The Matrix of Mission 1

Dallas Willard Part 3 of 13

A series of talks Dallas gave for African Enterprise on his first trip to South Africa in 1985. He works through some of the material that became The Spirit of the Disciplines.


Dallas: I would like to say that both Jim and myself do present a relationship between the work of the ministry and philosophy, which I think is very important and perhaps some of you might want to talk about that privately and I’m sure that we’d be happy to discuss that.

It is hard for us to believe that through many centuries of our history, philosophers and Christians were the same and that for a number of centuries, the monastic life, which Jim will be speaking about this evening, I believe was equated with the philosophical life because a philosopher in those centuries was thought of as a person who teaches us how to order our life in harmony with the life of God and His Kingdom. [00:59]

Philosophy is simply a word, which means the love of wisdom. That’s what philosophy means—the love of wisdom. In the early ages of the church, the philosophers of the ancient world, especially in the first and second and third centuries—they were the ones who turned to Christ because as many of them said, “Christ, the Old Testament answer the questions which we could never answer as philosophers.” We have missed something there very important in our times and perhaps it is now time for us to reclaim it and if God so wills, people will be raised up to do just that.

Now, this morning, I am talking about the “Matrix of Mission.” Matrix is the womb of mission; it is that source from which something arises as from a womb. Matrix is the womb of mission.  [2:02]

The womb of mission is the body of the believer [Long silence] and I take time to just emphasize that and say it slowly and ask you to look at and I emphasize that when I say “body”, I mean that thing sitting in the chair.  I am not talking about some transcendental body or I’m not talking about the body of Christ. I am talking about that physical body and it is that which is the repository from which the life of God that is the inevitable mission. It is from this body that mission flows. [3:09]

Now, if you will indulge me this morning, I want to go slowly over some passages and talk about this.  It is absolutely fundamental; absolutely important; we cannot understand the power and the nature of the working of the early church or the present church in so far as it is going to be the body of Christ without recognizing the fundamental role of the human body in redemption and then of course in mission as well.

I wonder if I could get you first to look with me at 1 John and the first chapter. This opening statement and indeed the entire burden of this little letter has to do with the relationship of God to the body. Look how the old apostle John puts it in these opening verses of the little epistle of 1 John—“That which was from the beginning, . . .” What was from the beginning?—the logos, the Word—in the beginning was the Word. [4:30]

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, . . . “ Now, this is a stunning statement. The logos has been heard “which we have seen” and in order that we should not miss the point, he says, “ . . . with our eyes, which we have looked upon and (which) our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and . . . “ I remind you that that’s the language of the prologue to John’s gospel. “ . . .was with the Father (that one) and was manifested unto us;)” (1 John 1:1&2) [5:26]

It was manifested in a body. When John comes to tell us who the anti-Christ is in the fourth chapter of 1 John, he says, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they be of God: . . .”  (1 John 4:1)  And now this is the test. “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: (for) Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God.” (1 John 4:2)

I want to tell you that that was a very rare spirit which would confess such a thing in the world in which John lived—a very rare spirit—some of you will know that one of the major struggles in the early church was over the nature of the body of Jesus Christ. And that went on for a long time and indeed the doctrine of the virgin birth was initially introduced, according to my understanding and you will find this stated in the creeds; it was initially introduced to prove that Jesus had a body—not to prove that He was Divine.  That became an issue later. [6:43]

The big issue was, “Was He human? Did He have a real body?” And the answer was, “Yes, He had one because it was born.” That’s a body. And if you ask a mother, they will tell you, “That’s a real body that is born.” And there was a huge struggle over that.

“Hereby know ye the Spirit of God; Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not God:” Now, you will notice, it does not just say, “is come;” it says, “ . . .is come in the flesh.” We are talking about something that you can touch—that is tangible and this is the stunning reality of the incarnation or we would more illuminatingly say, ‘the enfleshment” because carne—you know what chili con carne is, don’t you? It is chili with meat and when we speak of the incarnation, we are talking of the enfleshment of the logos and the astounding thing is that God came in His Son and claimed a human body—one that could be touched. [8:05]

Now, I want to carry on with this. Look with me if you will please at 2 Corinthians, the fourth chapter and the sixth through the eleventh verses—2 Corinthians 4:6-11 verses—this is one of the most beautiful passages in the writings of Paul where he is talking about the Glory of God and how the knowledge of the Glory of God came and shown upon us in the face of Jesus Christ and I remind you again that a face is a tangible thing.  A face is a very real object. [8:40]

And he says, “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6) The knowledge of the glory of God—the glory of God fills all the earth but the knowledge of the glory of God does not and it is in Jesus Christ that there began in a tangible way the fulfillment of the prophet’s statement in Habakkuk 2:14 that all of “the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God, as the waters cover the sea.” Glory already covers all the world as water covers the sea, but the knowledge doesn’t; and the knowledge comes in the face of Jesus Christ. [9:24]

“But we have this treasure . . .” Now, note this. We have this treasure; this treasure of the life which came in Christ “ . . . in earthen vessels . . .  “ and that earthen vessel is our body. “ . . . we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body . . .” (2 Corinthians 4:7-10) Where? In the body!

Now, you know, we need to stop once in a while and just sort of think about the way these men like Paul spoke and we need to extend to them the simple appreciation that they were intelligent people and that when they used their words, they used them in a definite way to convey a definite meaning. And we have to understand that when Paul speaks of the body, he is speaking of the body. He’s not speaking about some mystical thing. He is talking about bearing about in his physical body the dying of the Lord Jesus. “ . . . that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest . . ,” where? In our bodies.  “For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest . . .” Where? “ . . . in our mortal flesh.” (2 Corinthians 4:10-11) [11:10]

Look also please at 1 Corinthians 6:13-20. Listen to these words. “ . . . Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord is for the body.” (1 Corinthians 6:13) Now, I trust that in that context we can have no doubt. When we are talking about fornication, we are talking about a bodily activity and I trust that that helps us understand that Paul is really talking about this flesh—this body. [11:52]

And here’s what he says, “And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise us up by his own power. Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ?” Those same bodies, which are capable of fornication, are the bodies, which he is saying are the members of Christ. “ . . . shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid.” (1 Corinthians 6:14-15) God forbid!

One could not do it any more than you could kick a sleeping baby in the stomach. You see the cure for all of these problems is the realization of the life that is in our bodies. We cannot do with our bodies the things that the unbeliever does because those bodies are holy vessels—a member of Christ. God forbid! [12:53]

“What? Know ye not that he, which is joined to an harlot, is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.” (1 Corinthians 6:16-17) That spirit now is dwelling in my body and that same spirit is dwelling in the Lord. It is the Lord. And therefore when I take my body and put it in such a relationship as he’s referring to here, I desecrate Jesus Christ Himself.

Would I take Jesus Christ and put Him in that context? No, I could not do it.

I mean if you are worried about overcoming temptation, dear friends, all you have to do is realize what is being said here. It would be impossible to do that to Christ, and that applies to all of the other things that we might do that would be wrong. [13:47]

“Flee fornication—Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you . . .” (1 Corinthians 6:18-19) And I remind you again, we are talking about that body—the one sitting in the chair “ . . . which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) [14:22]

And then finally, Romans 12:1, which you all know by heart and you probably don’t need to turn to that but I’ve read this as a background because I want to help you appreciate just what this means and I am going to ask you at the end of our discussion today, I’ll give you some meditations and reflections bearing on this verse. “I beseech you therefore, brethren (and “sistern” as well), by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto god, (which is the service that makes sense) which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1)

Why is it “reasonable?” It is reasonable because your body was made to be the bearer of spiritual life in the Kingdom of God. That’s what it is made for. If I can briefly refer back to our discussion of yesterday; I said, as you will recall, that spiritual life consist of a relationship to God. It is that for which our bodies are personalities as the embodied self was created and only in so far as we sustain that relation do we have human life.  That’s what human life is. [15:45]

Now today, we are going to go somewhat more deeply into this. The life which we minster is in our bodies and when our effect is small in our missionary efforts and in our life which goes beyond our efforts—and that should be our mission too—it is due to the fact that the wattage (if I may speak that way) in this body is so low that it cannot bring about the effect which it should bring about. [16:15]

In order to bring this out, I want to call your attention to a verse, which I wonder if you have thought about very much; not many people have.  This is Hebrews 6—Hebrews 6, the 2nd verse; and I want to call attention to a list that is present here.  The writer of the book of Hebrews in this passage says something in an off-hand way which he does not develop that tells us something very important about the nature of the church in the early days after Christ and by implication, about the nature of the church today and the fellowship of believers. He is concerned about people who are staying at a low level of Christian development and I am here not going to talk about what he wanted them to go on to. I want to talk about the stage where he thought they were and this is the stage, which he calls “the elementary stage,” “the fundamental stage.” Listen to theses words. [17:27]

“Therefore leaving the principles,”—the first truths, the beginning truths “of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection (or completion); not laying again the foundation . . .” (Hebrews 6:1) Now, here is what the foundation is—“repentance, (turning into the Kingdom of God) from dead works and faith towards God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.” (Hebrews 6:1-2) Now, I hope that your curious mind says, “What is that doing in the middle of that list?” “ . . . baptisms and the laying on of hands.”

Comment: [Indistinguishable]

Dallas: I mean, why is that there, see? Now, if you will ask that question and follow up on what we’ve been saying in these verses that we’ve been looking at, you will see something extremely interesting about the understanding of these writers of the New Testament of the body.

“ . . . Baptisms and the laying on of hands . . . “—these were fundamental actions in the early church. Listen to this again. They are placed in the same bag, in the same list with repentance, faith towards God, baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. [19:05]

Now, I’m not necessarily saying that all of these because they are on one list are of equal importance. What I am saying is that they are all treated as the fundamental truths, which provided the foundation for growth in the spiritual life.  You know, we need to think about these.  We need to think about them deeply.

Let’s think about baptism for just a moment. Baptism was a fundamental action in the early church in which there was an impartation of spiritual substance. I said last time when we were talking about the method by which we communicate the life that creates new persons, I said, “The way we do that is by the word of the Kingdom and the word of the Kingdom comes both in what we do and what we say as we bring the Kingdom forward into the world.” [20:08]

If you look at Romans 6, you will see these words about baptism. “What shall we say then,” Paul is saying. He’s been teaching about grace and he’s saying, “Well, if grace abounds because sin abounds, he treats the facetious or silly objection, then let’s all go out and sin a lot so there will be a lot more grace.” Right? Now, the way he treats this is fascinating because he doesn’t say, “Oh no, we ought not to do that.” Rather he says, “ . . . how shall we?” How can we “live any longer” in sin? “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” (Romans 6:1-3)

Now, the Greek has a little preposition—“ace”—[well, I’ll get a better writer here. Well, I don’t know if we are going to succeed with this! Yes.]—which is translated in many ways. Prepositions are very slippery creatures as you know. They sort of live between other words and give emphasis here and there which is not easy to say. But, here, baptized into Christ is this term, “ace” and it does mean “into” in this case. It does not just mean “in.” Sometimes it’s translated “in.” For example, in the great commission in Matthew 28:19, when we are told to baptize “in the name of the Father, and (of the) Son and (of the) Holy Spirit (Ghost), it’s this word. It’s not this word, but this word. [Appears to point at two different words on a board.] Ace! What we have to understand is that baptism in this time was understood as an act by which a person who was already in the Kingdom of God, who was already in Christ took another and placed them into that same body. [22:30]

What? “Know ye not, that so many of us were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death . . . “ (Romans 2:3-4) and in that baptism in death, we are unified with Him. We are brought into real contact with Him.

Now, I hope you will understand that I know that you can’t just by saying when you sock someone under the water or pour water on them in Jesus name, automatically bring them into Jesus Christ. You have to be qualified to do that.  You have to be located in the life of the Kingdom of God in such a way that you can really do that. It’s like a person who when we all do—I  do—I say when I get done praying, “In Jesus’ name, Amen.” Now, I hope you all know as I certainly know that you don’t necessarily pray in Jesus’ name because you say at the end, “In Jesus’ Name.” [23:36]

See, in order to pray in Jesus’ name, you have to be standing as it were in Jesus’ place. You will have to be praying on behalf of Jesus and that is a matter of where you are as a person. And in order to baptize in the name, into the name—into the name, because this is the term: and just as we are baptized into Christ, we are to baptize into the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

And that is sometimes hard for us to understand because we can’t quite see how you could baptize someone into a name. I mean, after all, a name is just letters. How do you baptize someone into those purple marks or how do you baptize someone into a sound? Well, you understand that the name of Jesus was much more than marks and a sound. [24:35]

It was a power. It was a power and when Peter was examined as to how he managed to heal the man at the temple, he said, “Just let me tell you that there is no other name given under Heaven among men whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

A name is a power; and that is common in the way names are used in the Bible and indeed in ancient literature and the ancient world generally. A name is much more than just this. A name takes on the properties of that to which it refers—called semantic realism—if you want a fancy word to put on it. It just means that when you baptize, you baptize “into” the name and for a person to be baptized into the name of Jesus Christ, is the same as to be baptized into Jesus Christ and to put on Christ. [25:35]

Now, my friends, I realize that that may blow our categories a little bit and make our minds boggle as we think about this but I am trying to help us understand the meaning of the concept of baptism as it is in the New Testament. We are not fighting over water, whether you sprinkle, throw it, squirt it or whatever you do with it. We are not fighting over the words. We are talking about a reality. We are talking about a reality of being immersed, surrounded, covered with Christ and that’s a reality and it’s a reality, which is in my body. [26:17]

Let us come now to the laying on of hands. It tells us a world about the present powerlessness of our religion that these have become mere rituals and symbols instead of acts by which we give the power, which is in us to someone who needs it. Jesus touched in healing and He touched in many ways. It is interesting to study the many ways in which He healed but in nearly every case where the person is available to touch, He touched him; and sometimes, He didn’t touch; they touched Him. [27:00]

One of the most beautiful and instructive stories in all of the scriptures is the story in Mark 6 of the woman who came in the crowd and touched Him; and you see, this is especially instructive because, the disciples asked the right question, “Master, you want to know who touched you? They are all touching you.” But this woman had a special touch.

You see, just like we can’t reduce baptism in Jesus’ Name to saying the name Jesus over people when we sock them under or wet them in one way or another.  We cannot reduce the touch, which is the laying on of hands, which brings the transmission of spiritual reality. We cannot reduce that to mere physical contact. [27:43]

You see, this woman touched Him in faith and if we are going to use the laying on of hands, which is listed in that list right among the doctrines that are fundamental to the faith, we must understand that it will be an act of faith on our part. And if we don’t exercise that faith, the same thing will happen there as will happen in baptism. Even if we are full of the Spirit of God, we will not transmit and baptize the person into Christ unless we do it in faith.  Our understanding must rise to it and as we perform the deed, it must be done in faith. [28:22]

And this story is so beautiful because it illustrates another point. I don’t want to get too much in detail about this because it’s something a person has to learn by their own experience but when this woman touched Jesus—and the old version says, “virtue went out”—and actually the word there is dunamis—power went out of Him. Power flowed out of Him. [28:44]

The same word that Paul uses when he says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ . . .” (Romans 1:16) because it is the dunamis—the dunamis—it’s power. This power is the reality of the spiritual world that we talked about yesterday. The world of God and all of His personality and what comes from that and when you come in contact with that, it is imparted; and this woman in faith touched Him and dunamis went out of Him. He could feel it. He knew it. [29:13]

And we have to learn, one of the things that we most need in our time, dear friends, is people who will pay enough attention to their experience and be experimental enough to find out in real terms what the things that are described in the Bible mean as experiences, you see? And that’s the greatest challenge we face as minsters of the Kingdom of God is to so live before the Lord and give ourselves to understanding that we will know what these things mean—it really doesn’t talk about these things. It doesn’t have any—it’s very hard to believe—it’s hard to believe enough to experiment with God honestly—to find out what they mean, you see.

Now, the only experiential faith is an experimental thing. The only experiential faith is an experimental faith and it’s when we are prepared to step out and by faith, put God to the test that we begin to have the experiences, which allow our faith to grow and we grow from faith to faith.

What little faith we have, even if it’s the halfway faith of the man who cried, “Lord I believe, help thou mine unbelief.” (Mark 9:24) Even if it’s that little faith and oh, one of the wonderful things is we can be honest with God. We can say, “Lord I just can’t believe this. Bring me to the place where I can.” Never force your faith. You never get faith by forcing it. Faith is always the gift of God. It comes as the word of God goes forth in our experience and then our faith grows. We can be honest with God. [31:04]

I love Gideon because he was so honest with God. He just said, “Well, now, you know, if you really are an angel talking to me, do something to prove it.” And then he went on and he said, “Well, now, if you really want me to do this, I’m going to put a fleece out in the back yard and let’s do it this way. If this is really the way it’s supposed to be, you let the dew fall on the fleece and keep the ground dry.” And then that wasn’t enough and so the next time around he says, “Well, let’s let the dew fall on the ground and keep the fleece dry.” And then finally he was ready to go but you know Gideon was a man full of doubts and equivocations but he still went and he saw and he experienced and that built his faith. Gideon was far from a perfect man but he knew that he could step out and ask God questions and go on and God met him. God didn’t say, “Gideon, you must be stupid. If I’m standing here in front of you in the form of an angel, you got to believe it’s me.” He didn’t say that. He was very open and tender. [32:14]

You know, one of the most wonderful verses in the Bible to me is in James, the first chapter, I believe it is—“If any (of you) man lack wisdom, let him ask of God (that) who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not. . . ” (James 1:5) See? He doesn’t give us a hard time. He knows we need wisdom, doesn’t He?

If you have someone working for you, they become a real problem when they don’t know or won’t admit that they need wisdom; and they can wreck your operation by proceeding as if they knew what they were dong when they don’t and they don’t want to ask you. Right? I see some of you have experienced that; [Laughter] and it’s a real problem and God doesn’t want us wrecking His operation. He wants us to come and say, “Now, Lord I don’t understand this and I want to know. Please teach me. Give me wisdom,” you see. [33:06]

So we can be honest with God. We can be very honest. If we can’t identify with what was going on there as Jesus walked through that crowd and that woman, that one woman, of all the people that were bumping Him and pulling at Him and hollering at Him—that one woman. You see the disciples didn’t understand either did they? As in so many other cases, they totally missed this and said, “Well, Lord how—what do you mean, who touched you? Everybody is touching you.” But the woman knew because she had felt come into her what He had felt leave Him and she came trembling and said, “I’m the one that touched you.”

Touching in the ministry of Jesus—sometime you should take a week and just read the New Testament to look for one thing only—touching. Oh, it’s heart breaking to see Jesus—a leper comes and says, “Heal me.” You know, a leper didn’t get touched very much and He put forth His hand and touched him. And the man was blind and Jesus didn’t want to have to deal with the ruckus if he just healed him right on the spot so He spit on the ground and made some mud and covered his eyes and told him to go wash and he figured by the time he got down there and got his eyes washed and was seeing, He’d be out the other side of the city so he wouldn’t have to deal with it. Right? [34:38]

See, you have to understand. This is a very practical matter. Jesus—I mean the crowds were awful and He couldn’t have all of this excitement hanging on Him. He would never get anything done and so He sent that man way down there and took off in the other direction. [Laughter] He touched him. He touched him.

And it’s the touching that is the point of contact. You remember this about your body. Your body must be holy and God wants it to be holy and to be holy means to be filled with the power of God. It’s a positive thing. It isn’t a negative thing. What separates us and gives us a separate life is the power that is in us; not what we don’t do. What we don’t do is a result of what we are because that life is in us. [35:35]

In the book of Acts, a rich study of this—I can’t go into it today because I simply don’t have time but there is a rich study of how even the shadows and the clothes of people—I think people get carried away with these things, you know? And I don’t know how far that contact goes but we are told clearly in the book of Acts that the people wanted to get in the shadow, just the very shadow of Peter that it might come over them and also there is a discussion of cloths that are taken from the bodies of the minsters to lay on people. I must say my faith doesn’t rise to that. I don’t feel condemned about it. I think sometimes when you see these things going on, you have to understand that people get carried away and they do things in faith and maybe God meets that faith but that doesn’t mean that I ought to start carrying cloths around on my body and sending them out or that some healer ought to do that. Now, you know if they want to do that, I am not going to stand in their way. All I am saying—this doesn’t necessarily authenticate that. [36:43]

And you see, we see all sorts of silly things. It happens if you go t St. Peter’s square in Rome as I’m sure many of you have—you go down to that big street where it all opens out there and you see all of these little shops; and they have all these things that the Pope blessed and threw some holy water on and that’s supposed to do something for you. Now, you see, everything can be made to look silly and on the other hand, sometimes God meets us in our faith even if it is silly so we don’t want to be sharp and critical about these things. The point is simply that in the real contact of persons, the touch of the body—it is absolutely fundamental to understand that the ministry of the church is carried out by the physical contact by which the power of God is passed on from believer to believer. [37:42]

Look at Acts 8:14-17 with me for just a moment. I love this passage. Acts 8:14-17. I love this passage because somehow when we see these people reacting to the obvious transmission in the way that Simon Magnus (as he came to be called)—Simon, as you know is the practice of giving money for spiritual favors. It came to mean in the history of the church, giving money to buy church offices, which is a nice illustration of how badly these things get out of hand but look what is happening here. This is down in Samaria and Philip had gone down to Samaria unto the persecution and low and behold, the spirit was down there before he got there and really set off a lot of excitement and the Samaritans were getting what they were not supposed to get because it was supposed to be for better people but that’s just the way things go. [38:51]

“Now . . . “, in the 14th verse “ . . . when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John; Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost; (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay (my) hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.” And Peter of course “ . . . said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of god may be purchased with money.” (Acts 8:14-20) [39:36]

Now, there are many things that could be said about this but the important thing I want to bring out is just imply the obvious matter of fact way in which the apostles went about this work. There are many other passages in the New Testament we could talk about. Let me just give you a couple more very quickly and then we must move on to other things.

For example, we have in 1 Timothy 4, the 14th verse, the admonition of Paul to Timothy where he says he admonishes Timothy to stir up the gift—the gift or the grace. That’s 1 Timothy 4:14—“(Stir up or) Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.” It’s interesting here to see that the gift is something one could neglect, and this is very important for us to understand when we are working in the Kingdom, which is a personal kingdom. I said last time that the spirit is disembodied personal power. It is personal power and it can be neglected. It is something, which requires a personal response and when the elders in prophecy laid their hands upon Timothy, they transmitted a gift to him but he might have neglected it. And perhaps Paul thought maybe he was neglecting it and so he says to him, “Now cultivate that gift which is in you.” [41:16]

See, when we work in the Kingdom of God and deal with the contact of bodies, which contains this wonderful spirit, we have to understand that it is not something that is just like a steamroller. It does not work mechanically. It requires our personal response. [41:36]

Let me use one other verse and then I must move on. Let me use one other verse here to indicate something important about this power. It can be transmitted under the wrong circumstances and this is 1 timothy 5:22 and that passage says, “ Lay hands suddenly on no man . . . “ Lay hands on no man suddenly.

I remember as a young man I used to think that was a very amusing verse because when we talked about laying hands on someone we thought maybe you were picking them up by the nape of the neck to throw them out the door and I thought, well, maybe that’s what he means is just don’t be grabbing people and throwing them around. [Laughter] But, that was before I came to understand what the laying on of hands meant. What Paul here is talking about is the very real danger of giving power to people who are unprepared for it–who cannot stand it—lay hands on no man suddenly. Give people an opportunity to develop the character that can contain the power. Lay hands on no man suddenly.  [42:47]

And again, I just want to emphasize, you see what a highly personal kind of thing this is. When that power is given to an individual, they can misuse it and they often do, and if you look around you in the world today, you will see many people who misuse the power of God. And we mustn’t say, “Well, if they’ve misused it, they must not of been or if God gave them power, they must have been right or He wouldn’t have. That’s one of the biggest fallacies you will ever see is that God only gives His power to people who are all right in their souls. All you have to do is read the Bible to see that that is not true. God has purposes for His power and it is a personal Kingdom and it is something, which is subject to misuse by human beings and I should never go to a person and say, “You see I have power; therefore, m y soul is pure.” If I have power, it is because in whatever way, God has seen fit to allow that to happen for His purposes and that may be misused and you see, we have here a very conscious program of the use of power and the transmission of power through the laying on of hands. [44:09]

Now, we have come to the end of our first 45 minutes. A little more and what we are going to do is to have time for discussion at the end of the two hours and so what I would like to ask you to do is to take a break now for ten minutes—we will come right back here and pick up where we left off.

Listen to all parts in this Spirituality and Mission series