The Key of Faith (continued)
But if spiritual enlargement is a need, and if the work of God, the testimony of Jesus, needs releasing and enlarging, is this not equally true in the matter of establishment - the establishing of the Lord's people? If God is after enlargement, He is certainly revealed to be equally desirous of, and working toward, that which is solid, that which is substantial, that which is characterized by stability, endurance, steadfastness, trustworthiness, faithfulness, responsibility, depth. These words touch the situation very, very closely.
We may recall that the New Testament was written almost entirely for the establishment of believers. Typical phrases are: "I long to see you ... to the end ye may be established" (Romans 1:11); and: "Now He That establisheth us with you in Christ ... is God" (2 Corinthians 1:21)
God works for that will endure. A characteristic of God is the "for ever" feature. "Whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever" (Eccles. 3:14). The chief factor in establishment is faith. Firstly it is the establishment of faith - the objective ground. This is the message and meaning of the Letter to the Romans. There can be no subjective work unto this objective position is secured. Indeed, it would be very dangerous to proceed with the subjective otherwise. All further and fuller work in us necessitates a strong and settled faith in what has been done for us, and in what our standing is by grace.
Then comes the establishment in faith. This means the removal of all false ground - any ground of confidence or trust which is other than God Himself. In this category of false ground come our feelings, theories, traditions, and all external supports. All these will prove false and incapable of bearing the strain of true faith's testing. In order to keep to reality and true life God shatters all false positions, shakes all false ground, and strips off all vain confidence.
This applies to our lives and our work. It is very impressive to note that, when Paul was a prisoner and when many old friends forsook him, when churches which were his life-work turned from him, he then wrote such tremendously assured and confident letters as those called "To the Ephesians," "To the Colossians," and "To the Philippians." This does not look as though he believed that the real work was breaking down. "Unto the ages of the ages" is characteristic of these messages.
Paul knew what he meant when, in writing to the Thessalonians, he used the phrase: "Your work of faith" (1 Thess. 1:3). His was that, and it paid large dividends, although both the faith and the work underwent severe testings.
(continued with # 21)