THE SERVICE OF THE SPIRIT IN DAYS OF APOSTASY — A Reading with James Taylor Sr.

2 Thessalonians 2:13; Jude 19 – 21; 2 Peter 1:21; 2 Timothy 1:14

J.T. Considering the mention of the Spirit in each of these epistles, which have the apostasy in mind, we are enabled to see what provision there is for us in having to do with the present apostate conditions in christendom. These, I believe, are the only times the Spirit is mentioned in these four epistles and a distinct feature of the truth applies as to each. If these four features are understood and carried out in our walk and ways we shall be preserved.

The first is the sanctification of the Spirit. The apostle refers in both epistles to these christians at Thessalonica as beloved, and they are regarded and addressed as in God the Father. Here they are “beloved of the Lord” and chosen of God, he says, “from the beginning to salvation in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth”. The apostasy is a denial of the truth and in consequence men may believe a lie, whereas if things are taken up in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth we are preserved. Chosen of God from the beginning, the stress is on ‘chosen’, not only that we are chosen but how; that is, in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth. Then over against this we have in Jude the apostate imitation, men setting themselves apart, not indicative of sanctification, but false, as imitators. Of them it is said, “not having the Spirit”. And we have there how believers are actively preserved by prayer in the Holy Spirit, keeping ourselves in the love of God. In 2 Peter we see how the ministry is always carried on, but particularly in view of the apostasy which is stressed here: “holy men of God spake under the power of the Holy Spirit”. Then finally, in Timothy we have the good deposit. What we have treasured is to be kept, not by creeds or by natural effort or memory, but by the Spirit. That is what was in mind. I hope the brethren will be able to follow and speak together of the scriptures that we may have mutual help.

A.N. Do you mean that these are the means by which we are preserved in days of apostasy?

J.T. That is what I was thinking. God sets us out as choosing us. He sets us out in this way, in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth. The other scriptures we read fall in with that.

A.N. I had a thought that sometimes there is a difficulty in regard of salvation, connecting it more with what is to come and the final thing; but what would be in mind in these scriptures would be how we are preserved for the present.

J.T. Salvation except from wrath has generally a present bearing. It alludes to the different influences we were under and are exposed to still. So that there is really no salvation aside from the Spirit; it is not only by the possession of the Spirit, but in sanctification of the Spirit.

H.W. So that these things would be necessary as coupled together, salvation of the Spirit in view of the state of apostasy we have come into today.

J.T. That is what is in mind, apostasy. We are told in this chapter, verse 3, as to the day of the Lord: “Let not anyone deceive you in any manner, because it will not be unless the apostasy have first come, and the man of sin have been revealed”. And then we are told that the mystery of lawlessness already works; it is already working and in an extensive way. Over against this we have here the choice of God: chosen of God in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth. These are both subjective thoughts. God has chosen us in them.

C.E.W. Do you look upon sanctification of the Spirit as being practical sanctification?

J.T. That is what is in mind. We are chosen in that. We are chosen to salvation, we are told, in it, as if it were essential. Romans of course opens up the doctrine of the gospel. This feature of it is mentioned here. The Spirit is mentioned here only in this epistle, hence the importance of these two thoughts in view of practical salvation, namely, sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.

G.H.C. What would be the difference between ‘in’ sanctification and the verse in 1 Peter where it speaks about election ‘by’ sanctification of the Spirit?

J.T. You are referring to 1 Peter 1:2, ‘by’ and ‘in’. “Peter, apostle of Jesus Christ, to the sojourners of the dispersion of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by sanctification of the Spirit, unto the obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ”. There is not much difference; here the ‘in’ is also instrumental but involving power and state effected. You are ‘in’ the state in mind. It is “unto the obedience and sprinkling of the blood” in Peter. Here it is “in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth”. It really is a condition accompanying the call of God in the gospel which has to be maintained.

J.D. Does it mean that this salvation is not apart from sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth?

J.T. That is so. Without this salvation is impossible in a practical sense.

G.H.C. Would that be the instrumentality by which God preserves what is chosen and precious to Him? Would the Spirit be the means by which God preserves that which is precious to Him?

J.T. Quite so, as over against the apostasy that is around, which is marked by a lie. And then there is the imitation, all those who set themselves apart: this monasticism which is a great feature of apostasy, so-called chastity, counterfeit sanctification on a fleshly principle. This epistle states that such have not the Spirit, so it is not of God at all. It is over against what is of God; whereas we are to be preserved by prayer in the Holy Spirit, not simply by reading prayers as they do. They spend much time going over certain exercises in a fleshly way which ends in nothing for God. It is an effort of the flesh; whereas believers pray in the Holy Spirit. That raises the whole question as to our prayers, how we pray, whether we simply repeat prayers or whether we pray in the Holy Spirit. Prayer meetings are not intended to be heavy, nor are our individual prayers intended to be a tax on us which we wish to get through. There is a certain joy attached to prayer. God says He will make us joyful in His house of prayer, and that would include the idea of praying in the Spirit. There is nothing onerous or burdensome about it; there is a certain joy in praying in the Holy Spirit. But then it says we are to keep ourselves in the love of God, awaiting the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life, over against the man of sin coming in; we are kept in holy buoyancy and liberty and power on these lines.

F.W.G. How can we understand “from the beginning” here? “God has chosen you from the beginning”.

J.T. That was the beginning of their conversion, when they were converted. God gives us the facts. The facts of their conversion are given. Paul went in on three sabbaths we are told, opening and laying down the truth of Christ in the gospel. We have an account of it in Acts 17″They came to Thessalonica, where was the synagogue of the Jews. And according to Paul’s custom he went in among them, and on three sabbaths reasoned with them from the scriptures, opening and laying down that the Christ must have suffered and risen up from among the dead, and that this is the Christ, Jesus whom I announce to you” (verses 1 – 3). These are the facts given by the Spirit as to this beginning at Thessalonica. It was a very auspicious beginning, because we are told that the apostle went in among them, and on three sabbath days reasoned with them from the Scriptures, opening and laying down that Christ must have suffered and risen from among the dead. He opened up the truth and laid it down, meaning that it was presented authoritatively to them, in power. They were chosen in these practical forms in the gospel in these circumstances, and we are told, “Some of them believed, and joined themselves to Paul and Silas, and of the Greeks who worshipped, a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few” (verse 4). So that it was a remarkable work and they had a good start, not simply light but this sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.

A.N. Would that not be in the epistle to the Romans? You get them beginning as having obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine that had been delivered to them, how they get their freedom from sin, and then in chapter 8 we get the Spirit coming in, the Spirit of life and peace; they began on these lines and that is how it is to be maintained here.

J.T. Romans gives us the doctrine, so that if we are to understand what is alluded to here, we must go to Romans; and I think in the way the apostle went in among them, not as a great authority, a person lording it over them, but amongst them, and then opening up the truth and laying it down, he himself would be an example of the effect of the truth. He had just come from Philippi where he had been terribly afflicted, but he was evidently superior to it. They would see the effect of the gospel supremely in him.

J.D. Does the truth stand in contrast to the enemy’s lie or does it express a great deal more?

J.T. It does express a great deal more, but that is what is here, that it is a great preservative for us as over against the word spoken — “because they have not received the love of the truth”. It would imply apostasy. There is no love of the truth, and it has been given up everywhere in christendom.

F.B.W. Is building yourselves up on your most holy faith in advance of believing the truth?

J.T. Quite so. I was thinking there is a bit of progress in Jude, and it is over against those that separate themselves, the great monastic system which is active all over christendom one way and another. They have not the Spirit. It is a remarkable statement. You might say that they are not doing much harm if they are setting themselves apart, but the Spirit of God regards them as a part of the apostasy. Jude says in verse 17, “But ye, beloved, remember the words spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they said to you, that at the end of the time there should be mockers, walking after their own lusts of ungodlinesses. These are they who set themselves apart, natural men, not having the Spirit”. It is a part of the apostasy and opposition to the truth of the gospel. The way that is overcome is evidently given in what follows: “But ye, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, awaiting the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life”. It is a positive exercise there, and that praying is not as is customary in the prayer book or prayers repeated, not mere prayer, but prayer in the Holy Spirit. It is prayer with intelligence and right feeling and with a purpose, so that we go on to the end, awaiting the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

W.H. Do you think this monasticism might be a specious appeal on the part of the enemy that he might gain ground and accomplish much in the way of apostasy?

J.T. It is really what strengthens apostasy. It is very largely the power, the means in their hands of the power they wield, because these monasteries and so-called fathers and eunuchs are all, I believe, in mind here as maintaining the apostasy in the religious aspect of it.

J.G. Is it possible to be set apart and yet not have the Holy Spirit?

J.T. That is what is said here. Jude says, “These are they who set themselves apart, natural men, not having the Spirit”. They do it themselves, “not having the Spirit”. It is their own action instead of the action of the Spirit. It is just a fleshly effort intended to strengthen the great system which is corrupting Christendom. The only way to meet it is by sanctification of the Spirit and in praying in the Holy Spirit, keeping ourselves in the love of God. The love of God is in our hearts according to Romans, but here we have a further statement to keep ourselves in it. I think it will be helpful to us to think of our prayers, just how we pray, how one does pray, whether he just says his prayers or whether he prays. There is a very great difference. James says, “He prayed with prayer”, and it was effective.

H.W.Jr. Would Corinthians help us? “I will pray with the spirit, but I will pray also with the understanding”, 1 Corinthians 14:15.

J.T. That would enter into this. It is in its own place; praying with the spirit is your own spirit, not the Holy Spirit. It is your own spirit, but one might be carried beyond his understanding and intelligence by allowing what is natural in his feelings or his spirit, and he must pray with his understanding. But here, it is praying in the Holy Spirit. The preposition implies that it is in the power of the Spirit. It is a state, as it were, while you pray.

G.H.C. Your reference to James is very helpful. It says with regard to Elias that he prayed again and then we have fruitfulness and freshness coming out. Would that be the result of praying in the Holy Spirit? There would be a yield for God in freshness.

J.T. That is what is stated there: the prayer was effective; he prayed with prayer. For instance, in his last prayer when he prayed for rain, he puts his face between his knees. He had real exercise, purpose in his prayer; he wanted it and he got it.

G.H.C. I was thinking of the reference, “again he prayed”.

J.T. Exactly, that is the last one. I think it is important to consider this matter of praying in the Holy Spirit as over against what the enemy is using or has used to overshadow and set aside the true service of the Spirit and preservation in the love of God, that our prayers should not be monotonous to ourselves or to others.

R.M. Does the Lord Jesus Christ give us an example: “Thus therefore pray ye“, Matthew 6:9?

J.T. Quite so. I suppose if you saw Him pray you would be affected by His demeanour. In John 17, you may hear Him pray, as it were, and what holy feelings you get there! One of His disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray”, and He says, “When ye pray, say, Father, thy name be hallowed; thy kingdom come”, Luke 11:1, 2. It is not that we may not pray at length, for the Lord prayed the whole night; but in the assembly, or in the meeting for prayer, we ought to regard it as a feature in the house of God. God says, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the peoples”, and, that He will “make them joyful in my house of prayer”, Isaiah 56:7. It is not simply a place where prayer is wont to be made, but it is the house. There is affection in it. There are those who think lightly of the meeting for prayer and stay at home, and go to other meetings, but God promises glory in that meeting, and I am sure it involves in His mind prayer in the Holy Spirit.

W.S. Would praying in the Holy Spirit be the result of being in the gain of sanctification of the Spirit?

J.T. I thought it followed: I thought Jude’s line followed very well in the order of the truth. It is sanctification of the Spirit, praying in the Spirit, sanctification as set apart not simply outwardly but in power. You are not bound in separation, but you are at liberty in it. Praying in the Holy Spirit, we preserve ourselves in the love of God. It is a very wonderful thing to be kept in the love of God. We have a clear outlook — the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

Ques. Would the character of our prayers in the prayer meeting be different from individual prayers?

J.T. They are different in this sense that they ought to be shorter in the meeting for prayer; that is, you are regulated by understanding what is suitable. If brothers are to pray, room has to be made for them.

Rem. I am thinking of the matter that would engage us in prayer.

J.T. Do you mean that in individual prayer you have your own individual affairs?

Rem. Yes.

J.T. Quite so. But as you come on you widen out to the Lord’s interests, and of course you touch the same subjects as you have in the meeting for prayer. Take Ezra’s prayer, and Daniel’s prayer, particularly Daniel’s prayer; it was an individual matter. He prayed three times a day towards Jerusalem. We have his prayer in chapter 9 of the book of Daniel, and it is what I should call praying in the Holy Spirit. He was concerned about the interests of God and the interests of God’s people. He said he read Jeremiah; he understood by books; his prayer was founded on Scripture. If we expect salvation from God we ought to have a basis for it and Daniel has Jeremiah. When certain times elapsed he wanted to know about matters. He confessed his sin and the sins of the people, and Gabriel said, “At the beginning of thy supplications the word went forth, and I am come to declare it; for thou art one greatly beloved”. Daniel 9:23. That shows what enters into our meetings for prayer, and our individual prayers too; that is, the interests of God. Our individual prayers are sometimes restricted to our own areas unduly. Daniel’s prayer was very wide; it included all the interests of God and His people. Solomon’s prayer also covered not only area but length of time and possible happenings to the people of God; really it was prophetic, and when he was finished the house was filled with glory, showing how God values prayer.

F.I. So being made joyful in the house of prayer would include our individual prayers as well as in assembly.

J.T. We ought not to rise from our knees before we are finished, for as you pray His love begins to fill your heart and He gives you to understand that He is listening and is pleased with what you say. You have had that experience?

F.I. Yes.

J.T. Quite so. Those people who have separated themselves — it is all obnoxious to God.

Ques. What about household prayer? It would have a great bearing upon our outlook in the gospel. That would be a subject for household prayer.

J.T. Quite so. It is one of the most valuable practices for our children, even if we put it on that level, even for our children, to have household prayer especially before the gospel meeting. You will observe in moving about that there is great effectiveness in household prayer in view of the gospel especially on Lord’s day.

H.W.Jr. Do you think that the prayer meeting as sometimes held in the hall before the gospel is necessary, or do you suggest prayer in the house?

J.T. I think it is much more effective to have it in the house, and obviously much more extensive, because you have many more prayers than you have in the room. The time available between our meetings in the afternoon and the evening gospel service on Lord’s day is very short and very few can attend a special meeting in the room. That is what one feels.

F.I. Was Daniel’s prayer household prayer? Was it governed by his kneeling towards Jerusalem?

J.T. That is the idea; he prays towards Jerusalem. We sing in our hymn,

“Every interest precious to Thee
Finding in our hearts a place”.

That has to be included in our meetings for prayer. I think Jerusalem stands for that. It stands for everything that is precious to heaven and Daniel had that in mind, and we have the actual prayer that he made and the answer to it. We are told that he is greatly beloved..

A.R. The apostle says, “I will therefore that the men pray in every place” (1 Timothy 2:8); would you say that that is connected with private prayer or with public prayer?

J.T. I should say, both; that is, wherever prayer is being made; if there are brothers and sisters, brothers should pray. The apostle refers to God’s house: he says that one should know how to behave himself in the house of God.

A.R. I thought that ‘in every place’ would not apply to a company together, as in Corinthians, “All that in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”.

J.T. I think it does, but then ‘every place’ in Corinthians is every town, city, village, or hamlet, or whatever it may be. The one place in the opening chapter refers to the city or the town, that is, where people are who call on the name of the Lord; but I think Paul’s reference to it is where prayer is wont to be made.

A.R. It would be wider.

J.T. I think so. It is praying, lifting up pious hands, without wrath or doubting. In the household one should be free from any feeling as to his household arrangements because he is not to have that on his soul in speaking to God. The women are mentioned afterwards. It is a question of what is suitable in the house of God.

Now we come on to Peter. What was in mind was that the ministry, whatever character it may take — here it is prophetic ministry in view of the apostate conditions — is to be in the Spirit, carried on in a spiritual way. “Holy men of God spake under the power of the Holy Spirit”. It looks as if God is concerning us in the midst of darkness and apostasy with the means of resisting it and overcoming it. Even in our ministry, even in our service such as we are in now, the Spirit is to be observed: it is a question of the power of the Holy Spirit, and holy men of God, so that the flesh is shut out in all these phases of the truth.

F.B.W. Does this scripture suppose the consciousness of the power of the Spirit for speaking?

J.T. I think so. David was conscious: “The Spirit of Jehovah spoke by me”, he says. And, of course, you distinguish here, it is all in the power of the Spirit.

A.N. What you say is very important as to the truth, to go on with the truth, but the Spirit makes it living, and it is only in living conditions that you can be preserved.

J.T. That is obvious. The shining out must be in the Spirit, as you will notice here — “for prophecy was not ever uttered by the will of man”, so that we might as well make up our minds that our wills are excluded.

G.H.C. In the uprising of Korah, Jehovah says to Moses, “Speak unto the assembly”. Would that be how the company would be preserved, speaking as he did on that occasion in the power of the Spirit?

J.T. Quite so. Moses and Aaron fell on their faces in meeting that rebellion; they felt things.

G.H.C. And the glory of God came in in spite of it.

J.T. Quite.

A.H. It is a question of rallying to the standard.

J.T. Quite so. You might say that what we are speaking of now is just that. The enemy comes in like a flood, and he has come in like a flood now; christendom is just over-run with apostasy in various forms, but the Spirit of God has raised up a standard against it, and it is for us to gather loyally to it.

J.F. Would you say that Peter’s object in the prophetic ministry is to keep the saints from falling in the last days — “lest, being led away along with the error of the wicked, ye should fall from your own stedfastness” (2 Peter 3:17); and in Jude the same thought comes in: “But to him that is able to keep you without stumbling” (verse 24)? The ministry is intended to preserve the saints in that way.

J.T. Quite so. “Doing these things ye will never fall”, 2 Peter 1:10. The ministry is to be abundant; that is what you want. In spite of the dark cloud of apostasy we can look through to the end and have an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  Finally, we have in the epistle to Timothy, where we read, how spiritual things are kept. The creeds have proved futile in preserving the truth. In themselves they shut out the truth in a spiritual way. So that I think this verse is put over against that, that the good deposit is to be kept by the Holy Spirit which dwells in us, the good deposit entrusted. This brings up what each believer is intended to keep, as we might say, treasure in the house of God. He keeps the truth, and he has it as a deposit to be preserved, and it can only be preserved by the Spirit, but it is the Spirit that dwells in us. It is not simply the Spirit in an objective way, but the Spirit that dwells in us.

A.N. Do you think where it says, “The mystery of lawlessness already works; only there is he who restrains now until he be gone” (2 Thessalonians 2:7), we have the operations of the Spirit checking what is in the world? Is that through the saints?

J.T. We have often noticed that there are two things, one a Person and the other a thing: “And now ye know that which restrains, that he should be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness already works; only there is he who restrains now until he be gone”. There is that which restrains and there is He who restrains. Well now, the ‘He’ is the Spirit. It says so, of course. There are two things alluded to anyway; whether it be the government as ordained of God, or whether it be God’s kingdom in power in the Spirit in the saints, or whether it be the Spirit Himself operating, there is what hinders, and that is the basis of our prayers in view of the apostasy that is coming; I mean, the man of sin. We are entitled to continue this while these elements are functioning, whether it be government, or the kingdom of God in exercise here or the Spirit Himself. In other words, the government as ordained of God remains with that function, and we are entitled to continue as if restraint were still in force, and in our prayers we speak of the authorities and pray for them, knowing that still, no doubt, they are ordained of God. I think that they should enter into our meetings for prayer, because they are still functioning; they are ordained of God to function in the way of restraint so that the testimony should continue in the way God wishes it to continue.

J.D. Would you speak of this as the over-government of God?

J.T. It looks like that. There is something that is restraining and there is He who restrains. We can assume that they are functioning, and while they are functioning the man of sin will not appear. The man of sin will not appear while these elements are functioning and their functioning should be a basis for our prayers in respect of public matters that God might leave room for us so that the testimony might go on to the end.

Rem. If these powers are hostile and put restraint upon the saints do you continue to pray for them?

J.T. Yes, I think you should.

J.H. Would this be the most important aspect of the Spirit’s presence here as dwelling in us?

J.T. What a blessed thing it is — the Spirit dwelling in us! It challenges our hearts as to whether we have the Spirit, and we look for some evidence that we have. The Spirit dwelling in us is a great thought so that we are told that we shall be quickened in the future as having the Spirit of Him that has raised up Jesus from among the dead. “But if the Spirit of him that has raised up Jesus from among the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from among the dead shall quicken your mortal bodies also on account of his Spirit which dwells in you”, Romans 8:11. God takes account of us. God protects His assembly.

J.McF. Does that which restrains refer to the presence of the Spirit in the saints here?

J.T. I would not like to say. I would say that anything that restrains is over against the man of sin. God uses one thing and then another thing throughout the history of the testimony. In present conditions one might name many of them; there are many conditions that God uses to restrain other conditions that are themselves apostate; and the persons who are now figuring in the political world, instead of being of God, because the government of God enters into these risings, they come in raised up by mere natural men. It is for us to pray for them, to regard them as God’s instruments; but when it goes beyond that, where government is going beyond their limits and interfering with God and His people. God resents that and will deal with it.

J.D. In the word to the assembly at Philadelphia we have, “These things saith the holy, the true; he that has the key of David, he who opens and no one shall shut, and shuts and no one shall open”, Revelation 3:7. Does that enter into what is transpiring in the world today?

J.T. Anything that affects the saints and the testimony the Lord has to do with that; but then there is the Father, in whose hand the government of the world is, and that is more the providence of God.

A.N. There would be angelic intervention too, as in Daniel. The prince of Persia stood in the way against Daniel’s prayer being answered, but Michael came in and helped.

J.T. The government of God is carried on with angelic help.

 

Falkirk,

10 May, 1938

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