Webmaster’s Note: I have posted this reading before but the message is so important that I must post it again. Mr. Stoney addresses a real weakness with believers herein.
John 3:14, 15; 4: 14
J.B.S. The first point to see, and what is so striking and a puzzle to many, is that John begins the announcement of the gospel with Numbers 21. Why did he not begin with Exodus 12 or 14, with the work that brought them out of Egypt as a redeemed people? Why does John begin here?
He begins here because it meets the state of souls. Many have known something of the grace of God; they have faith in what has been done for them, they believe in the work that has been wrought, but they have not the enjoyment of it; I do not say they have no joy, but they do not walk in the abiding enjoyment of it; they do not know what we get in chapter 4, “A well of water springing up into everlasting life … never thirst” – they have not come to that in the experience of their souls. What John brings in is our side. It is not so much God’s side. Do you see what I mean?
Rem. Yes, you mean that John brings in our enjoyment.
J.B.S. Yes; it is like the prodigal son, he was all right with his father, when his father was on his neck; there was peace, but there was not happiness yet, for he did not feel fit for his father. He said, “I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight”. Have you not found persons who have peace with God, who yet have not happiness because they get very distressed about their own sinfulness.
Ques. Would not peace and happiness go together?
J.B.S. They ought, but they often do not. I think hundreds of persons have peace, who have not happiness; they know it is all right between themselves and God but they are not at the Supper yet. Why? Because they have not on the best robe. The best robe is Christ. It was the father’s answer to the prodigal’s utterance of unworthiness.
I propose in these readings to take up the history of the work of the Spirit of God in the soul. The first thing is peace, there is nothing between God and the soul; that is peace. I see that everything that stood between me and God has been removed by the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; the One who was there bore the judgment due to me and glorified God. That is figured in Exodus 14, the Red Sea. We appropriate the death of Christ, enter into the truth of His death and resurrection, that is a great point. But look at Israel. They were thirty-nine years in the wilderness and they were never rightly set for Canaan until after they looked at the brazen serpent; Numbers 21. Now John begins (chapter 3) with the brazen serpent, because he begins with our side, how we get into the enjoyment of the work. It is important to see the difference between peace and enjoyment. It is a great thing to get peace by the work of Christ, but it is a great thing to get the enjoyment of it. That is what the prodigal son wanted; he knew there was nothing between his father and himself when his father kissed him; but what troubled him was, he was not fit for his father’s house.
Now we come to our subject for tonight. What is deliverance? Perhaps no point in a christian’s history is of deeper importance than deliverance, for nine-tenths of believers, as far as my judgment goes, are occupied with truths which are beyond deliverance, and who yet do not know deliverance. But they cannot progress one inch until they have deliverance. You must travel the road marked out in Scripture to get it. Do you understand what deliverance is?
Answer. I think so.
J.B.S. Well, what is it?
Ques. Is it justification?
J.B.S. No, that is peace. Many a one knows peace, who does not know deliverance; that is exactly the blunder; I know it myself, I have gone that road. When I saw Christ had borne my judgment, and all was gone from the holy eye of God for ever, I said it was beautiful, it was profound blessing; but when I looked at myself I was not a bit happy. The fact is, at that time I was trying to improve the flesh. For deliverance you must have more than justification, you must see that the old man is gone from your eye, as clearly as you see that it is gone from God’s eye. It must be by the Spirit that you learn that; it is only by the Spirit that you can see it gone. Peace is, I see myself gone from the eye of God through Christ’s work. What comes next? Romans 7 and Numbers 21 you find you are unmendably bad; you become sick of yourself; then you cry, “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord” Romans 7:24, 25. Then it is gone, not from God’s eye only, but from your own eye; and that through the Spirit of God in you.
Romans 8 is the prodigal clothed, he has the best robe on. There is no condemnation you are in Christ. It is by the Spirit you know it, you could not know it by the flesh.
Rem. The practical enjoyment of it will follow.
J.B.S. Read Romans 8:2 “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death”. Now you have deliverance. Do you understand it now? Come now, explain it.
Rem. It is the knowledge of the full and finished work of Christ.
J.B.S. No; that is peace, that is not deliverance.
Ques. All is gone from God’s eye through Christ?
J.B.S. Yes, that is peace.
Rem. For it to be gone from my eye, I must be with Christ where He is.
J.B.S. It is not a question of yourself. You are sick of it, you want to be delivered from it. In Christ you are delivered. You have changed your man. Do you understand? Would you like to change your man?
Answer. I would.
J.B.S. There is no use in talking of deliverance till you have changed the old man for Christ. I have done with Adam, and I have Christ. No one has deliverance, let him say what he please, until he has changed his man. It is easy to see that many people know peace with God who have not deliverance. The reason why there is so little progress in souls is they have not deliverance. They go to meetings, but they are not really in the truth of the assembly. But that is further on; I am trying to get the first step tonight.
Ques. Could a person be in the enjoyment of being in Christ and not have deliverance?
J.B.S. He could not know he was in Christ but by the Spirit. You see when the prodigal had his new robe on – that was Christ – he could sit down at the feast; then they began to be merry. If ever you were there you would remember it.
Rem. I do not quite see what you mean; I might be in Christ before God.
J.B.S. Ah! that is peace again. You are back to peace. For deliverance you must change your man. I know that the old man is gone from the eye of God, and that His eye rests on Christ. I am received, I am accepted in the Beloved. Then I come to another point, that there is no other man in my eye but Christ. How is that? the flesh could not see this, it must be by the Spirit. If you believe that God raised Christ from the dead, you have received the Holy Spirit. In Romans 5 the first impression the Spirit of God makes on the soul is that God, who was against your sins, is now for you; it is like the prodigal brought to his father. You see that God is for you. Quite right, but you have not got deliverance yet. What is the next point? The same Holy Spirit assures me I have Christ for my life. “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death”. I am on new ground. Not only can God take new ground with me, but I am on new ground.
Rem. Everything is gone from the eye of God on the cross.
J.B.S. Yes; that is peace.
Rem. And for deliverance from that which is gone from the eye of God, it must be gone from my eye.
J.B.S. Exactly; and it is only by the Spirit it is gone from your eye. What makes the delay is, it is not until you are sick of yourself that you seek it.
Well, then the first thing presented in John 3 comes to your side. You see the One who was made sin lifted up; He is treated as if He did all the mischief. The brazen serpent never bit anyone. Christ was made sin, as we read in Romans 8:3 “God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, … condemned sin in the flesh”.
Ques. I suppose then we should know God was for us?
J.B.S. Yes, but that is peace, not deliverance. What has done much mischief among brethren is this, that because by faith you are clear of everything before God through the cross, therefore by faith you are clear of everything in yourself. What scripture do you get for it? “Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin” (Romans 6:11). But you cannot carry it out but by the Spirit; the flesh could not put the flesh to death; there is not a bit of deliverance but by the Spirit. “If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live;” “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free” (Romans 8:13, 2) – Can you say that?
Rem. I can through God’s grace, see what He has effected for me.
J.B.S. You have got back to peace again. Deliverance is that I do not touch the old thing. I am on new ground, I have changed my man. You will find it out practically when you come to deal with souls. I have gone through it myself. I want to live in practical deliverance.
Rem. It is possible to have the truth doctrinally without having it experimentally.
J.B.S. That is where in one sense the mischief has come in. By faith I get what God has done for me, that is right and simple; but I do not enjoy what God has done for me but by the Spirit. By the Spirit you know you are in Christ, accepted in the Beloved.That is God’s side of the story – and He never reverses it. But you and the Spirit must run together. You must walk in the Spirit, but you will find it no small thing.
Rem. It is easy enough done if the eye is fixed on Christ.
J.B.S. It is easy enough, if you keep to it. The sailor says, I do not mind the weather if I can see the sun. You may get your eye on Christ, and yet get away in a minute. I sometimes say to people, Are you ever disappointed with yourself? Are you?
Answer. Sick of myself.
J.B.S. I am glad when people come to that point; God is never disappointed with you.
Rem. I believe that, too.
J.B.S. There is another side of the flesh, but I have hardly time to touch on that tonight. The danger is in having to do with natural things; unless walking in the Spirit you are caught by them. I am going to ask you a simple question. What is the first trait of a man walking in the Spirit? Come now!
Answer. There is no room for the flesh to act.
J.B.S. But what would mark it?
Answer. Christ would be formed in him.
J.B.S. That is true, but it is the other side of the story I am asking for – the first trait of a man walking in the Spirit. You get it in Romans 12, his body is a living sacrifice, it is the Lord’s; he has got a new Master for the body. I am to do what He wishes. I may like to go out tomorrow if it is fine, but that is not the question. Does the Lord like me to go out? It is not what I should like to do. You have no right to do anything, but what the Lord would have you do.I do not go into that now, it is too large a subject.
I hope you are all clear of the difference between peace and deliverance.
The man who has got the Spirit of God has in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. Now there is not a need, he never thirsts, it is in him, you need not go outside for anything, you need not go to the queen, nor to anyone. You have in you more than you can measure. Look at it – “never thirst”! never have a sense of need! never have the sense of an unsatisfied desire! You are brought into a region of satisfaction.
Rem. John 4 and Romans 8 in that way go together.
J.B.S. It is John’s way of putting it, but I do not think we have time tonight to go into it. I will give you a question now. What is the first sense in a soul who has deliverance? John 3 comes in there – “should not perish, but have eternal life”. You have the sense of eternal life. You get it by the Spirit. The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus makes me free, and I am brought on to entirely new ground. You may say, I am not up to it, but I say, You must go the road; if you do not go this road you cannot get it. Well, I cannot convey it to you, but the Lord can. It has greatly impressed me, and more since I came here, how many brethren have peace who have not deliverance.
Ques. Would that be because we do not give a place to the Spirit that He may occupy us with Christ?
J.B.S. You must experimentally have superseded Adam and brought Christ in. When I used the expression in E—-, changed your man, they said it was a new statement. I said I knew no better word to express it. When you have reached Christ you are very glad to get rid of the old man. The apostle says in Galatians 2: 20, “I am crucified with Christ”, the old thing is gone – “nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me”. What is the first sense a man has who is living this life, who thus knows Christ is in him? What is the first sense he has as to this world? Suppose you go into the world, what feeling have you?
Answer. That I do not belong to it.
J.B.S. In one sense you are right, you have a life that does not belong to this place – that makes it a wilderness. The first sense a person gets is this, and it is an important thing to get hold of, that Christ is not here; you are living a life that is not here.
You will never get into the truth of the assembly until you come to that conclusion. I have the life of One who is not here; He is not on the earth. The whole deception – I cannot use a milder term – the deception of christendom is that Christ is here. Churches and chapels are erected in His honour; but He is not here. The man who has deliverance knows that. I have the life of One who is not here, and therefore the next question is, Where can He be found? Now you are on the road to the assembly. He cannot be found on the earth, He is found in the assembly. That brings us to a new subject, but before we come to that we have to learn that Christ is not here, and that I have the life of One who is not here, and therefore the world becomes a wilderness. That is what Israel would not accept; they murmured because they had nothing but manna. There is nothing to minister to me here. If I had thousands a year and was living the life of Christ, instead of settling down seeking to make myself comfortable here, I should find there is nothing for me here.
The life I have is the most perfectly beautiful thing. Does everyone understand this? I should like to be able to convey it to you. It would make an immense change in you; I know it has made a great change in me. I would not cultivate a flower now, I do not belong to the place, it is a wilderness. Israel took thirty-eight years to learn the wilderness. Why is it a wilderness?
‘This world is a wilderness wide,
I have nothing to seek nor to choose,
I’ve no thought in the waste to abide,
I have nought to regret nor to lose’.
Are you up to that?
Answer. I should like to be.
J.B.S. You must look up, you must begin at the bright side. It is not being a monk or a nun. I do not think affliction ever drew a man out of the world. But if he is attracted outside of it, he takes a new place in it. Perhaps I have said enough for tonight. Does everyone understand it? We are all ignorant. God does not send angels to teach us, He sometimes sends a blunderer like oneself.
Rem. I suppose if we knew all the blessings we have received, and if we understood them in some sense, it would bring us into the company of, and occupy us with, the Blesser.
J.B.S. You cannot be occupied with the Blesser until you are in His life; the life of the flesh could not enjoy Christ. If I have His life I enjoy Him, but then I find that I can only enjoy Him by the Spirit.