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Saturday, January 3, 2015

Fundamental Questions of the Christian Life # 23

The Vital Value of Understanding the Word of God (continued)

A Man Under the Control of Heaven (continued)

That, then, is Philip: a man just governed by the Spirit, quite evidently; not only filled with the Spirit, but taught by the Spirit. He stands out in contrast to so many: not only to the Ethiopian, and all those to whom the Ethiopian had been for light and who were unable to give it, but more than that, in contrast to the very Apostles themselves as they were before Christ, by the Spirit, opened their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:45). Something has happened to Philip. He is a man taught of the Spirit, his eyes have been opened; and so he can bring understanding and light in the Scriptures where it is needed. In a word, this man's need in the desert was met through an instrument that was absolutely abandoned to the Holy Spirit.

The Dispensation of the Spirit

What, now, are the implications of bringing these two together? Firstly, and preeminently, the fact of the nature of the new dispensation - the dispensation of the Holy Spirit. A new dispensation has been ushered in and inaugurated. The Holy Spirit is the characteristic of this dispensation, and everything, so far as God is concerned, rests upon that fact. There is to be nothing other than by the Spirit; everything is to be only by the Spirit. This is a dispensation shut up to the Holy Spirit. We shall not get anywhere in relation to the things of God until we recognize and accept that. The real significance of this incident, and of all others, is that it is a part of the peculiar movement from Heaven in this dispensation - the movement of the Holy Spirit in relation to the exalted Christ.

That is the great principle of spiritual understanding: that is the 'extra', and that is the 'other.' It is the 'extra' to all the best of education, of achievement, of position, of everything else that we have mentioned. A man may have it all, and still be in the dark! It is 'extra' to the letter of the Word - it is of the Spirit. The Word can still be a closed book, even when you have memorized it from beginning to end (if you can do that). When you can quote and cite, freely and largely, from its pages; when you know its content, its subjects, its themes; when you know immediately where to look for any given passage or subject, it may still be a closed book. That is a fact, and that fact explains a very great deal. The 'extra' to everything, whether it be large or small, great or little, is the Holy Spirit.

And it is the 'other' - something different. By these mans of education and knowledge, human ability, you may arrive at certain conclusions. You may say that on this or that matter the Bible teaches so-and-so. Yes, but a hundred others say it teaches on those very same things something different - you may take any one Christian doctrine today and get many different interpretations. That is Christian theology! What is right? What is final authority? Now, you see, the Holy Spirit may altogether change our conclusions and make us see that on our strongest convictions we are at fault. Once He gets an opportunity, He may upset all our 'final positions' of biblical interpretation, doctrine and theology. He is 'other'. We come to that again in a moment.

But the Holy Spirit is particularly concerned with the Word of God; He is bound and committed to the Scriptures. There is no revelation extra to the Scriptures, but there is a vast amount of undisclosed light in the Scriptures, at the disposal of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, with His concern and commitment to the Word of God, is in quest of such as the Ethiopian. That is a most important significance which arises out of this incident. The Holy Spirit took the initiative in this matter. Philip would never, never have thought of this. The Holy Spirit was in quest of people such as this man on his lonely desert journey. It was by the Spirit that the question was put to him and the interpretation given which brought the great crisis in his life "...thou readest," "...what thou readest?" Yes, the Spirit was in quest of people like that, and He still is. It is because they are so few and far between - like this man in the desert, with probably miles between him and the next one - that there is such a poor state generally in the Church. If only the Spirit could find more people like this, what a different situation would obtain!

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 24 - (The Root Principle of the Cross)

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