The Authority of the Believer
The Authority of the Intercessor
So unreasonable to the natural mind seems the proposition of Jehovah to His people (Isa. 45:11) that they should "command" Him concerning the work of His hands, that various alternative readings of the passage have been made with the intent of toning down the apparent extravagance of the divine offer. Men are slow to believe that the Almighty really means exactly what He says, They think it a thing incredible that He should share with human hands the throttle of infinite power. Nor have they the spiritual understanding to comprehend the purpose of the Father to bring those who have been redeemed with the precious blood of His dear Son into living and practical cooperation with that Son in the administration of His kingdom.
The people of Christ are revealed in the New Testament (Eph. 1:23) as "the fulness of him who filleth all in all." They bear a vital relationship to Him as members of His body, through whom His glorious purposes are to be wrought out in eternity. Consequently, it is not a strange thing that, in this present preparatory age, He should make large revelations and offers of His grace, in order that He may test the faith and develop the spiritual powers of those who will be sharers of the authority and ministry of His throne through the coming ages. We need have no fear in accepting the fullest implications of the words above referred to, in spite of the critical attitude of even some devout scholars.
The principle involved is set forth in other places of the Word of God, in different phraseology it may be, but with equal cogency and clarity. Our duty is to draw near with the boldness of faith and in the attitude and readiness of full obedience. Faith will prove a key to unlock every mystery of the truth; obedience will secure our entrance through the door thus opened. In a new and deeper sense we shall discover ourselves to be sons abiding ever in the se of the Father, partaking of all its relationships and responsibilities. Its many ministries will become vivid as we move about in them, speaking words of authority, and seeing the behests of the Spirit of God, which are uttered through us, carried out to their fulfillment.
The Counsels of the Heart
In Psalm 20 the coming Messiah is set before us in His human aspect. It is for Him a time of trouble, but the name of the God of Jacob has set Him on high, and divine grace sends forth His help from the sanctuary. His offerings are remembered and accepted before the Most High. Then follows a prophetic petition: "Grant thee according to thine own heart, and fulfill all thy counsel." The desires and purposes of this Chosen Servant of God are promised full accomplishment. All of His heart plans are acceptable to Jehovah; they are in full accord with the divine ideals; therefore, a second assurance is given: "The Lord fulfill all thy petitions."
The One who is thus addressed is the Son of man, the great Representative of our humanity. Through Him the Spirit of God hver rose between Him and God save that thick cloud of our sins which enveloped Him on Calvary. At each step of His daily walk He could say, "I do always the things that please him." Because this was true, there was no bar to the granting of the desires of His heart, or to the fulfillment of His inward counsels.
The deep reality of the union between Christ and His people is but little comprehended by the great majority of believers. It is compared by the Holy Spirit to the relationship of a head to the members of the body over which it is set. Where perfect health prevails, the members are responsive to the slightest impulses of the head. But if disease prevails in any part of the body, there is a lack of full coordination, some member or members being tardy in obedience, or inaccurate in carrying out their rightful functions, or it may be unable to obey at all. The body of Christ differs from the human body in that each member possesses an individual volition which must be surrendered voluntarily to the will of the Head. Much schism, alas, exists also in the body as a whole, and much self-will in the individual member. These things hinder healthy growth and the free outworking of the purposes of Christ. Yet, where any member dwells fully in his place, "holding the head" (Col. 2:19), there is not only full cooperation but also true identity of desire with the Lord, and the Master's promise finds occasion of fulfillment: "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you" (John 15:7).
Note carefully the significance of the statement, "Ye shall ask what YE will." How many believers content themselves with a submissive uttering of the words, "Thy will be done," in all matters which they bring before the Lord. Their spirits assume a passive attitude that accepts anything that comes to them as the will of the Father. This is not scriptural, and it is very far from the desire of God for His children. The Holy Spirit teaches a hearty cooperation rather than mere resignation; an active entering into God's plan instead of a vague yielding to circumstances; a definite claiming and appropriating of the promises which are set before us in the Word, as being the expression of the Father's will for His children. We are to positively will the will of God; to seek it out as He has revealed it; and to maintain our place of quiet assurance before Him until it has been fully accomplished.
Dr. E. E. Helms once told of how he had promised a bicycle to his son. They went out together to inspect the various models, and to make the purchase. The boy led the way to a particular store, and indicated a machine which he said was the one he wanted. His father suggested it might be better to look at some others before finally deciding. But the lad was quite sure as to his own mind. "Father," he said, "I've been scouting round already, and sized them all up, and this is the one I want, I'm going to stay here until I get it." He was successful; and his father in telling the story remarked that if we would take that attitude in our praying there would be fewer unanswered prayers.
That attitude will ensure the carrying out of the promise to the Head: "Jehovah...grant thee according to thy heart's desire, and fulfil all thy counsel." The member of the body has come into complete intimacy with the Head; he discerns the purposes of his Lord; through his purposeful petitions, Christ's own heart's desires are fulfilled. Of not a few of the saints this characteristic has been true in a marked degree. It is not the fault of the Head that it cannot be said of all.
The Sharing of Authority
Matthew, in the closing chapter of his Gospel, shows us the King on the mountain in Galilee which He had appointed as the rendezvous for His disciples. He is speaking to the group of followers who surround Him "All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and in earth." It may seem a strange statement to many Christians, but it is nevertheless a profound spiritual truth that the authority of the risen Head at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, is planned to reach its full development and manifestation through His body. The Son of God became incarnate, not merely that He might save men from their sins, but also that He might bring man to that place of dominion (Over the works of God which was planned in the counsels of eternity (Ps. 8). Today, the inspired writer tells us (Heb. 2:9), "we see Jesus" holding in trust for redeemed mankind all that the race has lost through sin. Our Lord has Himself taken the Headship, and is forming for Himself a body through which He will fulfill the original divine purpose.
Much of the weakness of the church is due to its failure to understand and appropriate this all-important truth. It is ours, as individual members of the body, to seek that the authority of Christ shall come with full acceptance into our spirits. It is not enough to know and acknowledge that He is our fulness; there must be as well the apprehension of the complementary truth that we are also His fulness (see Eph. 1:23). What an amazing honor and dignity is thus purposed for us: "heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ" (Rom. 8:17). For the coming of age of the body, and its entrance upon the prepared inheritance, all the rest of God's creation is waiting with earnest expectation.
The Removal Of Mountains
Serious obstacles often confront the servant of the Lord in his ministry for the bringing in of the kingdom. They seem as deep-rooted as the everlasting hills, and as imposing in their bulk. They block the way to accomplishment of desired ends. They shut out the vision ahead. They balk the disheartened worker with their grim assurance of immobility. They seem to laugh at his discomfiture and to mock his prayers. And, as the months and years pass, and no change is seen in their contour, he comes often to accept them as a necessary evil, and to modify his plans accordingly. Such mountains of difficulty loom up on every foreign field; each home district has its range with impassable serrated peaks lowering ahead; few pastorates lack at least a "little hill." They are too varied in their nature to particularize, but they are genuine and heartbreaking hindrances.
Concerning all such, the Master has assured His servants that they need not continue as obstacles to the progress of His work. The question of their removal is one of authority. The command of faith is the divine means of removing them out of the way: "Ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and it shall obey you." The question involved is not that of an imposing faith, but that of on all-sufficient Name The worker has no power of himself to accomplish anything, but he is commissioned to wield the, power of God. As he speaks to the mount ain in the name of Christ, he puts his hand on the dynamic force that con ' trols the universe; heavenly energy is released, and his behest is obeyed.
Authority is not prayer, though the worker who prays can alone exercise authority. Moses cried unto God at the Red Sea (Exod. 14:15 ff.), beseeching Him to work on behalf of His people, only to receive the strong reproof: "Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward." And, as he lifted his face in amazed protest, because the way ahead was blocked by the impassable waves, Jehovah spoke again: "Lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it." As the impotent arm of the Lawgiver held over the waters the symbol of the authority of God, there was immediate response, "and the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground; and the waters [which seemed at first a harrier impossible to overcome] were a wall [of protection] to them on the right hand and on the left."
God delights to delegate His power to men, when He can find believing and obedient servants to accept and exercise it. So, when Mountains rise in their way, the Lord commands His disciples to speak unto them and bid them depart into the sea. He gives, no instruction to pray, although that is understood. There is essentially the same (:bar,,(! as was given to Moses: "You have asked Me to work; I have granted your request, but I choose to do the work through you; speak to the obstacle before you in my name, and it will obey." As we obediently speak to the Mountain before us, there may seem to be no immediate response. But, as day by day, we maintain the attitude of authority, knowing that we are commissioned to use the name of our Lord, there will come a trembling, and a shaking, and removing, and the Mountain will slide from its base, and disappear into the sea of forgetfulness.
God is endeavoring to train workers for a future and a mighty ministry of cooperation with His Son. He therefore has here and now conferred on them the privilege of' sharing the authority with which Christ was endowed as the Son of man. The burden of responsibility for its acceptance and its exercise lies with the individual believer.
The Binding of the Enemy
A fact that is anew being forced upon the consciousness of the Church of Christ is that a great and aggressive warfare is being waged against her by unseen and powerful foes. The Scriptures have long revealed it, but few have given this warfare the attention which it requires. "Our wrestling," the Apostle warns us, "is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenlies" (Eph. 6:12, A.S.V.). In the life of the Christian assembly, in the purity of its doctrine, in the fellowship of its members, and in their individual bodies and circumstances, subtle forces are working, with keen understanding and masterful direction. The opposition is veiled, but it is real, and it is sometimes tremendous. Because its source is unrecognized, it is the more effective. The powers of evil are allowed often to have practically free course in groups of believers, Troubles that might be easily overcome, if rightly diagnosed, are laid to other causes, and because the remedy is not applied, the difficulties may increase until the very existence of the congregation is threatened.
In one of the cities of Canada, the pastor of an Alliance Church said to the writer: "There are about four different troubles going on all the time among my people. As soon as I get one straightened out, the devil has another ready to take its place." Answer was made: "Brother, you are right in your diagnosis of the source of your troubles, but you are wrong in your method of meeting them. What you are looking at are the coils of the old serpent through your congregation, and, as you straighten out one kink, you may be sure that another will appear. Leave the coils alone, and go for the head; put your foot on that in the authority of the Lord; recognize the active agency of the enemy and conquer him; the coils will straighten out of themselves if he is dealt with." The same advice will apply in many other places. Let us learn the secret of victory through authority, as well as through prayer, and our churches will come into the place of strength, and be able to take the aggressive against the enemy.
We return to our starting point. The solution of every spiritual problem is to be found in the working of the divine energy. We long for its manifestation, and pray with intensity and with desire that it may be released in our midst. Yet there seems often to be an unaccountable delay that perplexes and discourages. Are we fulfilling the conditions? God is ready to bless, but we fail to provide the channels along which alone can flow His supplies.
The Methods of the Lord
It is true also that the Lord is demanding a closer adherence to His appointed methods. As the individual believer matures in the Christian life, he often finds greater difficulty in maintaining spiritual victory. He had expected opposition to decrease, or at least to be more easily overcome. But he discovers that God is laying upon him heavier burdens, and testing him for larger ministries. In like manner, as the age is advancing, the Church is being prepared for the final struggle by being taught lessons of individual responsibility that in the past were the property of advanced saints only. All believers might have known them, for they are revealed in the Word of God, but only the few pressed on to their attainment.
For the greater struggles of our day and the thickening atmosphere into which we are entering, the Church needs intercessors who have learned the secret of taking hold of the power of God, and directing it against the strategic advances of the enemy. She needs those who have understanding of the times to know what ought to be done amid the crashing down of old standards, and the introduction of that which is uncertain and untried.
God is waiting for those whom He can trust and use, who will have the discernment to foresee His steppings and tgs and the faith to command His power. Authoritative intercessors are men and women, whose eyes have been opened to the full knowledge. of their place in Christ. To them the Word of God has become a battle chart on which is detailed the plan of campaign of the hosts of the Lord. They realize that they have been appointed by Him for the oversight of certain sections of the advance, and they have humbly accepted His commission. Deeply conscious of their own personal unworthiness and insufficiency, they yet believe God's statement concerning their identification with Christ in His throne power.
Increasingly they realize that heavenly responsibility rests upon them for the carrying forward of the warfare with which they have been charged. Their closet becomes a council chamber from which spiritual commands go forth concerning matters widely varied in character and separated in place. As they speak the word of command, God obeys. His delight is in such co-working. They have caught His thought concerning the method of the advance of His kingdom. Through them He finds it possible to carry forward purposes and to fulfill promises which have been long held back for lack-not of human laborers nor of financial means but of understanding spiritual fellow laborers.
The Control of Personal Circumstances
In the varied presentations of divine grace and human experience which are set forth in the Book of Psalms, two aspects embrace all others. The first is the Messianic, where the psalmist, frequently in his own person, reveals the sufferings and the glory of the incarnate Son of God, whom he recognizes, however, only as the coming King of Israel. The second is the individual aspect, in which the relationship of the believing soul to God is portrayed in numerous phases. So fully is the human heart unveiled that David, to whom most of the psalms have been ascribed, has been spoken of by one writer as "not one man, but all mankind's epitome."
The inspiration of the Spirit of God was richly upon all the authors of the Psalms. Each of them knew God, and loved Him with a passion that was, perhaps, not exceeded by any of the saints of this later dispensation. Out of their own knowledge of the inner life they wrote often more wisely than they realized. Without any straining of their words it is possible to find foreshadowings of deep spiritual truths, which in their full development could not be understood till Calvary had come and gone. Comprehension of the mysteries of the heavenly calling comes to men only as they are able to receive them. And, until the work of the Cross was complete, and the Holy Spirit was outpoured, even the most devout of God's true children were not ready for all that has since been revealed to the spiritual minds of the present age.
The Hunger of the Soul
In Psalms 42 and 43 is finely illustrated the thought which has just been stated. There is shown to us the awakening vision of a man whose heart was crying out for knowledge of and fellowship with God. Desire was intensified by the fact that he was in exile. Who he was we may surmise, but his identity matters little. From the "land of Jordan," where the headwaters of that turbulent stream find their sources in the springs of the Hermons, he gazed with inward yearning towards the distant temple. At a former time it had been his privilege to join with the glad throngs of worshippers as they ascended the holy hill of Zion, with songs of rejoicing and praise. Now, isolated amid [he solitude of mountain fastnesses and cataracts, he listened with awe to one voice of nature calling unto another of the majesty of the Creator of all, while he himself seemed to be cut off from God and overwhelmed by the waves and billows of the never resting sea of life.
It is sweet to note that, in his remembrance of Jerusalem, he was craving not so much for the ordinances of the sanctuary as for God Himself. It is a precious proof of the reality and the depth of his love that every opposing circumstance but increased his desire for the divine fellowship which he had once enjoyed, which to the pious Israelite found its center of manifestation in the place where God had chosen to reveal Himself. Though the sense of desolation was so great that it seemed to bear him down "as with a sword [a killing or crushing in his bones," he still believed that the lovingkindness of the Lord was about him "in the daytime" to preserve him from the pursuit of his deadly foes. And then, when the shadows of night fell, and the tabernacle of darkness enfolded him about, there stole into his heart the sweet strains of the songs of Zion mingled with his prayers to the God of his life, and he was soothed and comforted.
The Oppression of the Enemy
His complaint to God concerns spiritual rather than material foes. "Why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy," he cries to the most High, whom he accuses in his depression of having cast him off. The daily reproach of his opponents, "Where is thy God?" is an inward rather than an outward voice, for he was far separated from those who would do harm to him. We are sometimes prone to think that the saints of Old Testament times possessed little clear conception of the powers of the unseen world. But this is a misapprehension on our part. It is true that in the Book of Psalms the emphasis first appears to be laid upon visible and physical foes. These the writer hated "with perfect hatred" (Ps. 139:22), because they were also the enemies of God. But we would be wrong in limiting the thought of the psalmist to what alone could be seen. It will be remembered that Satan is introduced in the very beginning of the Old Testament, and that he appears as the constant adversary of the people of the Lord. The facts also of possession by demons and contact with familiar spirits were well-known and often referred to with reprobation by the prophets and in the Law.
Furthermore, the Book of job was written long before the time of David, and was unquestionably in his hands and those of the spiritual leaders of Israel. It was doubtless included among the Scriptures in which he meditated with great delight. in this remarkable narrative the veil of the invisible world has been drawn partly aside, and there is given a very startling view of the secret working of the great adversary who had been permitted to bring trouble upon God's champion. We see Satan so concealing his own working that the pious patriarch was actually deceived into believing that he had been set up as a mark for "the arrows of the Almighty." Knowing these facts as they did, it is not too much to claim that David and his fellow saints realized that many at least of the bitter persecutions which they suffered originated from the same dread source that was responsible for the afflictions of job.
It is a common tendency in the present day to speak of every national calamity as "an bitter persecutions which they suffered originated from the same dread source that was responsible for the afflictions of job.
It is a common tendency in the present day to speak o every national calamity as "an act of God," when such should be laid, as surely as in the experience of the patriarch of Uz, at the door of the restless and malignant enemy of mankind. The permission of the Most High has been given, it is true, where such affect the Lord's people, and for this reason the writers of the Old Testament have a tendency to ascribe all things to the direct working of the divine hand. But there is, among the majority of the people of God, an inability to discern in their own sufferings what is the chastening of the Lord, and what is due, in the words of the psalmist, to "the oppression of the enemy."
As a consequence, it is sad to see the numbers of earnest Christians, people like the psalmist with a heart for God, who are being beaten down to the ground, and are unable to rise again. The roll of such is increasing, and it is incumbent on pastors and Christian teachers and workers to appreciate the reality of the danger, and to meet the situation with a keen discernment of its source and a determined will for victory. Unseen wolves are entering, "not sparing the flock," and trained and fearless shepherds are needed, who cannot only face the enemy with understanding and confidence, and can deliver the prey out of his mouth, but who can also repair breaches in the wall of the folds.