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Friday, March 8, 2019

CHURCH-STATE RELATIONS AND THE BOOK OF REVELATION:

CHURCH-STATE RELATIONS AND THE BOOK OF REVELATION:

AN INTRODUCTION TO THE WORK OF JAMES STUART RUSSELL

"How many times have you struggled with the interpretation of certain Biblical texts related to the time of Jesus' return because they did not fit with a preconceived system of eschatology?"

[If we do not understand eschatology: final things, end-time events, we will never really understand the bible.  What were "the last days" about:  the end of the old covenant and the existing Jewish System or the end of the Christian System that was just being established?

Hebrews 1:1-2 KJV  God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,  (2)  Hath in "these last days" spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; mdw]


[NOTE: YOU can download the entire book "The Parousia" Free. Or, read it online if you prefer. You owe it to yourself, if you are to move on to "Full Stature" as a mature and En-Lightened Christian, to make your own personal study of the setting and the background of the New Testament-mdw]



The Scriptures must be allowed to speak for themselves — a liberty which many will not concede.

Behind all of the symbols found in the Bible's Book of Revelation is a struggle for control between the Christian Church and civil government. The great enemy of the Book of Revelation – MYSTERY BABYLON – represents, in particular, that type of spiritual oppression found when civil and religious institutions unite to demand authority over religious expression.

The visions the Apostle John recorded in his apocalyptic book ultimately display Jesus Christ and His people being victorious against those combined powers of church and state.

There are many different opinions about precisely which period of history is contemplated by the visions of John, but few deny the Apocalypse's focus on the civil and religious struggle faced by Jesus Christ and His churches.

The present-day establishment view of Christianity is that the apocalyptic visions of John are descriptive of this very generation – or one not too distant into the future.

 In fact, this perspective of the contemporary fulfillment of Bible prophecy's “last things” is endorsed by nearly every single major church and parachurch organization today – as it has been by those of the previous ten generations.

Regardless, there have always been dissenters to that established view.

Throughout the centuries, many able Christian preachers and authors have stretched the boundaries of the accepted beliefs regarding Bible prophecy. One of those dissenters was James Stuart Russell of the Evangelical Alliance.

I. CHURCH-STATE RELATIONS IN THE FIRST CENTURY

While pastoring a congregation of the Dissenting Church during England's Victorian Era, Rev. J.S. Russell wrote a highly controversial book that flew in the face of the establishment position on the subject of Bible prophecy. Within his book, The Parousia: A Critical Inquiry into the New Testament Doctrine of Our Lord's Second Coming,

Rev. Russell engaged his wide readership with new ideas regarding old difficulties. In the process, he freed the Book of Revelation from centuries of ecclesiastical and political tyranny.

Russell explained that the imagery of the Book of Revelation points not to his own day, but to battles fought long ago in Palestine during the first century – in particular, the civil and religious war between the first generation of Christians and the combined powers of Israel and Rome. Because of his successful approach, a great reformation arrived for the study of Bible prophecy. Only the onset of two world wars stopped the momentum generated by his book.

Placing the key elements of the book of Revelation within a first-century context drew a number of surprising conclusions. Perhaps none of these conclusions were as controversial as the “second coming” of Jesus Christ having occurred in the events surrounding the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.

With the overthrow of the oppressive and murderous regimes in Jerusalem and Rome, Russell taught, Jesus found full vindication before his enemies. The fact that the Christians had been delivered from the holocaust in Jerusalem to the safety of Pella (located in present-day Jordan) served to further prove the conclusion.

Summing up his conviction, Russell wrote:

Our Lord affirms the same speedy coming of judgment upon the land and people of Israel; and He further connects this judgment with His own coming in glory, – the Parousia. This event stands forth most prominently in the New Testament; to this every eye is directed, to this every inspired messenger points.

It is represented as the nucleus and centre of a cluster of great events; the end of the age, or close of the Jewish economy; the destruction of the city and temple of Jerusalem; the judgment of the guilty nation; the resurrection of the dead; the reward of the faithful; the consummation of the kingdom of God. All these transactions are declared to be coincident with the Parousia.

By presenting Scripture without restriction, Russell believed, the imagery of the Book of Revelation predicted a massive catastrophe for both first-century Jerusalem and its temple – that is, for both its state and its church.


II. CHURCH-STATE RELATIONS IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY


It is instructive to trace the growth and progressive development of the Theocratic idea in the history of the Jewish people, and to observe how, as it loses its political significance, it becomes more and more moral and spiritual in its character.

Author James Stuart Russell was qualified to comment on church-state matters. During the 19th century, he was the spiritual leader of the final fight to free Christians from the oppressive religious restrictions of the British government. His doctrine of spiritual liberty insisted upon complete independence from the Church of England's corrupting influence. To accomplish his goal, he deployed his message from one of the most visible pulpits in the British Empire, that of the Congregational Church at Great Yarmouth.

That particular church in Yarmouth was a symbol of liberty in England. Long known in the realm as the "Mother of Nonconformity,” the Yarmouth records show struggles dating back to the 17th century. In fact, it was from this assembly point from which the Pilgrim Fathers departed their native continent seeking freedom of expression on the other side of the world.

The liberty they found ultimately resulted in the writing of the Constitution of the United States (under the authority of “We the People”) and the Bill of Rights, the latter of which protected spiritual and civil independence on a scale larger than the world had ever known.

Rev. Russell traveled widely to spread the cause of liberty. After centuries of tyranny, he felt it was time for absolute freedom from church-state control of Christian doctrine. In this historical drama, he was hugely successful. The arch of triumph in this cause is the Evangelical Alliance.

In 1846, Christians of the British Empire came together – independent of any church or denominational control – to strengthen ties against the oppressive church establishment, which routinely arrested and assassinated dissenting Christians while denying citizenship to those who stood apart from the ruling authority. Within a short space, the Council of the British Organization of the Evangelical Alliance wielded great influence in England, successfully lobbying Parliament and the Royal Family for assistance.

In retrospect, history views the Evangelical Alliance's founding as the culmination of a thousand-year war in England over the issue of spiritual independence. Present at the founding of this organization, Russell served it wholeheartedly until his retirement over forty years later. During that span, Christians enjoyed a liberty of conscience and expression never before held by Englishmen.

The battle won at home, Russell used the Evangelical Alliance to bring reformation to nations abroad. He provided relief during the Irish famine, established churches in nations such as Switzerland and Germany, and was a founder of the free school movement. He even retraced the steps of his predecessors at Yarmouth by personally bringing the Evangelical Alliance's vision of independence to American shores.

It wasn't until forty years after winning the battle for religious liberty that Russell turned to liberate the study of Bible prophecy. During the year his book The Parousia was published, James was one of the most active members of Christian society, serving as secretary and chaplain for the Evangelical Alliance, as well as filling pulpits throughout England – preaching up to five times a week.

A year after publishing The Parousia, Russell's focus remained on the cause of liberty:

The Rev. J.S. Russell spoke of the formation and of the past history of the Evangelical Alliance, and urged the importance of the great principle of the Alliance – the manifestation of the oneness of the Church of Christ.

He believed that it was impossible to calculate the amount of good which had already been accomplished in the... great objects of the Alliance. The efforts of the society on behalf of the persecuted for conscience's sake in various lands have shown the power of Christian union as represented in the Evangelical Alliance.

The issue of religious liberty and establishment dominance was so strong at the time of his writing that he initially published the book anonymously, lest his dissenting reputation dissuade acceptance of first-century fulfillment by members of the Church of England.  One should read The Parousia in this light.


GROUNDSWELL OF SUPPORT FOR THE PAROUSIA UPON RELEASE

As controversial as was the doctrine of The Parousia, there had been, from time to time, establishment writers who suggested the same controversial idea of prophetic accomplishment. After all, the first known modern preterist (“past fulfillment”) commentary on the Book of Revelation was written by a Jesuit priest in 1614.

The first-century application of John's Apocalypse is also found in the writings of other famous theologians, including some of Russell's British countrymen: John Lightfoot, Henry Hammond, Samuel Lee, George Stanhope, Herbert Thorndike, George Wilkins, Frederic William Farrar, Zachary Pearce, Beilby Porteus, Gregory Sharpe, and Bishop William Newcome, the latter of which wrote, The Destruction of Jerusalem by Titus is Emphatically Called the Coming of Christ. However, none of these authors were able to write on the subject with the simplicity and forcefulness of Russell.

Countless others have suggested that John purposefully wrote his apocalyptic book as the capstone to New Testament revelation. To most, the motivation of John in the writing and transmission of the book was to lift the spirits and hopes of the persecuted churches of his own day.

For students of ancient documents, this method is not at all unusual. Most letters are written for contemporary recipients.  In addition, that method is the rule for “apocalyptic literature” -- focusing on contemporary struggles in the light of approaching victory.[24] For the Apostle John, the greatest difficulties were borne by the messengers of his churches who were suffering under the anti-Christian jurisdiction of Roman and Jewish power.

This point demonstrates why Christian scholars' initial reaction to Russell's work is so important. The greatest Bible experts of the British Empire accepted the orthodoxy of James Stuart Russell's Christian faith without comment to the contrary.

In fact, the literary reactions to The Parousia were all so positive that the book received high praise even when critics strongly rejected its doctrinal conclusions. Sadly, the book's critics these days are not up to the level of mastery held by those from the 1800s.

Numerous denominational publications stood in line to recommend The Parousia, including The Sword and the Trowel, United Presbyterian Magazine[26], The British and Foreign Evangelical Review, and even the bastion of church-state reporting in England, The Spectator:

It is with great pleasure that we introduce this work to the notice of our readers . . . . With many of its principles, and with no inconsiderable number of its criticisms, we agree; from others, we emphatically dissent. Many of its positions are simply startling . . . .

We anticipate that our readers will wonder how we can speak in strong commendation of the work which contains such incredible positions. Nevertheless, our commendation is given in all sincerity.

The writer of this review expressed himself to an even greater degree, declaring that Russell's case for the Greek word aion having been translated “age”, as opposed to “world” (as in, the “end of the world”), was so strong that the soon-to-be-completed Revised Version (or English Revised Version) of the Bible should reflect the anonymous author's insight – which it did!

In many other ways, Russell's spiritual labor surprisingly helped unwind the dictatorial control of the civil-religious establishment. The revival of interest in his writings in the twenty-first century shows their continued impact today -- which is a good thing considering that freedom is perpetually under attack.


III. CHURCH-STATE RELATIONS IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

From what quarter, then, was danger to be apprehended from too great freedom of speech?

In many ways, The Parousia throws the chains off eighteen centuries of biblical interpretation, reflected in one thousand years of English literature. Commenting on this lack of quality exegesis (that is, the interpretation of the Bible), author Milton S. Terry wrote:

During the period extending from Gregory the Great to the time of Luther (A.D. 600 to A.D. 1500), the true exegetical spirit could scarcely be expected to maintain itself, or produce works of great merit.

The monasteries became the principle seats of learning, and the treasuries of theological literature gradually found their way to them as to so many asylums. Superstition and ignorance effectually hindered the progress of critical inquiry."

Russell felt that, after centuries of scriptural oppression in the field of Bible prophecy, it was time for absolute freedom of expression. As successful as Rev. Russell was in the field of religious liberty in public ministry, he was equally successful in the field of religious liberty in print. His arch of triumph in this case is The Parousia.

The free and clear presentation of Scripture within its pages gives the New Testament an entirely new life. Freed from the shackles of the Church of England, Russell made the most of the opportunity by holding nothing back on a subject that the religious establishment had obscured deliberately for a millennium.

Because Bible prophecy has been so relentlessly pointed away from the first-century culture out of which it came, many readers find themselves in states of theological shock after digesting successive pieces of Russell's perspective.

As natural as the revelation of contemporary events may have been to the original recipients of the Apocalypse of John, such clarity has met with strong resistance in the 21st century. Leaders within today's church establishment seek methods to oppose and suppress those who teach first-century relevance. Russell made his case so well, in fact, that those seeking to protect positions of power have come to despise both The Parousia and the Rev. Russell's liberty in writing the book.

Because The Parousia allows the pages of the Bible to speak freely and radically, government-licensed theologians chafe at its power and attempt to impugn the author's character. This should come as no surprise. Perhaps they feel that they have something to lose by allowing the discussion to proceed with full liberty of expression.

The modern publisher of C.H. Spurgeon's Works eradicated that preacher's extremely positive comments regarding The Parousia and its author, censoring it from all of their reproductions.

Some choose to oppose the doctrine of The Parousia by challenging the author's Christian orthodoxy.[35] This is an innovation and is utterly misplaced. It is important to note that none of Russell's peers cast a single charge of 'heresy' against the man or his book. This smear has only recently been deployed.

Though some now try to paint Russell as a pantelist (“all things fulfilled”), their charge is absurd and deliberately suppresses his presentation. Says one writer regarding the institutional threat represented by The Parousia:

He initially published his book anonymously. This indicates that he recognized at least some of the personal risks in proposing such a creed-denying thesis. Most of his followers have not been equally alert to these risks. They have committed themselves emotionally and intellectually to a ticking time bomb.

Russell made subversives out of most of his disciples. As awareness spreads among church officers regarding the dangerously heretical nature of his theology, only a few of his followers will avoid the accusation of being subversives: the frontal-assault kamikazes who are willing to go public in defense of his position. As laymen without any institutional base, they can be dealt with easily enough. The subversives in the churches are the main threat.

Despite this panicked rhetoric, James Stuart Russell is no pantelist. For one, his writings refer to immensely significant blocks of key Bible prophecy unfulfilled by AD 70, and an unlimited amount of prophecy which can be fulfilled outside of the frame of the “apocalyptic limit” which was the primary focus of The Parousia.

Prophetic events which awaited fulfillment following the destruction of Jerusalem include the entirety of the millennium, the loosing of Satan and the final consummation of all things in the “destruction of the old serpent”! Also included within this spectrum of unfulfilled prophecy is the final resurrection. Displaying full candor in what remained unfulfilled in the first century, he wrote:

“It is evident that the prediction of what is to take place at the close of a thousand years does not come within what we have ventured to call ‘apocalyptic limits.’ These limits, as we are again and again warned in the book itself, are rigidly confined within a very narrow compass; the things shown are ‘shortly to come to pass.’

It would have been an abuse of language to say that the events at the distance of a thousand years were to come to pass shortly; we are therefore compelled to regard this prediction as lying outside the apocalyptic limits altogether. We must consequently regard this prediction of the loosing of Satan, and the events that follow, as still future, and therefore unfulfilled.”

Russell also believed that the Gospel was in the midst of a great evangelical movement which would ultimately lead to the complete renovation of humankind on Earth:

That favoured apostle who more than any other seems to have comprehended ‘the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of the love of Christ,’ suggests to us ideas of the extent and efficiency of the great redemption which our latent incredulity can scarcely receive. He does not hesitate to affirm that the restorative work of Christ will ultimately more than repair the ruin wrought by sin.

‘As by one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One shall the many be made righteous.’ There would be no point in this comparison if ‘the many’ on the one side of the equation bore no proportion to ‘the many’ on the other side. ‘Where sin abounded, grace did beyond measure abound: that as sin reigned in death, even so might grace reign in righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Rom. 5:19-21).

It does not fall within the scope of this discussion to argue on philosophical grounds the natural probability of a reign of truth and righteousness on the earth; we are happy to be assured of the consummation on higher and safer grounds, even the promises of Him who has taught us to pray, ‘Thy will be done in earth, as it is done in heaven.’ For every God-taught prayer contains a prophecy, and conveys a promise.

This world belongs no more to the devil, but to God. Christ has redeemed it, and will recover it, and draw all men unto Him.

Whether or not his view followed the creeds of others, he was never held in contempt, or disciplined, according to his ruling creeds in the Evangelical Alliance and Congregational Church. His peers laid not one such charge at his feet. In fact, the president of the Evangelical Alliance in Russell's day, Philip Schaff, supported him -- and he literally wrote the book on the creeds. He felt no need to suggest the censorship or discipline of Russell following the publication of either edition of his work. In fact, he incorporated the book into his Dictionary of the Bible under the heading for “parousia”.

The Parousia was not a heretical book upon release; it is not a heretical book now and it must never be considered thus hence. If present-day theologians put chains on the contents of this book, then the legacy of religious liberty left in its pages will have suffered loss.

Thankfully, due in no small part to the freedom of expression offered by the Internet of the late 20th century, dissenting Christians have risen again to the demands of spiritual liberty. If the readership of The Parousia continues to accept its risky challenge of standing for Truth, then perhaps James Stuart Russell's presentation of Jesus Christ as the Savior of the whole world – in a church-militant sense – is true.


JAMES STUART RUSSELL – CHAMPION OF CHRISTIAN LIBERTY

Rev. J.S. Russell and the Apostle John share something in common historically: Both were caught up into the raging seas of war between Church and state. Likewise, around the world today, there are numerous governments intent on limiting the propagation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to only state-licensed sources. It often appears that liberty of religious communication is at the heart of battle in the 21st century:

There is scarcely a single country from Morocco to Pakistan in which Christians are fully free to worship without restriction. Muslims who convert to Christianity or other faiths in most of these societies face harsh penalties. There is now a high risk that the Churches will all but vanish from their biblical heartlands in the Middle East. The suffering is no less acute elsewhere.

Instructive in this regard is the case of Rev. Russell's struggles for religious liberty in Berlin, Germany. Having worked with German Christians during the ascension of the Austrian Empire, he was finally able to deliver the Evangelical Alliance message of Christian unity to Germany in 1857.

For eighty years, the alliances forged during those early days flourished, allowing them the greatest Christian liberty found within continental Europe. Then, in the wake of World War I until the full ascension of the Third Reich in Greater Germany, these liberties steadily eroded and were finally cut off entirely. The godless forces completely surrounded the camp of the saints in that nation, and Germany's state-church became entirely compromised by the Aryan Theology of their pagan government.

Ultimately, on July 1, 1937, the dictator of that empire crushed all audible Christian dissent, symbolized by the arrest of Martin Niemöller and the dissolution of the German Evangelical Alliance.

The domination of the Nazi State over Europe's continental churches yielded a MYSTERY BABYLON rivaling that Roman form of the first century. Any true Christian activity from that 1937 date until May of 1945 was carried out covertly with espionage.

Then, as if history was taking cues from the Apocalypse of John, the coming of a divine deliverance crushed the Nazi harlot under foot, scattering every piece of the Third Reich's abominable state-church to the four winds.

Those who would allow encroachment upon religious liberty through the institution of church incorporation should consider the example of the gradual drift of Germany's church-state admixture.

Church incorporation was the Stalingrad of German Christianity. Once church incorporation compromised the issue of authority, Germany's Christian churches fought a losing battle against the enemy's onslaught. Even if not initially successful against the rising tide of tyranny, we should remember the fruits of that labor as in post-WWII Germany:

The Confessing church . . . . had battled the state in order to maintain the very existence of the church. Their opposition had caused anguish, suffering, and pain. But it had also brought a quickening of spirit and a reassessment of values. The years of opposition had laid a foundation and set the guidelines for the reconstruction of the church in the new Germany.

The hand of the King of Kings, Jesus Christ, is against any state-church that seeks to unlawfully dominate His rightful subjects.

Those who attempt to seize control over His people by controlling expression of His Gospel are in rebellion to the Higher Power.

All nations which subvert the Gospel by mandating doctrines and practices within the scope of public policy are on notice regarding the declared fulfillment. The consequences of ignoring God's warning were fully displayed to the “chosen generation” of John's contemporaries -- yet also by his writings to all succeeding generations.

And as it was revealed to the Apostle John in the first century, to James Stuart Russell in the nineteenth century, and to Dietrich Bonhoeffer in the twentieth century, all such attempts are doomed to failure and assure the ignominious defeat of the perpetrators.


EULOGY FOR JAMES STUART RUSSELL

In closing, the 1912 summation of author J.E. Clowes provides a fitting eulogy for one of the most dedicated historical Christian lovers of liberty – James Stuart Russell:

In few men probably has the ideal of the Christian Ministry been more fully realised than in Dr. Russell. He was a most impressive preacher, with a style remarkably simple, clear and direct, and a happy choice of words.

No class of hearers was neglected by him, and his occasional addresses to the young were looked forward to with brightest interest. As a pastor he was a systematic and eagerly welcomed visitor in the homes of his people. Whilst indulging in no undue intimacies with a few, he sought to know each member of his flock and to interest himself in and share his or her individual joys and sorrows.

With a happy knack of saying the right thing in the right place, he would aptly but briefly counsel, reprove or encourage as occasion might require. He was a man of rare tact and sound judgment, intensely sympathetic.

Absolutely free from vanity or any assumption of superiority, he bore himself with simple dignity, and was the last with whom any one would take a liberty. In all relationships and under all circumstances his deportment was that of the true christian gentleman, and not only did he enjoy the love and unshakeable confidence of his own people, but also the respect, esteem and friendship of fellow-townsmen who held views widely differing from his own.

It was no unusual thing to see members of the Church of England and other communions, men of note and position, listening with deep interest to his preaching, and reverently joining in the simple but beautiful service. The chapel was frequently so crowded that it was impossible to find seats for all, and at times the congregation overflowed into the vestry.[49]


Rev. Todd D. Dennis[50]
American Coalition of Unregistered Churches

Point Loma Nazarene University
February 5, 2013


NOTES:

Everlasting and Eternal in the HOLY BIBLE


Click below for Biblical Texts.  Article is on this blog for your convenience:
https://ascension-hill-ministries.blogspot.com/2018/08/everlasting-and-eternal-in-holy-bible.html

James Stuart Russell, The Parousia: A Critical Inquiry into the New Testament Doctrine of our Lord's Second Coming (London: Daldy, Isbister & co., 1878),172


“And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. And upon her forehead [was] a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.” (Revelation 17:1-6 KJV)


“And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate. Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her.” (Revelation 17:19, 20 KJV)


“In 1970, Hal Lindsey published "The Late, Great Planet Earth," which was picked up by Bantam Books in 1973 and sold 7 million copies by the end of the decade. In 1979, Orson Welles lent his basso-profundo voice to narrating the movie version of the book.

Suddenly, a large audience was led to believe that European integration, the establishment of the State of Israel, and conflict in the Middle East were all unfolding as fulfillment of end-time prophecies embedded in the Bible.

Interest in apocalyptic themes accelerated in the 1990s and early 2000s when, over the span of 12 years (1995-2007), there appeared the 16 volumes of the "Left Behind" series, purporting to tell the story of the final days -- from the rise of Anti-Christ, through the Battle of Armageddon, concluding in the triumphal return of Jesus Christ. Good story-tellers, Tim La Haye and Jerry Jenkins, the series' authors, have reputedly sold 65 million copies.

Movies and even video games have been spun off from this successful franchise.” (Charles J. Reid, “Against Apocalypticism,” in The Huffington Post, January 10, 2013)


See David Brady, The Contribution of British Writers Between 1560 and 1830 to the Interpretation of Revelation 13.16-18: (the Number of the Beast) : a Study in the History of Exegesis (Tübingen Mohr, 1983)


James Stuart Russell Study Archive, http://www.preteristarchive.com/StudyArchive/r/russell_james-stuart.html


The Parousia was originally published in 1878. A second edition was published in 1887. Since Walt Hibbard launched the Baker Books republishing of The Parousia in 1983, the book has been presented anew numerous times. Each new edition was offered to reach a new audience with Russell's idea.


"How many times have you struggled with the interpretation of certain Biblical texts related to the time of Jesus' return because they did not fit with a preconceived system of eschatology?

Russell's Parousia takes the Bible seriously when it tells us of the nearness of Christ's return. Those who claim to interpret the Bible literally, trip over the obvious meaning of these time texts by making Scripture mean the opposite of what it unequivocally declares. Reading Russell is a breath of fresh air in a room filled with smoke and mirror hermeneutics." (Gary DeMar, The Parousia, Baker Publishing Group, 1999.), quoted on cover.


“For a generation just before and after World War II, it was common to hear of a Neo-Orthodox Consensus in theology, replacing the Liberal Consensus that had reigned on the eve of the First World War.” (Robert M. Price, "Major Theological Issues Before the Great War,” Mount Olive Review, 1988)


Russell, The Parousia, 165-190


"The time of Christ's solemn judiciary process against the Jews was the time when He did acquit Himself with honour upon His adversaries, and the scandal and reproach of His death was rolled away. The approach of His general judgment ended the persecution ; and when the godly were provided for at Pella, the unbelievers perished by the Roman sword.” (Russell, The Parousia, quoting T. Manton), 294


Russell, The Parousia, 538,539. There is a great deal of historical support for such thinking. Consider Andrew of Caesarea on Revelation 6:14b-17: “Our Lord foretold the future events to the apostles who were asking about the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and about the end of time, as much as they were able to receive. These things already happened, in the siege of Vespasian and Titus, to the Judeans who killed Christ, just as Josephus the Hebrew narrates." Also read Demar and Gumerlock in The Early Church and the End of the World, American Vision, 2006


Russell, The Parousia, 340


J.E. Clowes, Chronicles of the old Congregational Church at Great Yarmouth, 1642 to 1858 (Great Yarmouth, [England : J. Buckle, printer], 1912.)


"The Constitution,” http://www.whitehouse.gov/our-government/the-constitution


James Sieveright, The Evangelical Alliance the Embodiment of the Spirit of Christendom (pp. iv. 130, Edinburgh: M. Macphael, 1847.)


J.S. Russell, "Comments on the 40th anniversary of the Evangelical Alliance." (Evangelical Christendom, Vol. 41, 1887), 314


"The Evangelical Alliance; Its history and work, the convention in this city." The New York Times, (October 2, 1873)


“Evangelical Christendom” (1878), 59, 157, 186, 216, 348, 374


“Evangelical Christendom” (1879), 95


Rev. Patris Ludovici ab Alcasar Hispalensis, Vestigatio Arcani Sensus in Apocalypsi (Antwerp: Joannem Keerbergium, 1614). Attempting to counter Protestant theology which identified the Pope as the Antichrist, the Spanish Jesuit Theological Society released commentaries on the Apocalypse from both a preterist perspective (“Alcasar”) and a futurist perspective (Ribera). Ribera's view of a future Antichrist obtained supremacy over the Protestant's Historicism
“The distinction of Christ's first coming in the flesh, of his second coming to overthrow the Jewish state, and of his third coming to the general judgment, is convenient language for divines: but it does not expressly occur in Scripture. The destruction of Jerusalem by Titus is emphatically called the coming of Christ : the spirit of prophecy speaks particularly of this, because the city and temple were then destroyed, and the civil and ecclesiastical state of the Jews subverted. The Jews also suffered very great calamities under Adrian ; but not so great as those under Vespasian : and the desolation under Adrian is not particularly foretold. But I think that any signal interposition in behalf of his church or in the destruction of his enemies may be metaphorically called a coming, and a parousia of Christ." (William Newcombe, Observations on our Lord's Conduct as Divine Instructor, [Oxford: At The University Press, 1853 ed.]), p. 231


Many related works are available at “Free Online Books”, http://www.preteristarchive.com/Books


"No other genre of the Bible has been so fervently read with such depressing results as apocalypse, especially the books of Daniel and Revelation.

This genre has suffered from a disastrous history of misinterpretation due to a fundamental misunderstanding of its literary forms, structure, and purpose. Because of its very claim to reveal what is shortly to happen, apocalypse has been viewed as a road map into and a blueprint of the future.

The tragic flaw in this view is the assumption that the book's frame of reference is the reader's contemporary age rather than the author's.” (The Encyclopedia of Christian Literature, 2010), 4

HIGH PRAISE FOR "THE PAROUSIA"


The Sword and the Trowel, (October 1878), 553


The United Presbyterian Magazine, (1878), 424


The British and Foreign Evangelical Review, (Volume 28, 1879), 804


The Spectator (editors Joseph Addison; Richard Steele, Sir; Alexander Chalmers, Volume 52, June 14, 1879), 760


"Matthew 24:3 – Bible Versions,” http://bible.cc/matthew/24-3.htm


Russell, The Parousia, 181


Milton S. Terry, Biblical Hermeneutics : a Treatise on the Interpretation of the Old and New Testaments, (New York Phillips & Hunt; Cincinnati, Walden & Stowe, 1885.), 661


Here is a representative quote: "I believe that Russell's work is one of the most important treatments on Biblical eschatology that is available to the church today. The issues raised in this volume with respect to the time-frame references of the New Testament to the Parousia are vitally important not only for eschatology but for the future debate over the credibility of Sacred Scripture.” (Dr. R. C. Sproul, The Parousia, Baker Publishing Group, 1999), quoted on cover.


"[T]he teachings of Ken Gentry, Gary DeMar, and other "partial" preterists are opening the door to "hyper" preterism. Most people who were once captivated by the writings of Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye have undergone a "paradigm shift" by accepting the preterist framework and rejecting dispensational futurism. Gentry and DeMar need to explain why dispensationalists are wrong to claim that Matthew 24:30 and other such passages are talking about a future Second Coming, but the creeds and confessions are right to talk about a future Second Coming using those same texts.

Mathison's book really does nothing to counter this prophetic exegetical inertia. People like Ken Gentry, by espousing preterism and recommending Russell's book, have started a big snowball rolling down the hill, and then they say, "Oops! That snowball shouldn't roll any further." Preterist inertia is very powerful. This is why Mathison and his contributors are finding their churches invaded by preterists. Mathison's book tries to counter this movement by saying little more than "I should point out that no snowball has thus far made it all the way down the mountain.' (Kevin Craig [co-pastor with David Chilton], “A Review of Keith A. Mathison, ed. When Shall These Things Be? A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism”, 2004)


Pilgrim Publications, director Bob L. Ross. The full unedited version of Charles Haddon Spurgeon's review can be found here: http://www.preteristarchive.com/Books/russell_parousia_spurgeon.html.  Lightfoot is also censored: A Commentary of the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica. Daniel Lamont was, as well.


The charge of heresy is found in the works of C. Jonathan Seraiah, Keith Mathison, Gary North, and Jim West, who wrote that Russell's book “should be torched”

Gary North, “Dualism's Doctrine of the Eternality of Evil: A Critique of Heretical Preterism,” (2001). Also, “I can well understand why he refused to put his name on the first edition of his book in 1878. He wanted to "test the waters" before he identified himself in public. Why else would insist that his book be published anonymously, the same way that Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published The Manifesto of the Communist Party in 1848.”, and “J. Stuart Russell introduced his book with this statement: "The work is almost wholly exegetical; and there is no attempt to invent or establish a theory, but only, by honest and faithful interpretation of the New Testament Scriptures, to allow them to speak for themselves" (p. 1). I conclude with this warning: whenever anyone tells you that he is merely letting the facts speak for themselves, and that he has no hidden agenda or underlying theory, I strongly advise you to keep your hand upon your wallet and your back against the wall.”

See Duncan McKenzie, “J.S. Russell's Position on the Millennium, the Neglected Third Way of Preterism,” http://www.preteristarchive.com/Modern/2006_mckenzie_russell-neglected.html

Russell, The Parousia, 523

Russell, The Parousia, “Summany and Conclusion”, http://www.preteristarchive.com/Books/images/1878_russell_parousia/russell_parousia_snc.html


“The Doctrinal Basis of the Evangelical Alliance”, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/creeds3.v.viii.html (1846)


“The Savoy Declaration”, http://www.reformed.org/documents/Savoy_Declaration (ed. John Owen, 1658)


Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical Notes, (New York : Harper, 1877)


Rupert Shortt, “Christians persecuted throughout the world“ (The Telegraph, October 29, 2012)


Edward Steane, The Religious Condition of Christendom, Third Part : Exhibited in a Series of Papers Prepared at the Instance of the German Branch of the Evangelical Alliance and Read at the Conference held in Berlin, 1857, (London : Office of the Evangelical Alliance, 1859.)


“The official announcement of his arrest stated: “that for a long time Niemöller had been making provocative statements from the pulpit and in public addresses; that he had defamed leading personalities of the state and state measures; that he had caused unrest among the populace. Likewise he had urged rebellion against state laws and ordinances. His statements are the steady fare of the hostile foreign powers.” (Ernst Christian Helmreich, The German churches under Hitler : background, struggle, and epilogue, Detroit : Wayne State University Press, 1979.), 346.  cf.
1 Corinthians 6:1-7

“Stalingrad was the military turning point” (Captain Dennis W. Dingle, “Stalingrad and the Turning Point of the Soviet-German Front”, 1977), http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a212034.pdf

Helmreich, The German Churches under Hitler, 346

Romans 13:1. Consider the following from Kevin Craig, “No longer can we say "I believe because Holy Mother the Church teaches." No longer can we say "I act because Big Brother the State commands." We must take our marching orders from Christ.” (A Review of Keith A. Mathison, ed.

When Shall These Things Be? A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism). Also, the last words of Lutheran Sophie Scholl: ”How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause. Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?” (quoted by cell-mate Else Gebel)


J. E. Clowes, Chronicles of the old Congregational Church at Great Yarmouth, 1642 to 1858, (Great Yarmouth, [England : J. Buckle, printer], 1912.), 82, 83


The Idealist method of interpretation has had a long association with Preterism.  Examples can be traced back to St. Augustine, Origen Adamantius, Justin Martyr, and to the author of Hebrews -- not to mention the John's own Apocalypse.  Recent scholarship has been no less enlightening. Charles Homer Giblin expresses this idea well:

 “The fate of Jerusalem is brought about by two major facts. First, the people are insensitive to the terms for peace...  Second, the rulers of the people (the Romans not excepted, but not considered as primarily responsible) have committed injustice and thus bring about the ruin of the people.

The fate of Jerusalem, however, is not ultimately weighed as an event in itself - it is a sign for others, and is expressly related to time for judgment of nations.

All this proves to be relevant, parabolically, to Luke's readership, a man of affluence and influence, educated, who is expected to perceive in "a history" what should be done and what should be avoided, to discern models of good and of evil, with their consequences for society as he knows it.

In effect, Luke's lesson apropos of his account of Jerusalem's destruction is to be construed as a question prompted in the typed reader's mind: If this is what happened to Jerusalem because of the way Jesus and those who represent him, his disciples, were treated, what will happen to my city/nation/society if he (and his followers, who stand for him) are treated similarly?

What am I, as a respected man with some influence, expected to do?” (The Destruction of Jerusalem According to Luke's Gospel: A Historical-Typological Moral, Biblical Institute Press, 1985, 123 pages), viii


JAMES STUART RUSSELL'S KNOWN WRITINGS

1850: A Leaf from the Early History of the Ancient Congregational Church in Great Yarmouth. 1642-1670 (privately printed)

1853: Is it Possible to Restore Unity Between Evangelical Conformists and Nonconformists? A Bicentenary Lecture (pub. John Snow, 16 pages)

1854: Nonconformity in the Seventeenth Century: An Historical Discourse, Delivered at the Celebration of the Bicentenary of the Congregational Church, Wattisfield, Suffolk (pub. Fletcher and Alexander, 36 pages)

1870: "The Evangelical Alliance: its Objects, and its Influence in promoting Christian Union and Religious Liberty" (unpublished)


1878: The Parousia: A Critical Inquiry into the New Testament Doctrine of Our Lord's Second Coming (pub. Daldy, Isbister & co., 561 pages)


1887: The Parousia: A Critical Inquiry into the New Testament Doctrine of Our Lord's Second Coming (pub. T. Fisher Unwin; 2nd edition with a new preface)

1887: "Comments on the 40th anniversary of the Evangelical Alliance" (Evangelical Christendom, Vol. 41, p. 314)

1888: “A Rejoinder by the Author, Rev. J.S. Russell, MA” (The Congregational Review, Volume 2, Part 1, February 1888, pp. 148-151)

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Chapter 4 - The Centrality and Supremacy of Christ as "Head of All Principality and Power"


The Centrality and Supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 4 - The Centrality and Supremacy of Christ as "Head of All Principality and Power"

Reading: Ephesians 1:15-23; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:13; 2:10,15.

In a previous meditation it was Christ's centrality and supremacy in the light of the individual which occupied us; then it was His centrality and supremacy in the Church, which is His Body. We are now to consider that which is implied by the tenth verse of chapter two of Colossians: "... the head of all principality and power." Going with that is this statement from chapter one: "... who delivered us out of the power of darkness."

THE GREAT COLOSSIAN ERROR

To apprehend rightly and appreciate truly the value of particular statements in the letter, such as this which we have just read, we must keep in view the background and occasion of the letter; and so for a moment we will be occupied with the main things which are in view in this letter. And firstly, and all inclusively, there is this absolute supremacy of Christ. For the unveiling of that to the believers and the establishing of the believers in that, the Holy Spirit led the Apostle to write this letter. It was because of a movement by means of a teaching which had come to Colossae, the effect of which was to take the Lord Jesus out of His prominent place and put Him in a lower place, that this letter was provoked. It was a corrective. The nature of that teaching was a combination of Judaism with a spurious Christian philosophy. There were elements of Judaism and elements of Christianity woven into a somewhat fascinating philosophy, and it had to do in the main with supernatural beings from low orders to very high orders: principalities and powers in the lower realms and in the higher realms, and these orders of supernatural and spiritual beings were traced through the ranks of spirits and angels and archangels, and then, as one of them, but of very high rank, Christ was presented. And He was made to be just one of the superior, or perhaps the unique superior head, of angelic forces, angelic orders, and these were offered for worship. There was what the Apostle calls here: "a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels," by which he meant that people were assuming to be very humble people, worshipping angels, bowing down to any superior person in the spiritual realm, a voluntary humility and worship of angels. As you will see by reading again, the Apostle repudiates the whole thing as being earthly, and of man, and being pernicious and evil, and to be utterly put out because, under cover of a very sincere and earnest religiosity, it subtly struck at this one thing, it struck at the absolute supremacy of the Lord Jesus as in the Godhead. It was a wonderful thing. It drew out worship. It even led to the worship of Jesus, it gave Him a very high place in heavenly orders; it represented a very great deal of devotion, and with its external rites which were taken over from Jewish ordinances, which you will see in the letter, it captured a great many, and they accepted it as a revelation, a wonderful revelation, and as a truth to be received and obeyed. They were in danger of failing to recognize the peril of this thing, that though it exalted Christ, led to the worship of Christ, produced in those who accepted it an attitude, apparently spiritual, of reverence and humility and had that moral effect in them of something to make them very reverential people, very humble, earnest people, with a great devotion to Christ, and a great respect for everything spiritual; yet all that blinded them to the deep, subtle, devilish thing that was there. How far Satan will go even in bringing about a kind of devotion to Christ, and promote a mystical, psychical "Christianity" (?) with elements of moral elevation, and yet hide within that very thing something which is of himself and, being of himself, savours of that which was in him from that time when he himself was hurled out of heaven, that thing which would take from the Lord Jesus the absoluteness of His place in the Godhead.

That is what was here, back of this letter; and the letter was written to expose this Gnostic philosophy, this false spirituality, this Satanic devotion to the Lord Jesus, and to show that the Lord Jesus was not only at the top of angelic ranks, He was Head of all principality and power in the sense that He was the Son of God's love, and that He was one eternally with God in the Godhead. The fullness of the Godhead was in Him in bodily form.

Now, beloved, from what we have just said there ought to be guidance for us at the end time; and you can take what I have said and apply it to some things which are of this very character, which will have great vogue in the earth, but which just fall short of this essential thing. But that is not the object of my saying this, though it may provide that understanding and knowledge and guidance and precaution. He is head of all principality and power, Christ is absolutely supreme, in a unique supremacy, not as one of that order, at the top of that order, but One whose order is far above every other order and whose supremacy is because there is not another like Him. He does not belong to the angelic order. He is not a created being. He is eternally one with God. Of course, to you that is nothing new, and provokes not a very great deal of enthusiasm because we all believe that quite heartily. I hope that is true of you; that you believe that, that you stand there, that from your heart you are well able to say without the slightest suspicion of a reservation: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God."

CHRIST'S SUPREMACY INDICATED BY HIS WORK

Now having said that, and seen that, you are able to move on to the thing which is connected with it as a main thing in this letter. Connected with the absolute supremacy of Christ, is His supremacy as indicated by His work. It is here that the Apostle shows in what way Christ is different from, and superior to, all other orders of angels and archangels and principalities and powers. It is not just the statement of the fact that He is, but it is the showing of HOW that is so, in what way that is so; and it is by reason of His work. You see that is what comes out in this letter. You take the great statement of chapter 1:13: "Who delivered us out of the authority (lit.) of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love." You can say that about no angel or archangel. There is no other being in heaven or in earth to whom you can attribute that. That represents His mighty work, and it was that that He did in what you read in chapter 2:15: "Having put off (lit. stripped off) from himself the principalities and the powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it (His Cross)." When He did that He delivered us out of the authority of darkness, and we were translated into the kingdom of the Son of God's love. No angel did that. No archangel stripped off principalities and powers. He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in His Cross. It was Christ who did that. It is Christ's whose is the kingdom. It is the kingdom of the Son of God's love, His is the kingdom; and that kingdom is His by reason of conquest, by reason of triumph, by reason of casting out all other principalities and powers; by displaying openly in His triumph those others who sought to take possession of the dominion of this world. His is the kingdom in virtue of His Cross; and His Cross is the scene of His dealing with every other authority and power in the universe that would in any way seek to take His rights as the eternal, predestined heir of all things, as the Apostle here says: "All things have been created through him, and unto him." The supremacy is based upon His work.

It is a great thing of course to recognize the personal supremacy of the Lord Jesus; it is an added thing, beloved, to recognize the greatness of the work which He accomplished which brought Him into that personal supremacy. In Philippians 2 we see the descending movement of the Son of God's love from the place of equality with God down, down, down, until utterly emptied; He became "obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross." "Yea" says the Apostle: "yea" - and no glorious death, no honourable death in the sight of men - "the death of the cross" - "Wherefore" (For this reason, on this account, because of this, the death of the cross) "also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." The ground of His supremacy is the uniqueness and the transcendence of the work which He has done.

OUR PLACE IN THIS SUPREMACY

Now the third thing which comes in with this letter brings us in. That is all glorious, and our hearts ought to be moved by that great objective reality, the supremacy of Christ and His work: but we have got to see how we come into it, and one or two fragments will help us. Let us look at Colossians 2:12. "Having been buried with him in baptism, wherein ye were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, being dead through your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, you, I say, did he make alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses." "If ye died with Christ" - might we not leave out the "if" and make it an affirmation: "Ye died with Christ." "If then ye were raised together with Christ..." You see formerly he has made the statement that this was so, that we were buried with Him, that we were raised with Him. Now we might take it up like that, as a two-fold affirmation: Ye died with Christ; ye were raised together with Christ: "... seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God." The right hand is always the place of honour and power; that is where He is. "For ye died, and your life is hid with Christ in God." "Lie not one to another; seeing that ye have put off the old man with his doings, and have put on the new man, that is being renewed unto knowledge after the image of him that created him: where there cannot be Greek and Jew... but Christ is all, and in all.'' That is the way into the good of what we have been saying and it is necessary for us to carry Christ's work right through to this full issue. The full issue of His absolute victory in the realm of all principality and power, in the realm of the authority of darkness - I say it is necessary to carry His work through to that full issue. Forgiveness of sins is a great blessing, the atonement for our sins is a great blessing, to be saved from hell at last and go to heaven is a great blessing, we would not minimise them for a moment or take from the greatness and the grandeur of those things because of the infinite cost with which they were purchased for us, but I say again, it is necessary for us to carry the work of Christ through to its full issue, and its full issue lies in the realm of principalities and powers, lies in the realm of the authority of darkness, the jurisdiction of darkness. That is important for the sinner to know, that it is not only a matter of being forgiven his sins and saved from sin, but that the sinner should know that in salvation all the authority, the jurisdiction of principalities and powers, of the Adversary, Satan himself, has been destroyed and broken, and out of that jurisdiction, that authority, that rightful hold of Satan, they have been rescued - for that is the word here - rescued by Christ in His Cross; it means that Satan has no more power because he has no more right. His power depends upon his right, and his right is based upon a state of things in our hearts, and the Cross deals with the state of things and destroys or removes the ground of his right, and breaks his power. Carry it right through. Now all that is in Christ for us. Christ in Himself embodies His supremacy over the Adversary because in Him there is no one of that ground that the Adversary must have upon which to encamp and construct his rightful authority to hold in bondage. In Christ there is no such ground; Christ is in us when we believe, and, as we have already pointed out, that apprehended by faith means that the authority of Satan is broken because there is that in us which is Christ; there is Christ in us in whom there is no ground for the jurisdiction of Satan. To be delivered not only from sin (let me say it again) but from the authority of Satan, is a tremendous thing. "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" "It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again." What is the value of that? The Accuser comes along and tries to lay a charge against us. What is our ground of answer? Oh, our ground of answer is this: "It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again." That is the way to answer the accusation of the enemy; Christ, who hath triumphed over sin and over all the grounds of Satan's authority. You and I can never meet the enemy ourselves in ourselves, he would have the best of the argument every time, but if we are able to present him with Christ, what can he do? "... the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me." They are the words of the Lord Jesus. What power has he? In Christ's death and resurrection all his power has been destroyed. "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" "Christ in you, the hope of glory." Do you follow that? That is the provision God has made, and if only we had a fuller, readier apprehension of Christ we should find that to be the way of victory. What is it that the Holy Spirit works upon in order to make victory in us actual? It is not our struggles to be better. THE HOLY SPIRIT NEVER HELPS US IN A STRUGGLE TO BE BETTER. We may struggle on for ever, and die struggling, and the Holy Spirit will not help us if that is the way in which we think we are going to be either saved or sanctified. What is it with which the Holy Spirit will cooperate? It is our faith apprehension and appropriation of Christ as our perfection, as our salvation. "Oh," you say, "yes, but we are sinful and there is so much wrong about us; are we to close our eyes to actualities about ourselves?" You are to open your eyes to Christ. Stop looking at yourself and your own sin and get your eyes fixed upon the Lord Jesus as perfection for you to God, and from God to you, and as you take Him by faith - "Not what I am, O Lord, but what Thou art" - "I in myself am bad: '... in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing,' but Lord, You are my salvation, You are my righteousness, You are my holiness, You are my sanctification, I hold on to You for all that" the Holy Spirit makes that good to us. It is our appreciation of Christ that is the Holy Spirit's ground of activity; that is the way of deliverance.

CHRIST THE WAY OUT FOR THE SINNER

Hear that wretched man crying out: "... for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I." In that up and down life, resolving and failing, at last he cries: "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me? ...I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord." What is the way out for the wretched man? An apprehending of Christ. Not his struggles, his resolutions, his efforts in making up his mind that today he is going to be better, and coming back and having to repent at the end of the day. No, no! It is our faithhold on Christ which is the way out, the positive ground of victory. You try that way. God honours His Son, and God honours our faith in His Son. "It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again," triumphant; and, "Christ in you" "... the head of all principality and power." This, for the unsaved, is a necessary fact. If we had been converted on the strength of this we would have been stronger believers from the beginning. If only we had known this when first we were saved we would have leaped into something that came to us many years afterward. Oh for the preaching of salvation to the full! You get a different kind of convert altogether when you carry the work of Christ to its full issue; when it is not only preached that your sins will be forgiven and you will go to heaven and not hell - perhaps a little more than that; but it is infinitely more than that, and if only we preached the fullness of Christ's work we would have converts that went ahead, apace, and reached maturity much sooner than the majority are doing, and we should find that most of our conventions are quite unnecessary, for they are mostly to get us to the place where we ought to have come when we were converted.

THE PREACHER NEEDS TO KNOW THIS

It is necessary for the believer; may I just say that is necessary for the worker, the preacher of the Gospel, the one who has to do with souls. You will not be a popular preacher of course, if you preach this. You will find, more than ever, that hell will be out against you, and many of the Lord's people will turn against you, but it is necessary. You take the case of the heathen; though what we have in the heathen is only obvious and patent: the same thing holds in the case of the enlightened, civilized, but it is not so obvious, it has been covered up by civilization and a great deal of Christian tradition: but in the case of the heathen it is very patent. What is the trouble with so many converts from heathenism? They go so far on the matter of forgiveness and salvation from sin, and faith in the Lord Jesus, but oh, the haunting, tracking, pursuing fear of the spirit world, evil spirits, the authority of darkness; it follows them up, and very often that is the thing which drags them down and brings them back into bondage; and because of the fear of that, and the consequences of their action in breaking from the traditions of their fathers, fear of the consequences in the spiritual realm, what may happen to them, what may overtake them, they become again in bondage to fear and leave the way and go back.

If only we could bring to them in the power of the Holy Ghost right at the beginning the proclamation of Him "who delivered us out of the power (lit. authority) of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love," and get that in, we should see different results. Take that to them.

Beloved, the same thing obtains here in this country as in heathen countries, but I have said it is veiled. The authority of darkness is just as real here as it is amongst the heathen, the same Gospel is necessary, and you will find that until you have registered the impact of Christ's Calvary work against spiritual forces behind men you have not wrought out their full deliverance. We believers know what it is for the enemy to try to get us into the grip of fear again concerning himself. The authority of darkness is a very real thing to us. We have experiences, and if we were to capitulate to them, that would be the end of us. He tries to bring upon us that impingement of the authority of darkness, and if we surrender to it, capitulate to it, accept it, we are beaten. If we are the Lord's, Christ is within, and Christ is supreme and we must go on even if we have no feeling, or if we have a very bad feeling; when it seems to be the last thing we ought to be saying, we say it because it is God's fact, and when we begin to affirm God's fact we win through. Believers know what it is for the enemy to try to make them accept the authority of darkness. Stand upon the truth of God. God does not change with our feelings. God does not alter with our consciousness. This whole life of ours is subject to variation, more swift than the variation of weather, but He rules, unalterable, unchangeable. He is "the same yesterday, and today, and for ever." And if He is there within, He has come to stay, and victory is in faith; believing that, standing on that, holding to that; and we must carry that through to its final and full issue, that He is Lord of all, "Head of all principality and power." Satan will sometimes try to make us believe that he is in the place of ascendancy, the place of supremacy, but since Calvary he is not, we stand there.

The Lord give us a new joy in the Son of His love as supreme in every realm.

Flash from our eyes the glow of our thanksgiving,
Glad and regretful, confident and calm,
Then through all life and what is after living
Thrill to the tireless music of a psalm.

Yea; through life, death, thro' sorrow and thro' sinning,
He shall suffice me, for He hath sufficed:
Christ is the end, for Christ was the beginning;
Christ the beginning, for the end is Christ.


Chapter 3 - The Centrality and Supremacy of Christ to the Church Which is His Body


The Centrality and Supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 3 - The Centrality and Supremacy of Christ to the Church Which is His Body

Reading: 1 Chronicles 28:1-21; Colossians 1:18.

The second realm of the centrality and supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ is that of the Body, the Church. First of all let us take note of exactly what is said in this verse. "He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the pre-eminence." That translation: "... who is the beginning" is hardly sufficient; the more complete and literal translation there would be: "In that he is the beginning." It helps you to understand what is being said here; reading it like that you will at once come into the fuller apprehension of the truth. "He is the head of the body, the church, in that he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead." So you see that here the Church is related to Christ by His resurrection: "In that he is the firstborn from the dead." He is the Head of the Body, the Church in His resurrection.

RESURRECTION AND HEADSHIP

The Headship is two-fold; it is as to place. He occupies the supreme place; and it is as to time; that place was occupied by Him in relation to the Body, the Church, in His resurrection. So that the headship of Christ over the Body, the Church, is by His resurrection. That represents more than may appear for the moment, but I think you will see, as we go on, the greater and fuller context. Now having said so much about the headship of Christ, or His centrality and supremacy in the life of the individual believer, we must recognize that the individual headship of Christ is not, so far as the believer is concerned, an independent authority. It is relative; that is, in other words, there are not so many heads as there are believers, constituting every believer a single entity authority, making of every believer an independent authority. While the headship must be established in every individual believer, there is only one headship and not ten thousand times ten thousand, or a great multitude which no man can number. One Head: which means that everything is relative and the very thought of the Body is that of a unity under one Head. The idea, the conception of a body clearly represents the idea of a unity under one head. The individual supremacy of Christ will lead to the spirit and principle of the Body. I mean that if Christ is central and supreme really in the individual life of believers, the natural, the spontaneous, the inevitable outworking of that will be the principle of the Body. If Christ dwells in your heart by faith - that was one phase of the individual centrality and supremacy of Christ which we considered - if Christ dwells in your individual heart through faith, it leads to the next part of the verse: "... that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to apprehend with all the saints...." Christ dwelling in the individual heart immediately leads to "all saints." The principle of the Body comes out of the establishing of the centrality and supremacy or headship of Christ in the individual. There is a contradiction, beloved, if it is claimed by anyone that Christ is supreme in the heart and in the life and yet such a one be marked and characterized by personal and independent action and interest. There is a violent contradiction there. Christ cannot be absolutely supreme in the individual life and there be a personal independent activity and interest. If anyone is a law unto himself in spirit - although he would never say that of himself - if his life takes the feature of being something detached, something separate, something independent, something apart from the rest of the Lord's people, a watertight compartment, there is a contradiction there, Christ is not supreme, Christ is not central. These two things cannot be reconciled, independence and the Body; independence and the supremacy of the Lord Jesus; because He is supreme in the life as a Head, but not merely as the Head of an individual but the Head of the Body, one Head of all. The Body, as that which issues with the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, reverses the very spirit of independence.

THE BODY OF CHRIST REPRESENTS HIS VICTORY

We must see that the Body of Christ represents a tremendous victory. That Body comes out of His resurrection, or with His resurrection, and the pre-eminent example of the exercise of Divine power in this universe is in the raising of Jesus Christ from the dead, or from among the dead. That raising of Christ from among the dead, representing the supreme exercise of Divine power, represents the mighty victory of God in Christ, and if the Body of Christ comes out with and in His resurrection, that Body is a part of an expression of that mighty victory of God. Now Ephesians makes that perfectly clear and says that actually: "... the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to that working of the strength of his might which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and made him to sit at his right hand in the heavenlies." The Body of Christ is the mighty victory of God in Christ in its realization. What was the nature of that victory? Over what was it a victory? It was over that spirit which came into the universe and found concrete, direct expression in bringing about schism, division, disintegration in the universe. Everything was held as a whole in God. It was one thing in Him. He, in eternity past, summed up everything in His Son, the Lord Jesus, that in Him all things should hold together, subsist; should be a corporate whole bound together in a oneness in the Son of His love. When Lucifer, Satan, saw the pre-eminent position and the transcendent glory of God's Son, he aspired to occupy a position even above that, to have something even above that, and so he broke away from that relativity of things in the Head, and in an independence of spirit, and action, and motive he sought to have things for himself apart from the Head Divinely appointed. The outworking of that in heaven brought schism there, a breach; the unity of heaven was broken, and angels kept not their first estate and were cast out and are reserved in everlasting chains. The unity of heaven was broken. But Lucifer brought that spirit down into the creation; and whereas God had given to man all things to have in Himself (in His secret which He had not yet revealed to the ages, His secret, His mystery, His unrevealed heart secret concerning His Son), Lucifer again, the Adversary, provoked, prompted, tempted, lured man to have it for himself out of relation to God, and man moved in an independence of God, acted again in an independent spirit, a self spirit, to have things not in God but in himself. Thus in this earth the schism of heaven had a counterpart; the unity of things in God was broken into, and from that time the principle of the fallen race is independence, self-direction, self-realization, self-possession; the flesh is just that, and that lies back of the whole terrible history of the revolt in heaven and the wreckage in earth. There is no unity until Christ comes, God in Christ. The Adversary has to meet God in Christ on this issue, and when God raised Him from the dead and brought with Him - as the Firstborn from among the dead - the Church, the Body, He secured His answer to all that work of the Devil; and the Church, the Body of Christ, represents God's victory over the disintegrating, dividing, schismatic work of the Devil. Oh yes, that is true in spite of everything. Ever since this, what he did at the beginning and always has done he has pursued with unabated energy, that is, slandering God, and he has tried to slander God since the resurrection of the Lord Jesus by the work which he has done among men, working upon flesh, even amongst Christians, to bring about schisms and divisions; carnality is behind it all. The enemy has done that, and in so doing he has sought to establish a contradiction to God's victory. But beloved, the unity is not in us, it is in Christ; the unity is not our unity, it is the unity of Christ. The unity is in a person. Now you see the necessity for Christ to be central and supreme.

CHRIST - THE UNIFYING CENTRE AND OBJECT

As we have said before, if we have got any other interest that we are trying to further, something that we call a testimony, perhaps meaning by that a system of teaching, or a fellowship, or a denomination, or the contrary, the opposite, any of these things, well, the history will be still more divisions, it is bound to be. If it is Christ, only Christ, central and supreme, we have got the answer to the Devil; we have got the secret of victory, we have got the secret of fellowship, we have the power of His resurrection. Oh, how important it is for us to see that the Body represents His victory. The Body is His victory in the sense that it is the reversing of all independence, and that independence of spirit or action is a violation not only of the truth of the Body of Christ, but of the power of His resurrection. Now that carries you a long way. Fail to recognize that and you have not got the secret of victory over death and the power of the Devil. Isn't that exactly what the Apostle said to the Corinthians? "... not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep" some die. Not all sickness and death, of course, is to be accounted for by failure to recognize the Body of Christ, but the Holy Spirit does put His finger upon that, and says that a very great deal can be accounted for by that. That sickness might have been handled and dealt with; that death, that taking away, might have been unnecessary if there had been a recognition of that for which the Body of Christ stands and an employing of the practical value of corporate life among the saints. "Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord." Elders - why? Why that? That is the recognition of the corporate principle, that is the recognition of the Body of Christ. Those elders are only representatives of the Body, and it is bringing the Body in, representatively, and that Body represents His victory, and if the enemy is back of this thing, well, it is through His Body as Head that He operates against the enemy. We may be suffering a great deal more than we need suffer because we have failed to see the Divine order. The enemy may be making much more havoc than he ought to be, because we have failed to apply the Divine means. We have kept the thing to ourselves and we have not drawn the Body in representatively, we have not made this a corporate matter. Individualism may rob us of a great deal in every realm.

INDEPENDENT LIFE CONTRARY TO GOD'S WILL

But what I was saying was, that the Body reverses independence, and we violate some of the great revelations of God when there is independence, separateness, when we just drive our own chariot and plough our own furrow, and do not recognize that we are a part of a whole. All that horrible work that the enemy has done is reversed by the Lord Jesus, and the outworking of His reversing of that work is through the Body, the Church. That is His instrument in resurrection for making known, through this age and the ages to come, the mighty victory over all the disintegrating work of Satan's independent action and spirit which he has introduced into the race. But this thing is very deeply rooted in us; the subtlety, the imperceptible desire of the flesh for gratification. If we were asked straight out whether we wanted to please ourselves, whether we were after our own personal gratification, whether it was our pleasure and satisfaction that was motivating our lives and directing us, we would at once most vehemently repudiate the suggestion, and probably be very offended with whoever made the suggestion; and yet, beloved, deeper than our deepest honesty, deeper than our truest sincerity, there is that subtle constituent of fallen nature which so often unperceived by the believer himself or herself does just love to be gratified, personally satisfied, and which does not like to be emptied out and have nothing. Gratification and glory is the very essence of the flesh even when we are engaged in the Lord's work. To set up something FOR THE LORD, yes, but men point at it and say: "That is his work and her work," and how we like that! Something that will be a good testimony to faith, a great monument - yes, but subtly the monument to OUR faith. Such is this horrible thing that is always reaching out from beneath, under cover, and, quietly and imperceptibly, taking the glory of the Lord to itself. The remedy for that is the Body of Christ practically applied in principle. Yes, it is! That is why it is so difficult to live a corporate life with other believers, because you have to be so thoroughly crucified. There is nothing that demands crucifixion more than to live with other Christians all your days. You say: "That is a terrible thing to say," but you know what I am talking about. You have to defer, refer, consult, submit, let go. In a thousand and one ways you have to put your own likes and dislikes aside if the Lord is to get His end. Oh yes, it is the Body of Christ that is the saving thing. It is corporate life that is the remedy, but O beloved, that is the way of triumph, the way of victory. It is! It is a mighty remedy for the flesh, a mighty remedy for the work of the Devil, but it does represent the mighty power of God working in us. You see, you can never come into the Body of Christ until you have been crucified. It is because uncrucified flesh has impinged upon the corporate life of believers that there is such contradiction and denial, because the Body represents the exclusion of man, in himself - flesh.

THE BODY NECESSARY TO FULL APPREHENSION OF CHRIST

Now the Body is essential to full apprehension and growth and expression. The body is essential to full apprehension. No individual, and no number of isolated and detached individuals, can come to the full apprehension of Christ. The Lord has constructed the whole thing upon that principle. You think of all the range of the people of God being standardized, say, to one mind. You say: "That would be an awful outlook." It would! I mean this, the very fact that the Lord has so constituted us differently every one of us, makes possible the varied aspect of apprehension which is its own peculiar contribution. And I am able to say: "Well, the Lord has shown you THAT I did not see THAT but it is splendid"; I profit by that. And you are able to say: "Well that never came to me, but thank the Lord I can profit by that." And so it is the whole Body that is necessary unto the full apprehension of Christ. The Apostle's prayer is that we "... may be strong to apprehend with all the saints..."; it takes all the saints to apprehend, and we lose a very great deal when we are detached, isolated, separated spiritually.

THE BODY NECESSARY TO FULL GROWTH IN CHRIST

The Body is necessary to fullness of apprehension, also to growth, because it is the Body that grows up, that is built up, and buildeth itself up until it comes to the full measure of the stature of a man in Christ. You and I individually will never reach the full measure of that stature. I am never promised that I shall reach the full measure of Christ, personally, but as a member, a limb, or even a little tiny corpuscle in this great spiritual organism, with all the rest I can come to His fullness. It will take all the rest to come to His fullness, and insofar as I am detached I am limited, straitened. Insofar as I come into the fellowship of the Body and recognize the Lord's way, I am enlarged in the measure of Christ.

THE BODY NECESSARY TO FULL MANIFESTATION OF CHRIST

In the expression of Christ the same thing holds good. Is He going to manifest Himself against the enemy? Well, beloved, I shall have very little hope against the enemy in a detached capacity; but if I can bring in the Body, even if it is only in two or three gathered into His Name, that represents the Body, and the principle of the Body in function and representation is there; (and the Lord binds Himself up with a principle) He is in the midst. The Lord's irreducible minimum for His Body is two, not one. Bring in the Body even by its minimum representation and the Lord recognizes the full value of the Body, and for manifestation it is in fullness through the Body. That is why alone we are so often brought to a standstill; why so often it is hopeless for us to try and get through until we draw in co-operation. The Lord holds us to that. But if you can get the Lord's people in a larger, fuller way into the real spiritual apprehension of the headship of Christ in relation to the Body, how much greater will be the potency of the impact of Christ in manifestation over against the enemy, and before men. The Body is necessary for the manifestation of Christ in fullness, and that is the Divinely determined method of the full manifestation of Christ in the ages to come. The headship of the Lord Jesus demands the Body. Not so many detached individuals, but the Body; because a head implies a body, demands a body.

INDIVIDUALISM IS LIMITATION AND WEAKNESS

Now I think I can close this phase for the moment; and in doing so, let me stress once more the certain limitation which must be associated with mere individualism and detachment and independence. There may be a very great deal accomplished by independent action, apparently; you can see things and people which are independent, detached, and you can see a very great deal apparently being done. Now in spite of that, I say most emphatically that that does not get where God wants it to get. It may be a wide surface but a superficial one, without depth. It may only get just so far in spiritual things, and not get any further. It may reach the point of conversions; but conversions, beloved, are not God's end, they are only God's beginning. There may be much in that realm, praise God, but while we rejoice at every conversion and every bit of work that results in conversions, have we not come to see that there is infinitely more than that in the will of God? The tragedy is that so many who have been led to the Lord have not been taken on, and have either stuck or they have gone back simply because their being brought to the Lord was not upon an adequate presentation of the fullness of Christ. It was upon the basis of their being saved; but Christ did not come into His place as supreme, sovereign Lord and Head, and very often you have to go over the ground again and again simply because there has been a stopping short. Well, you can have a great deal of activity and apparent result - my point is not that that is without value, but it is this, that invariably and inevitably, there is always limitation, if we do not go on to see that the Body of Christ represents His fullness, and not individual Christian life or work. It is not our individual service for the Lord, it is the service of the Body with which we are joined, that leads to fullness. There will be weakness, limitation - ah, yes, and more than that, there will be exposure to error along the line of mere individualism, exposure to error, and a falling into error. Have we not seen this again and again? Things becoming marked by clear misleading, confusion, a having to take back positions and statements, and a confessing that a mistake was made, and the calculations were all wrong because there was something that was independent, individual in that thing. We need the covering of the headship of Christ in His Body amongst His saints to save us from that. You may take it - you will prove it to be so in the outworking - that mere individual independence in the life and service of the Lord will sooner or later bring to a point of limitation, and an element of contradiction and confusion will come in there. It is bound to be. To enquire in His House is the way of the ordered guidance of the Lord. You are struggling to get an independent guidance from the Lord and a whole lot of contradictions are coming in; you really do not know where you are and what is right. The Lord is not going to give you that which will constitute you a law unto yourself in relation to Him, He is going to give it to you in relation to His main purpose. Share it with the Lord's children, bring in those whom the Lord has provided to be fellows, and in that multitude of counselors you will find wisdom. In the Lord's way you will find clearness.

You see the principle is a clear one and it just comes right back to the point where we started. It is not making the Body everything - God forbid! It is seeing that the Lord Jesus, as head of the Body, brings us under His headship for protection, for guidance, for fullness, for everything, and we recognize that we are members of a Body and we are not individual units merely. This is a relative thing. We come to enjoy all that is in Christ, and that Christ is as Head, Sovereign, in relation to the saints, in fellowship with the saints, and not in some detached line of our own. We want the Lord's full support? We get it relatively and not independently.

May the Lord help you to accept His Word, to lay it up in your heart, because I am quite sure that here is the way of a fullness which we may not have known, coming into what the Lord Jesus is by Divine appointment, in greater measure. It is this way. The Lord give us grace to let go our love to be free and independent, and to be crucified to that flesh, brought to live under His sovereignty, to Him as supreme.


Chapter 2 - The Centrality and Supremacy of Christ to the Individual Believer


The Centrality and Supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 2 - The Centrality and Supremacy of Christ to the Individual Believer

Reading: Hebrews 1:1-14.

We now go on to the second of the aspects of "Christ in you" and come to the familiar words of Gal. 2:20. "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me."

2. CHRIST THE LIFE WITHIN

The first is the revelation of Christ within the heart; the second is the life of Christ within. It is important for us to recognize that this is not just the fact that Christ lives within, not merely that Christ is within us, living in us, but this carries with it something more than that; that Christ is the believer's life. Christ within is the very life of the believer; He must be central and supreme as our life, and He is our life just in the measure in which He is central and supreme, no more, no less.

But we want to understand in what way Christ within is the life of the believer, and this whole letter to the Galatians helps us to that understanding. I do not want to be too doctrinal or theological in a technical sense, but I do feel that the Lord's people should be clear on the great doctrines of grace. Hence, I would ask for a brief consideration of the background of the statement before us.

We often speak about Christ being our life, we often say things to that effect, that He is our very life. We use another fragment of Scripture which is not in the same realm as this passage exactly, although linked with it: "When Christ, who is our life, shall be manifested, then shall ye also with him be manifested in glory."

The principle of Christ being our life is the same, but here there is a background to that. It is not just that Christ is to us the vital energy which we call life. Of course He is that, He is the life; the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of life in us, but here that is explained by the context and given a deeper meaning.

If you look at the immediately surrounding words you will see that this statement of the Apostle represents a change. This letter, as you know, is dealing with the legalism into which the Galatian believers had fallen, by which they had been overcome, overtaken or ensnared.

You notice how chapter 3 begins: "O foolish Galatians, who did bewitch you...?" literally, "Who did cast the witch's spell over you?" They had come under a witch's spell, and it was the spell of a false legalism. Now what Paul is saying here in verse 20 represents a change. Paul had lived, in the old days, by holding on to the law. His position as a Jew was that under the law man must live by the law. The law was: "Thou shalt," and "Thou shalt not."

When the 44 "shalts" were complied with, and the "shalt nots" were observed and avoided, then a man's life was preserved by God. If a man wanted to live and prolong his days upon the earth, then he must keep the law, and so he lived by holding fast to the law, the law of commandments. And we know, even from one like Saul of Tarsus who rigidly kept the law, that it was a tremendously burdensome thing, and it represented always condemnation and death.

It was like the sword of Damocles always hanging over the head. Deviate one hair's breadth and you die, you come under condemnation, judgment and death. And the observances associated with purification and right relationship to God never for one moment touched the conscience, never touched the heart, they were merely, shall we say, expediences for the moment; they were purely outward, and there was always the inward sense of something wanting, something lacking.

But Saul had lived by holding on to the law, he maintained his life by holding on to the law with all its burdensomeness, all its wearisomeness, all its threat, judgment, condemnation, and its shadow of death which it always kept in view. That was his past life.

Now, no man had ever been found, as Paul makes perfectly clear in the first chapters of his Roman letter, who in his own nature could perfectly satisfy God on every point and requirement of His Divine law.

All had broken down, all had failed, and in no man was the root of righteousness found. God could never be satisfied with mere external righteousness which was not in man himself; a sort of theoretical righteousness and not a practical one; and there had never been found a man in whom there was righteousness as in himself, and the whole race is gathered up in Paul's own declaration about himself with all his ceremonial righteousness: "For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing."

LIFE BY RIGHTEOUSNESS, IN CHRIST

Now Christ, the only one who could do so, had fulfilled the law up to the hilt in virtue of inherent righteousness, and having satisfied God, not externally, ceremonially, theoretically, but inherently as being the Righteous One, without sin, had in His own person fulfilled the law and put it out of the way. That is done with. God only wanted it fulfilled and then He can put it away. Christ had fulfilled it and put it out of the way and had introduced a new dispensation, not of law but of grace.

He has brought in a new regime where the government is not the government of "thou shalt not" and "thou shalt," not a government of systematized legalism, but of grace, and the new dispensation is the dispensation of faith in Christ; faith in Christ as the One who has satisfied every demand that ever God made of man, and has satisfied God on the behalf of all men; faith that in Him all who believe are gathered up and represented, and God is satisfied with all such in Him: He has produced the righteousness that God required in man and God is satisfied. He has produced it as man for man, and God is fully satisfied and content.

Now that Christ, with whom the Father is completely satisfied on the matter of all righteousness, is within the believer; so that the believer in Christ has all righteousness in Him; God is satisfied. The believer is not any more righteous in himself than he ever was, but the Righteous One is within. God does not look upon us, He looks upon His Son in us; and so now Christ lives within, and Paul says in effect, "Now I live, not by holding on to the law but by holding on to Christ, and the thing with which I hold on to Christ is faith."

"And that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is of the Son of God." "I am holding on to Him by faith, and I live." There is no condemnation, therefore there is no death; for righteousness is here, and where righteousness is there is no condemnation. (NOTE:  the Son of God kind of faith that takes you to the Cross-mdw)

There is no sin in Him, and there being no sin in Him, death and judgment have no power, no relationship. He is here, and therefore, He is the living One in the power of a life indestructible, unassailable. "I live by holding on to Him in faith." How? By saying, when the Accuser comes to lay a charge at my door, to bring me under condemnation and death: "Christ is my righteousness." When the Accuser assails with a fiery dart and says: "You are displeasing to the Father" (providing I am not willfully indulging in sin, knowingly doing that which is displeasing to the Lord, and the enemy tries to bring upon me the sense of being displeased to the Lord and get me down into death), I say: "Christ, who satisfies the Father for me, is in me, the Father is well pleased with Him and He is in me"; and if by faith I hold on to Him, link myself with Him, instead of dying I live, instead of coming under condemnation I triumph; and in that sense Christ within is the life, that life which we live.

We live triumphantly not by struggling against sin, and not by trying to answer back the Accuser as on our own ground, but by presenting Christ and holding on to Christ as within us, by faith.

Christ is God's satisfaction within our own hearts. What more do you want? And faith constantly holds on to Him as God's satisfaction. "I have been crucified with Christ" - Why rake me up then? "... and it is no longer I that live" - Why try and charge me with something then? "He that hath died is justified from sin" "... but Christ liveth in me." If you can charge Him with sin, and if you can lay sin to His charge, then there is no hope for me; but inasmuch as He is to the Father all that the Father requires in me, and I constantly keep the link of faith strong in what He is to the Father for me, I live. I do not die, I live, He is my life; He becomes my life in that sense.

You see it is something more than our regarding Christ as the vital energy within us which keeps us alive. There is a great background to this whole thing. It gathers up all that Christ is in His person towards the Father, and all that Christ has done in His work on the Cross to satisfy the Father, and that is brought into us to be our indwelling portion, and then faith links on with that, keeps hold of that, and we live, "... and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me."

That has put into a small compass a very great deal of the Word of God, but I feel that it is something for us to dwell upon. You see what is involved is the bringing of the Lord Jesus back to His place of centrality and supremacy as our life, and it is only as He is that that we live. We live by Christ. Christ is our very life in that sense. Oh! answer back the Accuser with Christ!

The phrase "breastplate of righteousness" is only a metaphorical way, an illustrative way, of putting this truth. The breastplate of righteousness is Christ. He is the Righteous One, He is made unto us righteousness, and it is no use our trying to meet the enemy in ourselves, good or bad; we must meet him with Christ, answer him with Christ every time.

And if the Father is making high demands, He has provided Himself with all that He needs in His Son, and He says to us: "All I ask of you is to bring both hands full of My Son; bring both hands full of Him in His perfections, that satisfies Me." Christ is central and supreme in the believer as the believer's life.

I would have you make more of the Lord Jesus. The whole stress of these words is upon what He is in the thought of God; and as we grasp this livingly, not merely as doctrine, grasp it in the heart, we shall know what triumph is; we shall know the victory life; we shall know what fullness is.

Beloved, I am convinced that it will be in the measure in which we are taken up with the Lord Jesus Himself that we are triumphant, victorious, overcoming children of God, and nothing else can be substitute for that, for what Christ is.

3. CHRIST FORMED WITHIN

We pass now to the third aspect of this inwardness of Christ, the hope of glory. Gal. 4:19: "My little children, of whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you." "Until Christ be formed in you."

Firstly we have: Christ in revelation within; secondly, Christ in life within; thirdly, Christ in formation within.

Now here again discriminations are necessary. There is a similar passage in Romans 8, or one which appears to be similar. It has words which are very like these, but the two again are not of the same nature although they point to the same thing.

Here it is: "For whom he foreknew, he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son." There the believer is being conformed to the image of God's Son.

Here it is Christ being formed within (the New Believer). There are similarities, but, there are differences, and we are occupied with this one in Galatians for its own specific meaning and value. (Philippians 1:10   Literal Translation- for you to distinguish the things that differ, that you may be sincere and without blame for the day of Christ...)  [this is an Important bible study Principle to learn-things in the bible have different values-mdw] 

Take again the whole letter to the Galatians. Bring to mind its object, see what it is that the Apostle has as his motive for writing; that it is the correction of an error. That falling into that error, the becoming bewitched, under the witch's spell, is due to spiritual immaturity. These believers had not gone on as they should have gone on in the Lord, and because of their belated maturity they had fallen a prey to this thing that was going about.

Now the Apostle, writing to correct the error, puts his finger upon the root of the matter, right upon the spot, and he says in effect: "All this is because of the indefiniteness of Christ in you." Follow the metaphor closely and you will see what he is saying. In verse 19 the emphasis is upon the word "formed" "... until Christ be FORMED in you."

It is a very strong word. What he is saying is: "Yes, Christ is in you inasmuch as you are believers and children of God, but it is an ill-defined Christ, an unformed Christ, a Christ without features developed; He is there, but He has not yet come to clear definition in you, the features are not developed, and because of that there is all this - this weakness and this aptness to be misled; the Christ that you have is one that has not yet come to formation."

You see that this is a different thing from Romans 8:29. That points on to our progressive growth, unto the ultimate image of Christ the Son of God. That is what is going on. We are being conformed by chastening, by suffering, by tribulation, by pain, by discipline, by things which the Lord allows to come to us, we are being conformed to the image of Christ. 

That is what is going on daily, but that is not what is here, this is something else. This is the implication of Christ being clearly defined in our hearts. There was confusion, indefiniteness, because they had not seen clearly that "Christ is the end of the law to them that believe"; that Christ really represented a clean cut between the old dispensation and the new, the old order and the new; that Christ had fulfilled the law and put it out of the way.

They had not grasped the clear definition of Christ in their hearts, and because they had not grasped clearly those features of the meaning of the person and work of Christ, they were a prey to anything that came along. Now there are a lot of the Lord's people like that. They are a prey to all sorts of things because they have not recognized the clear implications of Christ within.

THE NECESSITY FOR A CLEAR APPREHENSION OF CHRIST

Why are so many of the Lord's people just beaten and harassed and tormented by the Accuser causing them always to have their eyes turned inward in self-analysis, self-conscious introspection, occupied with themselves all the time; so tied up with themselves that they are useless to God and to other people? Why? Because they have not clearly recognized the implications of Christ; that Christ has answered to God on their behalf in all that God ever requires of them; they have not grasped that by faith.

That is the way of deliverance from ourselves.

That is deliverance from self into Christ.

But still they are in an ill-defined way trying to provide God with satisfaction, and it is an awful struggle. They have not seen the clear features of Christ. Christ is not formed in them.

He is (if you will suffer it) an unformed, ill-defined indweller.

It is rather a difficult thing to explain, but probably you see what I mean. Immediately we grasp the clear implications of Christ dwelling in the heart, we have come to a settled place, we have come to a strong place, we have come to the place where no legalisers can come along and sweep us off our feet.

It is what John meant when writing about the anti-christs, and about the Lord's people saying: "I wonder if this is right, if this is true? It looks very much like it." "But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you."

Inwardly you know by the anointing whether the thing is right or wrong. You are not able to put it into words, not always able to analyse the thing and say, this or that about it is wrong; you are not able to put it all straight; but in your heart you have a witness that there is something about it of which you have to be careful.

There is all the difference between our suspicions and our prejudices and the witness within. Do not try and project your mind into anything; don't think you have to take up a suspicious attitude and question everything to keep yourself safe; don't think you must be prejudiced for safety's sake.

If you are walking in the Spirit you can have your countenance open, your mind open; you can be without fear, the anointing in you will teach you, you will know every time. You may not be able to define it, but you will say: "There is an intangible something in my heart; I know." That word was spoken in regard to antichrists, about which the Lord's people were not sure - "the anointing teacheth you."

That is Christ formed within. You come to a clear, defined place. The features of Christ have been defined, delineated; senses have been exercised; Christly faculties have been developed. It is not an unformed thing but something clear; the formed Christ within. Paul says: "I am in anguish, I am in travail over you my brethren, your state of things puts me into a travail that you may come to a place where Christ is defined in your hearts; where He takes form, and is not a formless Christ." That is the meaning of Galatians 4:19.

4. CHRIST SETTLING DOWN (HOME-MAKING) WITHIN

And then the next thing, the fourth thing. Ephesians 3:17: "That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to the end that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to apprehend with all saints..." "That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith."

Now here you have an advance upon all the rest. You may not recognize it, but it is an advance. This is not saying, that Christ may take up residence in your heart. This is not saying, that Christ may come into your heart. And this is not saying, that Christ may find a lodgment in your heart. This is saying: "That Christ may dwell in your heart" and the Greek word there is, "make His home" or "settle down" in your heart. "That Christ may make His home in your heart." That is something more than a lodging, that is something more than just coming in and being there.

Every house is not a home.

Some of you will be going back to our thoughts about "Bethany," and you will remember how at the outset of our meditation upon Bethany, we showed that Bethany represented the contrast that when He came - He who created all things - came to His own and they that were His own received Him not, so that He said as to His presence here on earth: "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head": that was His place in the world: but He came to Bethany, and He came again, and He came again - and in the face of greatest stress, when things were pressing more and more heavily upon Him towards the end, His constant retreat was to Bethany.

The only home He seems to have had here on this earth was Bethany. It was because He found heart satisfaction in Bethany. There was one there who "kept on listening." As we pointed out, the literal translation of Mary's listening is: "she kept on listening to His word." He wanted someone, He wanted some heart into which to pour that what was in Himself and find appreciation and response, and He found it at Bethany - the better part. It was His own heart satisfaction there because He was listened to, responded to, and made to feel that it was the greatest of all privileges to have Him there. "That Christ may make his home in your hearts."

We are so often like Martha before she got right (thank God she did get right, and the last picture of Bethany is Martha still serving, but things are right now, the activities outwardly have not outweighed the spiritual activities inwardly; things have been put right) like Martha before the correction, we are doing a multitude of things for the Lord when the Lord is just craving an opportunity to be listened to.

The Lord would often say to us: "Yes, I know you mean to be very busy for me, I know you mean it all for Me, I know your motive is right, I quite appreciate all that, but oh, that you would give Me a chance to say a few things to you; oh, that you would give Me an opportunity just to speak into your heart, to show you things which you do not know, which would make such a lot of difference." And this is the explanation of our being called aside at times.

He would draw us from the feverish activities of the "many dishes" to a place where He is listened to.

But how much better if we gave Him the chance, than He having to make it. We have got to run the risk of being misunderstood for seemingly doing nothing, as Mary was misunderstood. Sometimes we are afraid that people will think that we are slacking because we get away with the Lord a little more. All right, the Lord knows. But mark you, He will come and make His home where He finds that.

It is something more than having Christ as a lodger. (Forgive that way of putting it.) It is Christ being at home in the heart, making His home there. You ask the Lord to apply that to you just as it needs applying. 

You busyworkers, remember that all your work, in the Lord's mind, can never take the place of an opportunity which He craves of being able to speak fuller things into your heart. Your activities will be without vitality unless you are giving Him time to speak and He is having response to new unveilings (Revelations).

5. CHRIST GLORIFIED IN THE BELIEVER

Now finally, in II Thessalonians 1:10. "When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe." "And to be marvelled at in all them that believe" (A.R.V.). It is the consummation of Christ within.

Don't you think that that is a wonderful statement, a wonderful thing that is said there?

Yes, we expect to see Him coming in glory, we expect to see the glorified Christ, but He is working something in the meantime which means that when He appears His glory will be in the saints. It is not only the objective Christ in glory coming, it is the subjective Christ manifested in glory. "If so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." He has prayed that we might behold His glory, and He is going to be glorified IN the saints and marvelled at IN them that believe.

It was - from the world's point of view - an ordinary Palestinian peasant who one day went up the slope of a mountain. There may have been things striking about Him, impressive, but for the most part He was like other men.

He reached the summit of that mountain and suddenly that One became ablaze and aflame with heavenly glory, His raiment changed, white and glistening; glorified, changed suddenly from an ordinary man - as the world would say - to the glory of God; suddenly, bewildering those who were there so that they began to talk and did not know what they said. Utterly taken off their feet, as we say.

Now beloved, that Christ is in us. We are very ordinary folk amongst men, there is nothing very striking, outstanding, distinguishing about us, but there is a moment coming when that which happened in the mount of transfiguration is going to happen to us; Christ in us is going to blaze out in glory through us, and as those on that mount of transfiguration marvelled at Him, so He is going to be marvelled at in all them that believe.

That is the end of "Christ in you, the hope of glory." The hope of that glory is Christ in you; in other words, Christ central and supreme. From the initiation to the consummation of the believer's life it all hangs upon that.

We ought to go back over the whole five stages and what each one of them represents as a demand. Do it for yourself. You will see that Christ as revealed in the believer means a captured vessel. Saul of Tarsus was taken prisoner on that day when God's Son was revealed in him. He was a captured man from that day. He called himself "the prisoner of Jesus Christ." You and I have got to be captured.

WHAT "CHRIST IN YOU" DEMANDS

Christ living within as our life, means a crucified vessel. "I have been crucified" - captured; crucified.

Christ formed within means a vessel that is going on with the Lord, not standing where the Galatians were, but going on.

Christ making His home in the heart is connected with being "rooted and grounded in love" and then there follows the phrase "with all saints."

Thus fellowship in the Body of Christ, and the mutual love one for the other is a "Bethany" principle, leading to Christ's settling down.

And so each one represents its own peculiar responsibility and demand, until you come to the consummation; and you find the context of each shows you what the demand is. In the consummation that letter to the Thessalonians speaks about their suffering, their joyful suffering for the Saviour's sake. They were suffering indeed because they had turned from idols to serve the living God and to wait for His Son from the glory, and they suffered, but suffered joyfully.

And the consummation of glory is related to faithfulness through suffering. You see there is a demand for each thing. You can look at it more closely.

The Lord find in us that which responds to His purpose and makes possible the realization of His heart secret: "Christ in you," central, supreme, "the hope of glory."