“And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form. “You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent. You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! (John 5:38-39)
But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matt. 4:4)
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness,examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (Acts 17:11)
There are many well-intended scribes among us in these latter days, devoted to external study, to mere words, many great teachers skilled at rightly dividing the written word. Mountains of books written, yet apostasy and falseness and superficiality everywhere and growing among so-called Christianity. They have taken the Word of Life and rendered it to mere fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil; the wisdom of Solomon on scrolls of paper, but not written on the heart. “Live by biblical principles they say, and then reap the blessing of heaven.” They point to the Bible as some kind of path, some way out of death, when it was never given to be that. The Scriptures testify of Jesus Christ, and they witness to Him as the Word of God, sent down among us to express the very life and purpose of God in a way that we can comprehend. The “Word” of God is not just what Jesus (or His servants) said, but it represents all that He is – HE IS THE WORD OF GOD!
But (hear this please, for this is very important) life is not found in the Scriptures, and to take the New Testament and make its words and precepts so much like the law and prophets given to the Hebrews, is not what the Lord came to impart. “You do not have His word abiding in you,” said the Lord; and dedicating your entire life to mining, probing, dissecting, and parsing the written word may not get you one step further into the heart of God. You will become a scribe and scholar not a disciple trained on the bloody and narrow path that leads out of Adam into Christ. “Here take and you will be as God” said the dragon in the garden.
Jesus did not say it was better that He leave the twelve because He was going to give them the New Testament (and some super-apostle named Paul) to guide them in all matters of entering into the fullness of the Father – He said it was better because then He would indwell them personally and guide them from within through His Spirit. Then we will become branches of the true vine, bringing forth fruit of Him. Members of His body enlivened and directed by the Head, the Mind, the Brain that is Jesus. This does not negate the Scriptures at all but verifies them and substantiates them. Apart from the spirit, we cannot rightly divide them, or apply them, or even realize the rich spiritual meaning of them. But to take them beyond where they go, this is not helpful either. One can “know” the Bible and never truly know the Lord.
We all believe in the perfect, inerrant and Holy Bible, and it is an incalculable blessing to be sure. Yet it does not negate the need of each of us personally to be hearing the Shepherd as He leads us from within. We are to live by every word that God speaks; by His will in other words. Our lives in the Lord are living epistles and no less poignant or purposeful than the written letters we have brought down to us. As the Lord speaks to us He most often affirms this in the testimonies of those recorded in the Bible – this is my experience anyway, for what is worth.
When Ezra set up the schools to restore and circulate the written testimony of Israel, what evolved over centuries up until the time of the Lord was an oral tradition, a tradition of commentary and supplemental material (biblical principles and interpretations) from men known as as the Talmud. This was accompanied by sects, scribes, schools, each having their own slant on the testimony of God – sound familiar? This pattern has been repeated over the last 2000 years, until now many believers will not so much as stand up or sit down without affirmation from their favorite teacher or ministry. Well the Lord told them so much of what they had added to His Word was of the flesh, of men, and He then went on to teach what was really being expressed and intended. “You have heard… but I say….” They had taken the Scriptures as the end, the means to life, when it was really intended to point to and prepare the people for the coming of the Son of Man.
There is, to be sure, no less a Talmud it seems for Christians today than there was for the Hebrews. And this is at the least unhelpful and at the worst – dangerous. Rather than help the disciple to hear the Lord personally, these outward things can begin to replace His moment-by-moment leading. We are to obey the Lord, not some outward list of dos and donts. Converts are taught to live by “biblical principles” rather than following the Lord. Grace is stifled. Men (teachers) are exalted. Churches become schools rather than a body building up the members or a vine bearing fruit. Sermons become seminars with a step-by-step guide to living this life. There is great division over interpretation and ideas. The heart of the Lord is grieved. All because He is not first. All because men search the scriptures looking for something they can never give. Those who supposedly “know” lord it over His flock, yet they are not shepherds, and they are not the One True Shepherd!
We are to be led and instructed and illuminated in the ways of life from within, by the abiding spirit that will illuminate and breathe life into the written word. Yet the word on its own is just as useless for engendering life and salvation as the law. This is what Paul the pharisee taught, and this is why the Lord when selecting the twelve did not go the scribes or schools; He went to the seaside and the tax booth.
This “teaching” or that is not all that we need in this dark hour saints – but cross-bearing testimony, god-breathed witness and testimony, real spirit-touching-bone expression of life. And it begins and flows from within us, affirming His blessed Scriptures. “The Scriptures point to me” – yes but then we set Him aside and spend lifetimes returning to the Scriptures. They are a means to an end, not the end in itself!
…and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. (Eph 3:19)
And so what indeed is “sound teaching”? It is everything and anything that leads to the increase of the love of Christ, that directs the thirty soul to drink deep at His well. It is never knowledge for its own sake. it is never – “if only I could learn enough, spend enough time at the feet of Gamaliel, etc.” That is spirit-sucking religion; it is outward, it looks and smells and feels so good but it can never engender the life and fullness of God.
Statements mean nothing! Statements of Faith even less! What is the the Lord saying to each of us now is what matters.
What matters is that the Living Word that came down has penetrated us and become flesh in us so that we live and move and have our new being in Him alone – the scriptures will then take care of themselves, and something wonderful will begin to happen – we will indeed begin to understand His divine purposes in the revelation of His written Word. We will see Jesus Christ in them, and once they have directed us to Him, deeper to Him, we can set them in their safe and rightful place.
This is a delicate matter saints, one requiring maturity and balance, yet what is needed in this dark hour is not more scribes, not more rabbis, not more textualists – but witnesses, prophets, cross-bearing, striped lambs who are willing to lay it all down for the Lord, to stand by Him and His little ones who are bearing the scorn and reproach of this world –
You are those who have stood by Me in My trials; (Luke 22:28)
Do that brothers, be that – and then you will see. The windows will open, and the scriptures will affirm all that you see. You cannot study life, you must live it, you must enter into it, knee-deep and then neck-deep until it is all and only the Lord, all His way in you – spirit, soul and body!
Bro Sparks writes on this subject of knowing, truly knowing, epignosis (Greek: knowing as a living, breathing, costly truth that is wrought at the very center of your spirit), knowing beyond mind, ideas, concepts, etc. And what makes this knowing real? Well it is the cross isn’t it, the very thing we have shunned in this generation, the very awful thing that we have set aside. The cross as it works its deep and terrible force in a man’s heart and life, unleashes a power that turns merely knowing into revelation – something laid bare and revealed. This is why the wilderness, why the cave, while the barrenness and loss, why the scorn and reproach, why the gates of hell come against us.
I absolutely adore how Bro. Sparks (below) so exquisitely conveys something that I have struggled to express for many years now. Oh for saints such as these, who have gone down, gone in, gone deep, and come out again with eyes wide open.
Oh pray that we would be willing to lose all that we might gain such an abiding knowing of our Lord and His ways.
Lord, we know what You have said, we know what is written, and we thank you Lord. Yet we need to know what You are saying to us now, in this time. Grant us Your word, your heart, that we might be everything we need to be for one another as the days grow darker, and the evil advances inside the gate. Let there be nothing we look back to once we have left this Sodom, let it all be released from our hearts forever, that You might have Your place on the very throne of our lives. In Jesus, we live and move and pray these things. amen
The people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits. (Daniel 11:32)
After the Cross, all the fullness of the Divine power was released upon the world through those who had been brought into absolute oneness with the Lord by that Cross. That is the peculiar kind of knowledge which means the release of such forces and such powers upon the world situation as are unknown by the great world systems. First, let us remember that this knowledge of God is by revelation. We can never get this knowledge of God merely by reading, by listening, by attending meetings…. You may understand it all by mental apprehension, know the terms and the verses, and use them – but what about the dynamic of this thing? What does our personal presence in a situation mean? Does it mean that there is the going out of a power which cannot be accounted for on any human basis whatever, but which is a greater force than the forces that are represented by world organizations, world methods, world resources? It is a most important question. Is this thing alive, or have we merely got a little more mental apprehension of it through conferences? Do we know God in this thing by reason of a personal inward revelation on the subject?
Secondly, it comes by the way of pain. You get a thing revealed to you as truth, perhaps something about the Cross of Christ, or victory over Satan, and you think you know it, and you say, “This is beautiful!” And you begin to talk about it, and it is not very long before something happens – your circumstances are touched. Now you go down with this truth, down into the vortex of awful agony, right down to the gates of hell, your being is upheaved right from the very bottom, and all the time there is the question – “Will that truth hold good?” Is it going to work? And when you have got down as far as you can go, the flesh elements and the self elements have been dealt with, and you grimly hold on to the Lord in this matter of victory – then it comes out, you have tested it right to the very bottom of your being – that thing has become you, and then you can go to others in their grim conflict and their darkness, and say, “I know – I know this thing, and I know God is faithful, I know the victory.” You have got a mighty emphasis on your knowledge, it is a thing about which you have no doubt, because you have gone down into the depths with it, and proved it down there, and by the very pain the thing has been proved.
May this word speak to some of you groaning under the burden of never knowing enough.
Let us esteem each other more worthy than ourselves in this our, of our love, of our blessings, of our prayers and our treasure.