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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Recovering of the Lord's Testimony in Fullness # 8

The Warfare

No Living Relationship with the Lord

Paul regarded this as subverting them from the faith. That was turning their back on Christ. The men who taught thus were Paul's enemies. I am not saying that they were all converted men; but I am saying that they were in some measure associated with the Lord and yet were really inimical to Him. It was a strange mixture - taking the Lord's Name and yet being against the Lord's full purpose. That is the kind of thing that is related to the ultimate intention of the Lord. It is a peculiar kind of opposition. It comes, let us put it in a word, from carnal and fleshly men: men of influence, very often, who are actuated by natural interests and considerations. Oh, yes: they know the Lord, they will speak about the Lord, they will take certain forms of Christianity, they will be very loyal to fundamental truths of God and His Person, and so on and so on; but when it comes to this ultimate issue you find them out of sympathy and very often in hostility. They will go so far, but when the full thing comes into view they are not willing, and it is in that realm, in relation to God's full purpose, that the real and peculiar antagonism arises. Is it not strange that, when you are bent upon the whole counsel and purpose of God, you find your main opposition from Christians and Christian leaders, far more than from the world?

So it was when Nehemiah came to Jerusalem. These people were "grieved exceedingly, for that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel" (Neh. 2:10). You cannot understand that. You say, 'Well, if these people had any knowledge of the Lord at all, any recognition of the Lord, if their talk about the Lord meant anything, they would say, "Anything you can do for the people of God, we are with you.' But they are afraid - oh, strange anomaly! - they are afraid that if the Lord has more they will have less. It is true, and we have to be very faithful about it. It is a fact; it has always been so. These are the foes.

You find much of it in the New Testament - the envy of the Jews, the jealousy of the Jews. "If we let him ... alone... the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation" (John 11:48). They are afraid of losing something that is theirs, that they have sponsored, that they have taken up. 'If this goes on, we shall lose, we shall lose people; we stand to suffer some loss if this goes on.' You know how true that is. It is a peculiar kind of fear. It is an unreasoning fear - fear that they themselves have never analyzed or looked into, as to why it is they are afraid; but there it is. We know, surely we know why, if they do not. There is a mighty kingdom which, while it will withstand the salvation of the unsaved and will try to make the Christian life at all times difficult, seems to be most malignant when the fullness of Christ, or Christ coming into His inheritance, is in view. That seems to arouse something extra, of a peculiar character.

The Forms of Opposition

For a moment or two let us look at the forms of the opposition. We have been saying that this particular object in view provokes a peculiar kind of hostility and conflict, and it will take any form that it can to defeat God's end. In this book of Nehemiah you find a constant opposition on the part of these enemies. They will try one form of tactic at one time; then, if that does not work and they are defeated, they will swing around to another angle and try from that; and if that does not work they will change again.

Grief

So you find in the first place that they were very "grieved" that a man had come. But that does not get very far, does not do much damage. We must look behind their great grief. Why were they grieved? Well, here again it would be such a perplexing thing, if that were a modicum of concern for the Lord's interests. Nehemiah explains his motive for doing this work of rebuilding the wall: "that we be no more a reproach" (Neh. 2:17). The existing state of things means that the Lord's people are under a reproach. Dishonor rests upon the Church - that is what it amounts to; the world does not think much of it; the glory of the Lord is veiled and there is reproach. You might think that these people, if they had any sincerity of motive, would at least want to remove that reproach.

But there you get to the heart of things, because satan's one object, as we said on a previous occasion, has always been to bring reproach upon the Name of the Lord. Always, by any means, along any line, if he can defame the Name of the Lord which rests upon the Lord's people, he will do it. They were very grieved that there was someone seeking to remove the reproach of the Lord which rested upon His people. A terrible thing that. Paul got himself into a lot of  trouble for that very reason. He tried to clear up that reproachful situation at Corinth,but there were those in Corinth who turned on him, who said all kinds of things about him.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 9 - "Scorn and Ridicule")


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