The Spirit Spontaneously Reproduces the Nature of Christ
Now, I am not going back behind what I said earlier, I am not saying that we must take the Bible in its letter and phrases and make a mold, a scriptural mold, which we think is the New Testament order. That is not the point at all. Development did not come about in the beginning in this way. Every fresh reproduction of the Church, in any part of the Roman Empire or beyond, in the days of the Apostles, came about, not by taking a fixed mold and to reproduce the shape of things that existed somewhere else. It began with life - life from heaven - "The Holy Spirit sent forth from heaven" (1 Peter 1:12). And wherever the believers went, two things were imperative: firstly, baptism, as a testimony to the fact that an old order was finished, and that everything now had to have as new a beginning, as anybody must have who has died and been buried; and secondly, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of life, coming to take up residence within those concerned.
When the Holy Spirit comes in and has His way, He relieves you of all the responsibility of New Testament order; you have no more burden and responsibility about that than a tree has in producing leaves and fruit. No tree ever spends hours and hours worrying and fretting, 'How can I bring forth some leaves? How can I develop my fruit?' It just lives - it yields to the life process; and the rest happens. That was the glorious spontaneity of New Testament churches - they just came about. And the Lord must have them like that - constituted from heaven by the Holy Spirit; not man bringing his form of church and church government, his mold, his conception of things, and saying, 'This is our conception of a Bible church.' No, it is the product of life. As that Spirit of life was allowed to work, things took a certain course and a certain form, and that was the form of Christ. The Holy Spirit took responsibility. "I will build My church", the Lord Jesus had said (Matthew 16:18), and He meant it; and He is found doing it here.
The Nature of Christ Is Utter Holiness
But remember: Christ, in the innermost expression of what He is, is very holy. "The holy thing which is begotten", said the angel to Mary, "shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35). He "offered Himself without blemish unto God" (Hebrews 9:14). He was "... in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). Christ was and is without sin. He is infinitely holy. The great antagonist of Christ, that unholy one, is always seeking to destroy what is of Christ, by introducing a contradiction, a lie, giving the lie to the holiness of Christ; and that is what happened here.
I do feel that this is a very solemn matter for us all. I have not said this without a very great deal of exercise in my own heart. It is not an easy thing to say. Some of us are not ignorant of satan's devices. What has a right to talk about holiness? Who is sufficient in holiness to talk to other people about it? Holiness is what Christ is. Who of us could say we are like that?
The Spirit Arrested By Conscious Unholiness
Unholiness is that which is not consistent with Christ. It is the opposite of what Christ is; it is a contradiction of Christ. The mighty purpose of God, the mighty course of the Spirit of God - all that has come in with this dispensation - can be suddenly brought under arrest, and a tragedy occur, if you or I knowingly dabble with unholiness. "His wife also being privy to it" (Acts 5:2) means that this was conscious. I am not speaking of the unholiness which is ours in general - though we are not going to condone or make light of it. What I am speaking about now is deliberate sin in the very presence of the Holy Spirit. Ananias and Sapphira deliberately planned to give to the Lord only a part of the proceeds of their sale, but to represent it as being the whole. If they had been really in the good of the regime of the Holy Spirit, they would have known the Spirit saying to them: 'That is not right - it is a contradiction of Christ.' And may we not confidently conclude that the Holy Spirit did warn them? Were there not two voices which, though perhaps not audible, yet spoke in them, the one warning from evil, the other suggesting this deceit - the voice of the Spirit and the voice of satan? They were disposed to listen to the tempter's voice, and satan 'filled their hearts'. That is the kind of unholiness we are speaking about.
We are in the dispensation of the Spirit. If we are really in the good of this dispensation, that is, if the Holy Spirit is in us, He will tell us - He does tell us. If we will, we can know the mind of the Spirit on all issues of right and wrong. But until we yield to the Spirit, everything is in suspense. The whole life of the Spirit is brought under arrest. The Lord was very positive in laying down the principles for the dispensation. He left us in no doubt as to what His attitude is toward this sort of thing. If He does not act in the same way every time, and if we do not fall down dead, it does not mean that something just as tragic does not take place in us. The Spirit is arrested, and spiritual death comes in, and there is no going on from that time. There is a sense in which, spiritually, we also are 'carried out.'
Yes, this is a solemn matter. Forgive me if I seem to be oppressive, but this matter of holiness is so very pertinent, and so very much bound up with all that we are seeking to see - all the wonderful meaning of the Spirit's being here and of His being able to go right on; lie and fullness, growing depth, increasing vitality, ever fuller knowledge, the swallowing up of death in victory. That is to be the spiritual existence of the Church, but that can all be arrested by some unholiness, known to be such and not dealt with before God, repudiated and refused. Whatever that may mean to you in its particular application, remember that it is a very dangerous thing to have an unsettled controversy with the Holy Spirit - dangerous not only for you, but perhaps for many others who will be affected.
The Peril of Persisting In Unholiness
Oh, the tragedy of a controversy with the Lord not cleared up! Surely, seeing the setting of a matter like this, we must face the specific things from the standpoint of the great background. You have not an adequate motive for dealing with particular points of outstanding unholiness unless you see this whole matter in its great setting. If it is merely something personal, relating only to us, we may or we may no feel it is worth clearing up. But look! The whole course of God's eternal counsels, coming down our way and gathering us in: the mighty purpose of God to be realized in and through us: the far-reaching range of those purposes of God which would find us a their vehicle and channel: all that God would do of making Himself known to us for the sake of others: all brought under arrest because of that! Yes, a personal ministry, a great ministry which might be very far-reaching, may all be set aside - the Lord, in keeping with His own nature, would have to set it aside - if there were a persistence in something about which He had spoken but which was not dealt with. It is a tremendous background.
The psalmist said: "I know, O Lord, that Thy judgments are righteous, and that in faithfulness Thou hast afflicted me" (Psalm 119:75). What did he mean? Evidently he had gone through some severe handling by the Lord, and as he looked at what his wrong involved for the Lord's people - how many were affected and how it touched the Lord's honor - he said: 'Only the faithfulness of God lies behind His dealing with me: He has to be faithful to Himself and faithful to me, and not let me off; and He has to be faithful to His own nature, His own righteousness, because so much is bound up with it.' May the Lord show us just what that means, and give us grace. Oh, we need protecting, we need safeguarding in this matter of a holy walk with God; we need to clear up every controversy with Him because there is so much bound up with it.
We see that those that dwelt in Jerusalem, and their rulers and those whom they represented, would not clear up the controversy which God had with them, and they were set aside, and another nation bringing forth the fruits of the Kingdom was brought in. What a loss! And do you think that the Lord will deal with us differently? It may not be our salvation that will go, but surely our vocation is of some consequence! The Lord give us grace!
(continued with # 1 - "A Recapitulation")