The Spirit World
Our Place In God’s Plan
WE WISH to call attention to a very special blessing which may come to us through this partitioning of the word of truth; that is, a safeguard from certain spiritual dangers which threaten the ecclesia more than ever today. God warns us against these as follows: “Now the spirit is saying explicitly, that, in subsequent eras, some will be withdrawing from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and the teachings of demons” (1 Tim.4:1).
God’s Word discloses much concerning these world-mights of darkness. We learn from Ephesians (6:11,12) that they are the real adversaries of the ecclesia. And no wonder, for it is destined to occupy the regions up above us where they now dwell. The rapture is probably the signal for them to be driven out of their present place. For this reason we can understand their unbounded hate of believers today, as well as their untiring efforts to hinder these from attaining maturity. Alas! What dense ignorance prevails among the children of God concerning this dark subject! The majority consider themselves quite safe if they do not sin willfully. They look at Satan as only a tempter, and think that all that he does appears manifestly bad. They have no idea that, in the very celestial regions into which they have been transported in spirit, the most embittered conflict is to be fought with the counter-worker, and that he spies upon and permeates no others so much as those who are striving for true holiness. To this end he transfigures himself into a messenger of light, and his servants are transfigured as servants of righteousness (2 Cor.11:14). He knows very well that he cannot entangle such as these by open temptation to sin.
God’s Word assures us that, in the last days, that is, in our time, men will depart from the faith. Only believers can fall from the faith. In second Thessalonians (2:9) Paul speaks of Satan’s power, and signs, and false miracles. What a warning against the lack of care of most saints, who imagine that all that seems miraculous must be from God! This conflicts with the Apocalypse, which predicts signs and wonders only of the wild beast, while the saints suffer and are persecuted.
How is it possible, in spite of the purest intentions, to be so deceived? One of the causes is the mixing together of truths which should be kept apart. Through striving to attain to the Pentecostal signs and miracles as the highest pinnacle of grace, a dangerous confusion of two different administrations takes place.
Paul mentions one of the chief features of our time: “God’s administration which is in faith” (1 Tim.1:4). According to Hebrews 11:1, faith is “a conviction concerning matters which are not being observed.” And 2 Cor.5:7 says explicitly, “by faith are we walking, and not by perception.” Here we see that faith and perception are contrasted, to warn us to base our inner life on that which is not observed as yet (Rom.8:24,25).
Faith, in itself, is not new, but, in the past, it was connected with much that could be seen. Again and again the ancient men of God desired tangible proofs of God’s power. Today, however, God-given faith is strong enough to get along without visible evidence. One who craves this, nevertheless, need not fall away from God and Christ entirely, yet he leaves the path of highest, purest faith, which is confident even in the dark. At Pentecost, along with faith, the saints continued to have much to see that astonished them. It is from this stage of minority that we should be separated.
And not this alone. Minority is connected with a great danger, for it may become a point of contact with dark, deceptive powers, who take advantage of it, as an entering wedge, for their operations. The longing for miracles, even on the part of believers, opens a door to demons, and ignorance may make the saints think that their deceptions are divine. This leads to visions, voices, messages, heavenly music and speaking in tongues, accompanied by hysterical happiness, as if electric waves ran through the body. Numberless victims have been cheated by such means because they did not know that God now operates on our spirit, not our body. Yet, God be thanked, many have been delivered out of this pitfall, and now warn others of the danger of feeling God with the senses, for this is a sly trick of the adversary, to draw his victims to himself. This is done with such cunning craft, that those deceived imagine that their emotions are evidence of their special nearness to Christ.
In this light we must test the teaching concerning the messengers, or so-called “angels” anew. We meet this ministry very often in connection with the saints in Israel. We find them again in the Apocalypse, which is on Jewish ground. And it is good to understand that God sends heavenly beings to those who have their allotment on earth. Even Paul partook of such help while he was still in the service of the kingdom. But in his epistles we look in vain for the evidence of such a ministry. Divine revelation puts it in an altogether different light in its relation to us. We are to judge them, and are a theater for their instruction.
We are called to the highest heights in the universe, in Christ. Our place is above the heavenly hosts. We acknowledge their lofty position. But, because of our place in Christ, we are in a much closer relationship to God, our Father, than they. As far as leading and helping in our life of faith is concerned, we have something far better than they. As sons of God we are led by His spirit, but never forcibly driven or compelled as is often done by lying spirits. Above all, we have His Word, and are able to walk in His brightest light, because the epistles directed to us are His highest revelation. Demons, disguised as messengers of light, on the contrary, seek to get their dupes to obey deceptive voices and commandments, without searching the Scriptures. Often their commands are in direct contradiction to its directions.
Whoever has recognized his position in God’s plan does not look for the service of messengers, but rather takes a stand against it. It has often occurred that such supposed messengers of light have been exposed as demons. Even when they quote the Bible and speak the truth, they must not be trusted. Remember the case of the maid with the python spirit (Acts 16:16), who followed Paul and cried after him, “These men are slaves of God most high, who are announcing to you a way of salvation.” But Paul was exasperated by it, and charged the spirit to come out.
In the present administration it is no longer necessary to test the spirits, as before. Supernatural voices and messages are to be refused, since the Word of God has been completed. In view of the earnest warnings of the Scriptures, because of the possibility of being deceived by messengers of light, all self-confidence is questionable.
A receptive mood for communications and special directions from above is usually accompanied by the rejection of the will and understanding. Those who have had no experience in this matter may think this a superior spiritual attainment. They imagine that every use of these faculties is “fleshly,” and hinders God from leading and enlightening them directly by supernatural means. Many do not seem to suspect that spiritualistic mediums use the same methods, in order to open up the world of spirits. In a medium the personality is replaced by a demon, which now works through its victim. If a believer becomes a medium by means of the accompanying passivity so that “God may will for him” (and he will certainly become a medium by such practices), he gives demons the possibility of willing for him, and blindly leading him. The deceiving spirit will, of course, avoid acting as such, and appear as in spiritistic seances. It will, rather, try hard to be godly and pious. Numberless witnesses are in evidence who have been thus deceived, but later delivered.
At the time when modern Pentecostalism had its greatest triumph, a book appeared, written by its chief advocate, which taught: God must will for you. If you use your own will, He cannot work through you. You must not think for yourself, but must be led blindly. You must not act yourself, but must, like an automaton, allow God’s power to overwhelm you. Only then can He use your members in His service. This is not a literal citation, but gives the gist of what the book teaches. The result was disastrous. Many of the truest and most earnest seekers after holiness were deceived, dragged into impossible situations, and often broke down physically, or became mentally ill, and had the greatest difficulty in becoming free again.
Such a viewpoint implies a lessening of the saving power of God, as regards our intellect. Sin does not ruin our will, but enslaves it, so that a human cannot do what he wills. Yet through faith in the death and resurrection of Christ we become subject to a greater power, that of grace, and God’s spirit, and these set our wills free. It is true that it is not elevated to an independent position, but the will of God, as revealed in His Word, leads it, so that the human knows what to will. He is then prepared, with an enlightened mind, and sound understanding, to recognize God’s will, and to do it. The will which has been freed from the slavery of sin is again ready to function as God created it.
So also with the understanding. So dangerous is a diseased mind, so useful is a sound understanding. It is a noble organ of the inner human, created to be used in the service of God. Sanity is SAVE-DISPOSition in the Original, so is related to salvation and disposition. The normal use of sanity is therefore savingly disposed. In a state of unbelief, under the dominion of sin, however, it is insanity. This wonderful creation of God is renewed in believers and useful for its pristine purpose. Paul refers to sanity (1 Tim.2:9,15; 2 Tim.1:7) several times.
Now a liberated will and a spiritually enlightened understanding may work together, hand in hand. The understanding may weigh, test, decide. It is able, on the basis of the Scriptures, to recognize the right way. It is able to see through deceptive teaching. Then the will must come with its decision to choose the right and reject the false. This is sufficient to bar the door of the inner life to the unclean spirits. Let it be understood that, not in the will or in the understanding lies the power over them, yet they are a bulwark against them.
For this reason the powers of darkness are so bent on characterizing the use of the will and understanding as unspiritual. They are wholly dependent on the exclusion of these gifts, so that they may take possession of their victims altogether.
This is like a householder who refuses to use his arm in order to lock out unclean intruders. But on the way of faith that kind of passivity may do much more damage. There are cases in which a weak understanding and ruined nerves were the result of such passivity, due to ignorance and the cunning and cleverness of these evil spirits. And that is just what these demons intended.
Fortunately such severe cases are not very frequent. That, however, is due to the protective grace of Christ, for He is Head of these powers also, and He does not allow them an unlimited field. But, if He permitted them to have free course into His beloved ecclesia, the results, due to its spiritual minority, would be unpredictable! Many of His children, at seeing a white specter, or hearing a soft voice speaking “biblical” things, or “heavenly” music, or being suffused with feelings of bliss in the body, would immediately deduce that they were being favored with a special revelation from God. How thankful we should be that the majority are shielded from such deceptions, even though many long for them and invite them.
Alas! Too many think they stand on the false foundation of Pentecost. And this it is, even if it does not lead to the worst results, which is connected with the danger that they will remain minors. This the demons do not attack with the same ferocity as the desire for spiritual maturity. Therefore they seek to enthuse their dupes for these wonderful signs. When they see that they are not able to entangle a child of God in sin and worldliness, they seek at least to keep it in the infancy of faith.
The inner eye, enlightened by the spirit, is able to see how, especially in our day, the attacks of the powers of evil flame forth most heavily against the ecclesia. Wherever possible, they seek to intrude. But the ignorance and passivity of believers are not their only points of contact. When one knowingly harbors a secret sin, it gives them a hook on which to fasten their dangerous holds, by means of which they can jerk the fleshly believer to and fro. Yet, a true insight in this holy war should not make us afraid of these spiritual powers, but rather of ourselves, as we, without the correct leading of God’s Word and spirit, must reckon with the possibility of exposing ourselves to attack.
On this battlefield clarity concerning every phase of salvation is absolutely essential. We are saved by the precious blood of Christ. Nevertheless, in order to stand against the stratagems of the counter-worker, we must have on our spiritual panoply. Our God, in His fatherly concern, has provided all that we need in the sixth of Ephesians. Among these is found the large shield of faith, by which we will be able to extinguish all the fiery arrows of the wicked one. But the craving to see miracles would imply leaving the safe shelter of this shield.
Mostly young converts, with little experience, but with much zeal, who strive for the highest things, are in danger of falling for the visible evidences. They imagine that they meet only divine powers in the sphere of the spirit, and everything supernatural must be from God. The more wonderful, the more desirable do the gifts and powers appear to them. Yet plain and clear is Paul’s admonition: “And still am I showing you a path suited to transcendence.” These words cannot be emphasized too much in the ecclesia today, if it is not to remain bogged down in minority.
We must not fail to mention what the apostle Peter writes of Paul’s revelations: “which the unlearned and unstable are twisting, as the rest of the Scriptures also, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16).
To be sure, Paul presents solid food fit for the mature. Yet even at that time the truths he taught were distorted. This continued in the course of the church’s history, until they became almost totally obscured and forgotten. Their rediscovery, which began with the Reformation, provides the light that we need today. God is commencing to complete the ecclesia, and, ever since then, one concealing cover after another has been removed from His Word. Those who will not take the pains to examine the Scriptures to see if these have it thus (Acts 17:11) are like a miner who will not do the necessary digging to follow a rich gold vein.
By means of these recently recovered truths, our Lord provides us with those gracious gifts which will mature the saints for their future high calling among the heavenly hosts above. What we acquire of it in our short earthly life will prepare us for our celestial service in the oncoming eons.
May we be persuaded by the exhortations: “Be disposed to that which is above, not to that on the earth” (Col.3:2), “not being removed from the expectation of the evangel . . . of which I, Paul, became the dispenser” (Col.1:23)! May we not fall back to that of the Israelitish kingdom evangel and Pentecost! How it broadens our heart, and brightens our inner eyes with heavenly light when we consider our transcendent celestial glories! Indeed, for one who has once begun to enjoy only a little of this glorious grace, it will be easy to leave the whole Israelitish ground and to enter fully into our own far greater grace.
In this light the exhortation to correctly cut the word of truth, is by no means a superfluous or useless matter. It unlocks treasures of which we had no previous anticipation, and enriches our life and walk. The light which it brings us saves us from many an error. From the evil results of mixing the Pentecostal with the present ecclesia we are shielded. Many factors which disturb the unity of the spirit are avoided, and the love of the members of Christ’s body for one another can develop with less to hinder, for in our common heavenly expectation it has the best opportunity to grow.
In this atmosphere of love and grace the various services of the evangelist, pastors and teachers may be carried out in fullest harmony, each supplying his part in bringing the ecclesia to full development (Eph.4:11.)
To Him Who is able to do superexcessively above all that we are requesting or apprehending, according to the power that is operating in us, to Him be glory in the ecclesia and in Christ Jesus for all the generations of the eon of the eons! Amen!
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