The Spiritual Basis of the Christian Life
We today, as Christians, live in the full development of that which Paul feared. It is very largely - though thank God, not wholly - present in Christianity today. But it is very necessary to recognize that this is always a persistent tendency in all Christian life. You and I can fall into this peril as easily as anyone else: indeed, to avoid it constitutes the greatest difficulty that any Christian has, and certainly that any body of Christians has - to avoid decline into a merely formal system, merely outward order, into something organized and institutional. All unconsciously, often imperceptibly, we move away from the essential spiritual nature of our life. I think you will recognize that this is a warning that has a place today, as protective and as recovering.
Let us now, through these letters to Timothy, widen our horizon a little, and be led out into the larger realm of this matter. We shall find ourselves moving in a very large sphere in this particular connection. These letters will lead us there quite naturally. We take up again the retrospective features in these letters, looking back to the beginnings, to the foundations, to the essentials. In our last chapter we were occupied with the look back to Jesus: "Remember Jesus Christ." Now we are going to look back to the real basis of the Christian life, as Jesus showed it; but let us go through Timothy.
Back to the Beginnings
As we look into these letters, we find Paul reminding Timothy - yes, reminding him very forcefully - of certain things which lay right at the very root of his own life and of his service to the Lord. We have fragments like this: 1 Timothy 1:18: "according to the prophecies which went before on thee" - literally, 'the prophecies which led the way to thee'; in modern language, 'in accordance with the prophetic intimations concerning you'. If you look at the context, you will see that the time referred to was when Timothy was coming under the anointing for service, for ministry, for his active part in the Gospel. The Apostle is calling to remembrance the great principle, the great truth and foundation, of his life and work. Further, 1 Timothy 6:20: "O Timothy, guard the deposit". 2 Timothy 1:6: "keep constantly blazing the gift of God which is in you ..."; again it is dated back, as you see, to a particular time. 2 Timothy 2:2: "The things which thou hast heard from me ..."; 3:14: "Abide thou in the things which thou hast learned ...". You see all this takes Timothy back. Paul is calling up the past, calling up the foundations, calling up what has been. He is, in effect, saying: 'Now, Timothy, this has got to be reinforced, this has got to be consolidated, this has got to be confirmed, in the face of the present tendencies and perils, the present course of things. All this has got to be brought up in a new way, and reestablished. We are going round a bend in the road, and that is always a dangerous place and time, and we need on such an occasion to be reinforced with what has been of God in the past.'
Now, I am not going to dwell upon these passages. I am simply taking up this factor of retrospect and resume, which means confirming that which has been, with the future, this perilous future, in view. What does it all amount to? If you look again more closely, you will find that it relates to the Holy Spirit. All this means, in effect, that everything at the beginning came by the Spirit; that everything, to use the other word, is by the anointing. "Timothy, you stand where you are because of that original anointing, because at the beginning the Holy Spirit did something in you and with you. Timothy, your ministry and service so far have been because of the Holy Spirit. Now the threat and the tendency at this time is to depart from that basis, and for another basis of things to come in which is not essentially spiritual- it is something else.' It is very important that we should recognize that. I may say, in parenthesis, that never before in my own life have I seen such a contrast among Christians, and in Christianity, as there is today, and it is really the cause and root of all the trouble. It is a difference, not between the Christian and the world, but within Christianity itself, between what is spiritual and what is natural. And it is that that we must look at.
(continued with # 58 - (The Gospel of Spirituality)