(b) Resurrection - The Expression of the Lord Himself
So, on the other side, the corresponding thing is the power of His resurrection, which can never be known except as we know the power of His Cross; and it is in knowing Him and the power of His resurrection that our education on the positive side is found. Oh, to know Him and the power of His resurrection! It is a wonderful things when you and I are brought to the place where on the side of nature - and not feignedly, but very utterly - we are compelled to recognize the awful and terrible reality: "This is an end of everything. I who have said so much, I who have preached so much, I who have taught so much, I who have done so much - I am at an end." It is the sentence of death; no more is possible; and it is terribly and grimly real. And then God raises the dead! You go on, and there is something more of the Lord than there was before. It is a great thing to see how God does raise the dead again and again. The same person is alive again, and there is more than there ever was, because there has been a greater emptiness than there ever was. It is a very safe position from the Lord's standpoint.
What are we learning, what is the meaning of that way, what is it we are inheriting along the line of such experiences. Just this - we are knowing the Lord, that is all. We are knowing this, that everything is of the Lord, and whatever is not of Him is nothing at all. It must be of the lord or there is no more possibility, no hope. We are the most ready to say, 'If it depends upon me, there is nothing more possible'; and then the Lord does it. You see what He is doing by the death side of the Cross. He is clearing ground for Himself, and then He is occupying the ground; He is building Himself up as the risen Lord on the ground which has been purged of our old self. The Holy Spirit uses the Cross to keep the way open, to keep the vision clear and growing.
A New Liberty
Further, we pointed out that when the dispensation changed on the day of Pentecost, from that moment there was a marvelous emancipation into a new liberty. In the old dispensation the whole order was one of bondage, of thraldom; people were in a straitjacket of a religious system. In the new dispensation, the straitjacket has gone. There is nothing that suggests a straitjacket in the Book of the Acts. People are out, they are free. Thee will still be some things to be taken away, like Peter's remnant of tradition in the presence of the call to the house of Cornelius, and so on. But in the main they are out, released, and it is the Holy Spirit Who brings that about and demands that it shall be maintained.
The Lord wants and needs such a people today, just as then. Firstly, a people of vision; and then, secondly, a thoroughly crucified people, giving the Lord full scope for all His purpose - a people who, in themselves, have been removed out of the Lord's way. (That is the meaning of the Book of the Acts - that people are out of the Lord's way, and He can move freely.) Then, the Holy Spirit, having effected this liberation, demands that it shall be preserved. We were pointing out earlier that the constant and persistent tendency of man and effort of the enemy is to bring back again the yoke of bondage, imprisoning the Holy Spirit in some set, crystallized system of things - a Church system, an ecclesiastical system, a man-made religious order, a formality, an organization, and all such things as so often commence with a Divine idea, and then take charge of the Divine idea and make it to serve them instead of everything serving it.
That is the peril, and the holy Spirit will have none of it. He can only go as far as He has liberty to go. He demands that we be out in a free place with Him; He demands His own rights as the Spirit of liberty. He will be hampered by nothing. If we try to hamper Him, to put chains on Him, we shall lose His values. He demands that we shall never allow ourselves to be brought into any fixed form or economy or limit of any kind; that we shall be God's free people. That is not licence.That does not give the individual the right to be a freelance, nor mean that we can go and do everything that our impulse would suggest, and independently snap our fingers at all spiritual authority. It never meant that. But it does mean that the Lord will not allow us to crystallize His things and put them into a box and say, "This is the limit." He demands that we should be ready always to receive and respond to new light. If His new light demands that we make new adjustments - revolutionary adjustments sometimes - we are to be so free in the Lord that we can do it. It is most necessary that we should be like that, as God's free people. It is a very blessed thing to have the expanse of the universe in which to move.
Holiness the Character of the New Dispensation
Now our next point was that the whole nature of things, characteristic of the dispensation of the Holy Spirit and of all the Spirit's movements, is holiness - that everything shall inwardly correspond to what is outward. Progress can be brought to an abrupt standstill; all this movement of the Spirit of God can be suddenly arrested; there may be an end beyond which there is no advance, if there is some debatable things between the Holy Spirit and us. We have to keep very short accounts with the Holy Spirit on all matters of question, and He is resident in us for this purpose. Why are there so many things in Christians that are not as the Lord would have them? It is simply because those concerned have not recognized and taken to heart this - that the Holy Spirit is their personal, indwelling Teacher, and they have to listen to Him. How much is lost because of that failure! 'Oh, there is a meeting: I do not think I will go to it - I will go for a walk.' So off you go. In that meeting was the very word God meant you to have! If only you had said, 'I would like to go for a walk, but there is a meeting; I will ask the Lord whether He wants me there.' Something has been lost that you may not recover for yourself, because you failed to ask the Lord.
And so in a thousand different ways. If only we listened to the holy Spirit, we should make more progress. He talks to us about all sorts of practical matters. For example, we need to be taught by the Spirit in the matter of our merriment - how to be merry without being frivolous, and how to be serious without being long-faced and miserable. We are not going to giggle our way through life, but at the same time the Lord does not want us to be poor, solemn creatures. He does want us to be serious people, but do not think that solemnity is necessarily spiritual life.
But in this whole matter we have to know the discipline of the Holy Spirit, because spiritual value, spiritual increase, is bound up with it. In matters of holiness , and controversies with the Lord - which may come down to very small points, such as details of dress, the wearing of adornments, and so on - it is remarkable how adjustments are made by many young Christians on these practical matters without anything being said to them by anyone. Who told them to do it? No one; but they came to feel that the Lord would have them do it, that is all. Such people are going on; they are beginning to count for God. I take those points, not to impose law upon you, but to show the principle of the Holy Spirit's being able to speak to us inside on matters where the Lord may not be fully in agreement, and, as He speaks and we respond, we go on. The Holy Spirit adds and adds.
Spirit-Directed Service: No Exclusivism
As you come into the Book of the Acts further, you find that the Holy Spirit was the Spirit of service. You get to chapter 8, and the movement out from Jerusalem is absolutely spontaneous. Philip goes down to Samaria. Who told him he should go to Samaria? Surely we may say that the Holy Spirit led him there. They moved out under the sovereign control of the Holy Spirit. He was the Spirit of service; He brought it about. And when you come to chapter 10, oh, what a blessed aspect of that development! We find it in keeping with what the prophets, though imperfectly, were made to see. In chapter 10 the Holy Spirit precipitates the whole matter of going beyond the bounds of Israel out to the Gentiles. How do the prophets come into that? Well, what about Jonah? It is a terrible story, that story in the little Book of Jonah. it is not the whole life and work of Jonah, but it is practically all that most people know about him - that he had a fierce quarrel with the Lord. "Doest thou well to be angry? ... I do well to be angry" (Jonah 4:9). Think of a man answering God like that! Why? Because the large-hearted grace of God had said, in effect, "There must be no exclusivism; I am not up wholly and solely with Israel; My heart embraces the heathen as well; the whole world is the scope of My grace.' Jonah as so exclusive - there could be nothing beyond his own circle, and he came into controversy with the Lord.
The Lord scattered here and there through His Word lessons and illustrations which emphasize that. What about Ruth? She is a Moabitess, a heathen, outside of the pale of Israel. It is the most beautiful romance in the Bible, that little story of Ruth. What is the Lord saying? Look at the genealogy of the Lord Jesus, and you will find Ruth, the Moabitess, there. But if that is impressive, what about Rahab the harlot, the resident in doomed Jericho, who had faith and expressed it by the scarlet cord in the window? And in the genealogy of Jesus Christ, Rahab the harlot has a place. What is God saying? He takes up in the new dispensation the principle of that prophetic work of the Holy Spirit through the Old Testament. In Acts 10 He precipitates it, as if to say, 'Go out to all; let there be no exclusivism.' It is impossible to be people governed by the Holy Spirit and not to have the world in your heart - not to be concerned for all the Lord's people, and for all who are not the Lord's people. He will precipitate that issue. Let us allow that truth to search us deeply.
The point of all that we have been saying is this: that when the Holy Spirit comes and really has His way, all these things are spontaneous: they happen: these are features of His government. Oh, that the Lord might recover a people like that, free from all set, ecclesiastical, religious, traditional limits and bounds - a people in the Spirit! The Lord make us every one to be of that kind! Amen