The Closed Door
Gateway to Spiritual Fullness
The Cross -- its Twofold Treasures
A.B. Simpson was so right to point out the wonderful "treasures of
the hail" (job 38:22-23) as a "haven of rest and inspiration of
unspeakable power." The Lord's way is always the way of the cross.
His hail is but an agent teaching us to triumph in adversity in the
mercy and love of Christ. Job declared in the end, "When He has
tried me, I shall come forth as gold" (Job 23:10). So echoed Isaiah,
"Grain for bread is crushed" (isa. 28:28).
The way of the cross may seem ancient, and it may seem harsh, but
it is timeless; it is the very means through which God demonstrates
His love. Scripturally, genuine spiritual awakening is always preceded
by repentance. A broken spirit and contrite heart He will not despise
(Ps. 51:17b). Take the prodigal son. Take the prostitute who had
seven demonic spirits cast out of her.
Perhaps one of the biggest problems facing many students of the
Word is an inability to understand what Robert Govett called, "the
two-foldness of the truth." Many precious truths in the Bible are
impregnated with and operating under the principle of two-foldness
which to the natural mind seems utterly contradictory. It was a
failure to understand the two-foldness of the truth that has pitted
the Calvinists and the Armenians in centuries-old squabbles.
A.W. Tozer also wrote, "The Christian soon learns that if he would be
victorious as a son of heaven among men on earth he must not follow
the common pattern of mankind, but rather the contrary. That he may
be safe he puts himself in jeopardy; he loses his life to save it and is
in danger of losing it if he attempts to preserve it. He goes down to
get up. If he refuses to go down he is already down, but when he
starts down he is on his way up. He is strongest when he is weakest
and weakest when he is strong.... He sometimes does most by doing
nothing and goes furthest when standing still..."("That Incredible
John said "He who has the Son has life." And Paul said else-where "it
is the Spirit that gives life." On surface, this seems to be an
oxymoron; if we have the Son we have life already, then why would
the Spirit give the life that we already have? Herein lies the two-
foldness: substantively, we who have the Son have life – done deal,
no need to struggle for more life. But, economically, there is a great
need to have more and more life imparted into us. Take the golden
lampstand – substantively, it is made out of gold. Gold becomes its
essence. But economically, it was beaten into the shape and form of
Substantively, it is gold, economically, it's a lampstand. Substance
without economy does not make it very functional, though valuable it
is. All Christians have divine life as substance, but not all Christians
can function and express that life adequately. Our desperate need is
to grow and mature and attain the "measure of the stature of the
fullness of Christ." It is in this process of growing and maturing, our
life in the spirit starts to spread out, enlarge and invade into our soul
life. This is where the Lord's dealing takes place and learning and
submission to it yield its fruit of the Spirit.
It is the same with the cross of Christ. Substantively, the cross
represents the finished work of Christ. Done deal. No need to
struggle and strive. We are dead in Him. We are alive in Him. We
are complete in Him. Hallelujah, what good news! Economically
though, we need to let the finished work of Christ on the cross
subjectively deal with our hidden pride (show me one who isn’t
plagued by it), our lying tongue, our carnality, youthful lust, greed,
self-centeredness...you name it. The problem with most Christians is
that their understanding of the Word is only a single-edged sword—
long on substance but short on economy.
Just a casual glance in the Word, and we easily get the sense of
enlargement. God called out a single person and made him into a
family; God took the family and made it into 12 tribes, then the 12
tribes into a nation. And God's thought for this nation was for it to
"become great." He wanted the nation to spread out and enlarge
from sea to sea. The New Testament follows the same principle. He
started with a single lowly Man from Nazareth and enlarged Him into
a corporate man, the Church, in whom Christ is the Head; and
eventually, He will enlarge the corporate man into a kingdom. And
the "increase of His kingdom" is said to be "without end."
May I also submit that the increase and the enlargement that the
Bible speaks about is not merely a physical or numerical one. It is
the increase and enlargement of Christ. Oh, that Christ may fill up,
sum up and head up all and in all!
Paul's writings are full of charges to "run the race," "earnestly pursue,"
"press on," "gain Christ," etc.... The Hebrew writer three times
charged us to "go forward" and "do not shrink back." "If you shrink
back," says the Lord, "My soul is not pleased with you." The Hebrew
writer also charges us to "press on to perfection" (Heb 6:1). We
must ask, if we are complete in Christ and have already gotten all
we'll ever need, then why do we need to run the race, pursue, press
on, gain Christ, come forward and not shrink back? The answer is
simple: we are complete in Christ and have received all the fullness
of Christ in our spirit substantively. But we must have our capacity
(in our soul) enlarged to gain more Christ economically.
The “ten virgins” may give us some clue. All ten virgins had all the
oil (Holy Spirit) they would ever need in their lamps — the human
spirit, for "the spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord" (Prov). This was
given to them. They did not earn it. Likewise, we did not earn the
Holy Spirit; we received the Holy Spirit when we were saved by
But the five wise virgins had extra oil in their vessels (soul life that
has been dealt with). The five foolish ones were told to "buy" the
extra oil (for their vessels). This is the "gaining Christ" that Paul
talks about in Phil. 3; it starts to take place when our soul life is
being dealt with through the subjective cross. The increased
measure of Christ in us always comes with a price, for the cross is
always involved in it. By the way, the price of “oil” is cheap now
compared to later when our Bridegroom returns. May we not frown on
the teaching of the cross. "Buy" now, or we may not be able to afford
it. Simple "economics." No pun intended.
Many Christians have no use for the Lord's dealings. When suffering
comes, they ask the Lord to remove it. When afflicted with sickness,
they ask for healing. When strapped financially, they ask for
prosperity. When pressed, they ask for escape.... Not that they, or
we, should not seek relief from adversities or healing from
sicknesses, etc., but their single-minded treatment of all adversities
as coming from the devil and therefore must be rebuked and stomped
leaves no room for the Holy Spirit to bring about inward change
through His chastening. They are quick to pray for outward changes,
but no sustaining, transforming and deep inward change takes place.
Small wonder that the soul power is rampant in some Christian
circles. The power of the Holy Spirit is greatest only when the power
of the soul is dealt with and broken!
The president of a State university in Houston once made a comment,
“attaching a pair of wings to a caterpillar does not make it a
butterfly; it is still a caterpillar.” Butterfly comes by transformation
only. Likewise, there is no instant spirituality. True spirituality must
come through much dealings of the cross.
I have observed as a youngster how silkworms weaved cocoons
around themselves. When the process of transformation was
complete, the moth would chew a hole in the cocoon and begin a long
and tedious breakout. Unwilling to see the horrendous struggle, I’d
take a pair of scissors to enlarge the hole to facilitate her breakout.
Alas, it always ended in tragedy! The moth came out deformed and
weak. It was the horrendous struggle that made the moth strong by
pumping its blood through its wings and legs. My “help” had robbed
the poor little creature of its glory and doomed it to deformity and
Some dear Christians frown on any sharing on the cross, dealings, and
brokenness; but dealings will come regardless whether we like them
or not. Jesus said, "in Me you may have peace. In the world you
have tribulation" (Jn. 16:33). These dealings (tribulation) are divinely
appointed “treasures of hail” and designed to mature and perfect us.
He “chastens those whom He loves, and He scourges every son whom
He receives” (Heb. 12:6).
It is true that at regeneration we received a perfect and complete
divine life, and we will not need one ounce more of it. Paul said in
Col. 2:9 that "all the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Him bodily,"
and John said "For of His fullness we have all received, and grace
upon grace" (Jn 1:16). Since we have all received of His fullness, and
since we have been made complete in Him, it stands to reason that
we have no need for anything more, least of all dealings and the
The only problem is, this view fails to realize the need to grow and
mature. Just because a baby has all the organs, limbs and faculties
and life does not assure the baby the full mastery of all his organs,
limbs and faculties. He has to grow. And growth is full of perils,
stumbling, mistakes and defeats. The Lord uses each peril,
stumbling, mistake and defeat to train His children for reigning and
glory in maturity. Those who reject dealings also neglect growth and
maturity, to say nothing of reigning and glory.
The Church is the counterpart of Christ – a living body which is
constituted in character with Christ and conformed to the image of
Christ. Just how is the lowly and humble character of the Lamb
constituted into us? More often than not, it is hammered into us
much the same way the golden lampstand in the Holy Place is
hammered from one lump of gold. Whether we are yielding to or
balking at the hammering of the Holy Spirit determines whether we
are the lampstand, the church. The sweet fragrance of Christ can
only come from broken alabaster bottles.
Contrary to popular Christian concept, copying everything the early
church did in Acts 2 does not make us the true New Testament
church. Yielding to the hammering of the Holy Spirit does.
People who are familiar with T. Austin-Sparks' teaching on the cross
have commented: "Another focus was the subjective experience of
the cross of Christ, going beyond forgiveness to deliverance from the
power of sin and self as described in Romans chapter six, and leading
on to a walk with others in newness of life in a corporate or church
fellowship.... It was his [Sparks’] emphasis on the subjective work of
the cross in human lives that distinguished TAS' early messages from
other 'deeper life' ministries of that period. It supplied people with a
positive meaning for and inward peace about their sufferings and the
sometimes painful divine disciplines that they encountered in this
life." Another one of his fellow-workers commented: "He preached a
gospel of full salvation by simple faith in Christ's sacrifice, but he
further stressed that the one who knows the cleansing by the blood
of Jesus should also allow the same cross to work in the depth of the
soul in order to be released from self and thus find a less carnal and
more spiritual walk with God. TAS himself had gone through a crisis
of self-undoing by his acceptance of the cross' verdict on his old
nature, and had found it to be the introduction into an altogether new
enjoyment of Christ's life, an 'open heaven' as he would often say."
("Theodore Austin-Sparks-Reflection on His Life and Work" by Angus
Carnal-minded Christians view the cross as a curse that brings
sufferings, poverty and deprivation therefore must be shunned. Other
Christians view it as great deliverance that saved us from death into
life, but refuse to acknowledge its subjective power to daily release
us from self and to produce the character and fragrance of Christ in us
economically. True spirituality includes both the substantive aspect
and the economical aspect. One cannot stand without the other.
May the Holy Spirit help deepen our perception and enlarge our heart
for a truly blessed walk with the Lord, and may He temper our
temperament to produce both the substantive and the economical
unto the testimony of Jesus.
Blessings to all,