"Feed My Sheep" - George H. Warnock
CHAPTER 4 - BETHESDA, THE HOUSE OF MERCY
"Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market (or, sheepgate) a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water..." (John 5:2, 3).
A Picture Of Suffering Humanity
What a picture we have here of suffering humanity, lying helpless in the five porches of the House of Mercy! We are called Christians, and we are proud to be members of the "called-out" ones known as the Church of Jesus Christ. And in this Church we have a five-fold ministry, designated as Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers. (See Ephesians 4:11). We have already observed how these ministries are simply the overflow of the exalted ministry of the Christ who rules in the heavenly Zion. You will recall, perhaps, how the entrance to the Tabernacle in the Wilderness was composed of five pillars, on which there hang a linen curtain which formed the doorway; for this was the doorway to the anointed place, the place of priestly ministry. This Holy Place contained three articles of furniture, the Table of Shewbread, the Altar of Incense, and the Candlestick. In type it would speak of the Anointed Place we have come to in the Church... a place of feasting on Sabbath Bread, a place of True Worship, a place of Illumination, and the shining forth of the Spirit of Truth. It is not the Holy of Holies... that realm is a little further on... but it is the Holy Place of anointed ministry and worship... and I believe in the anti-type we have come thus far... as God continues to prepare His people for that Abiding Realm in the Holy of Holies itself.
Here, then, at the doorstep of the Church there lies "a great multitude of IMPOTENT FOLK..." We do not need to enlarge upon this statement. Impotent folk! Sitting on the doorstep of the Church! Huddled together at the Sheep Gate, as sheep that are bruised and torn and bleeding and wounded, crying out for help! Once in a while there is a moving of the waters... and those that are not too lame to arise and walk into the water, or too crippled to get around... they are able to stumble to the waters the best way they know, to see if perchance they may get in line for a heavenly touch, while anointing is still there. The anointing may not last too long. or perhaps the man of God will weary before he gets an opportunity to touch them... and they will have to wait for the next deliverance meeting.
"And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years" (verse 5). There was a multitude of impotent folk in that place, and I know of a surety that Jesus could have healed every one of them. Nor can I imagine that His concern for the multitudes at Bethesda was any less than the concern and the compassion that poured forth from His heart on many other occasions. Besides all this, He was the Messiah, and He Himself had already quoted the Scripture that would characterize His ministry in the earth:
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor, he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that were bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord..." (Luke 4:18, 19).
One Man Healed
Jesus had come forth from the Father to do all the things that we have quoted in the above passage of Scripture. Why, then, did He not seek to fulfill His great Messianic office here at Bethesda, and heal everyone of the impotent folk who lay there in the porches of the Pool, helpless, crushed, and broken? Simply because He did not come forth from the heart of God to fulfill any kind of an "office" as such, but to DO THE WILL OF GOD; and in doing the will of God every aspect of His Messianic calling would be fulfilled, in God's way, in God's time, and in God's order. "Lo, I come to do thy will, O God." How important it is that we learn to recognize that God has a very definite, and a very explicit aspect of His will for every member of the Body of Christ, just as He did for His Only Son; and that there is a time and a season for the fulfillment of every aspect of His will in the lives of His people. An apostle, a prophet, an evangelist, a pastor, a teacher, a healer, a miracle worker... these might go forth in power and authority in virtue of their great office and seek to fulfill the Scriptures according to their calling. But SONS OF GOD who seek to walk in union with the Father cannot do so. Their "times" are in His hands, and their "way" is ordained of the Lord, and they can only minister as they walk in harmony with God, and according to His ways, and according to His timing, not because they sought to fulfill the Scriptures, but because the Author of the Scriptures caused them to do it.
Before any person can truly come into the perfect will of God there must be a complete dedication of our lives unto Him, until the thoughts and intents and motives of our hearts are thoroughly purged from all that pertains to the self-life. And then, from there on, He will continue to guide us individually until we are able to "PROVE... what is that good, and acceptable (or well-pleasing) and PERFECT WILL OF GOD." (See Romans 12:1, 2).
Before we can truly fulfill the Scriptures there must be a complete renewing of the mind, and a changing of our character into the image of Christ. Truth is not an intellectual understanding that we pursue, but the character of Christ that is formed within us. As we pursue the pathway of obedience to the known will of God... being attentive always to hear the still, small Voice of God, little by little do we climb the stairway of Truth that brings us nigh unto the very heart of God.
We are told that the Lord Jesus, as a child, grew "in wisdom, and in stature." Little by little did He begin to comprehend that Mary was His mother, and that God was His Father; and at least by the age of 12 we know that He was fully aware that GOD WAS HIS REAL FATHER. (He therefore considered it to be the normal thing for Him to linger in His Father's house while Mary and Joseph sought Him.) It is quite evident also that He had acquired, at the age of 12, great wisdom and understanding concerning the Scriptures; and therefore He would have been fully aware of the weight of the ministry that would be laid upon Him in the days to come.
The Uncomplicated Life of Jesus
What then did He do about it? Did He start acting upon the Scriptures that related to His Messiah-ship, and seek to fulfill what He had read and studied? His pathway is clearly set forth in the Word. He simplified His life by walking in union with the Heavenly Father... and as a result ALL SCRIPTURE WAS FULFILLED THAT GOD INTENDED TO BE FULFILLED in the short ministry that He had in the earth... and what remained unfulfilled He was prepared to commit into the hands of the Father who sent Him. Doing the will of God was MORE IMPORTANT to Jesus than seeking to fulfill His Messianic office. With what result? His ministry was cut short, for He was "cut off out of the land of the living..." But He did exactly what God intended Him to do... and the Scriptures which He did not fulfill while here on earth will yet be fulfilled in His Body, as He sits enthroned at God's right hand in the heavenlies.
This may not seem important to some... but it is vitally important. For if we understand this WAY, then we can spare ourselves all the frustrations and needless anxieties that a minister of God has to endure when He sets his course to fulfill a New Testament ministry, or to bring into being a New Testament Church.
Let us not read the Scriptures with the thought in mind that it is up to you and I to strive to fulfill all that we read. Rather let us read the Word for our daily bread, that we might have the strength and the wisdom to do just what God wants us to do TODAY, and rejoice in the hope of the promise that seems as yet unattainable. And let us be assured that every glorious promise of the Word that God has given us... high and unattainable as it may seem to be, is nevertheless yours and mine to embrace as God quickens the Truth of it to our hearts. And as we faithfully walk in obedience in the realm that God has enabled us to walk in TODAY, the time will surely come when we shall also walk in obedience in a realm which is at present beyond our grasp.
I am not being "scriptural" when I try to fulfill Scripture; I am only being scriptural when I walk in fellowship with the Spirit, and in union with the Son... and in so doing I make way for the Word to take hold of my spirit and to nourish and renew the inner man.
"Dear Lord, as I meditate upon your Word, help me to know that I hold in my hands the plan and the blueprint of the greatest and most wonderful masterpiece of your creative power that you have ever undertaken to bring forth. For when you formed the heavens and the earth... the heavens and their wonderful galaxies and universes, and the earth adorned with beauty and majesty... you simply spoke a Word, and it came into being. But when you saw fit to bring forth your Masterpiece, even the Church of the Living God, composed of redeemed sons of Adam's fallen race. you must needs descend to the lowest depths with them in the Person of your Son, that in His death, resurrection, and exaltation to highest heaven we also might be lifted from depths unreachable to heights unattainable, in virtue of your own grace and wisdom and power. And now in this Book that you have given us to read you have set forth in minute and intricate detail your plan and purpose concerning your people. Who am I that I could begin to formulate and arrange my life and calling, or the lives of your people, according to your Divine blueprint? I have it in my hands... I read it... I memorize it... I meditate upon it... But Lord! There is nothing that you say that is within my desire to perform or within my power to accomplish except as your indwelling Spirit breathes afresh upon the Word that you have spoken, and causes it to become Life within me. Let me therefore read your Word with the consciousness that you are causing the very dew of Heaven to fall upon it, that it may quicken thy servant, and take on form and reality in my life as I receive it. Give me only that which I need for today, for thus you taught us to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread." May we not be greedy for wisdom and knowledge, while as yet we are not able to digest it. For again you have said, "Hast thou found honey? Eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it" (Proverbs 25:16). Let us be happy as we walk one step at a time, as long as there is union with Thee, with a Word here and a Word there that we can lay hold upon. But let us not grasp hold of Scriptures, as an undisciplined and inefficient workman would grasp his tools... to erect the pillars and walls, and install the furnishings... when as yet the foundation has scarcely been laid. For so you have declared Thy Word would be fulfilled to a people who would enter in to your rest":
"For precept must be upon precept,
Precept upon precept;
Line upon line, line upon line;
Here a little, there a little:
For with stammering lips, and another tongue
Will he speak to this people. To whom he said,
This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest;
And this is the refreshing:
Yet they would not hear"
And because Israel would not hear, God's Word that was intended to bring them into rest, caused them "to go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken" (verse 13). "For if the light that is in you become darkness," Jesus said, "How great is that darkness!"
Jesus, then, did not formulate any plan for the fulfilling of the Scriptures, nor for His own ministry... nor should we. He simply walked with the Father in perfect harmony and as He did everything came to pass as God intended, and the Scripture was fulfilled. How often we read the phrase, "That it might be fulfilled, according as it is written..."
This is how He began His ministry; for as He entered into the synagogue of Nazareth after His anointing and baptism, and stood up to read, He opened the scroll to the place where it was written concerning His great Messianic ministry. Then having read the portion that pertained to Him FOR THAT HOUR He closed the book, and handed it back to the minister of the synagogue, saying, "THIS DAY is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears..." (Luke 4:21). There would be other days, when other Scriptures would be fulfilled, But for this day this was sufficient, and this was relevant, and God was truly glorified. God's ministers often feel free to boast: "This is Bible, and I'm going to preach it..." But Jesus was confined to that portion of the Word that God was speaking TODAY.
God Has A Blueprint For Your Life
God has a wonderful blueprint for your life and mine, and a wonderful blueprint that goes beyond this to embrace the corporate expression of Christ in the earth. But the Son of God alone is responsible for the execution of these plans in the earth; and the Vicar of Christ (God's Holy Spirit) is alone responsible to bring it into being... in God's way, in God's time, and under God's direction. And if we miss out in any of these three operations, we have missed the will of God.
The Pool of Bethesda, the House of Mercy, with its five porches... whose waters were troubled on occasion, bringing relief to the ones and twos... was not God's final answer to human need. But into the midst of the multitude of impotent folk who languished there... walked the Son of God, who was Himself the Answer.
"Wilt thou be made whole?" Jesus asked the impotent man. "Sir," he replied, "I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool..." Now we thank the Lord for the troubling of the waters, but let us realize that this is not the full intention of God. How often we have witnessed situations like this... "No, I didn't get healed... I was at the back of the line, and the meeting closed before I got my turn... there were too many there, and the man of God was exhausted before my turn came..." Some wonderful things have happened in the pool of the House of Mercy, but it is not the full intention of God, because it has not met the needs of suffering humanity.
But "a certain man" found the answer. It wasn't in the pool, and it wasn't in the five-fold ministry... but it was in the Man of Galilee. It was in the One who walked in total union with the Father. If He would only have gone through the crowd as the Messiah, as the Prophet, as the Healer... then every one would have been healed. But let us repeat again: Jesus did not go to the Pool of Bethesda to have a healing meeting, so as to fulfill His Messianic calling. He went there because the Father was leading Him there and showing Him what to do.
Backlash From The Theologians
Of course, when one begins to walk in this realm, or to encourage others to walk in this realm... we can expect to receive a lot of condemnation from the theologians. It happened to be the Sabbath Day. A little forethought and wisdom on Jesus' part, and He might have saved Himself this embarrassment. Jesus could just as well have waited till the next day. After all, the man had been a cripple for 38 years... one more day wouldn't really matter that much. It looked like a deliberate attempt to antagonize the established religious order of the day. And perhaps it was... but it was not Jesus' doing; for Jesus was not walking according to any plan of His own. It was the plan of the Heavenly Father. And so when Jesus was confronted by the Jews for this "great work" that He did on the sabbath day He immediately disclaimed responsibility for it. "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work," He said. And this statement only served to increase the problem. Now He was claiming to be God's Son. Do you realize that if Jesus had simply moved in the realm of delegated authority, and in virtue of His Messianic Office, He would have been acclaimed as King of the Jews? People are always quick to rally behind a leader and exalt a hero; and they tried it on Jesus. We are told that on one occasion they got together and attempted to make Jesus their King "by force," but He would not be drafted (John 6:15). But because He claimed to walk in union with the Heavenly Father, and to be ONE with Him in all things, they nailed Him to the Cross. (Let us meditate much upon this fact.)
Jesus therefore disclaimed direct responsibility not only for the "great work" that He performed, but also for having done it on the Sabbath. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, THE SON CAN DO NOTHING OF HIMSELF, but what He seeth the Father do: for what things so ever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise" (John 5:19). An apostle, or a prophet, or a teacher, or an evangelist, or a pastor... they can do many wonderful things because of the effectiveness of their office. Powerful men in the Church or in the world have no problem doing what they want to do; for they can readily get a following for themselves, But the Son of God is HELPLESS to do anything.
The Helplessness Of The Son Of God
That is to say, the Son is helpless in Himself; for being a Son implies absolute and total dependence upon the Father for everything... not only for His physical and spiritual needs as such... but for the operation of the very ministry that has been entrusted to Him. This is true of the Son, and it is true of the many sons. And only as we come effectually into this relationship is God truly glorified; for in this relationship we become nothing in ourselves, that He might become ALL. What a difference it will make when sons of God... disciplined and approved of the Father... begin to minister effectively in the Body of Christ. Gone, then, is all the confusion and frustration and perplexity of those who are desperately seeking to fulfill their calling, and to establish Divine Government in the Church, in virtue of the office to which they have been appointed, or the ministry that they have received from God.
"The Son can do nothing of (or "from") Himself, but what He seeth the Father do: for what things so ever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise" (verse 19). Let us just paraphrase it a little. Jesus was accused of doing something contrary to the Law... healing a man on the sabbath day. But Jesus replied, in effect: "Healing a man on the sabbath day? Would you accuse me of that? That was not my plan at all! The Son can do nothing according to His own desire. I saw the Father healing the man on the sabbath, and I only do what I see the Father doing. It was the Father, not I, who healed the man... for He has been working right up until this time, and now I am working together with Him."
"For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him GREATER WORKS THAN THESE, THAT YE MAY MARVEL" (verse 20)
"Greater works than these..." Where do we find this expression again?
"And GREATER WORKS THAN THESE shall he so, because I go to my Father" (John 14:12). Notice this: the GREATER WORKS that Jesus said the Father would shew the Son are to be accomplished in His many brethren in the earth, while He Himself is glorified at God's right hand.
Let us repeat what we have already pointed out: If Jesus had only been content to confine His speech and His works to the Messianic Office, there could have been no real problem with the people. But God's whole purpose in man is SONSHIP not ministry... DIVINE CHARACTER not Divine Government, The Lord Jesus, therefore, came to show us the Way, and to become the Way. As the Pattern Son He would not only "live" by the Father, but He would also minister in total union with the Father, in order that we who follow after might also walk in the pathway that leads us very nigh unto the heart of God.
Now it was indeed a "great work" that Jesus performed on a certain man at the Pool of Bethesda. And God has been doing a "great work" through His chosen ministry in the earth, on behalf of certain ones who lie helplessly at the Sheep Gate, in the five porches of the House of Mercy. But Jesus promised that there would be "greater works than these" that would cause men to marvel... works that would manifest the very resurrection life of Jesus. We have had a taste of this, that is true. But it is yet to be fulfilled in all its fulness when SONS go forth in union with the Father, rather than MINISTRIES with an apostolic or prophetic office. Many Christians continue to cry out for someone great... someone like Paul, or Elijah, or John the Baptist... or like some of the great men that God raised up in the later history of the Church, But this is not the answer. The heart of God continues to cry out for SONS... sons in nature and character like His only Begotten, who will simply walk in God.
A Cripple For Thirty-Eight Years
A cripple for 38 years! What could this signify? Why 38 years? We have at least one outstanding clue in the Bible as to the meaning of the number 38. It was some time during the second year of Israel's exodus from Egypt that Moses sent spies into the land of Canaan to search it out, that the people might gather certain vital information concerning the nature of the land, and the strength of the enemy, before they went forth to conquer it. All agreed that the land was very fertile and productive, but ten of the spies discouraged the people because of the might of the enemy; and the children of Israel turned away in fear and unbelief. Now the spies had spent 40 days searching out the land, and by way of judging them for their disobedience and unbelief God decreed that they would wander 40 years in the wilderness. The spies had searched out the land in the second year; now in the fortieth year the old generation had served their sentence, and had completely passed off the scene:
"And the space in which we came from Kadesh-Barnea, until we were come over the brook Zered, was thirty and eight years; until all the generation of the men of war were wasted out from among the host, as the LORD sware unto them" (Deuteronomy 2:14). Thirty-eight years of hopelessness and despair! But by this time God had raised up a new generation and God was preparing them for the conquest of the inheritance. Even before they crossed over the Jordan, God would give them a little foretaste of the inheritance that lay before them; and God said to Moses: "This day will I begin to put the dread of thee and the fear of thee upon the nations that are under the whole heaven, who shall hear report of thee, and shall tremble" (Deuteronomy 2:25). At that time Israel took the land of Gilead and Bashan in conquest, under the leadership of Moses, on the Eastern side of Jordan; and the land was given to Reuben and Gad and half the tribe of Manasseh at their request. They were satisfied with this rich pasture land, and had no desire to go beyond the Jordan.
There are many in the Church today like Reuben and Gad and Manasseh who feel that we have gone far enough. Talk about the inheritance beyond the River in the mountains and hills of Canaan... and it is thought to be "far-out" teaching. What we have is good. Why be concerned about anything more beyond the River? Let us just camp right here on the Eastern banks of the Jordan, and seek an enlargement of what we have already received. We talk in tongues like the Pentecostals. We have gifts of the Spirit. We prophesy. We have healings. We have beautiful praise and worship. Why get excited about things "far-out" beyond the Jordan?
But the "multitude of impotent folk" still lies at the doorstep of the Church... bruised, and torn, and sick--physically as well as spiritually--and how shall we rest until we see what Jesus promised: "greater works than these that ye may marvel"?
Greater Works Than These
Now the "greater works" are to be accomplished in the earth by virtue of the fact that the Son has returned back to the Father, and has sent forth the Spirit of God into the hearts of His people. He is the exalted Christ, the Anointed One... and now in exaltation the Oil flows down from the Head and permeates the whole Body, like the anointing oil that flowed down Aaron's beard "that went down to the skirts of his garments." We are anointed with the "same anointing" (1 John 2:27). And with this "same anointing" we must learn to walk in the same pathway that Jesus walked in when He was here, not in emulation... but in knowing the same union with the Son that He knew with the Father. What God did in the early Church was only the beginning of the "greater works." God always reserves the "best wine" until the last; and harvest time is always more fruitful than the time of the sowing of the seed. We must yet witness in the earth the full measure of what Jesus promised just before He went away: "...and he will shew him greater works than these that ye may marvel. For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the SON quickeneth whom he will" (John 5:20, 21). Resurrection Life! Not just a future historical event, but the living Christ walking and living in the hearts of men! The early Church had a great measure of this life, as God moved mightily in glory and power. "Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole" (Acts 4:10). We know there shall be a Day of Resurrection, when the dead shall "hear the voice of the Son of God" and come forth in resurrection life... but let us always bear in mind the fact that the Resurrection Life is not just an Event to take place, it is a Person who is alive, and with us today. Jesus said, "I am the Resurrection and the Life..." And God would have us to walk in the glory and power of this life. "But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead shall also quicken (give LIFE to) your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you" (Romans 8:11). There are so many, many Scriptures in the New Testament that emphasize this Life... and we have all read them many times. But let us be assured that God will yet bring forth a powerful witness concerning this Truth, as He has done with other aspects of Truth. We know that Truth was largely lost or obscured during the Dark Ages... but God in great sovereignty began to restore Light and Truth; and as He did so He mightily confirmed the Word that He sent forth, with a mighty operation of His Spirit. Take Hebrews 6, the chapter known as the foundational truths of the Gospel. As God began to restore these foundational truths--one by one--He Himself bore witness to the Truth with a mighty manifestation of His Glory.
Repentance from dead works. From the time of the Reformation and on, there were mighty workings of God in this area, as men were caused to realize that their religious works were but "dead" in the sight of God, and profited nothing.
And of faith toward God. Repentance was the negative aspect... but this was the positive. "Faith" became a new truth in the earth... It was there in the Word, that is true... but very little of it in the hearts of men until God sent forth the Word of Faith... and nations literally rocked under the impact that God sent forth. Next in order was...
The doctrine of baptisms. There is "one baptism," but there are different aspects of the one baptism. There is the outward baptism, with water. But the real baptism is a spiritual baptism. "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body..." This is a corporate baptism into Christ, just as all Israel was baptized unto Moses "in the cloud, and in the sea." "And have been all made to drink into one Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:13). And so the baptism of the Holy Spirit becomes very personal and individual also. It was always there in the Word, and men read about it, and talked about it. But the time came in restoration when God gave a mighty emphasis to it, and men and women began to experience Pentecost, with its accompanying power and glory. Again, the Church was shaken... and nations were shaken, as God restored Pentecost to His people.
And of laying on of hands. This came next. It was there in the Word before, and oftentimes "laying on of hands" was practiced. But usually it was simply a case of meaningless ritual. But once again God brought it forth in might and in power, and God confirmed the truth of it to hungry hearts. And again the Church was shaken, and the earth was shaken, as God restored His gifts and ministries to hungry hearts.
And of resurrection of the dead. THIS IS NEXT! We have talked about it. We profess to have the Resurrection Life of Jesus within us... because the Bible says we have it when we receive Christ, and we believe the Word. But God will yet manifest the fulness of the resurrection Life of Jesus here in the earth. We testify to it in baptism... and as we continue to submit to the dealings of God we shall yet walk in the fulness of His Life.
"Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:4). Do not be discouraged if you discover, as most of us have, that this wonderful miracle of life did not immediately happen when you came up out of the water. And do not think for one moment that a second, or a third baptism... might somehow work the miracle of Life that you so desire. Just simply recognize that there it was, in baptism, that you indicated your faith in Christ, and your desire to be ONE WITH HIM. If your marriage seems to have failed, don't blame it on the wedding vows... simply recognize that you did indeed become JOINED unto the Lord, and continue to pursue that vision until this joining becomes meaningful, and vital, and real. When you walked in the waters of baptism with your Lord, you indicated your intention of becoming ONE WITH HIM in all things... now the Lord would hold you to it. Jesus prayed that it would be so: "As thou Father art in me, and I in thee, that they may be ONE in us..." You testified that it was so, when you took Him in baptism. Now why do you fear to embrace the Truth of it, as God seeks to bind you to Himself, until you are indeed in total union with God?
"For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection" (Romans 6:5). When? In the Day of Resurrection, away off in the future? True, that day will come, and we anticipate the day when this "mortality... shall be swallowed up in life." But even now He would manifest this Life WITHIN our mortality:
"And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is LIFE because of righteousness" (Romans 8:10).
"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us... always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the LIFE also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the LIFE also of Jesus might be made manifest in our MORTAL FLESH" (2 Corinthians 4:7, 10, 11).
Because of the infirmity of our flesh we fear at times that we will never know the fulness of LIFE until our bodies are changed. And indeed in this body we "groan" yearning for full glorification. But we do not want to miss out on the experience of RESURRECTION LIFE here and now, as we fellowship in His sufferings, and know what it is for the very Life of Jesus to be "made manifest in our mortal flesh."
Union With Christ Glorifies The Father
When Jesus spoke of being ONE with the Father, the people said He blasphemed... that He was making Himself equal with God, But in fact He was NOT... "My Father is greater than I," He said, and again, "I can of Mine own self do nothing..."
In this realm God is truly glorified; for in this realm we must decrease, that He might increase. In this realm we can do NOTHING, that He alone might be the One doing ALL THINGS. In this realm we have no righteousness of our own, no truth of our own, no doctrine of our own, no ministry of our own, no life of our own. All this we must lay down. All selfish purposes and ambitions must be laid aside. All talents, gifts, and enablements must be laid on the Altar of Burnt Offering... the Altar of total sacrifice. (Remember, Ishmael must be cast out, but Isaac the beloved had to be laid on the Altar of Burnt Offering.) Henceforth we must walk only in His life, in His Truth, in His Righteousness. His purpose in our lives is all that we pursue, and doing His will becomes our highest prize. Henceforth we must live and work and minister only IN TOTAL UNION WITH HIM. The impossible requirements of the New Covenant are no longer a stumblingblock to men of faith, for they have learned that God is the God of the impossible. And once again, may we repeat the promise of Jesus that He left us just before He went away... and let us paraphrase it:
"I am telling you the truth when I say it is for your own good and well-being that I am going away... so that I who am the Truth dwelling with you, might then dwell within you... and be to you everything that I am now, as I dwell here in your very midst..."
Of course we are all quick to affirm that the Holy Spirit has come to abide within us, as God's faithful Advocate in the earth. And we are certain that He will speak only the words of Christ, and do only His works. But having affirmed this we immediately excuse ourselves for putting forth our own ideas, and formulating our own doctrines, and doing our own works... and then asking the Holy Spirit to come and help us in our worthy endeavors. When is the Church of Jesus Christ going to come to the solemn realization that we have virtually made it impossible for the Holy Spirit to fulfill the purpose for which He came into the earth: to speak only the Words of Christ, and to do only His works? When are we going to realize that when He speaks, He must speak through your lips and mine, and when He ministers, He ministers through your hands and mine, and when He walks in the earth, He walks in your feet and mine? How long will it be ere we recognize that WE ARE THE TEMPLE of the Holy Spirit? How long shall we seek to USE Him, rather than be USED of Him to do His work? How long are we going to ask Him to anoint our words, and confirm our doctrines, rather than recognizing that we have no right to our teachings... and that we are to speak ONLY what He is speaking? How long shall we go about seeking to build the Church of God with His help and encouragement, rather than realizing that He is the Master Builder of the Temple of God in the earth, and that we are simply to work together with Him, doing only what He is doing? If He came to abide in a temple made of wood and stone, then I might excuse myself for my shortcoming, and honor Him who speaks from the Oracle of the Temple. But if He comes to abide in the TEMPLE THAT I AM, then I have no choice in the matter. He must possess me through and through... because He is UNDER OBLIGATION to do nothing, to say nothing, as "from Himself"... but only what proceeds from the glorified Son of God in the heavens.
Let us continue to embrace this Glorious Truth; for once we embrace the Truth, even though it is not yet completely in our possession... we nevertheless project ourselves into a greater measure of captivity unto Him, and at one and the same time into a higher realm of liberty in Him, than we have ever known before, for it is always true that the more captive we become to Him who has liberated us, the more freedom do we actually enjoy.
The Holy Spirit is called "Another Advocate" ...for Jesus is the One who sits enthroned in the heavens as a glorified Man; while He, the Holy Spirit, is the One who abides in the Body of Christ in the earth. Let us not get "theological" about this. He is called "Another Advocate" only by reason of the fact that the Christ Himself is for this present time separated from us bodily; and as we are therefore TWO and yet ONE (for we are a corporate people, yet one with the Head)... so the advocate is TWO, and yet ONE. He is indeed the very same Christ that once walked the earth, but now abides within us in Spirit form. "I will not leave you comfortless," Jesus said, "I will come to you"; and in making this promise He was referring to the coming forth of the Holy Spirit to abide in His people. (See John 14:18). The Holy Spirit is therefore the Spirit of Jesus. (See Acts 16:7, RSV.) He is the Spirit of God's Son (Galatians 4:6). And as He comes to take up His habitation in the Temple not made with hands, He bears the same relationship to the Son on the throne, that the Son does to the Father. Now we are the BODY in which the Holy Spirit dwells. We are "joined unto the Lord," and are therefore "ONE SPIRIT" with Him (1 Corinthians 6:17). He, the Spirit of God, being the life of the Body of Christ, makes this kind of relationship possible. It is the desire of God's heart for His own. It is part of His plan. Jesus enjoyed this intimate union... but He also said it was BETTER that He should go away, that His many brethren might also partake of this glorious relationship...
That They All May Be One...
"That they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be ONE IN US: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory, which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be ONE, EVEN AS WE ARE ONE: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in ONE: and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me" (John 17:21-23).
The teaching so prevalent in the Church today that Christians everywhere should forget their differences and come together in one vast union has nothing to do with the fulfillment of this wonderful prayer of Jesus. What Jesus prayed for was this: that we might come into perfect union with Himself, even as He is in perfect union with the Father, and in this manner reveal the perfections and the glory of Christ in a world of sin and unbelief.
Now the Spirit of God inhabits the Body of Christ in the earth to speak and to declare what He hears the Son saying. That is why there are many, many in the earth today who are beginning to hear these words. O we have all read it many times in years gone by... and recognized it as a very beautiful prayer... something that revealed the desire of the heart of Jesus... but of course we knew it just couldn't come to pass. Then suddenly we hear the Spirit declaring it in the earth... and as we walk in the Spirit, the Voice becomes more and more pronounced, and we are compelled to say: Jesus prayed for this, Jesus declared this, the Spirit of God is declaring this... I must declare it.
What a difference it will make when the Ministry of Christ in the earth begins to sincerely and truly make this commitment: "Lord, you have declared so many wonderful things in your Word... and we have sought to explain and to expound many things that we have read. But henceforth wilt Thou seal our lips with the words of the Son-Father Covenant, "Lo I come to do Thy will, O God." Remove from our hearts any desire to expound the Scriptures that you are not illuminating by your Spirit, or to declare mysteries that you have not chosen to unravel as yet. And may our ears be truly pierced by the circumcision of your Spirit, that we might hear only the Words that Thou art uttering direct from the throne, and then have grace and authority to declare the Truth to the sheep of Thy pasture."
"He shall not speak FROM HIMSELF, but whatsoever He shall hear that shall He speak" (John 16:13). He shall not speak FROM HIMSELF! And because He abides in the Body of Christ on earth, and is in fact the very life of that Body, it means that the members of Christ in the earth are not afforded the luxury or the privilege of preaching and teaching from the storehouse of their study and learning, nor yet from what they have discovered in the Scriptures. It is not enough that God has seen fit to record it in the Scriptures, ...the important thing is this: "Am I hearing what the SPIRIT IS SAYING to the churches, this very moment?" It is indeed a high calling, and impossible of attainment by any human effort. But as we catch the vision of the Son-Father relationship, the bonds of this relationship will take ever-increasing control of our tongues, yea of our whole being, and our whole manner of life... so that we will speak, and declare, and work, and minister simply and only as the exalted Christ sends forth His Word by the Spirit.
This is God's standard, and God will not make allowance for anything less for the simple reason that He has made provision for the standard that He requires. Were He to make allowance for something less, then He must condone man's unbelief in the matter, which He will not do. Everything we now have from God... justification by faith, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the gifts of the Spirit in their various out-workings... these were all in the realm of the impossible at one time. But when the time came for God to bring them forth into the realm of human experience, God made every provision to that end, and sent forth the Word concerning it. Then as God's people grasped the Word which He sent forth, it began to work in their hearts until it finally brought into being in the earth that which God had provided.
Today God is sending forth His Word concerning this high and holy calling of TOTAL UNION WITH HIS SON, not only as it relates to the ministry of the Word, but as it relates to the life and walk of the whole Body of Christ... and He sends forth this Word that we might embrace it, and so eventually appropriate it and walk in it. In the outworking of faith there is always a processing that takes place... and God is simply asking His people to continue to submit to His processings, and at the same time to believe and embrace His Word, until He has accomplished the desire of His own heart.
We mentioned that God does not make allowance for human failure... but He does make provision for it... and that is what the Grace of God is all about. Therefore we simply acknowledge that we have not attained to this high standard that God has in mind, and we continue to seek His face to that end. In the meantime, let us confess that we are all subject to error because of our infirmity, at times stumbling in our own ways... and God forbid that the sheep of His pasture should ever cling to any word that proceeds from our mouth that did not first of all proceed out of the mouth of God. God forbid that any of His sheep should willfully follow any one of God's ministers in any manner of behavior or teaching, that did not originate in the heart of God.
Blessed Are The Hungry And Thirsty
Even as we speak about the purpose of ministry in bringing the people of God unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ... we recognize that there are many who feel neglected and frustrated, because they have been pressed into circumstances and situations that do not appear to have for their objective the unfolding of the character of Christ within them... And yet at the same time they feel in their hearts a tremendous longing and desire to go all the way with the Lord, and to do His will.
Then, let the people of God who are subjected to tests of this nature rest assured in the knowledge that what man or devil intends for evil, God intends for your good. And though you are longing and thirsting for the rain from Heaven that will refresh your spirit, and encourage your growth in the LORD... and still find yourself in a barren and thirsty land, a waste and howling wilderness... be assured of this: God is faithful, And He will cause His Word to descend as dew upon your life as you wait before Him. Oftentimes you may have to walk in darkness... oftentimes in isolation from your brethren. But one day, when the wilderness testing has served its purpose, and has come to an end, you will discover that what you lacked in the rain, God supplied in the dew. For there on the dew the Manna from Heaven settled while you slept, and you will gather it in the morning before the heat of the sun causes it to melt away.
Chapter 5 - The Corporate Relationship
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