Christian Power

Acts 26:13  •  16 min. read  •  grade level: 9
"At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me." Acts 26:1313At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. (Acts 26:13). “WELL, brother John, what did he give you at the lecture last night?" “Oh, just the same as he always does." “How do you mean? " " Why, he was soaring away somewhere in the clouds." “Above the clouds, perhaps you mean." " Just so, quite out of sight-above our heads altogether." “And what did you get, sister Mary, from the word last night?" “Oh, it was Christ Himself where He is! "
I have quoted the above dialog, the substance of which, I have often heard from the lips of saints, because I am becoming more and more convinced that the difference between John and Mary is not one of words only, but that they really represent two entirely different states of soul. At first I was unwilling to think that the difference was anything more than might be accounted for by some accidental circumstance, John being at the time perhaps occupied with some care or trouble, and therefore incapable of following the teacher who might be endeavoring to unfold to the dear saints some of the unsearchable riches of Christ, and would explore with them the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, of that glorious scene to which every Christian who is walking with an ungrieved Spirit consciously belongs. And, let me ask in passing, is there anything so delightful and bracing to the soul, as treading the hills and valleys of eternal sunshine, the heavenly places, into which the Christian is now brought in Christ Jesus, and which he is permitted already to enjoy in the power of the Holy Ghost? But, as my own eyes were gradually opened to see the truth of God's word as set forth in Rom. 8 as to what a Christian really is, from God's point of view, I began to see that the difference in the spiritual condition of John and Mary is no accidental one, but that indeed it is so radically different that, when John comes to "see " what Mary sees, he will speak of it as passing into a new region altogether, a change so wonderful that he can only compare it to a second conversion. In fact the two states of soul are set forth plainly in Rom. 8:66For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. (Romans 8:6). " The mind of the flesh (lit.) is death, but, the mind of the Spirit is He and peace."
Now do not misunderstand me or imagine that, in quoting this verse, I am saying that John is unconverted, and Mary converted. No, both are born again, and are children of God, by faith in Jesus Christ, whom they love and desire to serve; I maintain this point most firmly. But the truth is, Mary has got something which John has not. Her eyes have been opened to see such perfection in the Man at the right hand of God, such a glorious light has shone into her soul, from heaven, far above the brightness of the sun of nature when at its best and brightest, that it is with her as with Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9): self in every shape and form is displaced, and everything under the sun is faded and has lost its deceitful glitter for her, and now the one thing she has before her is to know more of Him there.
She has seen Him risen a conqueror from the tomb, beyond the region of sin and death, and He has spoken peace to her conscience through the blood of His cross (John 20:19-2019Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 20And when he had so said, he showed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. (John 20:19‑20)). But more than that, He has spoken a deeper peace to her heart (v. 21), His own peace. And further still, she possesses the " more abundant life " (John 10:1010The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)), which was first breathed by Him who is the life-communicating Spirit (1 Cor. 15:4545And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. (1 Corinthians 15:45)), into those disciples met in the upper room, (v. 22) thus bringing them into participation c f His own life on resurrection ground. And she knows Him now in the center of the heavenly glory at the right hand of God, seated there as the Purger of her sins (Heb. 1:33Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; (Hebrews 1:3)), and the Head of the body of which she is a member, by virtue of the Holy Ghost dwelling in her (Col. 1:1818And 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 preeminence. (Colossians 1:18)), and her desire is to know more of Christ Himself for power to rise above everything here, as He is above it all.
A. And what is the state of John then? You say that he is a Christian; what more does he want, except of course to be occupied more with Christ, as Mary is?
B. Stay, I did not say that he is a Christian.
I said that he is born again, and therefore a child of God, but to characterize him as a Christian might be to give him a title which I do not think Scripture does.
A. But I must come to a thorough understanding with you on this point; do you make a distinction between being a child of God, and being a Christian?
B. Does not God in His word make a distinction? Let me use a little illustration, which may help to make this point clear to you. Suppose now I describe a bird as " an animal that flies " (the power to fly being that which chiefly characterizes or marks the bird), could you correctly call it " an animal that flies " while still in the nest before it is fledged?
A. Why no, it would be an incorrect expression, though it certainly will fly some day if it come to full growth.
B. Now you have just brought out my point: "it certainly will fly some day, if it come to full growth." But suppose something occurs which stunts its growth, and stops the development of its wings, it will still be a bird.
A. Yes, certainly.
B. But will it be " an animal that flies?"
A. No, clearly not.
B. Now I will apply my allegory. What is a Christian in the Scriptural use of the word? A Christian, or "one of Christ's," is one who not only is quickened or has life by being born again " of water and of the Spirit " (John 3:55Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (John 3:5)), that is to say, the Holy Ghost bringing home the word of God, or " water" (look at 1 Peter 1:22,2322Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: 23Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. (1 Peter 1:22‑23); Eph. 5:25,2625Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, (Ephesians 5:25‑26)), with life-giving power to the soul, but, far more than this, he has got the Holy Ghost dwelling in him (" living water." John 4:10,1410Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. (John 4:10)
14But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:14)
, and vii. 38, 39), and he thus is enabled to walk through the world with an unseen power, which flows from union with Christ risen and glorified, to whom he is consciously united by the Holy Ghost sent down from that glory.
This is what Scripture calls "Life in the Spirit " (Gal. 5:2525If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25)), "Life more abundantly " (John 10:1010The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)), and "Life in resurrection" (Col. 3:11If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. (Colossians 3:1)). As being dead and risen with Christ he is conscious that he belongs not to earth at all, but to a glorious sphere, the new creation, in which sin and flesh have no place, and Christ fills the whole scene.
From this it follows that union with Christ in the glory, by the Holy Ghost dwelling in him, is that which makes a Christian, and from which his power flows. Look carefully at the following references: Gal. 5:1616This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16), "Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." And again, v. 24, "'They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions (lit:) and lusts." And again: Rom. 8:99But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. (Romans 8:9), " But ye are not in. the flesh, but in the Spirit, /:f so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his," that is, "none of Christ's," or " not a Christian," though he be born of God. Hence you will see that power to keep the " old man " in its place of death, and to rise above earth altogether (having " wings " as it were) and not merely having life (as the nestling bird has) is one of the most marked features of a Christian, and this power manifests itself in liberty-Rom. 8:2, 13, 15; Gal. 4:6,76And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. 7Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. (Galatians 4:6‑7); 2 Cor. 3:1717Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. (2 Corinthians 3:17); joy-Rom. 15:13; and divine intelligence of spiritual things Rom. 8:5,6,15-185For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. (Romans 8:5‑6)
15For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. 18For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:15‑18)
, &c. 1 Cor. 2:99But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. (1 Corinthians 2:9) to end; 1 John 2:20,2720But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. (1 John 2:20)
27But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. (1 John 2:27)
. (Please to read these references carefully). To go back again, then, to my original theme.
John is like a nestling bird, " a babe," and in a " carnal " condition, as it says in 1 Cor. 3:11And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:1): " And I brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ." Whereas Mary is grown up into the full truth of Christ (note that the word "perfect " in sonic places is used to mean "full grown," in contrast with being only an infant in Christ, see 1 Cor. 2:66Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: (1 Corinthians 2:6), and 14:20; Phil. 3:1515Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. (Philippians 3:15); Col. 1:2828Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: (Colossians 1:28); Heb. 5:13,1413For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. 14But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5:13‑14), and 6:1), and she is therefore like a bird which can fly, though it may not be with a very strong wing yet. John is still " at the foot of the cross " knowing the Lord Jesus Christ as the crucified one, but Mary knows Him also as the risen and glorified one. John, as I happen to know, has been converted under a sensational and defective gospel, in which only the human side of the cross was presented-the love of Jesus in dying for sinners to put away their sins, and the work finished, and everlasting life for the one who only believes. But Mary knows something also of the divine side of the cross, where we see God coming into the scene in power as the raiser up of Jesus from the dead as our sin-bearer and substitute in token of His perfect satisfaction in that work. Hence God is now the justifier of him who believes on Him (Rom. 4:5,265But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. (Romans 4:5)). It also shows us God giving Him a place at His own right hand in glory in honor of His work at the cross, and sending down the Holy Ghost in the name (John 14:2626But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:26)) and for the glory of that blessed One. (John 16:1414He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. (John 16:14)). This truth when laid hold of by the believer introduces him into a sphere in which:
The consequences of this are very marked in the state of soul in each. In John there is a great lack of spiritual power to rise above flesh and earthly things, whereas Mary manifests this power in every act and word when walking in communion with Christ (for there is no reserve or store of power in one's self).
A. You say that John is only a babe, and Mary full grown? Why John has been saved many years longer than Mary!
B. That alas, is quite true. But the fact is that John has been stunted in his growth, and his " wings" have never been developed. You remember we agreed that the bird would. fly some day if it came to full growth. John has been brought up in an organized system of religious training for young people, in which it was taught that if he as a lost sinner believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, he would be saved, and that then he would be a Christian. Well, as I said before, through God's grace he did believe, and obtained life by faith in the precious blood of Christ. Then he was told that as he was now a Christian, he must seek for grace to walk and behave as a Christian, and this he sought to do.
Now this teaching was right to a certain extent, only that one great cardinal truth of Christianity was entirely omitted, and was therefore quite unknown to him. His soul was not led onwards and upwards to Christ in the glory, so that he was never intelligently connected with the place where Christ is (the Head of the body), and from which the Holy Ghost has come.
In fact he is just in the same condition as those disciples at Ephesus of whom we read in Acts 19 Paul having come to Ephesus, and finding, perhaps, that these believers, (for they were believers), were still in the " infant " condition, asked them pointedly, " Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? and they said unto him, we have not so much as heard whether the Holy Ghost is " (come). In fact they were almost entirely ignorant of the significance of the Holy Ghost's advent in Christianity, and so unhappily it is with very many believers to-day, but with far less excuse, than the disciples at the beginning.
Thus it was that John was arrested in his spiritual development, and therefore stunted in his growth. Can we wonder then that power is just what be lacks? He was "very nice " when first converted, I am told, and hard-working too, but he gradually dropped into the ways of the world. And though whenever a stirring gospel is preached he enjoys it very much, and starts into fresh energy and " work for the Lord," yet, when a teacher visits the assembly, he always shows the same inability to grasp the full truth which we saw at the beginning. I do not say that he has not received the Holy Ghost, he may have; but the point I wish to press is this, he seems to have no consciousness of his relationship to the Father, or of union with Christ " on the right hand of the power of God."
But suppose that dear John were aroused to see that he is still in what you call the " infant " condition, what ought he to do? Should he not pray for power?
No, I think not. But the fact is, it is a difficult case. If he were only recently converted, the full truth of Christ ministered to him in a loving and careful way might bring him into the truth, but, as it is, he is like a badly set fracture of a bone, grown strong in its crookedness, which first requires breaking afresh and then resetting. But, be that as it may, the great thing is to endeavor to lead him on into " the regions beyond," and to show him the fullness that there is in Christ there; to let him see that in Christ glorified, not only has he got " redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of God's grace " (Eph. 1:77In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; (Ephesians 1:7)), but, that he is also " complete in him who is the head of all principality and power" (Col. 2:1010And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: (Colossians 2:10)). And he should then be shown that when he has once " received Christ Jesus the Lord" (Col. 2:66As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: (Colossians 2:6)), he ought no more to ask for power than he would ask for forgiveness of sins, for he has both in Christ.
What would you say if you heard a believer asking God for the forgiveness of his sins? Of course I do not allude to the confession of any particular sin or sins committed, which is the duty of every child of God to do at once (1 John 1:99If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)).
I should say that he does not know what he has got already in Christ risen (Col. 1:1414In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: (Colossians 1:14)). Quite so. And in the same way if I heard a believer praying to God for power, I should think that he does not know what he already possesses in Him, who " liveth by the power of God" (2 Cor. 13:44For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you. (2 Corinthians 13:4)).
A. Then if one be conscious, as I generally
am, of want of power to rise above self, cares, troubles, and persecutions, what should one ask for?
B. Ask the " God of the Lord_ Jesus Christ the Father of glory," that He will so enlighten " the eyes of your heart " that you may know what is yours in Christ more fully, and also that you may have grace to detect and lay aside everything that may be hindering the working of the power of God within you (There was nothing in Christ to hinder God's working in Him). Look carefully at the following verses:
Eph. 1:1818The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, (Ephesians 1:18): " The eyes of your understanding (or heart) being enlightened; that ye may know.... what is the exceeding greatness of his (God' s) power to usward who believe, according t o the working of his (God's) mighty power, which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places."
Eph. 3:2020Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, (Ephesians 3:20): "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, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end, Amen." And you may be sure that, just as you behold with unveiled face the glory of the Lord, so will you be " changed into the same image from glory to glory as by the Lord the Spirit" (2 Cor. 3:1818But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:18)). For there is a transforming power in beholding Him as He is even now, by which we gradually, yet surely, possess for our own strength and enjoyment, all that there is in Him.
R. M. B.
CHRIST is not yet sitting on His own throne; God said to Him when He had accomplished the work on the cross, " Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool." But the day is coming when He will put down His enemies and sit on His throne. The present state of things according to the Scriptures is this, that Christ is sitting at the right hand of God until He makes His enemies His footstool. When you see all the wars and tumults and misery, and wretchedness, and superstition that there is all round. us, do you think that Christ is sitting on His throne?
But He is doing a more blessed thing; if He were to come at once, He would have to execute judgment on all this; but He is gathering out now His joint heirs; this is what He is doing whilst He sits there. The Holy Ghost has come forth to gather those that are to be entirely associated with Christ in glory, and therefore God bears with the evil and wickedness of the world. That is the great condition of things now: the world has rejected Christ; God has received Him. Peter is constantly telling us this; this is the Holy Ghost's controversy with the world. Christ, God's blessed Son, that the world rejected, God has raised up, and declared Him to be the Son of God with power. The Holy Ghost from the day of Pentecost-from the day that Christ was rejected-comes to bear the blessed testimony that He who was thus refused here, God has received there.
(J. N. D.)