What is the condition of things? At rock bottom there is the
loss and absence of a distinctive something. It is deficiency in
respect of a certain distinctiveness. Everything is there but
that. Things have degenerated into indefiniteness, vagueness,
uncertainty, ambiguity, as to real meaning, life, and purpose
spiritually. The original meaning of things is no longer there.
Things said and done do not mean what they did at first. Terms
have come to be applied to, and be used of, that which is not
permissible in the realm of their original and Divine
employment. There is a difference of meaning, and the tragedy is
that so many have gone on with the form and fail to see that the
power is not there.
The Wonder Of Christ
If we take the Book of Acts as the model, and the Epistles as
revealing the truth intended by the Lord to be the abiding basis
of that which sprang into being in Acts, we cannot fail to be
impressed with the presence of a certain something which made
everything very much alive and superlative. As to what was
individual and personal in salvation, service, and suffering ...
and as to what was corporate in fellowship and practice ...
there is only one word that expresses the effect of that great
something: the word is "WONDER" or "WONDERFUL." There is hardly
a chapter in this book but -- when you have read it -- provokes
the spontaneous ejaculation, "Wonderful."
Now, what was it that produced this atmosphere and spirit of
wonder? What was it that made everything so wonderful to those
concerned? There is only one answer: it was THE LORD JESUS
The Lord Jesus had been glorified and the Holy Spirit had
come as the Spirit of the glorified Lord to glorify Him on the
earth. Was it the matter of salvation? Well, it was not
salvation as such; it was not being saved, either in what it was
from or what it was unto, but it was the Saviour. The message of
salvation was all focussed in Who the Lord Jesus was.
Look at the preaching. "They ceased not to preach Jesus and
the resurrection." Find a discourse anywhere in the Acts that
"got through," and you will see that it is -- not a treatise on
Evangelical Theology but -- a presentation of the glorified Lord
Jesus. If it was Christ crucified, it was not Christ dead, but
Christ risen and glorified.
Whether it be to individuals or to companies, it is always
the Lord Jesus who is in full view.
It is the same in the matter of service. In the Acts service
is never something appended to salvation as a further
consideration. One of the striking omissions in this record is
that of exhortations and urgings to propagate the gospel.
Service here is never the result of organisation or special
pleading and appeals; it is free, spontaneous, eager, "natural."
It was not of constraint from without. It was not by an appeal
to a sense of duty or obligation. It was not something which was
special in its connection and time. It was at all times, in
every place, under all circumstances, irrepressible testimony --
proclamation -- in direct public manner and in ordinary
conversation. "They were all scattered abroad (by persecution),
and they that were scattered abroad travelled ... preaching"
(Acts 8:1,4; 11:19).
Well, what was it that created and produced this? It was the
Holy Spirit's glorifying of the Lord Jesus in their hearts! He
-- the glorified One -- was so real to them, and the wonder of
who He -- "Jesus of Nazareth," the Crucified One -- really was,
as now revealed and manifested to them and in them, was so great
that even these "new bottles" were finding that unless they let
it out, this new wine would burst them.
This was also the secret of their ability to suffer. There is
no doubt that it cost dearly in those days to take sides with
"The Nazarene." This was amongst men; but to take sides with
"The Son of God" was something which provoked hell. Put
together, there is -- in the record -- not a little which
indicates this suffering; but it seems all to have been accepted
"joyfully": "Took joyfully the spoiling of goods"; "Received the
Word in much affliction with joy."
This cannot be attributed to obtrusion, sanguineness, or
merely human good temper; it was not a "make-the-best-of-it"
Worship, praise, prayer, the ministry of the Word ... sprang
spontaneously out of this. It was living, and fraught with
"great joy." It was to those who thus gathered and worshiped
that "the Lord added daily those who were being saved." What,
again, was the secret? It was the appreciation of the Lord
Jesus. Yes, it was a time of great glorying in the Lord -- the
Lord was there!
A New Vessel
What is needed? Well, our conviction is that -- whatever may
or may not be recognised to be needed by that which ostensibly
stands to represent God in the world today -- His own need in
the earth is that which lifts all the phases and aspects of the
Church's life and work into the realm where this glorying in,
and glorifying of, the Lord Jesus is the dominant characteristic
-- where formalism yields to life, where all is aglow with His
wonderfulness, where His train fills the temple, where
"ordinances" are living testimonies, and where all is vital,
dynamic, and effectual.
No one will disagree with this, but he may with the next.
What is necessary to the Lord to bring this about? It is a new
cruse, a new vessel.
There is so much mixture in the make-up of the vessels today.
The world has got in on the one hand, and the natural man has so
much taken hold on the other. Tradition, formalism,
ecclesiasticism, and mechanicalism are like chains and fetters
upon the Lord. Things are given different meanings today from
what they had at first under the sanction of the Holy Spirit.
A new cruse is needed, and it must be that which has been
made like unto the Lord's vessel at first -- that which stands
upon an absolutely New Testament basis; that which marks the
point where God has a clear way because the Cross has brought to
zero all the personal interests and resources and confidence of
such as formed that vessel; that which recognises and fully
yields to, and glories in, the absolute government of the Holy
Spirit in every detail of life and service; that which
recognises the utter Lordship of the Lord Jesus; that which sees
in Him all the fulness of wisdom, power, knowledge, grace, and
everything needed ... and draws only upon Him; that which is
completely selfless and has only one object in view, and that
... passionately ... the glory of the Lord Jesus.
When the Lord gets it -- and He is getting it -- He will make
it the instrument for the restoration and preservation of His
testimony in the earth. This newness may be costly, but then ...
special usefulness to the Lord is always costly.
The Lord must have an instrument which He has formed in the
fire and to which He has given peculiar revelation of Himself.
This instrument will have to stand upon a peculiarly pure basis
of life in God. Whatever the rest may do, it dare not take its
lead from them. Its methods, means, and standards are those
which have shed the less mature elements. Of some, it would
stand as God's plummet to reveal crookedness -- to show
shortness of God's best, or God's better (Who would claim to
have reached God's best?). A much greater cost will have to be
met by such an instrument, and there will be little place left
for spiritual pride if it is spiritually constituted, as against
Now the chief difficulty, as history has shown, is how to
have such a ministry -- constituted by revelation of the Lord
through suffering -- and hold it in relation to ALL the Lord's
people, avoiding separation in spirit, schism in the "Body,"
exclusiveness, and "watertightness." It is the easiest thing to
withdraw to some given point and look down on all others, and to
make it a matter of "We are THE people -- you must come to us."
The Lord will lose much in this way. No; while in practical
matters for consistency's sake there may have to be withdrawal,
as also where error pre- dominates, yet the preservation of what
there is of God must be diligently sought in spirit. While there
can be no official link with what is wrong, there can and must
be a reaching out in spirit to keep the door open for the more
God's Special Resource
He would have that which cleaves a way through for others. So
it ever was in battles of old. The specially trained and
disciplined broke through for others. There must be that which
gives the Lord His point toward which to work. As He creates a
sense of need in His people and leads them on thereby, He would
have that which can be His means of meeting that need in
spiritual knowledge. That the Lord directs hungry ones to such
as know Him through special dealings is a principle not far to
seek in the Divine record: a Cornelius and a Peter, an Apollos
and a Priscilla and Aquilla, etc. There is such a thing as
election to special service, and there ought to be mutual
recognition of this.
When the Lord Jesus took Peter and James and John into the
more inward activities and revelations of His life -- especially
up to the Mount of Transfiguration -- He was not ... in
principle ... guilty of an act of schism in the Body. What the
others thought or felt we do not know, but in the long run we
know that it was ministry in view, not personal preference or
the making of them a specially privileged and separate company.
A great need was coming, and this was His method of providing
for the need which would one day be created.
The appreciation of what He did and what they knew had to
tarry until that need arose. There will never be an appreciation
of special resource without conscious need, but such need will
justify God's methods and prove His wisdom sound.
God has from the beginning of the world always had His escape
ready before the fire broke out; His lifeboat, before the wreck;
His store, before the famine; His Cross, before the curse. His
peculiar ways with some are in view of a coming need that will
give them a peculiar ministry. There are those who are out on a
general basis of activity with the Lord, going all the time in a
continuous stream of good works. There are also those who are
cut off from much in measure and reserved for what the other
cannot do -- less in bulk, but perhaps of indispensable worth
and service in emergency ... and beyond a certain general point
of attainment. The latter have to bide their time in patience,
but when their time does come it is their time in the Lord ...
and no one else can do the work.
We must keep clearly and strongly before us the fact that,
while the Lord must have His testimony maintained in the earth,
and while He desires all His people to enter into the fulness of
light and truth, and while there is clearly seen to be different
companies of His people in heaven -- both as to time and
position -- the main characteristic of any company which may be
termed "a remnant," or "overcomers," is that of vocation; that
is, they stand in a vocational relationship to all other really
born anew children of God. It is something which they are called
to be and to do which is preparatory for the rest. They have,
amongst other things, to "pass over fully armed before their
brethren," to cleave a way and take the first shock of spiritual
It is clearly seen in the Scriptures that all the reactionary
instruments of God are of a relative character; that is, that
they are related to, and in behalf of, a body larger than
themselves. This is an underlying principle in the progressive
activities of God. The point which we feel needs to have this
extra emphasis is that in securing all the elect territory,
habitation, and inheritance -- whether as His first choice or as
of necessity by reason of so general an apathy and worldliness
on the part of His people -- the Lord uses what might be termed
It is not necessary, in this connection, to present or argue
for any theory or "teaching" concerning "selectiveness" or
"partial" or "firstfruits" in the matter of "rapture." The
historical, literal, and time aspect is of secondary importance.
What is of primary account is the spiritual fact ... and this,
we believe, is incontrovertible. It is a principle in every
realm of creation and Divine method. There are harbingers in
Originally a harbinger was one who went before to provide
lodgings, but the term has now come to be applied to any
forerunner. Let us repeat with strength: there is undoubtedly an
advance party in every movement of God. This is spiritual before
anything else, and it is vocational rather than meritorious.
That there will be special rewards for such seems quite clear
and without doubt.
When we contemplate the churches in Asia as presented in the
"Revelation," it is undoubtedly a case of declension and failure
to go on with the Lord. They represent the majority in every
age. But what about the others -- the "overcomers," the
"remnant"? Surely it is more than being different from the rest
... and getting a better reward.
Yes, the point is that the Lord must and will have His
testimony according to His own mind in the earth, and such as
provide Him with the instrument for this testimony fulfill a
special mission, not only in the earth but in the heavenlies
T. Austin-Sparks (1930)