spiritual
virtue in the livingness of the presence of the Lord. If they had been
assailed by doubts, fears, and perplexities, they went away confirmed,
reassured, and established in their common faith.
4. They were times of instruction. The Word of God was brought out,
read and expounded. They were taught, and they "spake one to another".
In a word, they were fed. There was spiritual food. The initiation of
these convocations was connected with three "Feasts" (Deuteronomy 16).
Eating and drinking in the presence of the Lord. They returned
fortified, built up, enlightened, and with vision renewed.
5. They were times of intercession. Possibly not every individual was
able to "go up". For various reasons -- infirmity, age, responsibility,
or some other form of detention -- kept some from the blessings of
joining with the pilgrims. But God's idea of the gatherings was -- as
put into later words -- "My house shall be a house of prayer for all
peoples." The New Testament is clear and strong on this point, that the
representation of the "Body of Christ" in any place can, and should
have real spiritual values for all its members because "the Body is
So, let the lonely, detained and isolated ones realize that when the
Lord's people are together, they are being supported. And let those who
are not so deprived of the 'gathering together' realize how vital it
is, and what a necessity there is in expressing this Divine thought.
Would to God that all our gatherings were after this sort!
"THINE IS THE KINGDOM, AND THE POWER,
AND THE GLORY, FOR EVER"
3. THE KINGDOM OF LIFE IN CONFLICT WITH THE KINGDOM OF DEATH
"And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every
tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life
also in the midst of the garden" (Genesis 2:9).
"And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the
garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded
the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat
of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die"
"And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one
of us, to know good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand, and
take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: therefore
the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, [46/47]
to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove
out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden the
Cherubim, and the flame of a sword which turned every way, to keep the
way of the tree of life" (Genesis 3:22-24).
"The thief cometh not, but that he may steal, and kill,
and destroy: I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly"
"The former treatise I made, O Theophilus, concerning
all that Jesus began both to do and to teach, until the day in which he
was received up, after that he had given commandment through the Holy
Spirit unto the apostles whom he had chosen: to whom he also shewed
himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing unto them by
the space of forty days, and speaking the things concerning the kingdom
of God: and, being assembled together with them, he charged them not to
depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father,
which, said he, ye heard from me: for John indeed baptized with water;
but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days hence"
"But ye shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is
come upon you: and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in
all Judaea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth"
WE are occupied in these messages with those words: "Thine is the
kingdom, and the power, and the glory", and I must take you back for a
minute or two to where we began.
You will remember what we said about the last verse of Matthew 16 and
the first verse of chapter 17. Jesus said to His disciples: "There be
some of them that stand here, which shall in no wise taste of death,
till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom", and because there
are no chapter divisions in Matthew's writing, the record runs straight
on into what is our chapter 17: "Jesus taketh with him Peter, and
James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain
apart: and he was transfigured before them." Many people have thought
that the Transfiguration was the fulfilment of those words at the end
of chapter 16, for they think it was the "Son of man coming in his
kingdom", but we have given good reasons for saying that that was only
half of the truth. The Transfiguration was the King presented in His
glory, but it was on the Day of Pentecost that the King came with the
THE COMING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
THE POWER OF THE KINGDOM
Now it is from that point that we have to take things up. "Thine is the
kingdom, and the power." It was on the Day of Pentecost that the
Kingdom came in power, for although the disciples had seen the King,
they had not received the power of the Kingdom. At the beginning of the
Book of the Acts the King is speaking to them "the things concerning
the kingdom", and then, having Himself been present as King and
speaking these things concerning the Kingdom, He said to them: 'Tarry
ye in Jerusalem until ye receive power, and ye shall receive power when
the Holy Spirit is come upon you not many days hence.'
What we want to see at this time, as the Lord helps, is what it is that
the Kingdom and the power focus upon. What is it that the Kingdom and
the power focus upon? In other words, if the coming of the Holy Spirit
is the power of the Kingdom, upon what does the Holy Spirit focus His
attention? I hope you will not think that I am exaggerating when I say
that this is the most important thing in the Bible, and it is most
manifestly true that it is the most important thing in the New
Testament. Be very patient with me, for I want to get this very clear.
What is the focal point of the Holy Spirit in relation to the Kingdom
and the power?
What is the supreme mark of the Holy Spirit's interest? Let me put that
in another way: What is the supreme evidence of the power of the Holy
Spirit? Now I am not going to give the answers that a lot of people are
giving to-day. They are saying: 'Except this ... and that ... you don't
know anything about the Holy Spirit!' Whatever there may be of other
evidences of the Holy Spirit, and we are not discussing that, there is
one supreme evidence of the Holy Spirit, and that truth is found in the
Bible from the first chapter to the last. There are, of course, a lot
of these other things which are not found in the Bible from Genesis to
Revelation, but you will find this one thing everywhere through the
Bible, and it comes out into full manifestation at the beginning of the
Book of the Acts. Well, one word: Resurrection. Resurrection is the
greatest thing in the Bible, and most certainly in the New Testament.
RESURRECTION IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
You open your Bible with this: "The spirit of God was brooding upon the
face of the waters." What was He there for? Why was He brooding over
the waters? Because the world had been baptized into [47/48]
the judgment of death. The baptismal waters had overflowed the whole
earth in judgment and everything was in a state of darkness and death,
so the Spirit of God was there for the purpose of resurrection -- and
it is something to be noted that it was on the third day of the
creation that living things came into being on the earth. The earth
began to produce living things on the third day, and everyone knows
that it was on the third day that the Lord Jesus rose again.
Well, we cannot pass through the whole Bible on this matter.
Undoubtedly Abram was in the realm of death. The beginning of his life
with God was like a resurrection from the dead, and the climax of
Abraham's life was the resurrection of Isaac. Later Israel as a people
were in Egypt, the place of death. The judgment of death was executed
upon Egypt, but, as by the power of resurrection, God brought His
people out of the land of death and darkness. It is said that they were
"baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea" (1 Corinthians 10:2),
and we know that baptism is through death into life. Later the nation
was in Babylon, the land of spiritual death, and there the Lord called
deliverance from Babylon a 'resurrection'. The Lord said, through the
prophet, "I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your
graves, O my people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel"
That is only a very imperfect indication that resurrection governs the
whole of the Old Testament.
RESURRECTION IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
Now when we come into the New Testament we come to these words of the
Lord Jesus to His disciples: "Ye shall receive power, when the Holy
Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be my witnesses." What did that
witness turn out to be? It is in one statement: "And with great power
gave the apostles their witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus
Christ" (Acts 4:33). They were witnesses to two things, or to two sides
of one thing. They were witnesses to the fact of the
resurrection, but they were more than that; they were witnesses to the power
of the resurrection.
Why did the Lord Jesus dwell forty days with His disciples after His
resurrection? Luke puts it into one statement: "He also shewed himself
alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing unto them by the
space of forty days." That is the answer to the question -- "many
proofs". He was going to leave them without any ground for a question
about this matter of the resurrection, and they were going to have the
evidence of the resurrection by many proofs.
Now, dear friends, resurrection is not just a doctrine. It may be
Christian teaching, but it is not Christian doctrine without up-to-date
evidence. Do you know that all the writing and the teaching about the
Lord Jesus and the resurrection was not done until thirty-five years
after it all happened? I do want you to get this. You see, we have it
in a book, and I could be just telling you what is in the book, for
there it says that Jesus died, was crucified, and God raised Him from
the dead, and then He appeared to His disciples for forty days. You can
read all that in the book -- but not one apostle had a book, that is, a
New Testament or any part of it. The teaching came after the truth, the
fact. What is in the book came thirty-five years after the fact. If
people were to ask those apostles: 'Now how do you know that Jesus rose
from the dead?', they would never have said: 'It is in the book.' They
said: 'It is inside of us!' It is a part of our own spiritual history,
and you will only have to wait a little while to see the proof of that.
You will do all that you possibly can in this world to kill this
testimony, every kind of power that is known will be used to kill this
testimony -- and this testimony will prove to be greater in power than
all the powers in this universe. When Jesus said: "Ye shall be my
witnesses", He meant that the apostles themselves would be personal
witnesses to this great fact. When Matthew wrote his Gospel, he did so
because the things that were going to be in it had already been proved
to be true in the world. Christianity had got on very well for at least
thirty-five years without any written record, for it rested upon facts
which were proved in the lives of those who preached. The impact of
this Kingdom was upon a realm greater than this world.
THE KINGDOM OF INDESTRUCTIBLE LIFE
The Kingdom of God is the Kingdom of indestructible life. Do you get
that? Let me say it again. This is not only a statement of Christian
truth; it is a test of Christian life. The Kingdom of God is the
Kingdom of indestructible life, but the Kingdom of God is in conflict
with another kingdom, and this is a thing we have been emphasizing all
the time. We have seen that the Kingdom of God is the Kingdom of light
in conflict with the kingdom of darkness, and now it is the Kingdom of
God as the Kingdom of life in conflict with the kingdom of
I wonder if you have ever stopped to think about: "Ye shall receive
power, when the Holy [48/49] Spirit is come upon
you"? I think there are a lot of mistaken ideas about this matter of
power. So many people tell us that this is what the power of
the Holy Spirit is, and that ... and that. Well, they may be more or
less right, but what I am saying to you, dear friends, and what I
believe to be the truth, is that the power of the Holy Spirit is the
power of Divine life. If I had the time I could prove it from the
Scriptures. You have only to see how power is linked with resurrection
in the New Testament to see that that is the power of the Holy
Spirit. What does the Word say about the Holy Spirit's action in
raising Jesus from the dead? It focuses upon the life that was in Him,
and says that when Jesus was in the grave He did not see corruption.
Peter quotes the Scriptures about this -- "Thou wilt not suffer thine
Holy One to see corruption " (Acts 2:27), and then applies that
Scripture to Jesus and says: "Nor did his flesh see corruption"
(Acts 2:31). The whole natural course of things was held in control.
And then Paul says: "If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the
dead dwelleth in you" (Romans 8:11). You see, the power of the Holy
Spirit was demonstrated in suspending the power of death. And then
there is that superlative word of the Apostle Paul: "The exceeding
greatness of his power to usward who believe, according to that working
of the strength of his might which be wrought in Christ, when he raised
him from the dead" (Ephesians 1:19-20).
RESURRECTION LIFE THE BATTLEGROUND
Well, I think you are getting clear that the supreme mark of the Holy
Spirit's presence is resurrection, but this resurrection life is always
the battleground between the two kingdoms. Take the case of the Lord
Jesus. It says: "In him was life" (John 1:4), and remember that that is
put right at the beginning of John's Gospel and is linked with the
incarnation. This Divine life did not come into Jesus at some later
period in His life. It was there from the beginning. Why is the little
babe, Jesus, immediately the object of the great murderer, Satan? That
devil-controlled man, Herod, will murder all the little boys in order
to get that one Boy. Satan wants to destroy that life before it gets a
chance of growing up! Well, the Holy Spirit saw to it that Herod did
Then, when the Lord Jesus came up from the waters of baptism and
commenced His preaching ministry, He commenced where all preaching
ought to begin -- in His own town. He went to Nazareth, and what did He
say in the synagogue there? He took the prophet Isaiah and opened at
the place where it is written: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me"
(Luke 4:18). The Divine life is within, and the Spirit is open. What
was the end of that episode? The men of His town took hold of Him and
dragged Him toward the edge of the hill in order to throw Him over and
destroy Him. The life, the Spirit, and the warfare: the power of death
seeking to destroy that Divine life.
And then, in Jerusalem. How many times did they take up stones to stone
Him? How many times did they take counsel together to put Him to death?
You see, it is the battle for this Divine life.
And what was true of the Lord Jesus was true of His apostles. The power
of the Spirit came upon them, the Divine life was in them -- and then
the battle began! Peter is put in prison. He is brought before the
council and the council decide to put him to death. Herod decides to
put him to death. He had killed James, and when he saw that that
pleased the people, he took Peter also. Stephen is stoned, and what
shall we say about Paul? He said: "In deaths oft". They stoned him, and
tried to kill him many times.
What is the reason for all this? It is that Divine life. Anything or
anyone who really is possessed of this gift of eternal life is a marked
person by Satan. Anything that has this Divine life in it is something
that Satan cannot endure. "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is
death" (1 Corinthians 15:26). Death is the great power of Satan, and
the power of the kingdom of Satan. Life is the power of the Kingdom of
This, of course, means two or three things. The first question arises:
If this is true, have we got this Divine life? Let me put that in
another way. Does the devil leave you alone? Does the devil tolerate
you? If there is any reason to feel that the devil is not troubled
about you, that ought to be a very great trouble to you! It is a very
good sign if the devil does not like you. Dead things are allies of the
devil. A dead church is never troubled by him because it is his ally.
Whether it be an individual Christian, or a company of Christians, if
they have this Divine life they will be in a battle. It is an easy
thing to say, but it is not so easy to experience. It is easy to say:
'Well, I believe that I have everlasting life,' and it is easy to say
that we believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but it does
involve us in a real conflict.
What I want you to take away with you is just this. This is not just
teaching about resurrection. We are to be witnesses to the
resurrection, and, as I have said, witnessing is not even just taking
the Bible and saying: 'It says in the Bible that Jesus rose from the
dead.' We must not only have a Bible, [49/50] we
must be the Bible. Why does the Lord allow the devil to attack
us? In order that the testimony of the power of His
resurrection might be manifested in us. Paul put it this way: "Always
bearing about in the body the putting to death of Jesus, that the life
also of Jesus may be manifested in our body" (2 Corinthians 4:10 --
R.V. margin). We are the testimony to the resurrection. "Ye shall be my
witnesses ... the power of the Holy Spirit coming upon you."
Because that Divine life was in Jesus, in His apostles, and in the
early Church, we are in the good of it to-day. Otherwise the best that
would have happened would have been that Christianity was a story in
some history books of two thousand years ago. It might even have ceased
to be a story at all, so great was the power of the kingdom of death
against it, but because this indestructible life was in it, and is in
it, it goes on and on through the centuries. The power of death is
sometimes so great that we wonder if we will survive and, like Paul, we
despair of life, but, as I have said so often, up we come again! With
Paul we say: "As dying, and behold, we live" (2 Corinthians 6:9).
This is the Kingdom of God in power in terms of Divine life. "Whether
there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it
shall be done away" (1 Corinthians 13:8), but that which abides for
ever is that life which the Lord has protected from the garden of Eden
(To be continued)
FROM SEPARATION UNTO REVELATION:
FROM REVELATION UNTO WORSHIP
[Message as spoken by Mr. DeVern Fromke at the Aeschi
IN our first time together we considered how Moses was one with God in
His purpose, and because of that oneness he had a very wonderful
authority for God. Then we considered how God wanted a people, His
people Israel, to be one with Him in fulfilling His purpose, but they
were so preoccupied with their own things and their own concern for
deliverance that they hardly saw anything of the larger intention of
God. God's Word says: "Where there is no vision, the people perish"
(Proverbs 29:18). The Fenton translation says: "Where a nation has no
continuous revelation she fades", and yet another translation says:
"Where there is no vision the people cast off restraint."
We ask the question: Why did Israel lack vision? Let us see this, not
in a group of people, but in one man -- Abraham. In the pathway of
Abraham's life we see unfolding revelation. In the beginning God gives
him a little flower bud, but in each crisis through his life the flower
bud blossoms more and more. I suppose Abraham thought he saw a lot when
he had the first bud. It was all in the flower bud, but it had not
blossomed. You pardon me, but I look back to the first time that the
Lord seemed to speak to me and I saw a bit of purpose -- and I thought
I saw it all! You know, each petal of the flower looks so different
when it opens. Well, we must see what is the controlling, or the
governing thing behind revelation.
We will turn first to the book of Genesis, chapter 13, and here we will
consider how God takes Abraham through various steps by which the
fuller unfolding of God's purpose is before him. There is one principle
that we must get hold of. In this chapter we read that the herdsmen of
Lot and the herdsmen of Abraham are quarrelling, for each wants the
best watering places and the best grazing land. Abraham tells Lot that
it is not right that there should be quarrelling among them. and in
verse 9 he says:
"Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I
pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to
the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the
Among Bible teachers in America we have what we call 'the Law of First
Mention'. This means that where a term, or word, is used the first time
in Scripture it gives us the meaning it will have throughout all of the
Scriptures. Now notice: Just as soon as Abraham turns and says to Lot:
"Separate thyself", we are going to see that immediately following the
separation God gives revelation. It says in verse 11: "Then Lot
chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they
separated themselves the one from other" , and the word comes again
in verse 14: "And the Lord said unto Abram, after that Lot was
separated from him". This word 'separation' is used three times,
but [50/51] immediately after separation God can
give revelation. You see, this pictures 'the Law of First Mention'. Now
let us see how this works.
When Abraham said to Lot: "Is not the whole land before thee?" how much
did Lot see? All Lot could see was the best watering-places and the
best grazing land in the valley. Do you know who Lot was looking out
for? Lot was looking out for Lot! That is why he chose the best, but he
did not see the whole land. He only saw, out of his own appetite, what
he wanted to see. People are so prone to say: 'If I don't look out for
myself, who will?', but I want you to see who looks out for Abraham
now. Immediately after Lot is separated from Abraham, God says to
Abraham: 'Now, Abraham, you look out ...'. "Lift up now thine eyes,
and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and
eastward, and westward." I think this is wonderful, for it did seem
as though Abraham had given the very best to Lot, but, you see, Abraham
and Sarah had moved up to the mountains and they had a higher
viewpoint. Looking out through God's eyes Abraham could see the whole
land, in all four directions. It always works this way, but until there
is a separating, we cannot see the fuller.
If we had a whole week on this we could see the seven separations in
the life of Abraham, and how meaningful each one is. After he was
separated from his family and country, God gave revelation. Separated
then from his father, Terah, at Haran, God unveiled a little more. Was
it not good of the Lord to allow Abraham to have Lot as a prop to lean
upon for a little while? But there always comes a time when He must
take away the thing we are leaning upon that we may learn to lean more
upon Him. Oh, how often have I seen a group of saved young people
together, but as soon as some of them begin to press further on to the
thing that God wants, there is a separating. I want you to notice that
Lot did not move all of a sudden down to Sodom; he just pitched his
tent toward Sodom. There have been times when I have had to put my arm
round a dear brother and say: 'You are pitching your tent toward
Sodom.' He has not taken a big move away: he is just casting his eye a
bit in that direction. Then after this separation from Lot we find Lot
falling into captivity to the nations, or the tribes, down in the
valley. When Abraham gets word of this he arms his household, goes
down, and wins the battle to liberate Lot. On his way back he meets
Melchizedek, and the king of Sodom, who says: 'Give me all the people
you have taken captive, but, Abraham, you take all the possessions.' I
like this separation now! "And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I
have lift up mine hand unto the Lord, the most high God, the possessor
of heaven and earth, that I will not take from a thread even to a
shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest
thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich." In this separation we
see that Abraham is not grasping for material things. Could mere things
ever really satisfy him? Because of this separation, immediately, in
chapter 15:1, we read of the revelation that God gives him: "After
these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying,
Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward."
Do you see this? If Abraham could have been satisfied with the mere
possessions, it would have meant nothing to him for the Lord to say: "I
am thy exceeding great reward." Oh, I have seen some of the Lord's
people have things taken away from them, only afterward to have them
say: 'Lord, You are so much more wonderful now!'
You may study these separations for yourselves. There are at least
seven of them, but there are that many unveilings of God's purpose to
Abraham. We see him being separated from Ishmael, a son whom he loved
after the flesh, but it is after he takes Isaac up to the mount and is
separated from him that the blossom seems to open the widest.
But I want you to see something else very wonderful. Every time Abraham
has a fuller unveiling, or revelation, he builds something. In Genesis
13 we read in verses 14 to 17 about what Abraham sees, and then in
verse 18 we read: "Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in
the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar
unto the Lord. " What is an altar for? Altars are always for
worship. Let us see that revelation is never for itself, but is always
unto something. Every crisis that the Lord takes us through, in which
there is a separating, is His opportunity to reveal more of Himself to
us. Oh, that we had time to follow through these earlier chapters where
we see God revealing Himself in new names! Each new significant name
flows out through some new unveiling of Himself. Did you ever meet
someone and enjoy fellowship with them at first, but as you began to
plumb the depth of their inner being you saw certain things that caused
you to disdain? But with another person, the more you saw into the
depth of their being the more you saw quality, character and virtue?
The English word 'worship' is a combination of 'worth-ship'. I am
finding this difficult to explain, but the Lord must help you to see
that He is bringing us to see how much more worthy He is than we ever
realized. Each new separation brings a further revealing, that there
might be a fuller worship unto the Lord. Remember that everything [51/52] in the Bible is working toward the Book of
Revelation, and what is the one thing the people are doing there? They
gather around the throne and, because they have had a revelation, they
are saying: "Worthy is the Lamb!"
In earlier days, when I would see a group of people gathered in a
meeting, I wanted to scold them because they could not worship better,
but, you see, worship can only be a form unless we have had new
separations, bringing new revelations, allowing fuller worship.
However, we must see that it is not merely outward separations that God
is after, but inward separations. In the book of Hebrews, chapters 3
and 4, we have a picture of Israel and God's longing for her to enter
into His rest. You see, Israel lived in the plane where she saw
the miraculous acts of the Lord, but Moses had been enrolled in
God's schoolroom and lived on the plane where he could see the ways
of the Lord. Psalm 103 says: "He made known his ways unto
Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel" (verse 7). Some
people think it is quite spiritual if they can see the acts of God. If
He were to put a pillar of fire over this room, or let manna fall, this
morning, we would have a big crowd tonight! But tomorrow they would
come back and say: 'Lord, let us have two pillars!' In America we have
so many people who live on the 'acts' level, but I trust we have all
been in Moses' schoolroom, learning the ways of the Lord.
We read in Hebrews 3:8: "Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation,
in the day of temptation in the wilderness: when your fathers tempted
me, proved me, and saw my works (or acts) forty years.
Wherefore I was grieved with this generation, and said, They do always
err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. So I sware
in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest." We saw last
time how Israel wanted just to be at ease, but they did not enter into
Now in chapter 4 we will see this work of separating which is so
necessary. In verses 11 and 12 we read: "Let us labour therefore to
enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of
unbelief. For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than
any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and
spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the
thoughts and intents of the heart."
First, we have the separation, or the dividing, of soul and spirit.
There are so many people who think they are worshipping God, but it is
only with their mentality. They try to think themselves, or feel
themselves, or will themselves, into the presence of God. That is
merely of the soul. I must confess that for many years, when I came to
the Lord's Table, I did not know how to worship in spirit. It was not
just new thoughts about the Lord that I needed, but a further unveiling
of Himself by the Spirit. Do you see how this separating of soul from
spirit can help bring about real revelation? And then the High Priest
takes His knife, as though to cut down and sever joint from marrow. Can
you see that a mere knife could never get the marrow out of the joints?
Doctors tell me that the marrow is so in the bone that it can only be
boiled out. But there is something much more wonderful than that here,
for all the blood is made by, or in the marrow. The marrow is the
factory of the blood. Now the joint is always moving for activity, but
because all the life is in the blood, there is something else that
should be the source of activity. I see so many people who are bundles
of busy, busy activity. What they need to have revealed is the real
life source that should control the joint. Activity of itself is mere
motion, but God sits in the marrow to control the joints from there.
The Lord will have to reveal that to you!
But there is a third separating here. It says that the word "is a
discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart". Here is my
thought, but hidden at the back of it is the real purpose, or the
intention. Have you ever had the Holy Spirit take His knife, after you
have said one thing, and say: 'But you meant something else'? Only God
can reveal, or help us to see the difference between this thought and
this intent. I have sensed through the years in meetings that there is
sometimes a strange and wonderful cutting, separating, dividing power
which can never be accomplished by the natural man.
I must close, but what we must remember is that it is not merely
separation from. Separation from things is only that we might
move unto the Lord more fully. You can always tell a separation
from, for the person is talking about: 'Poor me! How much I have had to
give up!' But the one who has been separated unto has seen something,
and he can only say: 'Oh! How wonderful!' What did Abraham lose to Lot?
Nothing! God just lifted him up to the larger viewpoint where he could
see in all four directions. DeV. F. [52/53]
FOR BOYS AND GIRLS
TO BE A PILGRIM
THE Pilgrims were tired. They were walking against time. And now they
had lost their way. There were five of them and they were not really
pilgrims but campers. There were five tents in the Boys' Holiday Camp
which their Bible Class had organized for them. Each tent held five
boys and each tent had a name. So there were Sowers, Heralds, Warriors,
and Ambassadors as well as Pilgrims, and, of course, there was much
rivalry between them.
In addition to the ordinary games and fun which made their camp such a
happy place there were occasional special competitions between the
different tents. At the moment the Heralds seemed to have the edge on
the other four, but the Pilgrims were coming up from behind and making
a tremendous effort to become the champions.
Today had been the day of the final Pathfinder contest. If the Pilgrims
could win this they would finish as the champion tent. For the contest
each leader had been handed a map and a route, with various landmarks
and points of call. The five routes were all different, but the
distances were equal and the first party home would be adjudged
winners. They had been given packed lunches and set off after
breakfast. Now it was late afternoon and the Pilgrims were on almost
the last lap of their journey. They had left Westlake some way behind,
and were pressing on towards Northfield, their last place of call
before the final rush home to camp. Time was all important and they
They had reached a place where five paths intersected, and had expected
to find there a signpost which would show which of these paths led to
Northfield. But they had been disappointed. At first it seemed from a
distance as if there were no signpost at all, but as they drew nearer
they saw that it was there, but it lay flat on the ground. The post had
rotted and either the wind had blown it down, or some mischievous
person had given it a last push and made it useless. Whatever the
cause, there it lay, and no one could tell which of the paths was the
John, who was in charge of the party , asked for the opinions of the
other four. First to speak -- as usual -- was Peter. "I feel sure that
it is straight on," he said. "Hurry up! Let's get moving at once or the
Heralds will beat us." "You may be wrong, Peter," said John, "you often
are. We mustn't rush the matter." "Come on," urged Peter, "let's get
moving. If we find that it is wrong we may find another sign, or we can
come back and start again." John turned to Stephen who gave his opinion
that the correct path was the first on the left, which was enough to
ensure that James would declare his view that it was the one on the
right. Just like James, John thought, he always has to be contrary. Of
course, he may be right. In any case this left only Andrew and himself,
so he turned to him and asked, "What about it? Is it first left, right
or straight on?" Whether John would have accepted a two to one majority
or not, we do not know, for Andrew also had his own ideas and thought
that it was the second on the left. "Oh dear!" exclaimed John, "what
shall we do? Every one of you wants to go a different way. There are
four chaps and four paths. Which is the right one?" "No" interjected
Peter, who liked his little joke, "there are five chaps and five ways!
Which one will you choose, John, the one we have just come along?"
At first John was a bit nettled by this and told Peter not to be an
ass, but then an idea struck him. "Right," he shouted, "that is one
thing we do know. We know the path which comes from Westlake. Come on
boys, lift up the signpost and swivel it round until the arm marked
WESTLAKE points back along the path we have come by. No, move it round
a bit more! Hold it!" They held it, and all looked up at the five arms
of the post. There was NORTHFIELD on the arm pointing second to the
left. "Come on," cried Andrew, letting go of the post again, "I win!"
"This is the way," said John, "but we must hurry if any of us are going
to win. No more talking, you chaps. Walk! And keep on walking!"
Great was the rejoicing that evening in the Pilgrims' tent. They had
just made it. And of course the whole camp had to hear of John's
detective act with the signpost. It had been done in the nick of time.
If they had waited to argue or to investigate further they would have
been too late. But the Pilgrims were champions. And they were very
proud of it.
At least they were until the Camp-fire Service after supper. For in his
message the Leader spoke on looking back and read the verse about the
men who were "strangers and pilgrims" which said "And if indeed they
had been mindful of that [53/54] country from
which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now
they desire a better country ..." (Hebrews 11:15). The Leader said that
on the whole looking back was a bad thing, at least if it included a
desire to go back. "But there are times," he said, "when a remembrance
of where we have come from may help to keep us on the right road.
Abraham may have seen a signpost sometimes which pointed to UR. It was
the way back. That was the place of the old life, the place of idols
and an empty heart. He had left that behind. And then if he turned his
back to Ur he would be facing the right direction to walk with God.
Israel often saw signposts pointing to EGYPT where they had come from.
It was the land of their slavery and their shame. When they turned
their backs on Egypt, Isaiah and other prophets told them, then they
would be able to walk in the ways of God."
"And how about the Pilgrims?" asked the Leader -- John and Peter and
the other three. Had they learned their lesson? All true Christians
have turned towards Christ, and that means turning their back on the
world. He asked the boys what they would do after the camp when they
got back to their ordinary life and saw the many signposts which
pointed back to sin and self. Would they remember that this was the way
of living which they had left behind? If they did, it would help them
to keep moving in the right direction. Pilgrims, yes and Sowers and
Heralds and Warriors and Ambassadors too, all of them should keep their
old life at their backs and look straight forward to the way of life
and blessing in Christ!
Did we say that the Pilgrims were no longer proud of their exploit with
the signpost? Perhaps that would not be quite true. But more than
proud, they were grateful. Grateful to be reminded never to look back,
except to gain fresh help for moving forward. That is the way for
pilgrims. And that is the way in which pilgrims become champions. H. F.
THE SILENCE OF SOVEREIGNTY AND THE
ACTION OF FAITH
"And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before
the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind
rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but
the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the
Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire; but
the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice"
(1 Kings 19:11-12).
"And he said, Thus saith the Lord, Make this valley full
of trenches. For thus saith the Lord, Ye shall not see wind, neither
shall ye see rain, yet that valley shall be filled with water: and ye
shall drink, both ye and your cattle and your beasts. And this is but a
light thing in the sight of the Lord: he will also deliver the Moabites
into your hand" (2 Kings 3:16-18).
THESE are two very well-known stories and you have had many messages
from the Lord based on them. There are truly many things in the whole
of these two incidents of considerable spiritual value, but for now I
want to concentrate upon one thing alone which will not be new to you,
but which has a new and stronger emphasis in my own heart. It is, I
believe, something of preciousness, wrapped up in a great deal more in
A CRISIS BROUGHT ABOUT BY HUMAN FAILURE
In both of the instances from which we have read there was a crisis. In
the first it was a crisis in the life of a prophet, and in the second a
crisis in the life of a king. In both cases the crisis had been brought
about by human weakness and failure. Elijah had inwardly collapsed and
asked the Lord to take away his life. It was human weakness and
failure. In the second case Jehoshaphat had made an alliance with
Ahab's son. While Jehoshaphat himself was a man almost blameless in his
own character and one of the outstanding men of truth for God in the
difficult years of the divided kingdom, yet he did some unwise things
and one of these was getting into touch with and allowing himself to be
drawn into this conspiracy to go out in campaign against the Moabites.
It was human failure which brought about the great difficulty and
something which threatened absolute disaster.
THE TRIUMPH OF THE GRACE OF GOD
But while it is true that there was a crisis in both cases and in both
cases a crisis brought about by the weakness of humanity, yet we see
the triumph of the grace of God, a glorious issue from all just because
of Divine grace. [54/55]
THE SILENCE OF SOVEREIGNTY
Now the point upon which I am focusing at the moment is the silence of
sovereignty and the sovereignty in Divine silence when the Lord's
people are involved. There are times, of course, when the Lord breaks
silence and comes out in a terrible manifestation of majesty, of might,
unto destruction. But that is not His normal way and specially not His
normal way with His people and with His servants. His normal way is
silence. In both of these instances, as you see, there was a great
silence which embodied tremendous power in which the mighty sovereignty
of God was bound up. It is really a matter of the Holy Spirit in
relation to the covenant purpose of God and in relation to the Lord's
honour, for I take it that the still, small voice (or, as the margin
has it, that voice of gentle stillness) is very typical of the Holy
Spirit, if it was not the Holy Spirit Himself. I also take it that
those waters which came down to save the situation in that terrible
crisis in the life of Jehoshaphat are typical of the Holy Spirit, but
how silently they came! He was not in the whirlwind, not in the
hurricane, not in the earthquake, not in the fire -- it must have been
very tempestuous round about! -- but in the voice of gentle stillness.
"Ye shall not see wind, neither shall ye see rain", indeed, you will
see nothing until it has happened.
How typical this is of very much of the mighty sovereign activity of
the Holy Spirit! Take each of these instances. Elijah: well, the
situation did seem to demand some tremendous demonstration of Divine
power. Although there had been that wonderful demonstration on Mount
Carmel, it did seem that Jezebel was even so in the place of greater
power than Elijah at the moment. How strange a thing this human nature
is, how deceptive and desperately sick these human hearts are! Even
when we have seen much of the mighty works of God, how utterly
despondent we can become after all. It is true, as James says, that
"Elijah was a man of like passions with us" (5:17), but put it round
the other way and it is just as true, we are people of the same
infirmities as Elijah. Human nature is the same everywhere and it did
at any rate at this point seem as though a mighty demonstration of
Divine power was the only thing that could result in survival for the
servant of God and what he represented, the Lord's covenant purpose.
Sometimes it seems that the indispensable necessity and irreducible
minimum is some sovereign act, unmistakable in its clearness of
definition, something that no one could fail to acknowledge as an act
of God that has saved the situation. It needs God's intervention for
the situation to be saved and the vessel of the Lord to be vindicated.
God must now do something that perhaps He had never done before. This
can be true to our own personal spiritual experience, it may be true to
the work of God with which we are bound up, it may be true as to the
whole testimony of the Lord involved in the world. The situation might
just now be something like that for many people on this earth with all
going to the enemy, all being lost.
A CRISIS OF ENLARGEMENT
It seemed like the end for Elijah and I would not like to have been the
man to argue with him at that point for I am perfectly sure that I
could not have moved him or persuaded him that things were not as bad
as they seemed. No, it was settled for him that this was an end. The
best thing to do would be for him to pass out, to die. But what so
strongly and desperately seemed like an end was really a crisis of
enlargement. There is no doubt about it that the introduction of Elisha
after this crisis was for enlargement. Elisha inherited a double
portion of his master's spirit and carried on his work with mighty
enlargement. And it all turned on this very point of apparent
How was this really a crisis of enlargement? It was not by a hurricane.
God did not just sweep in at this point with the irresistible wind
carrying all before it. It was not in the earthquake, upheaving and
overturning everything, shattering and breaking. It was not in the
fire, consuming and burning and destroying. The crisis of enlargement
did not come in any of those ways or in anything like those things. It
came in a voice of gentle stillness, a still small voice.
We pass on to the other incident in the life of Elisha. The emergency
had arisen by reason of those who had embarked upon this campaign
against the Moabites in the foolishness of an unequal yoke, a forbidden
association, an alliance with the household of Ahab and with Samaria.
Jehoshaphat and Jehoram went out to the wilderness, they went to the
battle, and in the wilderness their water supplies gave out. Disaster
threatened and was imminent. The whole of their army -- and it would
seem that that army was all that Israel could put into the field -- and
the whole nation was involved in this terrible threat. You know what
happened. Jehoram said, 'God has brought us out to destroy us'. That is
the reaction of unbelief. We need not put the blame objectively on to
Jehoram. When we get into situations such as this, there is always that
inside us which will say, 'The Lord is against us. He [55/56]
intends to finish us now'. Jehoram took that attitude. But Jehoshaphat,
a man of God, turned to the Lord, called for a prophet and the result
was: 'The Lord will make this valley to be filled with water'.
THE CALL TO FAITH TO ACT
In such a situation the call is to faith to act. Faith is called upon
to act when all seems hopeless, just to act. Here God is not accepting
passive faith, He calls for action, the action of faith. The valley was
there. What do you want more than a valley if you are going to have a
river? The natural situation seemed to be sufficient to provide God
with a channel, but God is not just taking that. He says, 'You dig,
even in the valley. There is something extra called for from you, make
ditches in the valley.' That seems superfluous, unnecessary. Surely the
situation itself is sufficient, it provides the Lord with a ground. No,
that is passive. In this situation you have to do something about it in
faith, to go the extra, to take action. I am sure you see the point. So
often we are in a situation which seems to be most suitable for
anything the Lord would do, a situation which is itself a ground for
the Lord. What more does the Lord want? He wants some action on your
part right in that situation, the action of faith.
How often a new practical committal has been God's way when all seems
lost. Some of us remember how in the First World War when the whole
situation seemed lost, when France was well-nigh overrun and the enemy
was carrying everything before him and the slaughter was terrible,
Field-Marshal Haig was asked, 'What are you going to do?' His answer
was, 'I am going to take the offensive', and he did and turned the
whole thing. When it seemed hopeless he took the offensive. Very often
that is what the Lord calls for when things are like that. He calls on
us to do something, not to throw up our hands and say that the day is
lost, but in faith to do something. They had to make ditches in the
The story is told and the lesson is very patent. A seemingly hopeless
situation exists which can be put down to our foolishness, our folly,
our weakness, our failure. There is a good deal for which we can blame
ourselves if we want to, if we are so inclined, but the grace of God
still abounds and the grace of God says, 'You are Mine, nothing is
hopeless if you are Mine. If you are bound up with My covenant purpose,
nothing is hopeless, I am going to fulfil it.' All that is left for you
to do is to take the attitude of faith and to act upon it. However
badly you may feel about your own weaknesses and mistakes, however
badly you may feel about the situation as an impossible and hopeless
one, you belong to the Lord and His covenant purpose is bound up with
you and therefore nothing is finally hopeless. But you must believe
that and you must do something about your belief. You must act in
faith, rise up and act.
So these people, these soldiers, turned to digging, digging ditches in
a valley, doing something that seemed to be unnecessary, and the result
was that there came waters. Where from? Well, there came waters, that
is all. There was no sound of rain, no seeing of rain, no sound of
wind, nothing ocular and nothing aural, just a quiet, silent movement
of the Spirit of God. It just happened. And our history is going to be
very largely like that.
Why am I saying this? Because we are so often found looking for,
praying for, expecting, some mighty shattering intervention of God in
our situation, the evidence and the proof that God is with us,
something that we can lay hold of, something to which we can point,
something that we can report on. But it does not happen and again and
again when we have passed most critical points in our history, when we
have turned most serious corners, we have to ask ourselves how we did
it, how it came to pass. Well, it just happened. It undoubtedly
involved very great power on the part of God and there is no doubt that
if He had not done it, there would have been disaster. But it is done.
How? We thought this and that, we thought the Lord must come this way
or that way, we were showing Him the way, telling Him what He must do,
and He never came our way, He never did it like that at all. It just,
so to speak, happened. We are going on like that. It may be from time
to time that the Lord will show His hand. He is the God of the sudden
leap as much as He is the God of the long process, but normally the way
of faith is this way: silently -- almost imperceptibly -- without any
power to detect that He is doing it, it is being done.
It is not just that we get over the stile and continue across another
field until we come to another stile. This is a way of enlargement and
God is enlarging in this way, silently, almost imperceptibly. He is
going on with His covenant purpose. That is the larger part of the
Church's history. If we could write the whole history of the Church
now, or read it, we should find that while there have been times when
God broke in in wonderful ways, they are much fewer than those periods
in which God silently and hiddenly worked and did marvellous things,
kept His Church going, but kept His Church on the way of enlargement.
And that is the story of our own inner experiences. [56/57]
I feel this may be a word for us as a people and perhaps for some in
their own spiritual life. If you are expecting the Lord to do some
extraordinary, miraculous thing in your situation, it may never happen.
What God does intend and has intended will happen, if we will believe
Him and act on our belief. That does sometimes mean launching out on to
water where it would be easy to sink if it were not for the Lord. "Ye
shall not see wind, neither shall ye see rain, yet that valley shall be
filled with water: and ye shall drink ...' and "there came water". That
is all. Not in the hurricane, the earthquake or the fire, but in the
voice of gentle stillness they turned the corner and got through the
crisis. For Elijah it was followed by the command of God to anoint
Elisha. God's answer to such situations is enlargement, not less but
"THE HOLY CITY, NEW JERUSALEM"
10. THE GREATNESS OF GOD'S GRACE IN JESUS CHRIST
Reading: Psalm 51
"I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these
things for the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, the
bright, the morning star" (Revelation 22:16).
I THINK it is a very wonderful thing that the Bible almost finishes
with a word about David, and I think that you will agree with me. Here,
right at the end, our Lord is saying: "I Jesus ... am the root and the
offspring of David." 'As the root, David came from Me. As the offspring
I came from David.' That is why the Lord here calls Himself by the
simple name of Jesus. He says: "I Jesus have sent mine angel." Now the
Apostles and New Testament teachers very rarely used that name, for
they almost always spoke of Him as the Lord Jesus, or Jesus
Christ our Lord. It was very rare for them just to use His name
'Jesus', because that was the name before His resurrection and
exaltation. 'Jesus' was the name of His humiliation, the name of the
One who died for us, the One who was made sin in our place. 'Jesus' was
the name of the Saviour: "Thou shalt call his name Jesus; for it is he
that shall save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). 'Jesus' was
the name of the One who "humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto
death, yea, the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:8). And here, right
at the end of everything, He says: "I Jesus" -- "I Jesus ... am the
root and offspring of David."
David! That name brings back many things to us. David was the greatest
king that Israel ever had, but what was his greatness based upon? We
have read that Psalm, but did you notice the inscription at the head of
it? Here it is:
"A Psalm of David:
when Nathan the prophet came unto him,
after he had gone in to Bath-sheba."
This Psalm is one of the most terrible things in the Bible! It is the
Psalm of a man whose heart is broken because of his sin and because of
the terrible nature of it. Do you remember the story?
There was a man named Uriah and he had a very beautiful wife. At a time
when Israel went out to battle David, instead of going out with his
forces, went up on to the housetop, and from there he saw this very
beautiful woman. His passions rose within him and he said: 'I must have
that woman! She is already married to Uriah, but I must have her
somehow.' So he said to his captains: 'I want you to put Uriah in the
front rank of the army and then go forward to meet the enemy. Then,
when the enemy attacks, let the army fall back and leave Uriah alone.'
That is what they did and, of course, the plan succeeded. Uriah was
killed, and then David's captains came back and said: 'Uriah is dead.'
David sent to Uriah's wife, Bath-sheba, and said: 'Uriah is dead. Come
and be my wife.' So David got Bath-sheba, as he had planned, but the
Lord said to Nathan, the prophet: 'Go to David and tell him a parable
of a poor man who had but one sheep, and of another man who had many
sheep, but this man who had the many sheep stole the one little sheep
belonging to the poor man.' And as David listened to the story his
wrath rose within him and he said: 'The man who would do a thing like
that is worthy of death. He shall die!' And Nathan said: 'Thou art the
man!' David had committed murder by planning to do so, and, do you
know, by doing that he had put himself right outside [57/58]
side of all the Lord's sacrifices for sin. The laws of God through
Moses had provided for a sacrifice for every other kind of sin. There
was even a sacrifice for the man who killed somebody by accident, for
the man who did kill somebody but had never intended to do so, but for
the man who thought it out and planned it, then carried it out, there
was no sacrifice. That was called 'blood-guiltiness', and there was no
sacrifice provided by God for that. Such a man might bring his
offerings, his sacrifice and his burnt offerings, but God would take no
pleasure in them, and that is where David was in Psalm 51:
"Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness. ... Wash
me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. ... My
sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done
that which is evil in thy sight. ... Purge me with hyssop, and I shall
be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. ... Cast me not
away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. ...
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation. ...
Thou delightest not in sacrifice; else would I give it: thou hast no
pleasure in burnt offering."
David is saying: 'I have not anything that I can offer. I have put
myself outside of all God's provision. My condition is absolutely
hopeless, but for one thing, and that one thing is Thy grace.'
Do you think now that it is a wonderful thing that the Bible ends with:
"I am the root and offspring of David"? To put that in another way, the
Bible ends by saying that God's grace is greater than the greatest sin,
and is sufficient for the man who has no hope. I think it is a
wonderful thing that after this God did make David so great, so that
his name is one of the greatest names in history.
Solomon was the second son of that woman Bath-sheba, and the very name
'Solomon' means for us the greatest glory in the Bible. Jesus Himself
will acknowledge that. He spoke of "even Solomon in all his glory"
(Matthew 6:29), but "a greater than Solomon is here" (Matthew 12:42).
First of all, you have this wonderful greatness of Solomon from a man
who had sinned like David. How can you explain that? It is explained
because a "greater than Solomon is here". In what way is Jesus greater
than Solomon? Because He will take someone who has gone to the deepest
depths of sin and raise them to the highest place in glory. That is
greatness indeed! It is the greatness of the grace of God which has
been brought to us in Jesus.
"I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things for the
churches." What is the greatest testimony of Jesus in the Church? It is
what Paul calls "the exceeding riches of his grace" (Ephesians 2:7).
So we end our studies in Revelation upon this very high and glorious
note. Jesus says: "I am ... the root and offspring of David".
Fancy Jesus associating Himself with David! That is grace indeed!
But remember that there was something in David. 'If there is no
sacrifice provided by Moses for my sin, there is a sacrifice provided
by Jesus.' David said: "Thou delightest not in sacrifice ... thou hast
no pleasure in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken
spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."
The message speaks for itself. It is too great, too wonderful for
words! How great is the grace of God in Jesus Christ! And the way into
that grace is not by any works that we can do, nor by any offering that
we can make. It is by a broken and a contrite heart that comes to the
cross of Jesus and sees there God's sacrifice for sin which no other
sacrifice can put away.
And so we sing:
"Plenteous grace with Thee is found;
Grace to cover all my sin."
DIVINE ORDER -- IN CHRIST (1)
WE have opened our meeting with the singing of a very old hymn -- 'Tell
me the old, old story'. And when we have sung 'Tell me the old, old
story' so heartily, we are confronted with the most difficult thing
that has ever been called for by angels and men. To put the story of
Jesus and His love to music is to employ the whole range and compass of
every note of every octave, and then to want more notes. It reaches the
highest; it goes down to the deepest. It is the very range and compass
of His Person and His work that show how great He is; so much greater
greatness than all others. It is the universality of the Lord Jesus
that is His supremacy. There is no language or tongue in all human [58/59] speech into which that story cannot be
interpreted, which cannot grasp something of its meaning. That has been
proved, and is being proved continually -- it compasses all language
and all languages. Although it has taxed and over-taxed the greatest
intellects of all the ages, it is enjoyed, appreciated and loved by the
simplest and the most unlearned. It meets the problems and difficulties
of the mature and the aged, and yet it is the delight of little
children. Of all the various temperaments into which the human race is
classified, there is no temperament that does not find in Him something
to meet its own peculiar problems and demands. Jesus and His love are
an ocean of the profoundest mysteries and treasures. He is a mine of
inexhaustible wealth. In a word, it is going to take an eternity to
reveal His fullness. That is what we are up against when we so easily
sing: 'Ten me the old, old story.' It if just cannot be told!
But it may be that in these hours of our fellowship together a little
more of the light of that story will break upon our hearts. There is a
phrase in the Word: 'Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty; they
shall behold the land of far distances', and that two-fold statement
can quite truly, and rightly, be applied to Him. He is the King in His
beauty; and He is also the Land of Far Distances.
Now, to come into a living relationship with the Lord Jesus is to come,
sooner or later, to the impasse of the incomprehensible, and we just
have to say: 'Lord, You are beyond me! Lord, I cannot comprehend; You
are too much for me!' That, of course, on the one side, means
difficulties, for it puts us into a difficult position in that we
cannot trace Him, follow Him, and understand Him. But, on the other
side, we would not have it otherwise; we would not have a 'little'
Christ whom we could comprehend and altogether understand with our
little minds. No, He is beyond us altogether, and what you and I, as
His people, are destined to come to if we go on with Him, is just this:
that He is ever reaching farther and farther beyond us, and drawing us
out beyond ourselves, beyond our resources of mind and will, yet
drawing us on, and making us know that we have got to go on. We just
cannot stand still; we have to go on.
Now, dear friends, the Bible rests upon one tremendous affirmation,
upon a truth which it affirms in a thousand different ways, and that
truth is this: that everything related to the great destiny for which
man was created is bound up inseparably with the knowledge of Christ.
You have two tremendous things there: the greatness of the destiny for
which man was created and the Bible has a very great deal to say about
that. That destiny, that great Divine purpose in creation, demands for
its realization the knowledge of Jesus Christ; it is bound up with the
knowledge of God's Son. Within that compass of Divine purpose we have
man's creation, man's redemption and salvation, man's transformation,
man's glorification, and then man's eternal vocation. These are all
features of the great purpose of man's creation and I repeat them:
salvation, transformation, glorification, and eternal vocation, and all
that rests upon the knowledge of Jesus Christ. None of it is possible
without knowing Him.
We look at a little child from the day that it comes into this world,
and the one thing the parents are watching for continually, and waiting
for, is the sign of intelligence. For the normal development of a human
life is marked by growing intelligence, that is, in the first place,
the ability to identify objects. It is very simple, but very real,
when, first of all, the parent is able to recognize that the child
knows him or her -- the child identifies. And so its development of its
very life is marked by this growing intelligence, this ability to
identify objects, and then to interpret and grasp their meaning. It
comes so slowly, and yet it is there. To apply those recognized,
identified objects to practical value, to turn them to account, to know
that they mean this, and that they are meant for this or that; the
application of their intelligence to practical needs or situations -- I
say these are the indications of normal development and it is along the
line of growing intelligence.
If that is true in the natural, it is equally true in the spiritual.
The mark of spiritual growth, the growth of the spiritual life, is this
power to recognize the meaning of Christ; to identify Him in things; to
interpret Him -- the power to interpret Him and to explain Him; and
then to apply Him to practical situations, our own and others. That is
'knowing' the Lord. And I say again, that is the way of spiritual
growth to full manhood, to the fulfilment of the ultimate vocation. And
let it be recognized at once that what is true in the natural is true
in the spiritual in this sense -- God created man with an object. A
life has missed its way and purpose if it fulfils no vocation and if it
becomes an end in itself. Vocation is the object, the end, of all life
and all development. That is true in the spiritual life. The Bible
reveals progress toward eternal vocation, and essentially along the
line of spiritual intelligence, or the knowing of Christ.
THE PRE-EMINENT FACTOR IN LIFE
God has placed supreme importance upon this very basis. Hear His Word:
'Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither
[59/60] let the mighty man glory in
his might; let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that
glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me.' Above
all other things in which men do or may glory, God puts this, with His
tremendous emphasis: Thus saith the Lord. The supreme thing
with Him is to understand and to know Him.
We have read how the Lord Jesus put this matter in relation to the most
vital thing, even that of eternal life, and there is no more vital
thing than that. In one sense eternal life is the key to the Bible.
"And this is life eternal, that they may know thee, the only true God,
and him whom thou didst send, Jesus Christ" (John 17:3). Life eternal,
with the Lord Jesus, is placed upon this basis of knowing Him.
That man Paul, Paul the aged, with a long life of learning
Christ, and of perhaps incomparable revelation of Jesus Christ, is now
standing at the gate of eternity and crying: "... that I may know Him
...". You might say that that was the cry with which Paul
entered into heaven. And alongside of that, you remember, he said: "I
count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of
Christ Jesus my Lord" (Philippians 3:8). Not to be learning ,
dear friends, is to stop growing, for growing is along that line. The
knowledge of Christ is the beginning of salvation; the knowledge of
Christ is the whole meaning of the Christian life; the knowledge of
Christ is God's motive in all discipline and training. You and I find
ourselves in those hands of the "Father of our spirits", who is putting
us through a hard school, and on a difficult way. And the one question
which should always be in our hearts is not 'Why?' as to His dealings
with us in a general sense, nor any murmuring, but: 'What do you want
me to learn by this? What is there of Christ that I am to understand by
this means?' For, I repeat, all the dealings of God with us have but
this one thing in view: our education as to Christ, the knowledge of
Christ. The very essence of glory will be the knowledge of Christ.
Perhaps that sounds a strange word, but it is not so difficult to
understand. When at last we see in Him the answer to all our questions
and our problems, and He becomes the answer to every cry of our need
and heart, we see Him as He is, and He fills all the vacuum of our
longing, that will be glory. It is so now in the smallest ways, is it
not? If, after a very difficult time when we have been brought through
deep and terrible suffering, we have our eyes open to see something of
Christ that meets our need, that is glory! He becomes our
glory. Glory is not just something of an external, shining radiance --
it is a state of heart, it is full satisfaction, full gratification,
and possession of a full explanation and understanding. That will be
wonderful! So the knowledge of Christ will be the very essence of glory.
But having said all that, mark you, this is not, in the first place, a
knowledge in the reason, nor the satisfying of the natural mind and
intelligence. This knowledge of Christ is essentially, in the first
place, spiritual knowledge. It is what we might call 'life-knowledge'.
It means life; it brings life; it is life; we know by life. We may not
yet be able to interpret it in human language, even to our own
satisfaction, or be able to explain it, but we have come into a
knowledge of the Lord which has brought life and which is life. "This
is life ... that they may know." This kind of knowing is life-knowledge
and is altogether deeper than natural intelligence. We do not say, in
the first place, that now we know because the thing has been explained.
We say: 'I know because that meets my heart need, because something has
happened in me through that. It has brought me into life.' That is
And it is by way of experience. The Lord's school of instruction,
training, teaching, is not to tell us things, or to write them in a
book for us to study and memorize, and then say: 'We know now!' This is
not a manual education at all. It is the education, the knowledge, that
comes by experience, and experience simply means that something has
been done in us by a certain process. We know in that way. We
know the Lord in our constitution, and how much better it is to know
Him constitutionally -- that is, in our being. He has become a part of
our being, and not just something explained to our minds.
That is the way in which we learn Christ. It is very practical --
CHRIST, THE EMBODIMENT OF HEAVENLY ORDER
That is all by way of leading up to our present particular
consideration. You will realize, in the light of this little that has
been said, that Christ is many-sided, vari-sided. He is far too great
to be comprehended, though we spent all our days trying to do so. And
we can only look at Him from time to time from particular standpoints.
In the light of the situation in the world, and in the Church, and
churches, I have been very greatly exercised about one thing. I have
put it aside as being too difficult, but I am compelled to face it. It
is concerning Divine order. Of all the ways in which Christ is to be
known unto life and unto growth, there is one way in the Word of God
which, we might be tempted to say, is supremely important -- though we
could say that of every way in which He [60/61]
is to be known. However, that one way is this: To rightly understand
Christ is to see that He relates to a heavenly and eternal order of
That word 'order' lies right at the back of everything in the Bible.
Everything that the Bible has to say to us is related to an eternal
order that God intended to obtain in this universe. And His key to that
order, without which nothing of all His glorious purpose is possible,
is Christ. The Person of Christ is the very embodiment of all the
principles of a universal order. If we could comprehend, discern,
understand and know Christ, we should see that in that one universal
Person are gathered up all the laws of a great heavenly order.
We are told that 'in Him, through Him, by Him, and unto Him were all
things created'. His creative activity at work is marked by a
marvellous order, and we shall say more about this as we go on.
Creation, as it comes from His hand, as it is projected by Him,
is a marvellous system of co-ordinated forces and objects in a
wonderful relatedness and harmony. Everything is in its own place,
everything is in its own time and everything has its own function. And
so you could go on, but, I repeat, we will come back to it.
His redemptive work, the whole of the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus
has this one thing in mind: the recovery of a lost order. He stands in
His Person, in His creative work, and in His redemptive work, related
to this whole matter of an eternal, heavenly order.
Let me pause here with a parenthesis lest you should be as near despair
as I have been in this matter.
Everything seems positively to contradict what I am saying, especially
concerning the Holy Spirit; that is, that the Holy Spirit, who is the
custodian of the whole purpose of God concerning His Son, is occupied
with this matter pre-eminently -- a heavenly order; the will of God as
it is done in Heaven to be done eventually on this earth in like
manner. If you want to know the meaning of the Holy Spirit -- and this
will perhaps be a suggestion to you if you turn again to the Word --
the answer is here. The Holy Spirit is meticulous about order, He will
not overlook disorder. For Divine order to be overlooked, violated,
ignored or frustrated, is to perpetuate the loss, the suffering, the
disappointment and the despair of the creation, for the hope of the
creation lies in the direction of God having it according to His order.
This is the matter with which the Holy Spirit is supremely concerned.
You might well interject: "Is that really true, seeing that things are
as they are, everywhere and in everything?" The answer is twofold.
Firstly, the fact is proved by the condition. Where the Divine order
has been violated, a condition arises which clearly indicates arrested
maturity and a limitation of spiritual measure. It shows that what
could and should have been, and what God intended, has been missed and
lost. There may be the illusion -- the seemingly pleasant illusion --
of a false liberty and freedom to do as you like, but, in
truth, things are less and other than God meant. The New Testament
includes for our instruction for all time a document which is the
classic on immaturity due to disorder. It is the First Letter to the
Corinthians. The situation is summed up in a sentence: "I ... could not
speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, as unto babes in
Christ. I fed you with milk, not with meat; for ye were not yet able"
(3:1-2). Then there follows the explanation of that arrested growth.
Twice the Apostle uses the word "for", meaning 'because', 'for these
reasons', and the reasons? disorder. The rest of the whole letter is
occupied with the disorders and the Apostle's labour to correct them.
It would be quite difficult to find in the New Testament a stronger
proof of this fact that spiritual maturity is governed by Divine order.
The second thing to include in our judgment of things is that eternity
is governing this matter. While the Lord wants as much as can be of
Heavenly order in time, especially in the Church, the churches and the
individual, and there can only be limitation of Christ in each if His
order is ignored, violated and disregarded (undoubtedly this explains
the poor level of Christian life), it will be in eternity that measure
will be the criterion of position and vocation. The Apostle tries to
say something about this eternal difference in glory and position
hereafter in chapter 15.
We may be responsible for the upsetting or contravening of God's order
and seem to get away with it, but no Christian believes that what we do
in this life is the end. We have always to reckon with Romans 14:10 and
2 Corinthians 5:10. The Apostle includes himself: "we ... all'.
So eternity bears down upon time, and time is revealed in eternity.
When God's Kingdom comes, it will be perfect order!
Now we return to our main line: God is a God of order. But there is a
personal evil intelligence in this universe who is God's arch-enemy
and, as such, is the instigator of all disorder. He is called "the god
of this world" (or age) and "the spirit that now worketh in the
children of disobedience" (what an enlightening phrase -- "children of
disobedience"). The hall-mark of all satanic rule and influence is
disorder. That rule is rapidly moving to its fullness [61/62]
and final judgment. The test of the measure of Christ is spiritual
order under His government. Important as a fuller consideration of this
matter is, so as not to overload you at one time, I will break off for
the time being by reiterating the four main points:
1. God is a God of order.
2. Satan is the instigator of all disorder.
3. Christ in Person and work is the embodiment of the
4. The Church is the elect vessel in which and through
which that Divine order is to be manifested and administered in the
ages to come.
We might add that God's disciplinary work with us is with a view to
measure and position in the ultimate order.
(To be continued)
TAKING THE END BY FAITH
Reading: 1 Peter 1:1-12.
WE are here in the presence of the great transition, the great change,
which had taken place in the case of Peter and the Apostles and of all
who had believed. Before the Cross all their hopes and expectations,
their entire mentality and horizon were on this earth. They were
looking for the realization of a kingdom, a Messianic kingdom of a
temporal kind centred in Jerusalem and bringing with it all manner of
temporal benefits and advantages, with God working along that line,
concentrating His power to show His favour in a temporal way, all the
blessings being temporal blessings. The Cross had changed that entire
outlook and swept it all away as in a flood for the dispensation. With
the resurrection of the Lord Jesus it was shown that God's intention
was quite different from what they were expecting, for the time being,
and that everything for this dispensation is of a spiritual and
heavenly character, requiring a complete transformation of their
conceptions and judgments and outlook.
Before the resurrection it was a devastating experience for them.
Everything had gone with the death of the Lord Jesus, but Peter says,
"God ... begat us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus
Christ from the dead", proving that the afterward which came in with
the resurrection was far beyond and transcendent over what they had
lost. The terms of this Letter are very clear. "Ye rejoice greatly with
joy unspeakable and full of glory", showing that they came to see that
it was not loss but really gain through the Cross. That, then, is the
background of this Letter: the tremendous change of realm and of form
of Divine blessing. According to verse 5, the power of God in this
dispensation is through faith.
We need to note the link between several fragments here: "Receiving
the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls, concerning
which salvation the prophets sought and searched diligently, who
prophesied of the grace that should come unto you" (verses 9-10).
Which salvation? "The end of your faith ... the salvation of your
souls." The end is the salvation of your souls. "Concerning which
salvation the prophets sought and searched diligently" to discover the
end of our faith, the salvation of our souls.
That may not be very clear as it is stated like that, but just lay hold
of it for a moment. The statement is quite definite. The prophets
sought diligently to know, to discover something, to discover a
salvation, and Peter says that salvation is "the salvation of your
souls". And he says further that that is not the beginning of your
faith but the end of your faith. We place salvation right at the
beginning, Peter places salvation right at the end. That does not mean
that we are not saved now; it does not mean that we are not being saved
now; but it does mean that full salvation, salvation in its full
meaning, is future. Soul salvation is the end of our faith. That is one
"Concerning which salvation the prophets sought and
searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto
you ... wherefore girding up the loins of your mind, be sober and set
your hope perfectly on the grace that is to be brought unto you at the
revelation of Jesus Christ" (verses 10, 13). That does not mean
that we have not received grace, nor that we are not receiving grace.
But there is a grace intimated to the prophets by the Holy Spirit who,
as it says here, "was in them", a grace that is to come at the end, at
the revelation of Jesus Christ. "Set your hope ...". "Hope that is seen
is not hope" (Romans 8:24). Hope relates to something future. "Set your
hope perfectly on the grace that is to be brought unto you at the
revelation of Jesus Christ." The apocalypse, the presence in
manifestation of Jesus Christ, that is the grace that is to come to
Now the third thing which brings us right into touch with that is this:
"Searching what time or what manner of time the Spirit
of Christ which was in them did point unto, when it testified
beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that should follow
them" (verse 11). The Spirit of Christ in them testified to the
sufferings of Christ that should follow. It is remarkable how Israel,
the Jews, the Jewish interpreters and teachers, almost entirely
overlooked and failed to see that the Messiah was to be a suffering
Messiah. All the hopes of Israel concerning the Messiah were hopes of
glory, but of temporal glory, glory on this earth. They seem to have
entirely missed all that the prophets were saying about the sufferings
of the Messiah.
But the prophets found two things going on in them by the Spirit of
Christ. In the first instance He was making them know that the Messiah
would be a suffering Messiah and He was making them know, not only by
informing them, but by their own experience. You cannot read those
Messianic prophecies and Psalms without knowing that the writers went
through experiences which had to be interpreted, not as the common
experiences of man in everyday life, but as something prophetic,
something with fuller, further and future meaning. Hear David speak:
"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Psalm 22:1). There is
something more in that than just the ordinary experience of a man. The
Spirit was making them know that the Messiah would be a suffering
Messiah. The Jews missed that and fastened upon the other side, the
glories. The Spirit was making the prophets know what the glories would
be and the Jews fastened upon the glories alone. There would be the
glories, but they would follow the suffering, be consequent upon the
The glories are coming with the manifestation or revelation of the
Messiah who suffered. That manifestation of the suffering glorified
Christ is the grace that is to come to us. "If so be that we suffer
with him, that we may be also glorified with him" (Romans 8:17). That
is the consummation of grace.
This whole Letter of Peter, as you notice, focuses upon the trials and
sufferings and afflictions of Christians in this dispensation. Now in
this dispensation it is partnership with Christ in His sufferings and a
Divine government of those sufferings in the salvation of our souls.
Through trial and testing and by way of faith our souls are brought to
complete deliverance from the grip of Satan and self over them,
bringing them into fellowship with Christ and out of fellowship with
Satan, bringing deliverance from the self-principle which was brought
into the soul by Adam's decision. That is the salvation of our souls.
It will be a grand thing and this is what these scattered believers to
whom Peter was writing had grasped. The language may sound extravagant
-- "ye rejoice greatly with joy unspeakable and full of glory" -- but
they have grasped something. What have they grasped? They have seen
that the time is coming when all this wretched, horrid, beastly
self-principle that is in the creation, causing all this trouble in
everyone of us, will have been finally rooted out and replaced by the
Christ-principle of utter selflessness where we are never affected or
influenced by our own feelings, our own interests and how things touch
us, but where we shall be completely delivered from our own souls,
these souls which are a curse to us every day, our feelings, our ideas,
our wants and our wills. If only we could be completely oblivious of
ourselves, be completely free from ourselves, how happy we would be!
These people grasped that the time was coming when it would be like
that, their faith had laid hold of it and they rejoiced with joy
unspeakable. That is the grace which is coming with the revelation of
Jesus Christ. That is the prospect, and the trials and sufferings of
the present time are working toward that -- to get us free from
ourselves, to turn us out from ourselves. They had grasped that and
they laid hold of the end of their faith. By faith they received the
end of their faith and they rejoiced with joy unspeakable and full of
If we are oppressed by our own souls and bothered by our own souls, let
us at least turn our thoughts and praise God that the day is coming
when we shall be completely emancipated from ourselves. It might be
that if only we could take that attitude of faith and lay hold of that
by faith, the joy would spring up now. This is not just eschatology or
optimism. The Holy Spirit did this in the prophets and in these
believers of the dispersion to whom Peter is writing. He said to them.
"Ye see him not", 'you never saw Him in the flesh, you have nothing to
go upon; the Gospel has been preached with the Holy Ghost sent down
from heaven; you have nothing of material evidence to prove this; we
saw Him -- you never had anything like that, but you received it by
faith when it was preached to you and the Holy Ghost ratified it and
you rejoice.' It is a wonderful picture of what taking by faith, taking
the Gospel by faith, taking Christ by faith, taking the end by faith,
can do. They rejoiced with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
In the meantime, "the proof of your faith, being more precious than
gold that perisheth though it is proved by fire" is working the
salvation of your [63/64] souls, to bring in the
fullness and finality of the grace of God, the glories that do follow.
I do not know what sort of glories you are expecting. For me, there is
very little appeal in the idea of having literal material thrones and
crowns, or anything like that. But what does appeal to me is the
prospect of being freed from this accursed self, then I shall be happy.
That will be a kingdom that is worth everything. Well, that is the end
of your faith and that is the outcome of your trial of faith. You have
to read the whole Letter in the light of that, but there you have it
summed up in the first chapter.
WORK IN THE GROANING CREATION (4)
Reading: John 8:12-51.
"Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you
free" (verse 32).
"If therefore the Son shall make you free, ye shall be
free indeed" (verse 36).
THESE verses speak to us of freedom by knowledge of the truth. You will
notice that the declaration made by the Lord Jesus in these words about
the truth making free immediately raised in those to whom He was
speaking the whole question of bondage. Their instant reaction to His
words was to repudiate the suggestion that they were in bondage. They
said: "We ... have never yet been in bondage to any man", and in so
saying they gave themselves away very thoroughly. They showed how
utterly blind they were, and they completely justified the words with
which this portion commences: "I am the light of the world: he that
followeth me shall not walk in the darkness." There is no need for a
light if there is no darkness. The Lord Jesus made the statement that
He was the Light. He knew right well how deep the darkness was, but
they were not aware of that darkness and therefore they saw no need for
Him. They were not aware of bondage and therefore they saw no need for
liberation. It is just wonderful how this whole chapter justifies Him
in declaring Himself as the Light and as the Liberator, because of the
existing darkness and bondage, although those to whom He spoke were
unconscious of it.
This chapter brings out the fact and the nature of the darkness and the
bondage and then shows the way of deliverance, and that way is the Lord
Jesus Himself. They said: "We ... have never yet been in bondage". He
will show them four ways at least in which they were in bondage and,
inasmuch as they did not recognize anyone of them, it is proved how
utter the darkness is.
First of all, He will make it perfectly clear that they were in bondage
to the law. That law stood over them as a master, as a judge, as
something from which they could not get clear, from which there was no
escape, to which they would have to capitulate by compulsion. They were
in that way in bondage to the law. The first eleven verses of this
chapter are a remarkable parenthesis. We will note how they form a part
of this general matter. You notice that these rulers brought the woman
taken in sin and said to Him: "This woman hath been taken in adultery,
in the very act. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such: what
then sayest thou ...?" Of course, it was an utterly illegal act of
theirs. They had a recognized court for such cases where the law was
administered. They had no business to take it away from the proper
quarter and bring it, as it were, to a private person, especially to
one in whom they did not believe. But man will do anything to obtain an
end upon which he is set and these rulers were out to entrap Him. They
were trying to get Him to adjudicate and thus to bring Him into
conflict with the Sanhedrin, the judicial court. We leave that, but
notice the issue that arises: 'Moses said ... what sayest thou?' Will
He uphold Moses? If He does so, and pronounces judgment, He takes the
place of the Sanhedrin and also immediately comes into conflict with
the Roman authorities who, for the time being, have superseded Moses in
the administration of the law. Will He set aside Moses? If He does,
then He will be implicated in the sin. He will be condoning it, and
will be a party to evil. It looks like a trap from which there is no
He is sitting in the temple teaching and when they bring in the woman
and make their charge and interrogate Him, He bends down from His seat
and writes on the ground. They press Him with their question and all He
says, lifting up His head, is: "He that is without sin among you, let
him first cast a stone ...", and then stoops down again. When He has
been writing a little while He looks up, and they are all gone. The
Word says: "They ... went out one by one, beginning from the eldest,
even unto the last". Do you say that they are not in bondage to the
law? He has brought the law home to them which they were trying to
bring home on this woman. He has turned the weapon on to the accusers,
and they who thought that they stood well with Moses have come under
the lash of Moses and [64/65] they cannot stand
up to the law. If they could have stood up to the law of Moses, that
woman would have been stoned, but they could not. The law judged them
and condemned them. How proven was their state of bondage when they
We make our application as we go along. Not only they but all are in
bondage to the law in that way. God has uttered His law and has never
taken one fragment away from that law. That law stands! It is
comprehensive, detailed, it touches everything in life and in
character. On the one hand, there is a whole comprehensive catalogue
of: "Thou shalt not"! On the other hand, there is an equally
comprehensive catalogue of: "Thou shalt"! And then the two sides are
gathered up into one thing and if you are guilty of breaking the law at
one point, you are guilty of the whole law. If you break down at one
point, you are responsible for all the rest. We cannot stand up to
that. We are in bondage by nature. God has spoken and we cannot get
away from it. We are responsible for all that God has made known of His
mind and His requirements on the side of "Thou shalt" and on the side
of "Thou shalt not". We shall never get away from that for we shall
have to answer for it one day. Every one of us will have to stand
before God and answer to Him for His law, there is no escape. God will
bring it home to us sooner or later and it will mean condemnation and
judgment for every one. There is only one way of escape for we are all
in bondage to the law by nature and we have all to answer for the law.
Is there one who can say he has kept the whole law and never violated
any bit of God's commandment? It is not a matter of how many sins. If
you only commit one violation of God's commandment, you are guilty of
all the rest before God. The law is broken, you are proved a sinner and
you might just as well go the whole way as far as your standing before
God is concerned. The fact of sin is established and whether it be sin,
more or less, there is judgment. The violation of the law at one point
just means that we are sinners with a sinful nature. It is not sins
, but a nature.
Secondly, they were in bondage to sin. They said: "We ... have never
yet been in bondage to any man", but He said: "Verily, verily, I say
unto you, Every one that committeth sin is the bondservant of sin."
Only a little while before they had been unable to stand up to that:
"He that is without sin among you" (not 'He that has not
committed this particular sin'), "let him first cast a stone
...". These very people had walked out and in walking out had admitted
that they were not without sin. Now He says: "Every one that committeth
sin is the bond servant of sin". So they were self-confessed slaves of
sin. Oh! they would not have said it in word, but it had come home to
Now, leaving these Pharisees aside, that does not need a great deal of
enforcing so far as we are concerned. I do not think we would be in the
place of religious Pharisees who would in word repudiate any bondage to
sin, that is, by nature. None of us would say that we were sinless. But
I ask you: Have you ever tried to stop sinning? Have you tried never to
sin? Have you started a day and, in starting it, said, 'I will not sin
today'? How have you got on? You know quite well that you are in
bondage to sin, and there is no option about it. It is not something
over which you, if you are not saved and in Christ, have the mastery;
it is your master. We know quite well that outside of Christ sin has
dominion over us and we are in bondage to sin. That is what the Lord
Jesus makes clear and brings home here.
The third thing which comes in here is that they were in bondage to the
devil. "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father
it is your will to do." That is an awful thing to say, but He proved
His case. And has it not proved that He was right? These religious
Pharisees slew the Lord of Glory, and 2,000 years have proved that they
did the devil's work, that the devil was behind it, that it was not the
work of God and that what He said as recorded here was perfectly true,
they were of their father the devil and they did the works of their
father. They were, therefore, blindly in bondage to the devil.
This is a still deeper fact lying behind the state of every man and
woman born into this world. They are under the tyranny of God's law,
they are in the bondage of sin, but back of that there is the tyranny
of the devil. What we have to recognize is that we are not merely
dealing with sin, powerful as sin is in itself, but it is Satan himself
back of the sin with whom we have to reckon. You cannot outwit the
devil! You may try to take precautions against sinning, but you will
find that you are up against -- not some abstract thing but -- a
sinister, cunning intelligence who can trip you up just when you did
not want to be, can get you at the time when you are off your guard,
when you are tired and unable to stand up. It is all plotted, all
thought out, all worked to a scheme. The devil is back of this sin
business with his great intelligence as well as with his great power,
and every man and woman outside of Christ is not only in bondage to
sin, but in bondage to the devil. It is all very well for people to say
that they are not going to sin again, that they are going to give up
sinning. They cannot give up the devil like that. The devil is not
going to be put off [65/66] like that. They are
not dealing merely with some habit, something into which they slip from
time to time. They are in the toils and grip and dominion of the devil,
and they have not only to be saved from sin, they must be saved from
him. Even religious Pharisees were in bondage to Satan.
Then the fourth thing is brought to light here by the Lord Jesus and
that is that they were in bondage to judgment. Because of this other
threefold bondage, judgment rested upon them, the judgment of God. "Ye
shall die in your sins", but that is not merely going out, ceasing to
be. "It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this cometh
judgement" (Heb. 9:27), and there is no escaping that. In bondage to
judgment, that is, judgment stands as master of the situation for every
sinner. So you see, what the Lord Jesus said about being in bondage is
a very, very great thing, something which is true in all directions.
When He said: "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you
free" and the whole question of being in bondage came up, instantly
they repudiated the suggestion, the insinuation. He proved His case and
showed that they were very much more in bondage than they had ever
That is how we are, but He said: "Ye shall know the truth, and the
truth shall make you free. ... If therefore the Son shall make you
free, ye shall be free indeed." We have seen the one side: the bondage.
Now we look at the other side: freedom by the truth. What truth makes
There are several sections to this Gospel by John. The first section
has to do with life and the second section has to do with light. Each
one of these sections circles round the Person of the Lord Jesus. When
He is dealing with life, the central declaration is: "I am the life",
and when He is dealing with light and truth, the central declaration
is: "I am the light". So all that is being said focuses upon Him. "Ye
shall know the truth" -- 'I am the truth'! It simply amounts to this:
you shall know Me and you will be set free. What does it mean in this
respect to know Him as the truth and to be made free? It is not just
knowing the fact of the existence of the Lord Jesus. It is not just
believing that there is such a Person. It is knowing what He stands
for, what He means.
What is the truth in the Lord Jesus which stands over against the
bondage of the law, by which we are made free from that bondage? It is
this, that, while God never reduced His law by one fragment or one
iota, the whole law was fulfilled by the Lord Jesus for us. Every one
has been beaten by that law, but God has never said: 'You cannot fulfil
that law, I will let you off'. No, He said: 'You must face it!' That is
impossible, so what is the way of escape? God will have His law
fulfilled! The Lord Jesus came and said: 'I will fulfil it and when
once it has been fulfilled it can be set aside.' It could never be set
aside until it was utterly fulfilled and so He fulfilled the law to
God's perfect satisfaction on our behalf. "Lo, I am come; In the roll
of the book it is written of me: I delight to do thy will, O my God"
(Psalm 40:7-8). And He did it perfectly and, having fulfilled the law
and made it honourable, He put it out of the way and introduced the
dispensation of grace so that now we can sing:
"Free from the law, oh, happy condition!
Jesus hath bled and there is
Cursed by the law, and bruised by the Fall,
Grace hath redeemed us once for all."
The truth in Jesus by which we are made free is that He has satisfied
God in the matter of the law.
The next point is sin: the truth in Jesus over against bondage to sin.
"Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf"; "Thou shalt make
his soul an offering for sin"; "Our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we
have now received the reconciliation"; "He was wounded for our
transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of
our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed". The truth
in Jesus by which we are set free from sin is that He has dealt with
the whole sin question on our behalf, and that deliverance from the
bondage of sin is a full deliverance in the Lord Jesus as the
Sin-Bearer, but we must always keep the emphasis upon what He is
for us and not upon what we are apart from Him!
The same thing is true in relation to the bondage of Satan, the grip
and tyranny of the devil. In the words of the Lord Jesus prior to the
Cross: "Now shall the prince of this world be cast out"; "the prince of
this world hath been judged" (John 12:31; 16:11). Later, the Apostle
Paul, reflecting with Divine illumination upon what took place in the
unseen at Calvary, writes: "having put off from himself the
principalities and the powers, he made a show of them openly,
triumphing over them in it" (Colossians 2:15). And as the outcome of
that the Apostle exclaims: "Thanks be unto God, which always leadeth us
in triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest through us the savour of his
knowledge in every place" (2 Corinthians 2:14). Calvary was Christ's
victory over the devil on our behalf and because of what He did there
we are set free from the bondage of Satan. Remember again that it is a
matter of abiding in Him by faith!
Then the bondage to judgment: If He took our place in sin, under the
law, under the power of [66/67] Satan, and then
destroyed all those, He has destroyed the consequences of all those,
namely judgement. In His Cross He received our judgment and the
judgment due to us was exhausted upon Him. Prophetically, the Psalmist
put these words into His mouth: "All thy waves and thy billows are gone
over me" (Psalm 42:7). That was the judgment of God going over His soul
as He represented us. Blessed be God, you and I in Christ do not have
to face this judgment. It is past for us, but all these things remain
for those who are outside of Christ.
There is one other thing which must be noted. "If ... the Son shall
make you free, ye shall be free indeed." "If the Son ...". It
is very impressive how often that title is used in the Gospel by John,
and, alongside of it, "the Father". The name "Father" occurs one
hundred and eleven times in the Gospel by John. "The Father" and "the
Son" are familiar terms. Then it is impressive that, recognizing those
familiar terms, at the beginning of the Gospel you have so much about
being born again. "As many as received him, to them gave he the right
to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name: which
were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh ...". To
Nicodemus He said: "Ye must be born anew". That is a family thought.
There is the Father, there is the Son, but to be in that family you
have to be born into it, and if the Son shall make you free that means
that you are in the family. Jesus said: "The bondservant abideth not in
the house ... the son abideth" (John 8:35). If you are in bondage to
the law, you have no place in this family. This is a family of the free
ones, of the free-born. How are we to be set free from the bondage to
sin, to Satan, to judgment? By being born again. The Son makes free. It
is given to the Son to give eternal life to as many as He will, and we
receive eternal life when we are born again. That is the gift which
Christ, the Son, gives us. It is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our
Lord. How are we set free? By being born again and brought into the
family. We become members of a family of those who are free from all
these things which speak of bondage.
If we are rejoicing in that great liberty which is ours in Christ, then
our great desire is that others should come into it too. We do not know
and we do not judge anyone -- that is for each one to decide -- but our
desire is that we should all know the truth and that the truth
should make us free. If you do not understand those terms, let me put
it this way: you should know the Lord Jesus in a saving way and then
you will be set free from the law, free from sin, free from Satan and
free from judgment.
[(To be continued)]
We acknowledge with gratitude the following gifts received during
February and March, 1968:
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia £9 10s. 3d.; Angmering-on-Sea £5;
Basle, Switzerland £1 10s.; Belfast £15; Blackburn
£3; Brentford 5s.; Brighton 6s.; Bromley £5, 10s.,
£5; Burnley 5s.; Calne £1; Claygate £1; Clitheroe
£2; Clynnog 7s. 6d.; Congleton £2; Deal £1, £1;
Didsbury, Alberta £3 15s. 9d.; Eastbourne £2; Edinburgh
£1; Felixstowe £4; Glasgow £5, £1 10s., 6s.
10d.; Godalming £1 10s.; Grimsby £1; Hastings £5,
£2; Haverhill £3; Heathfield £5; Hoyland £1;
Hull 10s.; Hyderabad, India £1 2s.; Kaleden, B.C. £3 15s.
9d.; Keighley £2; Kenley £1; Kleinburg, Ont. £2;
Lancing 15s.; Leigh-on-Sea £1, 10s.; Lentran 10s.; Lessines,
Belgium £2; London S.E.12 £5; S.E.15 £1; S.E.22
£1; S.E.23 £5, 10s., 10s., £5, £1, £2;
S.W.ll £1; Mabe 11s. 6d.; Manchester £1; Morecambe
£1; Newcastle-upon-Tyne 10s.; Northampton 8s. 9d.; Norwich
£10, £3; Nottingham 10s.; Osaka-fu, Japan 18s. 9d.;
Panchmahal, India 16s.; Poole £1; Reigate £1; Richmond
£1; Salzburg, Austria £1; Sandown 10s.; Scarborough
£1 1s.; Somerset, Tasmania £2; Son, Holland £1 18s.
3d.; Southampton £1; Spiez. Switzerland £1; Swansea
£1; Taipei, Taiwan £2; Tankerton £1 9s.; Timperley
£1; Tuart Hill, W. Australia £1; Worthing £5;
Yarmouth, N.S. £2; Zürich, Switzerland £2. Total:
£172 12s. 4d.
Arlington, Va. $5; Atlanta, Ga. $9.15, $10; Berkeley, Calif. $10;
Birmingham, Ala. $10, $25, $10; Bowie, Md. $10; Charlotte, N.C. $1;
Chicago, Ill. $5, $5; Collingswood. N.J. $10; Columbus, Ga. $5;
Crampel, Central African Republic $1; East Lansdowne, Pa. $5; Fort
Worth, Texas $5; Haddonfield, N.J. $2; Heidelberg, Germany $20, $20;
Hillside, Ill. $5; Indianapolis, Ind. $10; Lancaster, Calif. $10; Los
Angeles, Calif. $20, $2; Martinez, Calif. $30; Minneapolis, Minn. $5;
Mullice Hill, N.J. $3; North Hollywood, Calif. $2; Oakland, Calif. $5;
Philadelphia, Pa. $5; Pitman, N.J. $40; Poughkeepsie, N.Y. $5;
Redlands, Calif. $50; Richmond, Va. $10, $5; St. Paul, Minn. $10;
Southgate, Ky. $3; Tampa, Fla. $10; Tulsa, Okla. $3.86. Total: $402.01.
Calgary, Alberta C$50.00.
Copenhagen, Denmark D.Kr.50.00.
Gümligen, Switzerland Sw.Fcs.50.00. [67/68]
WITNESS AND TESTIMONY LITERATURE
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