The Spiritual Basis of the Christian Life (continued)
The Gospel of Spirituality
Now, in order to be helped, we must take our retrospect much further back. We must go right back to John's Gospel. I said earlier that Timothy naturally leads us into a wider realm: and yet Timothy does not lead us back only. You know that John's Gospel was written long after Paul's two letters to Timothy. Although Paul's second letter to Timothy was the last thing that he ever wrote, it was years afterward that John wrote his Gospel, his Letters and the Revelation. So that Timothy leads us right into the full development of this other thing. I wonder if you have ever really grasped this. We take up our New Testament in the familiar arrangement as we have it, and we say, 'Well, of course, the first things in the New Testament are the four Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John: that is the beginning of the New Testament'; but have you recognized that at least the fourth of those were written long after everything else in the New Testament? If you were compiling the New Testament chronologically, you would have to put John's Gospel right over near the end.
Now do you see what that implies? Why did John write his Gospel, his Letters, and the Revelation, as the last writings of the New Testament age, the apostolic age? The Gospel of John was written when this other kind of Christianity had become almost full-grown - this other kind of Christianity that is not spiritual, but natural [of the flesh]. You have got to read John's Gospel when it was written, otherwise you cannot really get its message, its values. It is a great call-back to spirituality. This Gospel of John is, as we know, the "spiritual" Gospel. It is not just the earthly life of Jesus: everything here is of spiritual, heavenly and eternal significance, not of earth and time at all.
You notice how it begins. Take the third chapter. The third chapter of John was written when the Church had left its first love, when the Church had left its first position; when Christianity had taken on an altogether different complexion from what it had at the beginning. This chapter is the enunciation of a fundamental principle of the Christian life which needs to be recovered. We know this chapter - or we think we do. of course, we know the words. Perhaps we are almost wearied with that name, Nicodemus. And yet - I do not exaggerate; please believe me - I speak the truth when I say that I come back to that Gospel of John, after having known it, and read it, and studied it, and spoken on it, for many, many years, and feel that we really have not grasped this - the Church has not grasped what is here. It would be impossible for the present situation among Christians and in Christianity in general to exist, if what is in the third chapter of John really obtained! I am not exaggerating; I cannot be too strong about this.
And so, at the risk of touching on things which you think you know, let us look again at these words. We will not read the whole chapter, but consider the following passages. "That which is born of the flesh, is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born anew." (The margin says "from above.") "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the voice thereof, but knowest not whence it cometh, and whither it goeth ..." ("This thing is a mystery to you, you don't know ...'): "so is every one that is born of the Spirit."
(continued with # 59 - (A New Entity)