There is one word in the gospel that is the great inclusive word, comprehending all that God Almighty can accomplish in a human life. That word is salvation.
In our modern methods of subdividing the varied Christian experiences, we are in the habit of speaking of salvation in a very limited sense in comparison to the broad sense in which the word is used in Scripture.
I like to think of it as Jesus used it, the all-inclusive word. The one great big word of God that comprehends all that He can accomplish in a man’s life forever, from the time He finds him as a sinner until the day Jesus Christ presents him to the Father, “holy and unblameable and unreprovable” in the sight of God. Until that day when with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, we shall be acknowledged at the throne of God as heirs and joint-heirs with Him, and be given our place and part in the government of God’s great kingdom.
There is much in a man’s life besides “being good,” if he is to fulfill his place in the world. God’s first purpose is to make man good by removing the consciousness of sin from his soul, in order that he may grow up into God, and fulfill the great plan that God has in store for him, becoming a Son of God in mind, nature, power, and capacity to bless.
Christianity is different from every other religion in the world. Every other religion except Christianity has no need of a body or resurrection. Existence after death is purely a spirit existence. But not so with Christianity. Christianity has necessity for a resurrection. The reason for the resurrection is that the kingdom of Christ is not to be in heaven entirely. It is to be in this world. And the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is to rule in this world. Consequently, while we live in this world we will need a body like our Lord’s—capable of existence here, and capable of existence over there.
The Word of God speaks of “the days of heaven upon the earth,” when the conditions now prevalent exclusively in heaven are transferred to earth, and earth and heaven become one. These are “the days of heaven upon the earth.” That is the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
I imagine there will be railroads and cities in the kingdom, and there will be government in the kingdom. There will be a necessity for men grown up in God to take places of responsibility in the kingdom. If Jesus were to come into this audience tonight and ask for one hundred men who were capable of taking the affairs of Chicago in their hands tomorrow, perhaps not very many would qualify. Perhaps our capacity would be somewhat limited. Would He find us without capacity to operate its affairs successfully? Perhaps we would disappoint our Lord, and we would be very sad indeed.
The purpose of Jesus is not only to save men from their sins, but by the grace of God to begin in the souls of men that marvelous development in the nature and mind and understanding of God our Father, until by the grace of God we are able to take our place and our part in the kingdom of Jesus Christ and bear our share of responsibility.
I lived in South Africa as a missionary for some years, and among the craving passions of my soul that developed was a longing to get in contact with men of my own race and type of mind who understand the things that were moving my soul and who could comprehend the things I talked about.
When I returned to America I visited Brother Fockler in Milwaukee, and we talked nearly all night every night for a week. I just wanted to talk and listen. He could talk about the things my heart was longing to hear. Then I came to Chicago, and poor Brother Sinclair was nearly worn out, for I was so hungry for fellowship. There was a passion in my heart to hear his words and assimilate his thought, and to speak out understandingly. My soul longed to hear of the blessing of God and see another point of view. For almost a year we traveled from city to city as God led, contacting this soul and that soul, until that longing was satisfied, and I felt I could settle down in my own work again.
But you say, “There were lots of people in Africa that were good.” Surely. We saw many thousands of saved native people, a multitude of them baptized in the Holy Ghost; they were a wonderful people. Notwithstanding their goodness, they had not been educated in the lines of thought that interested me. They could talk about God, but there were wonderful interests in the world of which they knew nothing, and my heart longed to be able to talk of these things. They were spiritual babies; they were intellectual babies. My heart was longing for companionship on my own plane of life.
If God had to exist forever and forever without companionship, the passion in the soul of God would remain unsatisfied. Man came into being because of a necessity in the soul of God. Children are born because of a necessity in the soul of the parents. It is the cry of the real father and the real mother. It is planted there from the heart of God Himself. Every true man wants to be a father, and every true woman a mother. They want to see their own offspring develop to manhood and womanhood and see themselves reproduced and perpetuated in the world.
God is perpetuating Himself in the soul of the Christian. God’s heart is being satisfied in you and in me, because by the grace of God He expects us to grow up and out of our little environment and become sons of God and be able to have companionship with our Father. And He will tell us His purpose; He will reveal His wonderful plans of the future and we will be able to take part in the great enterprises of God forever.
The purpose of the Lord and Saviour was not only to redeem us out of filth and sin, but that we should grow up into manhood and womanhood in God, take our place in the world, and accomplish the thing God intended us to accomplish and fellowship with Him on His plane of understanding.
You are just as necessary to God in His plan for the salvation of mankind as God is necessary to you. This statement is so important I want to repeat it. Christians are just as necessary to Almighty God in order to accomplish His purpose in the world as God is necessary to the Christian. Without God we would not be saved. Without God we could not live. Without God we would never reach a maturity in Him. Without man God would have no medium through which He could express Himself to the world, by which He could minister the Spirit of the living God to the world.
That was the reason God had to send His own Son, Jesus Christ, there being no other competent to take His place. God “wondered that there was no man.” He “marvelled that there was no intercessor,” so His own right arm brought salvation, and His strength upheld Him.
Jesus was the first human body through which God revealed Himself to the world. After He returned to glory, He undertook to bring into being a new body. Not a lesser body, nor a weaker body, but a body greater than the body of Jesus, a power greater than the power of Jesus. That is the meaning of the words of Jesus: “Greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”
Unless Jesus Christ was the possessor of a divine secret, a secret that others did not understand, such words as these would be words of madness. But because Jesus understood the secret of returning to the Father, understood the secret of the Father’s promise, understood what the possession of the Father’s promise would mean to Him, and the world, He was able to say those marvelous words, “…Greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father” (John 14:12).
We have treated the precious Spirit of God as though He is a method of providing a means of spiritual entertainment for our souls. God’s purpose is far mightier than that. God’s purpose is that our spirit be tuned to heaven, our heart capable of hearing and realizing the songs of glory, appreciating companionship with God and feeling flames of His divine love, expressing and revealing it to the hungry world that knows not God.
In the old days when I was in Africa I would walk into the native meetings where I did not understand the language, and listen to the preacher for an hour. I did not understand a word he said, but my soul was blessed by the presence of the Spirit of God.
As bishop of the church I went from place to place holding conferences among white and native people. In many of them people would speak either English or Dutch. But I was just as much blessed when a Dutchman spoke, even though I did not understand him, as when an Englishman spoke, because the thing that blessed my soul was the living Spirit of God. Perhaps I had heard better words than his, perhaps clearer explanation of the Scriptures than he could give, but I was blessed by the presence of God. The thing that the individual was ministering to my soul was the living Spirit of God.
The ministry of the Christian is a ministry of the Spirit. If the Christian cannot minister the Spirit of God in the true sense, he is not a Christian. If he has not the Spirit to minister in the real sense, he has nothing to minister. Other men have intellectuality, but the Christian is supposed to be the possessor of the Spirit. He possesses something that no other man in the whole world possesses; that is, the Spirit of the living God.
The Spirit of God at work in a man goes thousands of miles beyond psychological influence. If you want a clear distinction between psychological religions, as they are called, or mental science, you can see it in a minute. The real Christian ministers the real Spirit of God, the substance of His being. There should never be any misunderstanding along these lines.
A minister of Jesus Christ is as far removed from the realm of psychological influence as heaven is from the earth. He ministers God Himself into the very spirits and souls and bodies of men. That is the reason a Christian throws down the bars of his nature and invites God to come in and take possession of his being. The incoming of God into our body, into our soul, into our spirit accomplishes marvelous things in the nature of man.
A man came to me one day and said, “I am almost ashamed to call myself a man, because I have simply indulged the animal of my nature so that I am more a beast than a man. You say, ‘Why don’t you quit such a life?’ I have not the strength of will to do so. Unless something takes place that will deliver me from this condition, I do not know what I will do.”
I tried to show him what the gospel of Jesus Christ was. I tried to show him that through living in the animal state, surrounding himself with beastly suggestion, and contacting the spirit of bestiality everywhere that that element had taken possession of him so that it dominated his nature. I said, “My son, if the gospel means anything it means there shall be a transference of nature. Instead of this living hell that is present in your being, the living, holy God should flow into your life and cast the devil out, dispossess the beast, and reign in your members.”
We knelt to pray, and today he came back with tears in his eyes and said, “Mr. Lake, I feel I can shake hands with you now. I am a beast no more. I am a man.”
Recently a dear woman was present in our meeting with a tumor that her physicians had believed to be an unborn child until the tumor became larger than a normal unborn child. The physicians had been fooled by a movement which they considered similar to life movement. They believed the woman would become a mother, until the normal time of pregnancy had long passed. She came with her nurse to the healing rooms and told me her symptoms. She was the first one to be prayed for at the close of the service. The next day she returned and said, “Mr. Lake, I want you to see me. I have my corset on. I am perfectly normal. When I went to bed I was not aware that anything had taken place, except that the choking had ceased and I felt comfortable, but I was not aware of any decreasing in my size. When I awoke this morning I was perfectly normal.”
I said, “How did the tumor disappear? Was it in the form of a liquid?” She said, “No, nothing came from my person.”
Where did a great tumor like that go? What happened to it? The living Spirit of God absolutely dematerialized the tumor and the process was accomplished in one night while the woman slept. That is one of God’s methods of surgical operations, isn’t it?
The Spirit of God took possession of that dear soul’s body. That tumor became filled with the Spirit of God, and the effect of the Spirit of God in that tumor was so mighty, so powerful, that the Spirit of God dissolved it.
That is the secret of the ministry of Jesus Christ. That is the secret of the ministry of Christianity. The real Christian who lives in union with the living God and possesses His Spirit has a ministry that no other man in all the world possesses. The real Christian here has a revelation of Jesus Christ and His power to save that no other human in all the world possesses. Why? He is full and experiences in his own soul the dissolving power of the Spirit of God that takes sin out of his life and makes him a free man in Christ Jesus.
One day a woman called me over the telephone and said, “I have a young friend who is a drunkard, and the habit has such power over him that he will go to any excess to obtain it. Dry state or no dry state, he has to have it. He is an intelligent fellow. He wants to be free. We have invited him to my home for prayer, and he is here now. I want you to join me in prayer for him.”
I said, “All right, but first you call one of your neighbors to join you in prayer for this man; then when you are ready call me on the phone, and Mr. Westwood and Mrs. Petersen and I will join you in prayer.”
She called me in a little while and we united our hearts in prayer for the young man, who was on the other side of the city. About twenty minutes later he rose from his knees and with tears in his eyes he took the woman by the hand and said, “I know when something has taken place within me…” The appetite had disappeared. That is the ministry of the Spirit, the ministry of God to man.
Isn’t it a marvelous thing that God has ordained an arrangement whereby man becomes God’s own co-partner and co-laborer in the ministry of the Spirit? “The church which is His body.” Just as Jesus Christ was the human body through which the living Spirit was ministered to mankind, so God has arranged that the living church, not the dead member, alive with the Spirit of the living God, should minister that quickening life to another, and thereby become a copartner, a co-laborer together with God.