Fundamental Questions of the Christian Life # 12
The Root Principle of the Cross
Now, I wonder if we can discern that in all this the Holy Spirit was acting and operating upon one principle. This is the fundamental significance of this incident - something that throughout is never specifically mentioned, but that emerges as we meditate upon it. When the Holy Spirit is in action, He never gets away from this one thing - namely, the Cross. He was acting all the time on the principle of the Cross. The Cross is the mighty, devastating counter to the chief root-evil in mankind - pride. The principle of the Cross is selfless concern for what is of God and what is of God alone. There was here a readiness, on the part both of the Ethiopian and of Philip, at any cost, without a second thought or consideration, to obey light. This man might well have said to himself, "Well, when I get back, what will the Queen say - what will the men in the court say? If I tell them that I have become a baptized Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, I am in for it!" But the principle of the Cross means no place for secondary considerations. You can see it in Philip: he was an utterly crucified man. You can see it in the Ethiopian: the principle of the Cross was already there, though he knew nothing about the Cross, and it gave the Holy Spirit something to work upon.
And here we find the focus of the whole question. There will be no light of this kind, no understanding of this kind, no coming through out of shadows, darkness, half-light, into the full blaze of Divine illumination, until the Cross has effected in us death to our own intellects. If we are going to argue, to project our reasoning faculties into this thing, the Holy Spirit will stand back - He will not commit Himself. We shall go on in that circle, round and round and round, in everlasting weariness, never arriving. The Cross must come right home to our intellects. That is the full force of the first chapters of Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians. There you have two things placed over against each other. On the one side, the wisdom of the world, on the other side the wisdom which is from above - "Things which eye saw not, and ear heard not, and which entered not into the heart of man" (1 Cor. 2:9); and in between, "Christ crucified".
In the same way, the Cross must deal with our hearts - our affections, our desires, our attachments - and with our interests here in this world, our consideration of how things are going to affect us, how we stand to gain or lose by any course taken. If we have any such considerations, the Holy Spirit will stand back. There will be no light for such people.
And the Cross must deal with our wills. It is so clear from this account that the man, instantly the way was pointed out to him, "jumped at it," as we say. How Philip had arrived at baptism through Isaiah 53, I leave you to consider; but he had got there, and the Ethiopian, with his openness of heart, his readiness of spirit, his will poised to do the right thing when it became clear to him, said, "Look - water! Why shouldn't I...?" Most people say, "Why must I?" This man said, "Why may I not?" There is all the difference of disposition, and the disposition has come under the power of the Cross, for all that will determine the issue.
This man came out and came through. There is something very precious about this, something to take note of, as another implication. When the Spirit caught away Philip, what did the eunuch say? "How am I going to get on without him? I dare not go back without him!?" No,k it was as though it did not matter in the least, for he now had Philip's Lord within. The same Spirit was in him as was in Philip, and, in a right way, independent of all external props and nurses. This is the kind of Christian we want to find! "He went on his way rejoicing." The heart quest has been met, the light has come.
A much larger incident of the same kind is that presented to us in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Gospel by Luke. Those two on the Emmaus road were but representative of this whole class to which the Ethiopian belonged: those possessing a Bible - yes, and knowing its content - but to whom it remained a closed book until the risen Lord opened the understanding. But it is the will of the risen Lord to do that. As I said earlier, the question is quite a proper one: "Understandest thou what thou readest?" Is it an open book or a closed one? a living one or a dead one? a dynamic one or an ineffective one? a weariness or a joy? That is all gathered into this question. But remember, this is the dispensation of the Spirit. He has come committed to the Word in relation to the risen Christ; and through the Word - through Isaiah 53, and through all the rest - He will bring you to the Christ.
(continued with # 13 - The Imperative Dynamic of Christian Service)