One of the sinister prophecies made by the Holy Spirit to Paul 1 was a future in the very church where it could be said of the believers that they “have a form of godliness but are denying the power of it’. It describes the intolerable possibility of standing on promises as if they were printed floor tiles, but never enjoying them in real life.2 A famous part of the internet awareness is formulated as WYSIWYG, What You See IS What You Get. But the obverse WYSIAYH, is more true: What You See Is All You Have. Irrespective of what you claim to have it is what is manifest in your life that you actually have.
To the writer of Hebrews3 the same Spirit testified to the possibility of an assembled life of never reaching beyond the “first principles, of never reaching maturity”. Seeing the shallow life of the Corinthian Church Paul sighed that “they lived just like all other men”, 4 but on the audible surface level they maintained a formal confession of something far better. And Paul identified the core issue as being ‘unweaned from milk’. What you feed the people is what determines their growth. But if physical stamina was only based on the intake of food then that would only be half the story. What is received must be primed for action by exercise. 5 We ultimately only believe what we actually do. 6
Apprehension of truth must be followed up by appropriation of the same. To illustrate: standing by the Bus stop, having read the time table, trusting it to be true, believing in the ability of the Bus company to get you to your destination, none of these get you there! Climbing on the bus, should it arrive on time, is an act of appropriated faith. The apprehension of the truth gets you nowhere at all. Unless the truth known is made the truth lived it has very little to do with being ‘the word of Truth’. ‘Who are my disciples’, Jesus asked, and answered: ‘those who do the will of my Father.’7
The possibility of membership without discipleship is a wet blanket on every attempt of the Spirit to make men holy. If the requirements for membership are lower than those for discipleship then the resulting organisation has nothing to do with the kingdom of God, but is all in the domain of humanly controlled religion. God is not actually needed for anything that such a Church does. Because it is only God that remakes men in his image. Making inert and dead bricks, conform and uniform, is the self chosen task of religion. Living stones are the products of the living God alone.8
“You shall call him Jesus, for he shall save his people”9
“You shall call him Jesus,..and the Lord God will give him the throne of David.”10
Commonly the two statements, given by the same Spirit to the whole Church are frequently dealt with separately. The saving power of the Cross is all but the dominant theme in many churches. And if the Kingship and Lordship of Christ is recognized at all then it is seen as ‘Thy kingdom come’11 but not yet as ‘My Lord and My God” 12. And the evidence of this separation is to be seen in the fact that whereas all believers must have come to Christ as their Saviour, (Providing that there is any relationship between the organisation and the Bible at all) not all will actually move on to the second step. The Church may sing ‘Crown him with many crowns” but accept as members those who have a saving knowledge without the submission to the King in the here and now.
The saving work of Christ is a historic fact to which man comes in total awareness of his personal need for salvation. The work is done and cannot be added to or removed from. When I as a man bow morally before the Holy and Righteous God the confession of being a sinner is more than agreeing to the verdict that I have grievously sinned. It is not only for my wrong actions that salvation is needed, but for the whole of myself. I sin because I am a sinner; sinning does not make me a sinner, I sin because that is what I am: a sinner. Evangelism that does not reach the sinner as such is mere moral rearmament of the sinner while not touching the core issue.
As definite as the work of Christ is for us, whether we appropriate it by faith or not, as definite is the conscious act of ‘crowning Him King’ over my life. But that can only happen with my full understanding and personal surrender. It needs no submission to the king to sing the songs of praise to the King. I may have whatever opinion of His Majesty I like, but unless I actually recognize His right to make laws that are binding on me, my accolades on his Birthday mean nothing. The deliberate abdication from being my own king in my own kingdom is the point of conscious and deliberate surrender of all that is of self to Him.
See now the manifold ‘self’ things: ‘self trust, self help, self pleasing, self seeking, self will, self defence and self glory.’ The submission to the Lordship of Christ is an all or nothing event, and no-one who has done it can ever forget it. You do not surrender to the king in small instalments. He is King of all or not at all. He is not crowned frequently but once. When King Saul had died and the long determined kingship of David was finally realized in Judah it still was not so for the ten northern tribes, i e for Israel. David had reigned for more than seven years in Judah before Abner finally negotiated with the ‘elders of Israel’ and said: “In times past you were seeking for David to be king over you. Now then, Do it.’13 To have accepted Him as Saviour but not as Lord means that the kingdom is not established in that life.
The non-surrender to Christ and His rule in the present life of the Church is very apparent when you begin to discover what the Church is ruled by and whence it takes its guidance. Most praises sung are sung to the hidden and absent king, ‘in case he turns up.’ But not as if ‘The Lord is in His holy temple, and that temple is you’. Recognizing the glorious power that Christ has over sin and death is vital and no Christian can skirt round that. But that Christ is also the very Life to be lived as a sequel to that is rare by comparison.14 His resurrection life is salvation now. Unless salvation is based on an unchanging historical fact in the past, and an ongoing process now with a view to a completed salvation in the future, then it is not according to the whole biblical revelation.
Hence such silly statements as ‘once saved always saved’ have no value whatever. They simply deny the truth of the Gospel.
One is not the other, the half has seldom been told.
Christ as Saviour but not as Lord is but one of the many half truths that commonly plague the Church through its entire history. There are many other such half truths in existence.
We have union but little communion
We know of the work of Christ for us, but little of the work of the Spirit in us. We know not the distinction between cleansing from sin, and holiness.
We appear oblivious to accomplished Sanctification and the ongoing sanctification.
We seem incapable of knowing the difference between our Position in Christ and our present state in the Process of becoming Christlike
We fuddle the lines between objective knowledge and subjective knowledge.
We know how to come out of Egypt, but never dare cross the Jordan We know the struggle of faith, but fail to enter the rest of faith. We have heard of things by the ear, buy never seen with our eyes We have every experience of the first half, but few know much of the second half. Let me illustrate one or two of those ‘half-way’ things.
Union is not communion, but there can be no communion unless there is a union. The church speaks incessantly to God, it hardly ever ceases talking to God ‘in absentia’. And it has no time to listen and neither does it know how to hear. 15Service for God comes from silence before God. 16Rarely does it practice the presence of God but majors on what is left when ‘the king has left the building’. We talk to His back as it were. Listen to the impressive lists of ‘shopping list’ prayers. Listen to the ‘commanding prayers’ asking God to do what God has told the Church to do. Listen to ‘the begging letter prayer’ asking God over and over to do what He has already committed Himself to do! The one way communication is not communion, it is soliloquy.
There is an insistence by many, that the only way God speaks to the Church is by the written word. That should bring about a vital and consistent response for very issue on which the Church seeks guidance.17 Every issue is to be the matter of the whole Church to search the scripture to find what the whole truth is about everything. It is known as the Berean attitude.18 Having heard the truth spoken is not communion until those very words have become the business of every member of the Body to search the scriptures. There is one anointing of all believers and all should know the truth, that is why the Church is obliged to teach everything that Christ gave to it.19
Communion is not mere mental assent or intellectual agreement but it is a life producing spiritual discernment. The word only becomes flesh through communion, but there must be union before communion. Before the Saviour has removed every dividing wall between God and believer there is no communion possible from the King to the people.20 Until the ears have been cleansed from sin they cannot hear. And if the ears hear, they will misunderstand unless they receive what they hear by that faith which only comes from the Union.21
Communion is bilateral. God speaks to His people when they listen to Him. The contemporary interpretation of what the Church is about can be summarized in three P:s. Pulpit, Preacher, Programme. God speaks through the narrow funnel of the Pulpit, where the Solo voice of the Preacher is a stand-in for the Holy Spirit22 . What in scripture is seen as the Work of the Spirit to all parts of the body of Christ, is firmly locked into the PPP. And it is the only remaining task of God to bless the Pulpit the Preacher and the Programme, created by the Church on behalf of God.
Union in intent, union in salvation, union in the profession of faith are all possible without a trace of communion. The difference is as wide as bearing witness to something is different from ‘being my witnesses’. Whereas union is outer aligning, communion is inner ‘auto correction’. Conformity is easier to achieve than the ‘communion of saints’ with the King and one another.
“We know of the work of Christ for us, but little of the work of the Spirit in us.”
Everything that has to do with growing in grace and favour with God23 and men is the indwelling work of the Spirit. Everything to do with the growing on from the first principles is the work of the Spirit.24 Everything to do with bearing fruit is the efficacy of the Work of the Spirit. In the biblical text that is referred to as a result of the baptism with Spirit and fire. Or the outpouring of the Spirit. And nobody who had experienced it was ignorant of it. But it is quite possible to be a disciple of sorts and a believer of sorts and even be baptized of sorts without the reality of the Baptism with Spirit and fire.
Thus there were believers in Samaria who were soundly converted but who did not know of nor indeed had received the outpouring until the apostles Peter and John had come down to Samaria and by the prayer for and laying on of hands on them caused the falling of the Spirit on them . “They had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” 25 Despite of conversion, conviction, confession and baptism by water, they had not received the Baptism of Jesus, I e the Baptism in the Spirit and fire.
Again as Peter ministered to the first Roman household in the house of Cornelius the distinct outpouring of the Spirit, as a separate event from Baptism in water, is clearly set out.”While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message.”26 (The order was here reversed, they were baptized in the Spirit before they were baptized in water.) When Peter returned to Jerusalem and gave account to the Church what he had seen he told the assembled Church the truth: “And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, just as on us in the beginning.”27
And the Holy Spirit preserved for us yet another instance showing the threefold witness to this reality of the insufficiency of water baptism alone to make a person enter into the fullness of the life in the Spirit. Acts again: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you were believed?” “No we have not even heard of the Holy Spirit.” So how were you baptized?” “With the Baptism of John, the baptism of repentance.” “But John came to tell you to believe in him who came after John!” “And when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them and they began to speak with other tongues and prophesied.”28 Disciples? Yes, of sorts, believers, yes of sorts, baptized in water for remission of sin? Yes of sorts. But baptized in the Spirit? The word is unequivocal on that point.
How did Paul become aware of the ‘half way’ baptism they had received? Did they smell different? Was their talk wrong? Were they ignorant of Christ? No, but they were not in dwelled by the Spirit as it had not yet come upon them. The absence of reality is really visible. If nothing in my life needs the Almighty God as an explanation, what is the difference between me and ordinary men? Nothing. So it can be and so it is wherever the sanctifying work of the Spirit is not in evidence. And it leads to earnest believers wearing themselves out trying to achieve Spiritual fruit on bare branches without that wellspring with in which is said by Jesus to be the result of the conscious reception of the Holy Spirit. “He who believes in me, as the Scripture said ‘ from his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.’ This he spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed were to receive for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.’ 29
But when the half has not been told only the half remains. They know of the work of Christ for them but not the work of Christ by the Holy Spirit within them. And are still bona fide Christians in name.
And this anomaly is heavily defended by a theology that claims to know that all these things belong to the past. The Spirit, they say, has no longer need of such things nor does He engage in any of the consequences of the inward work, such as the gifts and out-workings within the Church of Christ. If all you have is half, then all you know is half.
And finally: there is not even a way of praying to get it. Because it has already been given to be received by faith! The Holy Spirit arrived at Pentecost and has never yet been withdrawn. There is no second or third outpouring promised in the Scriptures. But a presence until the final trumpet shall sound. But a gift from God is never made obligatory and unavoidable, but must be consciously received. “Therefore having been exalted to the Right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured forth this which you both see and hear.30
”Brethren what shall we do? “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” 31
“There is only one thing I want to know from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish (to think that one can work for the Spirit to be given)? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” “Does he then who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law or by hearing with faith?”32
“If You then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him.”33
Those who claim that if you have ‘trusted Christ then you have it all’, are gainsaying the Word of God. You have nothing automatically, but you may have everything which you have personally received. By faith and in full conscious recognition.
We appear oblivious to accomplished Sanctification and the ongoing sanctification.\
Whenever the word sanctification is mentioned there is sure to follow an immediate ‘caveat emptor’. (That means ‘buyer beware.) A certain assumed inability of ever becoming perfect in this world is immediately brought to bear lest any should
as much as breathe ‘sinless perfection’. There has been some very foolish theology which has actually claimed ‘Sinless perfection’ in this life and statements have been made on the basis of Johns Letter where he said that those who are believers don’t sin, nor can’t. “No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”34 Taken at face value and with no regard what else the Holy Spirit has given in the Scriptures the case is closed.
Believers do not habitually sin or else they are not believers. Much bad theology has been written on that pattern of irresponsible interpretation.
So how does the Word in its entirety describe the matter of Sanctification? It does so in two distinct fashions, two forms and two realities. If only half be told another quagmire of confusion opens up. The first part of teaching on Sanctification is of what the French call ‘Un fait accompli’, a matter finished and settled once and for all. Also a point of no return.
What is it? A total separation between darkness and light. A total distancing of the life in sin and unrighteousness from the life of godliness and righteousness. A separation out of God’s people from what is termed the “world”. The total and utter difference between Holiness and Sinfulness. We are reminded by Moses in the book of Exodus that there was a mixed multitude following the called out people. Mixed up about all things: why have we left, where are we going, and what are we gaining by this.’ If you recognize that bewilderment as a member of the Church then you have come out of Egypt, but have not entered the promised land. Half way, is nowhere unless you know where you could get to.
Being thus it pertains to the standing, to the position of the believer in God’s eyes. It is not pending, it is not awaiting our agreement, it is accomplished. “After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, in order that the Scripture would be fulfilled, said, “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth. Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.35
Everything about his work and death went to plan. It was meticulously performed to the nth degree and the earth and heaven shook when the Lion of Judah roared “It is finished!”
The concept of sanctification is spoken of exactly like that. Over and over again. It is accomplished in Christ. In the former covenant texts the accomplished sanctification is spoken of as accomplished before the Prophet Jeremiah was born. 36 Set apart before his birth. Nothing to add to it.
Jesus himself said that he sanctifies himself and his disciples unto God in the truth.37 Paul downloads these good news to the Corinthians: “To the church of God which is in Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with
all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours:” “But it is due to Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption,.. “38 If we Are in Christ then Wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption are all accomplished for us. They are not dependent on our attempts to be wise, be righteous, be sanctified or redeemed. It is finished and in Him. If He is in us, then so is the Sanctification.
Further to the same Church he writes: “Some of you were like that, but you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of God.”39
It is on this foundation of a position in Christ, on the very bedrock of sanctification, justification and redemption that the believer stands, and it is on that basis the second aspect of Sanctification can begin. But the progress of sanctification cannot begin until the accomplished work is known and believed and safely bedded down in the very core of the believer. Only then can we begin to realize that perfection is a goal of life in Christ. If it is a goal then it must be attainable. Why did Christ equip the Church with a multiple leadership along the lines of different gifts of leadership?
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. According as he has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in Love”.40 If we could not be, we could not be told that we should.
“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behaviour; because it is written: “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.” 41
If we could not be holy however much the Spirit worked in us this would be mockery. Like telling an elephant that when he has reached the top of the highest tree he would get to eat the bananas. Knowing he cannot have more than three feet off the ground at one time. The likelihood that the elephant would attack the tree with his tusks and uproot it entirely looks very expectable. And I fear that has often been done. Not believing it to be possible the bulldozer of the “Yes, But, of the weakness of human nature” attempts to supply apples instead of bananas. And teaches the believers to be satisfied with a passable imitation of Holiness called “no worse than thou-ism”. If the weeds of sin are anticipated and therefore taken as impossible to remove, then surely they wont.
Is sinless perfection attainable? No, but it is entirely possible to live in the manner that rings out the insight of a great sinner
“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no deceit.“42
The focus is never in the Bible on my sinlessness, but always on him who by his life in me saves me from myself as long as I have my mind stayed upon Yahweh. The greater the saint, the more sensitive to their own shortcoming. “They who walk in the Spirit will not fulfil the lusts of the flesh.43 Never.
“For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.” 44
The only person who can for a moment entertain such a notion as to be perfect needs only one look at the Saviour, and his or her own lack of perfection becomes apparent at the first look. Whilst it is entirely possible to take the notion of being better than most, most proudly so, which pride is a sin in itself, can do so only because he does not compare himself to the plumb line of Christ but to other leaning walls in his vicinity. 45
Sanctification is an accomplishment to which we are invited, it is also an ongoing process to which we wilfully submit. Our Holiness will be swallowed up in His in time. We shall lose what profile we had in the self willed world of sin and become like him. Basically exactly what John the Baptist said: “He must increase and I must decrease.”46 No lesser aim must be set before us and the Church. But let no man say that he is perfect already. The weight of testimony is all against him, he could not say it in the Spirit, and must not say it in the Flesh.
The Keswick Message
What you have just read, if you managed your way through it, is a very short summary of a very few points of what the Keswick Convention has taught since its initiation in 1875. It never started a denomination, but drew from all, it never started its own mission, but thousands were touched by God in Keswick and ended up in various mission fields. The basic motto was from the earliest start “That Christ may be all in all”. Speakers came from every part of European Christianity and abstained from teaching on topics that severs the Church but majored on that which united it. The living presence of a personal God. The experiential reality of the surrendered life.
My own life has been heavily impacted by the s c Keswick teaching. I went to the BTI in Glasgow which was established by the same sort of people in the wake of D L Moody and Ira Sankey. And my spiritual home was the International Fellowship of Torchbearers, they were/are very Keswickian in aspect, work and prayer. With the Keswick Convention they echoed “Christ in you, the hope of glory”.
But sinless perfection they never taught.
There was at the outset a hunger for the missing half.
New generations still hunger for the missing half.
Doncaster 9th Februay 2021
PS The inspiration for this text comes from one of 65 sermons or bible studies delivered at Keswick over 80 years since 1875. W. Graham Scroggie spoke on ‘Now, do it’. Possibly mid 1930s.
1 2 Tim 3:1-5
2 Rev ch 2 3 In the letters from Christ to the seven Churches this is strongly described, and alarmed about.
3 Hebrews 6:1
4 1 Cor 3:1ff
5 Hebrews 5:14
6 James 1:23-25
7 John 8:31f, Matt 7:21, 12:50
8 1 Pet 2:1-5
9 Matt 1:21
10 Luke 1:31-33
11 Matt 6:10
12 John 20:28
13 2 Sam 3:17-18
14 Rom 5:110
15 Rev 2:7, 2:11, 2:17, 2:29, 3:6, 3:13, 3:22 Hear, not talk..
16 Psa 46:10, Psa 100:3
17 Remarkably enough it is never the written word alone that is adhered to, but someone’s interpretation
of it. 18 Acts 17:10-11, Rom 15:14,
19 1 John 1:20-21, 27
20 Eph 2:14-16
21 Hebrews 4:2
22 John 16:7-15
23 Luke 2:52
24 Hebrews 6:1-6
25 Acts 8:4-17
26 Acts 10:44-48
27 Acts 11:15
28 Acts 19:1-6
29 John 7:38-39
30 Acts 2:33
31 Acts 2:38
32 Gal 3:1-5
33 Luke 11:13
34 1 John 4:9
36 Jeremiah 1:5
37 John 17:17
38 1 Cor 1:2, 30
39 1 Cor 6:11
40 Eph 1:3-4
41 1 Pet 1:14-16
42 Psalm 32:1-2
43 Gal 5:16
44 James 3:2
45 2 Cor 10:12
46 John 3:30