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Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Gospel According to Paul # 13

In His Letter to the Ephesians

When we come to consider 'the Gospel according to Paul' in the Letter to the Ephesians, we find that we have the word "gospel" in the noun form four times. We have it also, on one or two other occasions, in verb form, as in chapter two, verse seventeen -

"...and He came and preached peace to you that were far of ..."

You notice the margin says "preached good tidings of peace." Now that is just an English way of juggling with a Greek word. The Greek word is the verb of which 'the gospel' is the noun; and I have tried to point out before, what it really says - it cannot be translated literally into English - is: "came and 'good-tidinged' or 'good-newsed' peace". That is impossible in English, but it is just the verb of the noun 'gospel'. It occurs again in chapter three, verse eight - 

" ... to preach unto the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ ..."

that is, 'to-good-news unto the Gentiles," "to proclaim unto the Gentiles the good tidings of ..." It is the verb again for 'gospel.' I think that gives us ground for saying that this letter is about the gospel.

Many people have the idea that when you reach the Letter to the Ephesians you have left the gospel behind, you are further on than the gospel, you must really now have got a long way beyond the gospel. I do not think we can get further than this letter, so far as Divine revelation is concerned: as we shall see, it takes us a very long way indeed in Divine things; but it is still the gospel. The gospel is something very vast, very comprehensive, very far-reaching indeed.

A Letter of Superlatives

This leads us to note that the Letter to the Ephesians is the letter of superlatives. An expressive adjective has come into vogue in recent years, by which people try to convey the idea that a thing is very great, or of the highest quality. They say it is 'super'. Now here, in this letter, everything is - may I use the word? - 'super'! The whole letter is written in terms of what is superlative; and I must take it for granted that you can recall something of what is here. Superlatives relate to almost everything in this letter.

There is the superlative of time. Time is altogether transcended: we are taken into the realm of timelessness. By this letter we are taken back into eternity past, before the foundation of the world, and on into eternity to come, unto the age of ages. It is the superlative of time - transcending time.

There is the superlative of space. One phrase runs through this letter - "in the heavenlies". When you come into the heavenlies, you are just amazed at the immensity of the expanse. In the natural realm that is true, is it not, even of the very limited 'earthly heavens', as represented by the earth's atmosphere. If you travel a good deal by air, you pass through the airports and see the  planes coming and going, coming and going, every few minutes, all day long and all night long and day after day - and yet when you get up into the air you rarely meet another machine. It is quiet an event to pass another plane in the air, so vast are the heavenlies in their expanse. And this letter is written in the realm of the superlatives of space, in the spiritual heavenlies, altogether above the limitations of earth.

Again, it is written in terms of the superlative of power. There is one clause here, so familiar to us, which touches that: "their exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe" (Eph. 1:19). There is much about that power, superlative power, and its operation, in this letter.

Further, this letter is the letter of the superlative in content. How to approach and explain that is exceedingly difficult. You see, some of us have been speaking, giving talks, giving addresses, about this letter to the Ephesians - and it is only a little letter so far as actual chapters or words are concerned - for over forty years, and we have not got near it yet. I defy you to exhaust the content of this letter. It does not matter how long you go on with it - you will always feel, 'I have not begun to approach that yet'. I know what some of you think about me over this letter. I am almost afraid to mention the very name 'Ephesians'! Even as I have once again meditated over this letter at the present time, I have been saying to myself: 'I would like to start now to give a long, long series of messages on the Letter to the Ephesians, and I should not touch much of the old ground!' It is like that. But when you look into it and consider it, you find that you are in the realm of superlatives so far as contents are concerned, and it begins with "hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ" (1:3). Can you get above or outside that? You cannot!

Again, it is in the realm of the super-mundane. The earth here becomes a very small thing, and all that goes on in it. All its history and all that is here becomes very small indeed. The earth is completely transcended. 

It is super-racial, as we shall see in a moment. It is not just dealing with one race or two races. It is all one race here.

It is super-natural. Look again, and you find that everything here is on a plane that is altogether above the natural. You cannot naturally grasp it, comprehend it, explain it. It is Divine revelation. It is by "the Spirit of wisdom and revelation." That is super-natural. The knowledge that is here is super-naturally obtained.

And what more shall I say about the 'super'? The list could very easily be extended. Have I said enough? Can I go on pointing out in what a realm this is, what a range? You see, you have some very great words here. I give you three of them.

"Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, was this grace given, to preach unto the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ' (3:8).

This letter is written in terms of the unsearchable, the untraceable.

"... and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled unto all the fullness of God" (3:19).

"The knowledge-surpassing love of Christ". Here we have the incomprehensible.

"Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us ..." (3:20).

Here it is the transcendental. These are big words, but you need big words through for this letter, and I am seeking to make an impression upon you.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 14 - "The Greatest Crisis in Religious History")

Enjoying the Fullness of Your Inheritance

In Galatians 4:1-5, the apostle Paul helps us understand what it means to be part of God's family,

Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father.  Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world.  But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

Adoption in Roman society was very different from adoption today.  When a flesh and blood son reached the age of maturity, he was "adopted" into his own family.  Until that time, he was considered a child, and he was under the tutelage of a household slave.

We are heirs because of adoption.  What does this mean?  It means that God is well pleased when we assume our place as mature sons of God, exercising our authority and enjoying the fullness of our inheritance.  But most Christians don't do this.

Not long ago, I learned about a particular website that can tell you if you have any money anywhere that you don't know about.  There are literally hundreds of millions of dollars sitting unused in trust funds or accounts that people don't know about.

A lot of Christians operate this way.  They have this incredible inheritance that belongs to them, this incredible authority that has been given to them, and they are unaware of it.  And, friend, that does not bring pleasure to God.

~Bayless Conley~

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Gospel According to Paul # 12

In His Letter to the Galatians

Christ Within the Power of Endurance

Now you say, "I have not realized that, I do not feel that. I do not see that; I have not got all that intelligence. I do not sense all that power." You see, as Paul is always trying to point out, there is such a great difference between the human kind of knowledge and spiritual knowledge. We have knowledge of this kind, not by information, but by experience.

Some of us have been on the Christian way for many years. If it had been left to us, should we be still going on with the Lord? If we had had to carry on, struggle through, fight it out, on our own resources, should we  still be here? I think I can say for you as for myself, Certainly not! We would not be here today; we should not be rejoicing in the Lord, going on with the Lord. If satan could have had his way, we should not be here, for both in ourselves and in satan we have found every conceivable thing inimical to Christ, to make it impossible for us to go on with the Lord. Everything in our own selves is against us spiritually. Everything in satan is up against us, and everything that he can use is thrown into the battle for our undoing.

But we are here, and that is the proof that Christ in us is a living power, and it is found - though not yet in fullness - in experience, in fact, and not just in our sensing it. We would like to have the sensations of this great power, to feel it; but no, there is often the hiding of His power, and it only comes out in facts - often in quite long-term facts.

The Disposition of Christ Within

Power, intelligence, knowledge: and then disposition. This is one of the realities of the Christian life. When Christ is within, we have a different disposition altogether. We are disposed to new things, disposed in new ways. Yes, our disposition has changed. The things which we once found to be our life no longer draw us to them. We are not disposed to them any longer. This is the world's problem with the Christians: 'Why do you not do this, that and the other?' And the only answer we can give, but which never satisfies them, is, 'I have lost all disposition for that sort of thing: I am no longer disposed that way: I have a disposition in another direction altogether.' It is like that: another disposition - Christ within. That is Christianity!

You see, Moses says, 'You have got to do this, and you have got to do that, and you must not do this, and you must not do that'; and my disposition is altogether against Moses. Moses says, 'You must do this' - I do not want to do it; it may be quite right, it my have come from God, but I just do not find it in my nature, in my disposition, to do it. Moses said, 'I must not do this', and my disposition says, 'I want to do that - that is just the very thing that I do want to do!' Somehow or other, in myself I am just across God in every way.

What is the solution to the Law? Christ in you. If Christ is in you, then you will be disposed to do what God wants you to do, and you will fulfill the Law. If Christ is in you, you will have no disposition for doing what God does not want you to do, and you will again fulfill the Law. But, you see, you fulfill it on another basis altogether. You fulfill it, not because Moses said it, but because Christ is in you; not because you must, but because Christ gives you another disposition. This is the gospel, the good news, of the indwelling Christ.

The Work of the Holy Spirit Within

Now, when you turn to the teaching about the Holy Spirit in this letter, you find that it comes to the same thing. Christ in you is the Holy Spirit's standard, and He is working in you on the basis of the indwelling Christ to bring you into line with Christ, to build you up according to the Christ Who is in you. The Holy Spirit is the energy of Christ within, the energy to make us Christ-like, to enable us to be like Christ, and therefore to be fulfillers of everything that is right in the sight of God, and shunners of everything that is not right in the sight of God. There is an energy by the Holy Spirit to do this.

The Apostle speaks about the fruit of the Spirit. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control" (Galatians 5:22, 23). The Spirit, you see, is inside, and He is the Spirit of Christ within to cause that the fruits of Christ shall be born in us, or, shall we say, the fruit of Christ which shows itself in all these many ways. The fruit of Christ is "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control", the fruit of the mighty energy of the Spirit of Christ within.

And what about law? Yes, the Spirit works according to law. Before he is through, the Apostle says that tremendous thing, that terrible thing: "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth unto his own flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth unto the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap eternal life" (Galatians 6:7, 8). The law of the Spirit, you see, is this. Sow, and you reap; what you sow, you reap. Sow to the Spirit, and you reap life everlasting. If you sow to the Spirit - that is only saying, in figurative language, If you conform to the Spirit's energy, the Spirit's law, the Spirit's government, or to Christ in you - you will reap Christ, you will reap life. That is a law here, and 'free from the Law' does not mean that we are set free from any necessity for recognizing that God has constituted His universe, our bodies and souls, upon principles; but it does mean this, that Christ in us makes it possible for us to obey the principles, whereas otherwise we should be violating them all the time.

"The gospel which I preach", says Paul: 'after all, it amounts to this - after all your arguments about legalism and Judaizers and the rest, it amounts to this: "Christ liveth in me" ". That is good news, that is hope - everything is possible!

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 13 - "In His Letter to the Ephesians")

Do You See the Flowers?

He named the second child Ephraim, saying, “Certainly God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering. (Gen 41:52)
The summer showers are falling. The poet stands by the window watching them. They are beating and buffeting the earth with their fierce downpour. But the poet sees in his imaginings more than the showers which are falling before his eyes. He sees myriads of lovely flowers which shall be soon breaking forth from the watered earth, filling it with matchless beauty and fragrance. And so he sings:
“It isn’t raining rain for me, it’s raining daffodils; 
In every dimpling drop I see wild flowers upon the hills. 
A cloud of gray engulfs the day, and overwhelms the town; 
It isn’t raining rain for me: it’s raining roses down.”
Perchance some one of God’s chastened children is even now saying, "O God, it is raining hard for me tonight.
“Testings are raining upon me which seem beyond my power to endure. Disappointments are raining fast, to the utter defeat of all my chosen plans. Bereavements are raining into my life which are making my shrinking heart quiver in its intensity of suffering. The rain of affliction is surely beating down upon my soul these days.”
Withal, friend, you are mistaken. It isn’t raining rain for you. It’s raining blessing. For, if you will but believe your Father’s Word, under that beating rain are springing up spiritual flowers of such fragrance and beauty as never before grew in that stormless, unchastened life of yours.
You indeed see the rain. But do you see also the flowers? You are pained by the testings. But God sees the sweet flower of faith which is upspringing in your life under those very trials.
You shrink from the suffering. But God sees the tender compassion for other sufferers which is finding birth in your soul.
Your heart winces under the sore bereavement. But God sees the deepening and enriching which that sorrow has brought to you.
It isn’t raining afflictions for you. It is raining tenderness, love, compassion, patience, and a thousand other flowers and fruits of the blessed Spirit, which are bringing into your life such a spiritual enrichment as all the fullness of worldly prosperity and ease was never able to beget in your innermost soul. —J. M. McC.
“A harp stood in the moveless air,
Where showers of sunshine washed a thousand fragrant blooms;
A traveler bowed with loads of care
Essayed from morning till the dusk of evening glooms 
To thrum sweet sounds from the songless strings;
The pilgrim strives in vain with each unanswering chord, 
Until the tempest’s thunder sings,
And, moving on the storm, the fingers of the Lord 
A wondrous melody awakes;
And though the battling winds their soldier deeds perform, 
Their trumpet-sound brave music makes
While God’s assuring voice sings love across the storm”

~L. B. Cowman~

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Gospel According to Paul # 11

In His Letter to the Galatians

The Power of Christ Within

Now Christ is  an actual, living Person: not an abstract idea, an historical figure, but an actual, living Person. "Christ liveth in me." I do not wear a crucifix of a dead Christ on the outside. I have a living Christ within, the good news of a living Christ inside. You can read that, or hear it said, and you can nod your head and say, "Yes, Amen": you agree with that! But I have known people to hear that for years, and agree with it as heartily as you do - and then one day to wake up to it. "You know, after all I have heard about that, I have only just come to realize that it is true that Christ really lives in me!" It is something more than the doctrine of Christ within - it is the experience.

Paul focuses his whole history as a Christian and as a servant of God upon that one thing. 'God has shined in my heart' (2 Corinthians 4:6). "It pleased God, Who separated me from my birth, to reveal His Son in me" (Galatians 1:15, 16). "The gospel which I preached  was not of man," "but ... through revelation of Jesus Christ" (Galatians 1:11, 12). How did it come? Not only objectively and outwardly, but inwardly. "God has shined within." "Christ liveth in me." The most startling thing that ever happened to a man in the course of human history was that which happened to Saul of Tarsus on that noonday when he realized that Jesus of Nazareth, Who he thought was done with, dead and buried, was alive, alive, actually alive. Remember how very alive He was. And Paul says: "That One liveth - and not only in the glory - He liveth in me, IN ME!" A living Person, a living actual power within, yes, a real power inside, is Christ.

The Intelligence of Christ Within

Furthermore, He is a real Intelligence, Who possesses the full knowledge of all that God wants, and, possessing that, dwelling within me, is the repository and vehicle of God's full will for my life. Full intelligence by Christ within! All the knowledge that Christ possesses is within, and if that is true, if Christ is within - the Apostle, of course, is speaking here not only about Christ within, but much about the Holy Spirit, to which we will come presently - if the indwelling Christ has His way, then that which He is becomes actual in the life of the child of God: the fact that He is a living Person, the fact that He is a mighty power, the fact that He is a full, Divine Intelligence.

Christ Within: The Knowledge of the Will of God

We would like to have all understanding in our mind, all knowledge and intelligence in our reason. We have not got it, but we have another kind of intelligence. The true child of God has another kind of intelligence, altogether different from that which is of the reason. We do not know how to explain and interpret it, but somehow we know. We can only say, "We know." We know what the Lord does not want where we are concerned. We find it impossible to be comfortable along any line that the Lord does not want, and we come to that position so often. We put it in different ways, but we have to say, "I know the Lord does not want me to do that, to go that way; it is as deep in me as anything. To do it would be to violate something that relates to my very life with God."

That is on the negative side. And on the positive, if the Lord really wants something, we know it; in spite of everything, we know it. If only we will wait for that, it will be so sure. The trouble is that we cannot wait for the Lord; we get into such tangles over these problems of guidance. But when the Lord's time comes, there is no question about it at all: we know. How do we know? It is spiritual knowledge, it is spiritual intelligence. It is Christ dwelling within, in possession of all the mind of God.

Now, here are these poor Galatian Christians, torn between the Judaizers and Paul. They do not know what to make of this. These, on the one side, are so strong about their line of things; and on the other hand, here is Paul, saying that they are all wrong! What are they to do? The answer comes: "If Christ is in you, you will know - you will know what you ought to do". And that is the only real way of knowing what you ought to do - what is right, and what is wrong: Christ in you. But you will know!

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 12 - "Christ Within: The Power of Endurance")

Obedience and Respect

I am sure most Christian parents, at one time or another, have pointed their children to Colossians 3:20,

Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.
Or to Ephesians 6:1-3,

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother," which is the first commandment with promise: "that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth."

These two character qualities of obeying and honoring parents are vital to pleasing God.  But it is important to understand that obedience has to do with an outward act, while honoring has to do with an inward attitude of the heart.

As parents, we all can remember those times when our children may have been outwardly obedient but were being inwardly disrespectful. You may have gotten them to sit down in the corner, but while they sat there, they were thinking, "I may be sitting down on the outside, but I'm standing up on the inside!"

If you are a parent, it is critical for you to deal just as swiftly with a disrespectful attitude as it is with a disobedient act.  It is part of your God-given role of teaching your children obedience and respect for authority.

As your children learn how to obey and respect, you will not only bring them peace, they will experience God's blessing in their lives.

So as you work to raise your children to be the people God desires them to be, make a priority of teaching your children the qualities of respect for authority and obedience. Someday they will bless you for it!

~Bayless Conley~

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Gospel According to Paul # 10

In His Letter to the Galatians

We now pass into the Letter to the Galatians, where we actually have the phrase which is basic to this consideration - "the gospel which I preach". The phrase is found in the second chapter and the second verse, and in another form in chapter one, verse eleven - "the gospel which was preached by me". We have noted how many times this word 'gospel' occurs in the Letters of Paul. The word is sprinkled through his letters, indicating by the frequency of its occurrence that that, after all, is what he is really writing about. The same thing is true in this brief Letter to the Galatians. In the noun form - that is, where the whole body of Christian truth is called 'the gospel' - it occurs in this letter eight times; and then in the verb form - which cannot be translated into English correctly, that is, 'to gospel' or 'to good news', translated for our convenience into English as 'preach', 'preach the gospel', 'bring good tidings', and so on, but just one word in the original - in the verb form it is found in this letter six times: so that we have here fourteen occurrences in a very brief letter.

The Situation Among the Galatian Christians

Now, if we could reconstruct the situation presented by this letter, or come upon it in actual reality, what should we find? Supposing that the situation represented here existed in some place today, and we visited that place where this thing was going on, what should we come upon? Well, we should find a tremendous controversy in progress, with three parties involved. On the one hand, we should find a group of men who are extremely and bitterly anti-Paul. On the other hand, we should find Paul roused and stirred to the very depths of his being, as we never find him in any other place in his writings or in his journeys. And, in between these two parties, there would be the Christians who are the immediate occasion of this tremendous battle that is going on. Very much bigger issues than the local and the occasional are involved, because it is a matter of the far-reaching and abiding nature of the gospel. Now Paul, in the battle, is committing himself to a re-statement of 'the gospel which he preached', over against these who were seeking to undermine, neutralize and destroy his ministry altogether. What was it all about?

Well, first of all, take the anti-Paul party. What is their trouble? What is it that they are seeking to establish? In brief, in a word, their object is to establish the old, Jewish, religious tradition. They are standing vehemently for the permanence of that system. They are arguing that it came directly from God, and what comes directly from God cannot be changed or set aside. This thing has the support of antiquity. It is the thing which has obtained and has existed for many centuries, and therefore it carries the value of being something that is not, like Paul's teaching, something quite new. It is established in the ages of the past. They would go further, and say that Jesus did not abrogate the law of Moses: He said nothing about the law of Moses being set aside. Well, there is all this argument, and much else besides. Their position is that Judaism, the Law of Moses, is binding upon Christians. 'Be Christians, if you like, but you must add to your Christian faith the Law of Moses, and you must come under government of all the Thou Shalts and Thou Shalt Nots of that tradition and that system; you must conform to the teachings and the practices of the Jewish system, of the traditions of Moses.' That is their position in brief.

On the other hand, there is Paul. He is no stranger to Moses, no stranger to the Jewish system. Born, bred, brought up, trained and very thoroughly taught in it all, nevertheless here he is found directly and positively opposed to their position. He argues that the Law was given by God indeed, but it was only given by God to show up man's weakness. The real value and effect of the Law is to show what man is like - that he just cannot keep it. How hopeless man is in the presence of God's demands! How helpless he is before this whole system of commandments - Thou Shalt and Thou Shalt Not! And though Christ did not abrogate the Law, set it aside, and say, "That is all finished", Christ in Himself was the only One, the only One among all human beings that ever walked this earth, Who could keep it; and He did keep it. He satisfied God in every detail of the Divine Law; and having satisfied God and fulfilled the Law, He introduced and constituted another basis of relationship with God, and thus the Law is in that way set aside. Another foundation of life with God is brought in by Jesus Christ.

That is Paul's argument in brief. Of course, there are many details in it, but Paul comes to the opposite conclusion to that which these Judaizers had reached. The Mosaic law is no longer binding upon Christians in the way in which it was binding upon the Jews. The argument of Paul is that in Christ we are freed from the Law. The great word in this letter is liberty in relation to the Law.

From the strong terms used in this letter we can gather how intense are the feelings of those concerned. Of course, these Judiaizers are very, very strong. They has pursued Paul wherever he has gone. They have sought by every means, by personal attack and by argument and persuasion, to undo his work and to lead away his converts from him and bring them back to Moses. Paul is found here, as I have said, in a state of perfect vehemence. This Paul, so capable of forbearance and longsuffering and patience, as we saw in our lat chapter in the case of the Corinthians, where every kind of provocation to anger was met by him - the wonderful, wonderful patience and forbearance of Paul with those people - yet here the man seems to have become stripped of all such forbearance: here he is literally hurling anathemas at these men. Twice over, with a double emphasis, he says, "Let him be anathema ... so say I now again, Let him be anathema" - accursed.

Now, when Paul gets like that, there must be something involved. For a man like Paul to be worked up in that way, you must conclude that there is something serious on hand. And indeed there is, and this very heat of the Apostle indicates how serious was the difference between these two positions.

The Answer to the Situation

Now, in the letter we may feel that there is much mysterious material. For instance, in drawing upon Old Testament types, Paul uses as an allegory the incident of Hagar and Ishmael. We know the details; we are not going into that at all. There seems to be a lot of mysterious material that Paul is using for his argument. But when we have read it all through and considered it and felt the impact of it, what does it all amount to? When we have studied this and been impressed with its seriousness, what is it that we are left with? Is it just a conclusion about legalism - that the Law no longer holds us in bondage, and we are freed from it? Is it that a dispensation of liberty in that respect has been introduced, and that its principles are no longer binding upon us? Is that just the position? Is it that Christianity is something without obligations as to truth and as to practice? Is it that grace will override all our breaking of laws and violating of principles. - a false interpretation of grace indeed! - but is it that? What is it?

You see, it is possible to grasp very truly the value of a letter like this, but for it to remain, after all, just a theological matter, a mere matter of doctrine. Yes, the Letter to the Galatians teaches that we are no longer under the Law of Moses, and that we are free as children of God. Very nice, very beautiful! But where is that going to lead you? What does it amount to? All that is negative.

I wonder - and this is the whole point just now - I wonder how many of us are really living in the enjoyment of the secret and heart of the gospel, as it is presented in his letter. Paul is saying much here bout the gospel or the good tidings. What really is the gospel, or the good tidings, as found here in this letter in this particular connection? After all, it is not just that Christians want to be 'libertised' - freed from all restraints, from all bondage and all obligations, just to do as they like, follow their own inclinations. That is not it at all. You and I want to know something more positive than that. We cannot be satisfied with mere negatives.

Christ Within

What does the gospel amount to here? Paul says, 'This is the gospel'. It is summarized in one fragment of this letter, a very well-known passage of Scripture, at which we all rejoice - Galatians two, verse twenty: "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me." This is the gospel, the good tidings, of the indwelling Christ. This is the heart of the whole matter, this is the answer to the whole argument, this settles all the questions, this deals with all the difficulties - the gospel, the good news, of the indwelling Christ.

And, when you think of it, this is the most vital and fundamental factor in Christianity. No wonder Paul saw that, if this was sacrificed, Christianity went for nothing: the Judaizers had carried everything away; Christianity had become of no meaning at all. He was fighting, therefore, for Christianity on one point only - but one which included the whole. The whole was wrapped up and bound up with this: "Christ liveth in me". If that is true, you do not need to argue about anything at all; all the argument is settled.

"Christ liveth in me". Christ! What is Christ? Who is Christ? What does Christ mean? What does He embody? Why, everything that satisfies God is found in Christ! In His Son Jesus Christ, God has His full, final, complete answer. Christ can stand up to every demand of God and has done so. Christ can bring the full and complete favor of God wherever He is. Oh, we could stay long with that - what Christ is, how great Christ is, how wonderful Christ is! And "Christ liveth in me"! Christ, that Christ of the eternal glory, that Christ of the self-emptying, humiliation, that Christ of the triumphant life, that Christ of the mighty Cross, of the resurrection, of the return to glory, and of the enthronement now, is in you and in me! What more can we want - what more could we have - what greater thing than that?

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 11 - "The Power of Christ Within")

The Evidence of God

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the 

world are clearly seen, being understood by the things 

that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

-Romans 1:20 (King James Vers

One of the comments that I get from people who read this blog 

is "How can I really know that God exists?" My answer: Look around you.

For me, it takes more faith to believe that one day some gasses 

exploded, creating what we see today. For me, it takes more 

faith to believe that one day a fish decided to it didn't want to 

be a fish any more and come out to dry land. For me, it takes 

more faith to believe that , over millions &  millions of years,

that fish became us. It makes much more sense, for me, to put 

my faith in the Creation of God. The perfect order of His 

Creation, Creating land and sea before He created fish and 

animals. Creating trees & grass before creating you and me. 

That's what I believe. But, back to the statement above: How 

can we really, really know that God exists? I believe the answer is found in Romans 1

Paul writes, "For the invisible things of him from the 

creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood 

by the things that are made, even his eternal power and 

Godhead; so that they are without excuse" None of us has 

ever seen God face to face, but we see His existence by the 

things which He created. The problem people have is that they 

don't want to believe the truth. Think about it. We want to act 

like we're in charge, like everything revolves around us. I work 

to earn a paycheck. I use that paycheck to create my own 

"little" world. We create false gods who we worship, instead of 

giving credit to the One who gave us the ability to do our jobs,

 to earn our living. Paul says "For the invisible things of Him 

from the creation of the world are clearly seen" We see the 

majesty of God when we look at the mountains. We see the 

majesty of God when we stand on the mountain peaks looking 

at the horizon. We see the majesty of God in the waves 

crashing on the beach. We see the majesty of God when we 

look at the trees, with their limbs lifted up giving praise to their 


Are you so wrapped up in your own "little world" that you fail to

 recognize the One who created all things? Want proof that God

 exists? Look out your window. 

~Think About It ~

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Gospel According to Paul # 9

In His Letters to the Corinthians

It takes the Holy Spirit to make us grow up spiritually in this way. The measure of our spirituality can be indicated very quickly and clearly by the measure of our mutual love, our fellowship. We are, after all, little people spiritually if we are always at variance. It takes big people to live with certain other bit people without quarreling.  It takes "the grace of the Lord Jesus, and the love of God", to lead to "the fellowship of the Holy Spirit."

This fellowship of the Holy Spirit, then, is essentially corporate. Perhaps you have thought that this last clause, "the communion of the Holy Spirit", meant your communion with the Holy Spirit and that of the Holy Spirit with you. It does not mean that at all. Paul is perhaps just gently hitting back at the old state, touching on that old condition. 'What you Corinthians lacked more than you lacked anything else was fellowship; there was no fellowship. Now you have come along the way of "the grace of the Lord Jesus, and the love of God", and "the communion of the Holy Spirit" is found among you'. That is what it means. It is corporate, and it is a mighty work of the Holy Spirit. It has to be in more than one of us. Now you, of course, thing it has to be in the other person! No, it has to be in more than one of us, not just the other person. It must be in you and me - it must be in everyone concerned. Well, that is the gospel: good tidings to a people in a pretty bad state! What good tidings!

Let me close with this. We never get anywhere by recognizing the deplorable state and just going for it - beginning to knock people about, wielding the sword or the sledge-hammer and smashing things, bringing people down under condemnation. We never get anywhere that way. If Paul had gone to work that way with Corinth, he would have smashed it all right, but that would have been the end of it. But love found a way, and although there was brokenness, it was not the end. Something, "beauty for ashes", came out of it - because "the grace of the Lord Jesus, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit", was the principle upon which Paul himself lived and by which he worked.

You and I must be people of good news. We have got good news for any situation, though it be as bad as that in Corinth. Believe this! Good news! Good news! That must be our attitude to everything, by the grace of God; not despairing, not giving up. No, good news! The Lord make us people of the gospel, the good tidings.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 10 - "In His Letter to the Galatians")

Open Before the Lord

As David endured unfair treatment despite his doing what was right, He cried out to God in the verses of Psalm 26. As we read his anguished lyrics, we will some resolutions David made which kept him (and will keep us) from slipping into bitterness and resentment during times of mistreatment.

Resolved: I will be open before the Lord (26:2). In three different ways David invites the Lord to assess his inner being: "Examine . . . try . . . test." These three English terms represent three different Hebrew terms. The first one is bachan, meaning "to examine, prove, scrutinize." It is clearly portrayed in Psalm 139:23-24 by the word "search."
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.
The psalmist is asking God to "make an examination" of his inner being, to "scrutinize" him through and through. The next term, translated "try" in verse 2, is the Hebrew nasah, which means to "test, try, prove." Deuteronomy 8:2 uses an emphatic form of the verb term to denote "an intensive test":
You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God
has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He
might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your
heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.
(Emphasis mine.)
God put the Israelites to an intensive forty-year test so that the real condition of their hearts might be exposed. The Lord didn't do this so He would know the condition of their hearts, but so they would be able to examine their own motives and intentions . . . and then repent!

The third term, rendered "test" in verse 2, is yet another Hebrew verb: tzahraf. This is such a vivid term! Literally, it means "to smelt, refine, test." Of the thirty-two times it is used in the Old Testament, it appears in verb form; twenty-two of those times it is linked with the activity of refining gold or silver to remove impurities.

Do you grasp the principle? When wrong comes your way, be open before the Lord. Invite Him (1) to make an internal search and examination of your life for the purpose of determining your character, (2) to undertake an intensive, in-depth process of revealing to you the real condition of your heart, and (3) to refine you, and in the process, to remove any impurities.

While you may not have brought on the mistreatment through sin, your response might become sinful. To maintain your close fellowship with God, openly welcome His divine surgery on your innermost being. Decide to accept the wrong that comes your way as an opportunity to become increasingly more transparent and pure before the Lord. Ask Him for insight---for a full disclosure of your inner person.

Resolved: I will remember His love and continue to obey His word. David wrote, "For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes, and I have walked in Your truth" (26:3). That statement implies two very subtle yet common temptations that occur when mistreatment comes our way: first, to doubt God's love; and second, to drift into disobedience.

David declares, "Your lovingkindness is before my eyes." He resolved to view anything that comes before him through the filter of God's lovingkindness. Then, lest he drift into the ugly yet common temptation to strike back, he resolves to walk in God's truth. Do you see this? Clearly, David's eyes are on the Lord's love for him . . . and his guide through the otherwise bewildering maze of mistreatment is the Lord's truth.

Are you aware of the best proof of love? It is obedience. Our Lord reminds us of that in John14:15, 21, 23:
"If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." (14:15)

"He who has My commandments and keeps them is the
one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by
My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to
him." (14:21)

Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he
will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will
come to him and make Our abode with him." (14:23)
If you are confident that God really loves you, you will neither doubt nor drift in your response. Instead, you will find great delight in pleasing Him. There is nothing quite like love to motivate us from within.

~Charles Swindoll~

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Gospel According to Paul # 8

In His Letters to the Corinthians

For this second letter has to do with ministry, with testimony, and Paul would be the last man in the world ever to suggest that anybody could have a ministry and a testimony who knew nothing about the conquering love of God in their own nature. Paul was not that kind of man. It is, alas, possible to preach and be a Christian worker, and know nothing of the grace of the Lord Jesus in your own life - to be just a contradiction. There is far too much of that. Paul would never countenance anything like that. If he is going to speak about ministry and about testimony in the world, he will demand a basis, that grace shall have done its work at least in measure, so that in this way the love of God is now manifested. Thee is now humility: "Oh, what godly sorrow", h says, "what godly repentance!" Where is the "I"? What is the selfhood? Something has broken, something has given way; there is something now of the grace of the Lord Jesus, in self-emptying, in the negation of the self-life. Yes, they are down now, broken. This is the triumph of Divine love in such a people.

That is the gospel, the good tidings! It is good tidings, is it not? The gospel is not just something to bring the sinner to the Saviour. It is that - but the gospel, the good tidings, is also, this that people, Christians like Corinthians, can be transformed like this through the love of God. Good tidings! The glory of the triumph comes following on here, in words that we love so much: "Thanks be unto God, Who always leadeth us in triumph in Christ" (2 Corinthians 2:14), to celebrate His victory over Christ's enemies. This is the triumphal procession of grace and love. It is a different Paul, is it not? - a Paul different from the first letter. He has got the wind in his sails now, he is running before the wind, he is in triumph. He is talking about everything being a triumphal procession in Christ, a constant celebration of victory. What has made Paul change? Why, the change in them! Yes, it was always like that with Paul; his life was bound up with the state of the Christians. "Now I live if you stand fast" (1 Thess. 3:8). "This is life to me."

"And the love of God". "God, that said, Light shall shine out of darkness ... shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves" (2 Corinthians 4:6, 7). "We are poor creatures, Corinthians: I am, you are; but God has shined into our hearts. Something has been done in our hearts. The love of God has come in. Fragile vessels as we are in ourselves, that love shines forth - the glory of the love of God."

"The Communion of the Holy Spirit"

"The communion [or fellowship] of the Holy Spirit". Did ever a people need to know the meaning of fellowship more than the Corinthians? Is Paul touching upon some spot that was a very, very sensitive spot? Fellowship? He wrote: "Each one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ" (1 Corinthians 1:12). Is there any fellowship in that, any communion in that? No. When you stay in the flesh, there is no fellowship, there is no communion; you are all in bits and pieces, all flying at one another. So it was. What is God after? Fellowship, communion, among believers; and it must be the communion, the fellowship, of the Holy Spirit, that is, fellowship constituted and established and enriched by the Holy Spirit. This is the result of "the grace of the Lord Jesus and the love of God" - oneness.

Let us clearly recognize that this is the deepest work of the Holy Spirit. Much has been said earlier, in Paul's first letter, about the Holy Spirit.  They had made much of spiritual gifts; spiritual gifts attracted them. They were enamored of power to do things, of signs, wonders, and so on. That was very much after their heart; these gifts of the Spirit, and much more that was just outward, brought a great deal of gratification to their souls.

But when you come to the supreme end and deepest work of the Holy Spirit, you find it in the oneness of believers. It takes the deepest work of the Holy Spirit to bring that about, seeing that we still have a nature that is an old nature. We still can be Christians, and yet Corinthian Christians. There is still lurking - and not always in hidden corners - the "I", the self-life in some form or other. Seeing it is there, it takes a mighty work of the Holy Spirit to unite indissolubly even two believers, but to unite a whole church like that is something stupendous.

Nothing less or other than that is the communion, the fellowship, of the Holy Spirit. Something of that seems to have come about at Corinth. Oh, wonder of wonders, the difference between these two letters! Yes, it has happened. It is an inward triumph over nature, and it shows real progress. That is the communion of the Holy Spirit. When Paul started his first letter, he said: "When every one of you says, I, I, I, are you not babes? Do you not have to be fed with milk?" (1 Corinthians 3:1-4). Babies are always scrapping and fighting. That was the Corinthians. But they had got past the babyhood stage, through "the grace of the Lord Jesus, and the love of God". Things changed; they have grown up.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 9)

A Humble Heart and Willing Spirit

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Matthew18:21-22

So many factors are involved in someone sinning against another. Many times, the thoughts and motives of the one who sinned are not as clear as the reaction of the person who was sinned against. Conflict is hard. Conflict takes a toll on both parties. Defensiveness goes up and trust goes down. Both parties though, the one who needs to forgive and the person who needs to ask for forgiveness, have their share of difficulties. The one who would forgive, deals with skepticism. They hope for real change this time, and deal with thoughts such as, "I hope this is the last time you need to ask forgiveness. I hope this time it works for good. By choosing to forgive you, I may just get hurt again." But the person who continually asks for forgiveness is also in a difficult situation. When we sincerely confess our sin to another, we have to admit to ourselves that we have hurt someone else as a result of our behavior or words. To ask forgiveness repeatedly is to admit that we do not have the ability or power to change that trait in us. So to ask sincerely means that we need to keep seeking ways to change. After a while, it is natural in the flesh to justify and rationalize the sinful behavior instead of continually trying to change. That is why Jesus takes both sides. If someone is repeatedly willing to ask forgiveness, sincerely looking for help, then we need to be willing repeatedly to restore that person back.

I am thankful for Jesus' teaching because I know that He lives by His own teaching. We sin against Him more than anyone else. If we are repentant, He is willing to forgive us - over and over and over again. We have to pray that our hearts remain soft enough to keep asking for forgiveness. His mercies are new every morning, probably because we use up all His mercy the day before.

If you need to ask forgiveness from someone, ask the Lord to give you a humble heart and a spirit willing to change. If you are being asked to forgive, ask the Lord to help you look to Him to help restore the person back in your heart without bitterness. The Lord will help you. He is on both sides. Let us pray that we keep His focus and His heart during the conflicts, and not our own.

~Daily Disciples Devotional~

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Gospel According to Paul # 7

In His Letters to the Corinthians

Now, you can break that up in this letter. "Christ Jesus, Who was made unto us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption" (1 Cor. 1:30). He is made unto us righteousness, sanctification, redemption. I am afraid that some Christians are afraid to make too much of their positional grace. They think that it will make something away from their Christian life if they make too much of that, because they put such a tremendous amount of emphasis upon the need for their sanctification, actually, as to condition; and they are so occupied introspectively with this matter of what they are in themselves and trying to deal with that, that they lose all the joy of their position in Christ through grace.

We need to keep the balance in this matter. The beginning of everything is that the grace of the Lord Jesus comes to us - even though we may be like the Corinthians - and sets us and looks upon us as in a place of sainthood, "sanctified in Christ Jesus". You cannot describe it. Grace goes beyond all our powers of describing, but there is the wonder of the grace of the Lord Jesus. The fact of the matter is that we really only discover what awful creatures we are after we are in Christ Jesus, and after we have been in Him a long time. I think the longer we are in Christ, the more awful we become in our own eyes. Therefore, if we are in Christ Jesus, what we are in ourselves does not signify. Our position does not rest upon whether we are actually, literally, truly perfect. The good tidings first of all has to do with our position in Christ.

Ah, but it does not stop there. This does not introduce any kind of shadow, or it should not. Thank God, it is good tidings beyond even that. The grace of our Lord Jesus can make the state different - can make our standing lead to a new state. That is the grace of the Lord Jesus. It can make our own actual state now correspond to our standing. Grace not only receives into the position of  acceptance without merit: grace is a working power to make us correspond to the position into which we have been brought. Grace has many aspects. Grace is acceptance, but grace is power to operate. "My grace is sufficient for thee" (2 Cor. 12:9). That is the mighty word of power in need. The grace of our Lord Jesus is indeed good news - good news for all Christians.

"The Love of God"

After "the grace of the Lord Jesus", "the love of God". See how God is moving to His end. Now the Second Letter to the Corinthians is as full of the love of God as the first is full of the grace of the Lord Jesus. It is a wonderful letter of the love of God, and of its mighty triumph, its mighty power. The love of God is God's present day method of showing His power. If that will not do it, nothing will. What God is doing in this dispensation, He is doing by love. Let that be settled. Not by judgment, not by condemnation. The Lord Jesus said He did not come to condemn, He had come to save (John 12:47). Yes, it is the love of God which is the method of His power in this dispensation. The method will change, but this is the day of the love of God.

Now, Paul has already, toward the end of the first letter, given that classic definition and analysis of the love of God - 1 Corinthians thirteen. There is nothing to compare with it in all the Bible as an analysis of - not your love, not my love; we are not interested in that - but the love of God: "Love suffereth long and is kind, love envieth not, love seeketh not its own, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly," and so on. There is the love of God set forth. We shall find that we cannot stand up to it. No man can stand up to that fully. "Love never fainteth" - never gives up, that is. Here is the quality of Divine love.

Now bring it into the Second Letter to the Corinthians, and see the mighty triumph, the power, of the love of God. First of all, see it as working triumphantly in the servant of the Lord. Look again at the letter. Paul has in different places in his writings given very wonderful, very beautiful, very glorious revelations of the grace of God in his own life; but, considering the setting, I do not think there is anything anywhere in the New Testament that so wonderfully sets forth the triumph of the love of God in a servant of God, as does this Second Letter to the Corinthians. If ever a man had reason to give up, to wash his hands, to despair, to be fiercely angry, to be everything but loving, Paul had reason for such a reaction in regard to the Corinthians. He might have been well justified in closing the situation at Corinth, and saying: 'I am done with you, I wash my hands of you, you are incurable. That more I love you, the more you hate me. All right, get on with it; I leave you.' Look at this second letter: the outgoing, the overflowing, of love to these people - to these people - over that situation. What a triumph of love, the love of God, in a servant of God! That is how God reaches His end. Oh, God give us more love, as His servants, to bear and forbear, to suffer long, and never to despair.

Yes, but it was not left there. You can see it, even if it is only beginning - and I think it is more than that - in the Corinthians themselves, as he speaks to them about the result of his strong speaking, his pleading, his rebuking, his admonishing, his correcting. The terms that he uses about them are their sorrow, their godly repentance, and so on. It was worth it, the love of God triumphing in a people like that; and you know that that is what made possible the wonderful, beautiful things that Paul was able to write to them in the second letter. Paul could never have committed himself to write some of the things that are in this second letter, but for some change in those people, in their attitude, in their disposition, in their spirit; but for the fact that he had got this basis of triumphant love.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 8)

Turning Defeat Into Victory

...because everyone who has been fathered by God conquers the world. This is the conquering power that has conquered the world: our faith. (1 John 5:4)
At every turn in the road one can find something that will rob him of his victory and peace of mind, if he permits it. Satan is a long way from having retired from the business of deluding and ruining God’s children if he can. At every milestone it is well to look carefully to the thermometer of one’s experience, to see whether the temperature is well up.
Sometimes a person can, if he will, actually snatch victory from the very jaws of defeat, if he will resolutely put his faith up at just the right moment.
Faith can change any situation. No matter how dark it is, no matter what the trouble may be, a quick lifting of the heart to God in a moment of real, actual faith in Him, will alter the situation in a moment.
God is still on His throne, and He can turn defeat into victory in a second of time, if we really trust Him.
“God is mighty! He is able to deliver;
Faith can victor be in every trying hour;
Fear and care and sin and sorrow be defeated
By our faith in God’s almighty, conquering power.
“Have faith in God, the sun will shine,
Though dark the clouds may be today;
His heart has planned your path and mine,
Have faith in God, have faith alway.”
“When one has faith, one does not retire; one stops the enemy where he finds him.”

~L. B. Cowman~

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Gospel According to Paul # 6

In His Letters to the Corinthians

We now pass to the Letters to the Corinthians, and, again following our method, we seek to find that which will sum up all that these Letters contain. After all the details, all that goes to make up these letters - and it is quite a lot -we ask: 'What does it amount to'? What is the result with which we are left? And once more we shall find that it is only the gospel again - forgive me putting it like that - it is just a matter of the gospel again from another angle, another standpoint.

We may be surprised to learn that the word "gospel", or, as it would be in the original, the term 'good tidings', occurs in these two letters no fewer than twenty-two times: so that we are not just taking, a little fragment and hanging an undue weight upon it. We need some fairly solid foundation upon which to base our conclusions, and I think that twenty-two occurrences of one special word in such a space forms a fairly sound basis. Whatever else these letters are about, they must be about that. Much of what you read in these letters might lead you to think it was not like that at all - it looks very bad; but what we are after is the resultant issue.

The Summing Up of the Letters

There is one very familiar sentence which sums up the whole of the two letters. It occurs, naturally, at the end of the Second Letter,

"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of  God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all" (2 Cor. 13:14).

This is sometimes called 'the benediction' or 'the blessing'. That is, of course, man's title for it. But it is not just an appendix to a discourse - a conventional way of terminating things, a nice thought. Nor was it used by Paul as a kind of concluding good wish or commendation with which to terminate a meeting, as it is commonly used now. I suppose there is a blessing in it, but you have to look much more deeply that just at these phrases. Really it was a PRAYER, and a prayer in which was summed up the whole of the two letters which the Apostle had written. In Paul's wonderful way of comprehending much in few words, everything that he had penned through these two letters is in this way gathered up.

The Order of the Summing Up

It is perhaps important to note the order of these three clauses. The grace of the Lord Jesus, the love of God, the communion or fellowship of the Holy Spirit. That is not the order of Divine Persons. If it were the order of Divine Persons, it would have to be changed: "The love of God, the grace of the Lord Jesus, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit." But we have no need to attempt to put God right - to try to improve upon the Word of God and the Holy Spirit's order. This is not the order of Divine Persons. It is the order of the Divine process. This is the way along which God moves to reach His end, and that is exactly the summing up of these two letters. All the way through God is moving to an end, and this prayer of Paul's is according to the principle, the order, of Divine movement.

Let us now come to the words themselves, and see if we can find a little of the gospel - the 'good tidings' of these two letters - gathered into these three phrases.

"The Grace of the Lord Jesus"

What was the grace of the Lord Jesus? Well, if you look back in this second letter, to chapter eight, verse nine, you have It.

"Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might become rich."

There are three quite simple elements in that statement. The Lord Jesus did something - HE BECAME POOR; and what He did was voluntary - for grace ever and always carries that feature at its very beginning. It is that which is perfectly voluntary; not compelled, not demanded, under no obligation, but completely free. The grace of our Lord Jesus meant firstly a voluntary act,  That is grace very simply, but it goes to the heart of things. So that is what He did - He became poor. And then the motive, as to why He did it: 'that we, through His poverty, might be made rich'.

I think that is a simple, and a very beautiful, analysis and synthesis of grace. He became poor - He did it without compulsion - and in so doing His motive was that we might become rich.

Now, you see, you have here in the Lord Jesus Person and a nature wholly and utterly, fully and finally, different from any other human being; a nature completely contrary to the nature of man, as we know it. Human nature as we know it is being rich, doing anything to become rich, and anybody else can be robbed to make us rich. That does not necessitate taking a pistol and putting it at people's heads. There are other ways of getting advantages to ourselves, at other people's expense or otherwise. There is really no 'grace' about man, as we know him. But the Lord Jesus is so different from this! Christ is altogether different - an altogether other nature.

Now the whole of the First Letter to the Corinthians is crammed full of the self-principle. I am assuming that you are more or less familiar with these letters. I cannot take you through page after page, verse after verse; but I am giving the result of close reading, and you can verify it if you care to. I repeat: the whole of the First Letter to the Corinthians is just full of the self-principle - self-vindication, going to law to get their own rights, self-seeking, self-importance, self-indulgence - even at the Lord's Table - self-confidence, self-complacency, self-glory, self-love, self-assertiveness, and everything else. You find all these things in that first letter, and more. "I" - a great, an immense "I" - stands inscribed over the First Letter to the Corinthians. This is the nature, the old nature, showing itself in Christians. Everything that is contrary to "the grace of the Lord Jesus" comes to light in that letter, and the Lord Jesus stands in such strong, clear, terrible contrast to what we find there.

In our last chapter we sought to show that, in order to reveal the glory of the good tidings as the good tidings of the God of hope, the Divine method was to paint the hopelessness of the picture as it really was and is for human nature. Now, in order to reach the Divine end, the Holy Spirit does not cover up the faults, the weakness - even the sins, the awful sins - of Christians. The grace of God is enhanced by the background against which it stands. And so, while we might feel, 'Oh, what a pity that this letter was ever written! What a pity ever to speak about it - why not hide it?' - ah, that is just where the good tidings find their real occasion and value.

You see, they are the good tidings of the benediction. The good tidings here are found right at the very beginning of the letter. God knows all about these folk. He is  not just finding out - He knows the worst. Dear friend, the Lord knows the worst about you and about me, and He knows it all; and it is a poor kind of all! Now, He knew all about these Corinthians, and yet, under His hand, this Apostle took pen and began his letter with - what? "To the church in Corinth', and then: 'sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints".

Do you say, 'Oh, I cannot understand that at all!'? Ah, but that is just the glory of His grace, because the grace of the Lord Jesus comes out here in calling such people saints. Now, you do not call such people saints; you reserve that word for people of a very different kind. We say, 'Oh, he is a saint' - distinguishing him, not from people who are unsaved, but among good people. Now, God came right to these people, knowing this whole black, dark story, and said: "saints"; and that other word, "sanctified in Christ Jesus", is only another form of the same word 'saints'. It means "separated' - separated in Christ Jesus. You see, the very first thing is the position into which the grace of the Lord Jesus puts us. It is positional grace. If we are in Christ Jesus, all these lamentable things may be true about us, but God sees us in Christ Jesus and not in ourselves. That is the good tidings, that is the gospel. The wonder of the grace of the Lord Jesus! We are looked at by God as separated, sanctified in Christ Jesus. That is where God begins His work with us, putting us in a position in His Son where He attributes to us all that the Lord Jesus is.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 7)