Our Testimony–A Glorious Enjoyment of Christ
The material on this page was written in the 1970s to respond to the criticisms of Walter Martin, founder of the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and the original “Bible Answer Man.” CRI has since withdrawn those criticisms and reversed its earlier conclusions (see “A Brief History of the Relationship between the Local Churches and the Christian Research Institute”). The text of this article is published here for the historical record, for the important points of truth it addresses, and because CRI’s criticisms, although withdrawn, are still repeated by others.
From: Answers to the Bible Answer Man – Appendix
We have been where most of God’s children are now, but the Lord by His mercy has brought us to another realm where the glorious and superabundant riches of life in Christ are our portion, experience, and enjoyment. We are deeply constrained to share these riches with all our brothers and sisters in Christ, for they are their portion, their birthright, as well as ours. We would also like to bring all men, by living faith in God’s Son, into this marvelous grace in which we stand. It is for this purpose we are publishing these articles every Saturday.
A Long Quest
Not long ago we were in the realm of teachings, doctrines, and sermons, in the Bible schools and seminaries, filling our minds with knowledge, but so empty, dry, and barren within. We were in Christian organizations and ministries of various kinds, laboring to win souls and help others, but weary and undernourished ourselves. We were in the charismatic move, speaking in tongues, prophesying, healing and being healed, yet still unsatisfied, uneasy, unfulfilled. We were at the retreats (or the advances), seeking something more, groping, reaching out, sometimes seemingly brought to a higher plane, but quickly dropped into the valley where we spent most of our Christian lives. Meanwhile, we were subjected to the ceaseless barrage of Christian entertainment—choirs, solos, quartets, bands, dramas, movies—all in the name of Christ. There was a lurking suspicion that it was the old world under another cloak.
We had tried the world; God had spoiled us for that; we could never go back there, back to the ashes, the filth. But where was the abundant life we read about in the Bible, yet never saw? Where was the fullness of joy we sang about, but experienced so little of? And above all, where was the oneness we longed for among God’s children? What we witnessed instead was ambition for position, politics, quarreling, murmuring, self-seeking, and self-glory. We were convinced there must be something more. We couldn’t go back, but how could we go on?
No Key, No Way
We knew that Christ was living in us. The Bible said so. We had been taught it, and we believed it. We had heard messages on the so-called deeper life, the victorious Christian life, and the crucified life, and we had long ago memorized verses like Galatians 2:20 and Philippians 1:21. But this was for the most part mere doctrine to us, far removed from our actual daily experience. It seemed that we had no key to unlock the door, no practical way to get into the experience. We knew the teaching, but how to practice it was a mystery. It was always eluding our grasp. It seemed near at hand, and yet so far away.
Some of us left the denominations and began to meet with smaller, undenominated, more devout groups of Christians, with more Bible study, more fellowship, more participation, more prayer. But still there was a void, a sense that we were not yet home. We prayed, “Lord, if there is anything better, please bring us into it.” We began to realize that if God was not satisfied, we could never be satisfied. It began to dawn upon us: God was not satisfied—that was the problem. Outwardly, there was the confusion, the disorder, the disunity, and we were a part of it. Inwardly, there was the emptiness, the dissatisfaction, the longing, the crying out. Settle down? There was something inside that would not allow us to. Yet it seemed there was no place to go. But there was!
A Wonderful Discovery
The Lord began to show us a certain place inside of us that we had never really seen before. We had known it was there, doctrinally. But now we made a wonderful discovery. Our human spirit! We found it in two places: in the Word of God, and in our innermost being. How did we ever miss it before? The whole Bible began to open up on this matter, and we saw the human spirit from Genesis to Revelation, especially in the New Testament. We began to see how important it was to God, to the accomplishment of His purpose, and to us. These verses deeply impressed and fully enlightened us: John 3:6, “That which is born of Spirit is spirit“; John 4:24, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and reality”; Romans 8:16, “The Spirit Himself witnesses with our spirit that we are the children of God”; 2 Timothy 4:22, “The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit“; and 1 Corinthians 6:17, “He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.“
How unspeakably marvelous! We saw it! It was into our human spirit that the Lord Jesus had come when we were born again. And now in our human spirit we are one with the Lord Jesus. He has taken over our spirit. We found His exact residence within us! He is so near, so available, so subjective to us. He has not only come into us—we knew that—but He has become one with us in our spirit. The Bible said it; we believed it! There was a place for us to go, and we found others who were going there.
It was as if we discovered a new country, a new realm, where everything was different, everything was transcendent, new, living, holy—not far away in heaven, but within our very being. We could go there, any time, wherever we might be, to have the sweetest communion, enjoying His presence to the uttermost. We had had a taste of such experiences before, but they had occurred almost accidentally at times and were at best “hit and miss.” But now we could touch this wonderful Person, our dear indwelling Lord, consistently, continually.
The Way to the Highest Enjoyment
Moreover, we found the most practical way, even the scriptural way, to enjoy this wonderful Person abiding within us. We found the way to be filled with Him, not only in our spirit, but in our whole being. Hallelujah! At this point the Bible really opened up and became a new book to us. We can never praise Him enough. We had found the place to enjoy Him, and now we found the way to enjoy Him and be filled. Just as we are filled physically by eating and drinking, we discovered that we are also filled spiritually by eating and drinking! Eating and drinking! It was really not so new, and yet it was altogether new. We saw that God meant that man should take Him into his being as the real food, the real life-supply, of which our physical eating and drinking is a picture, a figure. We saw that God, in His Son, as the Spirit, had made Himself so available to us; that He had passed through a process that we might receive Him, the very divine Person, into our being; He had even created us specifically for this purpose. But let me give you the Word of God itself to support these astounding statements.
The Lord Jesus Himself, the full embodiment of God, said these words: “I am the bread of life: he that comes to me shall never hunger; and he that believes on me shall never thirst. Whoso eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, has eternal life. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eats my flesh, and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him. As the living Father has sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eats me, even he shall live by me” (John 6:35, 54-57). If the Lord Himself had never said this, such a concept would have been entirely foreign to us, much less could we have uttered it. But this is not our natural concept or teaching. Rather, it is our quotation of the Lord’s own words, and now it has become our experience and daily enjoyment. He said that we could eat Him, and if we would eat Him, we would live by Him. We are doing just that.
We are all very familiar with the matter of physical eating. We know that we live by what we eat, and, as the nutritionists continually remind us, we even become what we eat. The Lord uses this physical phenomenon as a figure of the real eating and living with Himself as the real food. When we eat Him, we spontaneously live by Him, because He is wrought into our very being, just as the physical food becomes a part of us. Our Christian living, then, is not a matter of behavior, but of being. We naturally express in our daily life the glorious Christ we have taken into us.
A New Being
We had heard many times that we should worship God, serve God, obey God, trust God, and honor God, but we had never heard that we could eat God, nor had such a thought ever entered our mind. Even now some of our readers may react with surprise and shock at these words. We fully sympathize, but we implore you not to turn away yet. When Jesus spoke these words, the Jews, the “fundamental,” religious people of that day, reacted with an inner revolting and said, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Even many of his disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can hear it?” Moreover, “from that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him” (John 6:52, 60, 66). Such a thought was entirely foreign to their religious understanding, as well as to their natural concept. It is to ours too. If we are not poor in spirit, hungering and seeking for something deeper than mere doctrines, regulations, and rituals, we too will turn away. If so, we may go on with our objective religion, however fundamental and scriptural it may be, but we will not partake of the unspeakably rich enjoyment of feasting on Christ so that He Himself lives in us and becomes our very person.
In the midst of the murmuring, offended disciples, Jesus went on to say, “It is the Spirit that gives life; the flesh profits nothing” (John 6:63). It is not at all a matter of cannibalism, as some of them imagined. To eat the Lord, we take Him into our being as the life-giving Spirit. Notice, He said firstly that you must eat Me, and then you will live. Then He said that it is the Spirit that gives life. Therefore, the glorious good news is that God, in Christ, as the Spirit, can be eaten, can be drunk, can be assimilated into our being, just as the material food we eat is digested and becomes part of us. As we eat, a metabolic process takes place, and our being is transformed according to what we have eaten. Likewise, when we eat Christ, our being is inwardly transformed according to Christ. This is not only God’s Word; it is our testimony: we are actually experiencing this divine feasting in our daily living, so that we live by another life, we live by Christ.
But how, practically, substantially, can we take God into us? How can we eat and drink Him? Oh, how we praise Him that we have the way! He said in the same passage, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). Thus, to eat and to drink Him is to take the words He has spoken into the depths of our being, not merely as doctrine, knowledge, information; rather, as spirit, as life. When we come to His Word, when He speaks His Word to us, we open our spirit, our innermost being, to the Word. It is impossible to eat, physically or spiritually, without opening ourselves. We open to touch the life and to receive the life in the Word, putting aside our religious knowledge, concepts, and traditions. We open ourselves to take in the living God in Christ, as the Spirit, who has made Himself so available to us, with all His riches and fullness, in His Word.
The Word is profitable for doctrine (2 Tim. 3:16), but it is not primarily doctrine; it is spirit and life. What we all desperately need is not firstly doctrine, but spirit and life. Doctrine will profit us nothing if we are dead. Oh, how much we need to be so living and overflowing with life in Christ. We can be! And we are —by eating and drinking Him as the living Word! Then the life becomes to us the light, the living knowledge, the sound, healthy doctrine. It is not firstly the light and then the life, but the life and then the light.
How to Take the Word
We have found that the best way to take His Word as the Spirit into our being is to pray with it and pray over it. Ephesians 6:17-18 literally translated from the original language says: “And take…the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God, by means of all prayer and petition, praying at every time in spirit…” (See Marshall’s Interlinear Greek-English New Testament.) When we touch the Word in this way, the words jump off the page and enter into us, penetrating much deeper than our mind. Yet our mind at the same time is renewed and enlightened with the living knowledge of God. We are filled with life and light. How wonderful to pray the Word into us! When the Word gets into us, God gets into us.
There were some disciples in John chapter 6 who were still clinging to Jesus’ words, who did not leave Him. Jesus said to them, “Will you also go away?” Peter, with a flash of revelation, said, “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” He was so clear; he had the secret; he had the key: the words of eternal life. Everything depends on what we do with the Lord’s words, on how we receive the Lord’s words. His word to us is the word of grace (Acts 20:32), the word of enjoyment. We receive, eat, and even digest the living God in His Word.
But the Lord has not only given us His Word, which is spirit and life to us; He has also given us His Name. We have His Word, and we have His Name. This Name is “given among men” (Acts 4:12). It is unspeakably rich, exalted, and precious to us, for it embodies the very Person of our Lord. Many of us were saved by calling upon His Name (Rom. 10:13). But we have discovered the need, the joy, and the marvelous supply available to us by calling upon Him continually. The Psalmist said, “I will call upon him as long as I live” (Psa. 116:2). How many times in our daily living we call out to Him from our deepest being, many times audibly, many times silently, “O Lord Jesus! O Lord Jesus!” It is like drinking the water of life. How utterly refreshing! How life-giving! How uplifting! How releasing!
How may we drink the Lord, practically? By calling on His dear and wonderful Name. The Bible relates calling on that Name to drinking from a cup. “I will take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord” (Psa. 116:13). We testify that our cup of salvation includes being daily saved from sin, the flesh, our self, the world, and a host of other things, all by calling on His Name. In addition, we are simultaneously supplied with life, joy, peace, wisdom, strength—whatever we need. Have you ever experienced this? The treasures of salvation and grace are at your call.
A hymn writer of old wrote:
Blessed Jesus! Mighty Savior! In Thy Name is all I need; Just to breathe the Name of Jesus, Is to drink of Life indeed.
M. E. Barber
O Jesus, Jesus, dearest Lord! Forgive me if I say, For very love, Thy sacred Name A thousand times a day.
F. W. Faber
We have been amazed to see how all the godly ones in Bible times, from Genesis to Revelation, were those who called on the Name of the Lord. David did it continually. The Psalms are full of “O Lord,” and “O God!” The early Christians were famous for calling on His name, for Saul went to Damascus to bind those who called on His name (Acts 9:14). The Lord is truly “rich unto all that call upon him” (Rom. 10:12). Now we are those “that in every place call upon the name of the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:2). And we are meeting together “with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22). How we would like to shout from the housetops the marvelous grace, salvation, and enjoyment of calling on His Name.
Our Heart’s Desire
Christ is everything to us, and by eating and drinking Him we are one with God and we have a glorious oneness with one another. How we had we had longed for this! Oh, this is the crowning blessing! We care nothing for religious names, regulations, rituals. We only care that the living Lord Jesus Christ be experienced, enjoyed, and fully expressed in oneness here on earth.
We are longing over all of God’s dear people, praying fervently for them, that they too may feast with us and enjoy here and now what they were made for, what they were saved for—God, in Christ, as the Spirit, filling, flooding, overflowing their whole being, and building them together in glorious oneness with others in Christ. Our heart also fully goes out to all who have not yet received this wonderful Person, that they too may swell the numbers of those who drink the water of life. “Let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17).
We have found a treasure. We are overwhelmed with the grace of God. We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. If we were to keep silent when we are feasting in the midst of plenty, while so many are famishing, we would be of all men most heartless.
In the Old Testament there were lepers living in a day of famine who risked their lives in hope of finding food. What these starving men found more than met their own need; they found treasure and rich provision for the whole people. Truly their words are ours, “This day is a day of good news, but we are keeping silent….Now therefore come, let us go and tell the king’s household” (2 Kings 7:9). Come and see! “The Spirit and the Bride say, Come.”