The Nature of the Dispensation in Which We Live # 3
Conception, Not Imitation
I do wish that we could see and really grasp inwardly this, that our New Testament is not something to be imitated in any matter. Our New Testament is something in the hands of the Holy Spirit to be wrought in us. You see, the New Testament did not come out of a study at all. Paul did not go and shut himself up in his study and think out the doctrines of Christianity as a theologian, look up his commentaries and authorities and so on, giving you the manual of New Testament doctrine. Paul was every day of his life right up against terrible tragedies, actual situations, and the New Testament was written right in the midst of the fight on the battlefield, grappling with problems, grappling with living problems, and when those letters were written they never thought that they were writing Holy Scripture, they never thought that in time to come people would sit down and study every word and resolve it into a doctrine, and crystallize it into "New Testament teaching". They never thought like that. What they were doing was that they were trying to meet a practical situation right on the spot, and it was wrung out of them. Yes, the Holy Spirit came through in that way and revealed the meaning of Christ in a living situation; and unless you and I are right in a living situation, faced with a terrible problem in our own case or someone else's, we will never be conformed to the heavenly Christ. We will never come to that by sitting down and studying New Testament doctrine. It has got to be wrought on the anvil of experience, and that experience is going to be, in a certain sense, tragic experience. It is going to be something of a real question of life and death. Anyone who has really walked with God knows that I am telling the truth, that what they have come really to know of God, what they have come to possess of real spiritual value and strength, has come out of some dark and terribly grim and awful experience in their own life. They were taken into the depths where faith rocked. They did not know but what this was the end of everything. That is how they have grown and become spiritual and heavenly. They have not come there because the Lord has pandered to every childish demand for satisfaction and gratification and answered prayer in everything temporal. They have been tested, and if the Lord has subsequently come in to do things to answer prayer, He has only come in when He has done the spiritual thing inside and prepared and made it safe to do that. He has done it after travail. THIS IS THE NATURE OF THIS DISPENSATION. It is heavenly, it is spiritual and God is governing the life of the true children with this fact.
Now, all practical points, all practical matters, have got to arise out of a spiritual quest. They have got to come up by reason of our seeking to know the Lord, to go on with the Lord, to reach the Lord's end, not the other way round. Quite a lot of people think if they do this and that and the other thing, that the Lord will lead them to spiritual things. Oh no, we cannot duplicate, we cannot reproduce, anything that is spiritual. You cannot duplicate a spiritual assembly. You cannot duplicate a spiritual company of the Lord's people. You cannot duplicate a real spiritual order. Now listen to me, brethren. It is no use going about the country saying, 'We are going to set up New Testament companies, order of assemblies!' You cannot do it. You cannot duplicate anything spiritual. You get people together and say, 'We will have a New Testament order and this is it' - and then have your order written down - 'this is the order of a New Testament church!' The thing may be absolutely dead. You cannot reach spiritual things by coming out of this and that and coming to some thing else. Oh no, let it be said very, very strongly, you can never guarantee that you are going to reach any fuller spiritual measure by coming out of something. I would never for a moment suggest to you that if you came out of a certain connection, a certain denomination, a certain church, a certain association, it would be to your spiritual gain, unless that thing, of course, were wrong in some quite positive sense. If you are in some personal relationship which is evil, of course you will not move spiritually until you break that; but I am not talking about that. You can never assure people that they will make spiritual progress if only they will come out of this connection and that, and become connected with something else. Never do it, never hint at it, you may put them into an entirely false position. If ever such questions - I have only mentioned that out of a large number that I might mention - if such questions are ever to arise at all, if you have to leave something, withdraw, associate somewhere else, if ever such questions are to arise at all, they have got to come up as you are seeking the Lord and His fullness, to go on with Him. The Lord will make it perfectly clear to you that that is a hindrance, a spiritual hindrance, that is definitely athwart the path of spiritual progress. It has got to be an issue like that. Do not do anything because somebody else tells you you have got to do it. It has got to arise as a practical issue as you have a quest for God's fullness. It has got to be in the living way, not the legal way, not the technical way.
Let me repeat. It is impossible to duplicate spiritual things. It cannot be done; it is a work of the Spirit of God.
I am speaking of a principle which is so perfectly clear in the New Testament if you look at it. You see, Paul and the other Apostles did not leave the Temple and did not leave Jewry in order to join the Christian church, in order even to go on with the Lord. No, no, they did not. They went to the Temple, they continued going to the Temple, they continued going to the synagogue, they continued association with the Jews, in fellowship, if you like, with them, until the matter became an inward, spiritual issue, a thing from heaven, a thing by the Holy Spirit, and then you find gravitation according to life, conformity to heavenly type; and when they came to see that the Temple is not that thing at Jerusalem, it is something from heaven, THAT came by revelation of the Holy Spirit, not because someone told them that was so. If ever they came to withdraw from the Temple and the synagogue because had seen the heavenly, it was a crisis in their spiritual life, a mark of their spiritual progress. It was not because it was said of them, 'You have got to leave this,come out of that, association with that is all wrong!' No, it was a spiritual matter with a living issue, and you cannot find the point at which it happened with them. There is no secession recorded in the New Testament, no split as a part of the history of Christianity. It happened, and it did not happen with all the Christians at once, just this one and that one. It happened, that is all. In the end, they saw there was a difference. It was a spiritual matter. That is my point.
And so that is the nature of things now. It has got to be like that. If you are in something not on that basis, I ask you to go back and reconsider your whole position. Are you where you are because it has become in you at some time a spiritual issue, a matter in which your spiritual life was involved, something between you and the Lord? Is that the basis on which you are where you are? If not, let me urge you, go back, do not be afraid, don't you think the Lord will be grieved with you. He will not be grieved with you putting things on a right basis. We must be on the basis of what is living, of the Spirit, in a heavenly way, that is, on the basis of Christ in heaven known and ministered by the Holy Spirit.
(continued with # 4 - Why We Are Where We Are