The Word of God and the Testimony of Jesus
by Charles J.B. Harrison
(First published in "A Witness and A Testimony" magazine 1955)
"...the word of God and the
testimony of Jesus" (Rev. 1:9).
THE FOCUS OF DIVINE INTERESTS IN THE EARTH
In these expressions, which, after all, come to but one expression, we have what is nothing less than the focus of Divine interests in the earth, and the focus of all the enemy's antagonism. There is something on the earth which to God is the focus - the thing that His eye rests upon, and which matters supremely to Him; and it is therefore not surprising that that same thing is the focus of the enemy's attention also. If that is for God, then it is THE thing against which all the wrath of the enemy is set.
Any who in these days are seeking to walk with God, seeking to be in fellowship with Him, are finding themselves spiritually in a very real battle. There is no doubt about it: we are in a tremendous issue that is being fought out. Anyone who prays knows that there is a battle on. Anyone close to the Lord knows that it is no easy way. An immense conflict is raging in the spiritual realm. But it is the history of all the ages that what is of God is only realized through the fiercest conflict. When anything is of vital account to God, it always creates an intense battle. It is resisted, it is fought for - and then the victory comes.
If, then, there is something in these days fraught with great issues, we need to know what it is. Unless we know very clearly what we are in, and what it is about, we shall be confused people, we shall be baffled people; we might really be people out of the fight, because it is beyond us - we cannot make it out. It is most important that we should make it out, that we should know what is the greatest thing that matters in these days. If there is one way in which the enemy is seeking to keep us, the people of God, from the supreme issue, it is by providing other alternative occupations and interests, so that, when the greatest issues of the ages are consummating, God's people should be found trifling. Yes, this is really so. Satan would keep us fighting about little departmental matters, or little things of an historical interest - and a very remote antique history much of it is. It is the up-to-date thing that matters. What is God doing now? and are we in it? - and is it because some of us are in it that we are meeting a reaction and forces that are almost overwhelming? What is the thing? - what is it all about?
Well, "Your word is a lamp unto my feet, and light unto my path" (Ps. 119:105). We come back to the Word of God for His explanation, and I believe that in those words that we read together from the book of the consummation we have a key to the whole matter. John, of course, typifies a man who is in full fellowship with God, counting for God, and counting for Him in a day of great difficulty. It was a day in which there was declension on all hands, and yet there was this which represented God embodied in a man - a man, as regards himself, in distressing circumstances, a man relegated from the scene where things seemed to be happening, a man right out as far as men were concerned, and yet the man representing fellowship with God in the situation. The explanation John gives us of what he was going through is in those words - "for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus". And when we come to the further passage a little later on, the Apostle uses very strong terms, that in his vision he "saw... the souls of them that had been slain" - notice, "that had been SLAIN" - "for the word of God, and for the testimony, which they held".
There are, therefore, two factors in this thing, in this reality that is vital to God and that is the enemy's point of attack. There are two factors, and both of them are important.
(1) THE WORD OF GOD
The first factor is the Word of God. Why was John here? - "for the word of God". Why were they slain? - "for the word of God". Why do things happen? - "because of the word of God" - yes, and the other part of it - "the testimony of Jesus." But what is the Word of God that sets up all this? What is the Word of God that creates this terrific antagonism?
Well, we need an adequate conception of what God Himself means by 'the Word of God'. He does not just mean the Bible - that, because we have the Bible, then we are slain. We are anything but slain. You can get Bibles at every bookshop. It is nothing to do with the Bible - except that the Bible is the vessel of God's revelation of Himself. The Bible can be the Bible - and a closed book as far as its meaning goes. No, it is more than that. It is not even Bible doctrine. You need not get slain for holding sound evangelical doctrine. Indeed, mere 'soundness' may be quite a deadly thing. Assuming 'soundness' in matters of doctrine and Scripture, there is something even greater yet, and that relates to the SPIRITUAL understanding of the MEANING of the Scriptures.
(a) As the Revelation of God as He
It is the revelation, first of all, of God Himself as He really is. A word is a means of expression. It is a means by which concepts are conveyed. And the Word of God is the conveying to men of what God is, what He is like - not the God of men's imaginations, not the God of an enfeebled Christendom, but God as He is. "Our God is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:29). How little God is known as He is! Yet God has revealed Himself as He really is. But how much of that revelation has broken through at all? For every little glint of Him we thank Him; but how much more is needed of the living God, of a mighty unveiling of what God is like - and moreover God in the Person of His Son. What a terrific thing God has done in sending His only-begotten Son into the world - emptying Himself and taking the form of a servant.
(b) As the Revelation of God's Mind
(c) As the Realization of God's
The Word of God is valueless, or at any rate it has not attained its object, until it is lived and expressed. We should not be content with an objective conception of Divine thoughts, while we ourselves remain just the same as ever, should we? We should not be people of a very beautiful ideal, but in whom it is manifest that the thing does not work. That is the battle. It is where the thing begins to work that the enemy is roused. Then he is furious. He does not mind how 'sound' we are as long as it does not work. He does not mind what truth we hold about the Second Coming, or anything else, so long as it does not work. But God is not content with a revelation without a realization.
CHRIST THE SUPREME SIGNIFICANCE OF THE WORD OF GOD
What is the Word of God? What is its supreme significance? There is a MEANING of Scripture, not just the text itself. It is very important to know the text - we ought all to know our Bible: we ought all to know what is in Genesis, and we ought to know what is in Chronicles, and so on. It is most important that we should know our Bibles. But you can know the whole Bible, and not know what it means. It is the MEANING of the Bible that matters. The Holy Spirit must light it up and say, 'This is what I mean by that, this is the significance of that', and when that comes, that is revelation. For years the Church has had the Epistle to the Ephesians, but very few people have seen what it means. It has to light up.
The supreme significance of the whole Word of God is Christ. In other words, God has revealed Himself inclusively in the Person of His Son, who is the meaning of all things: and if we have not seen the meaning of Christ, we do not know the meaning of the Word of God. The point is this. Our Christ has to be much bigger than our Bible ideas. He has to swallow up the meaning of every book. He has to overwhelm everything with Himself. No book, however helpful, is really registering with us unless it has a Christ-meaning. The Person is the meaning of it all.
Every tag of Scripture is related to the Person - every bit of it. 'Not one jot or tittle shall pass', the Lord says; and I believe the fulfilment of the Law is going to be embodiment in Christ of the ultimate reality lying behind it. It is going to be Christ Himself; there is a meaning in every bit of the Law that has a fulfilment in the Person. There is a meaning in all the glories of Israel's economy which has an eternal and an abiding counterpart, "the heavenly things themselves". The heavenly things themselves are all going to be realized in a Person who will fill all things. And our Christ needs to get bigger and bigger, so that the Word of God has its content and meaning ever enlarging.
What antagonism there has sometimes been to that statement that we need an enlarging Christ! People say, 'How can Christ ever get bigger? What nonsense!' Of course, He cannot literally get bigger, but He can mean a great deal more to you and to me. You and I have to have a Person who is much bigger to us today than He was a few months ago, until we are crying out, 'Oh, what a Christ have I!' You did not say that a few months ago. You said, 'How glad I am that I'm saved!' Well, praise the Lord for that. But 'What a Christ have I' is different. Paul's motto is: "To me to live is Christ" (Phil. 1:21), because he has seen something of Christ's greatness.
THE WORD OF GOD OPERATIVE
Then we need to consider not only its meaning, but its application and realization in life - the Word of God revealed and operative. The question is how much it works. It is when God's Word begins to work in our lives that all the trouble begins. Let us take these few examples.
(a) Christ as Lord
Take a child of God who in their home, to begin with, simply says, 'Lord, I want you to be absolute Lord of my life', and as they go back to their profession or their office they seek to go with Jesus as absolute Lord. 'If there is anything, Lord, that is not according to You, I want You to show me'. Well, that is a very good covenant to make. Yes, but then things begin to happen, difficult things begin to happen, misunderstandings seem to arise, and those who have most committed themselves to the Lord seem to run their heads into the worst trouble, and at first they cannot think whether it is they themselves or the other people who are wrong. You have set up the whole matter of this battle for the testimony that Jesus is Lord. That is the first thing.
(b) Christ as Life
(c) Christ our Life Together
We will not stay longer on that, but let us note it. There is a battle for the REALITY of the Church: the saints dwelling together in true spiritual oneness, knowing Christ as their one Life and Head in the power of the Holy Spirit. But THAT is God's mind about it all, THAT is the Word of God which needs to be made real and expressed. So there is a battle about THAT! The enemy hates the real thing. He says, 'Do keep it theoretical - just bring it down to earth a bit, so that we can fit in with people's ideas.' But God's Word says, 'No!'
(2) THE TESTIMONY OF JESUS
(a) The Character of Christ
What is His character supremely? I think we can bring it down to one word - meekness: and meekness is very near to selflessness. But WE cannot bring that about; it is only the Lord in us who can do it. For us, the Christian life is impossible. Only Christ can live it. You have to say, 'Lord, I give it up - but please go on with me', and you get through. And by His grace HE will get through, His beauty will be seen upon us because He is there. And let us have a positive note: He IS there! Praise His Name, 'Christ in us' is 'the hope of glory'; and if Christ is in us, then His meekness is in us, and we can trust Him for its manifestation. And not only His character, but His Cross will be there: yes, it is a crucified life, the Jesus life. The name Jesus speaks of His humanity and of His humility and of His suffering. That is the kind of person the Lord is trying to make us, is it not? That is the testimony.
(b) The Cross of Christ
(c) The Crown of Christ
GOD'S GOAL: REALITY
Now, all this is very searching, very testing, but we want to sum it up. God has spoken in His beloved Son: His whole Word is a speaking of Christ; and that which matters to God is His mind revealed to us and realized in us - the Word of God made real. Do you ever test yourself? Take a well-known word: "You will keep him in perfect peace..." (Isa. 26:3). Well, am I in perfect peace? And consider some of the promises, such as: "Walk by the Spirit, and you will not fulfil the lusts of the flesh" (Gal. 5:16). Well, walking by the Spirit will fully extend us, will it not? One verse, one fragment of the Word of God, is a terrific challenge. What an accumulation of theories we have! The Lord wants, little by little, to turn every bit of it into reality, so that we ARE the thing - the mind of God revealed and realized. Our prayer should be: 'Lord, I know so little of all this in realization - I want it to be realized in me.'
And then the "testimony" is God's Son embodied and expressed. That is, Jesus, not us; not a lot of well-meaning Christians, but people out of the way, so that the Son of God can be seen. That which is precious to God is a reality: with that God is satisfied. We must not be surprised that things happen from the enemy's side, but we must go on unashamed, rejoicing, keeping our eyes on Him.