Not Two Powers, Only One
In what ways does the Spirit flow out of us as rivers? Have we any clear pointers? Yes, there are two. We shall see that He flows out of us as Spirit through spirit (Chapters 34-43) and Spirit through body (Chapters 44-51), and we shall see how He does this.
Let us look into the most basic first: the way He flows out through our spirit. That way, of course, is the way of faith, for the Spirit way is the faith way. We shall be foolish if we think we already know plenty about that way. We have hardly begun! We shall soon find, as I have, that there is plenty more to learn and apply through the whole of life.
The faith way is the one and only way by which the Spirit has flowed into us, and it is the one and only way by which He flows out. As I near the end of my days on earth, I have no more fascinating and fruitful occupation than living the life of faith in action. I join not only with those men of Hebrews 11 in their exploits of faith, but also with great men of faith of my earlier years, such as George Müller and Hudson Taylor, from whom I have eagerly picked up invaluable lessons of faith. But crowning all, for me, have been my years of intimacy with that man of faith and intercession, Rees Howells.
It was not now the faith of my own relationship to God in new birth or union that was interesting me. It was faith applied, and applied effectively, to every incident of my daily life; and beyond that, to the lives and needs of all to whom I was and am sent, or who come to me. This required of me, first, a new expansion to my seeing of things. I had learned that before I can believe, I must see what I am to believe. First, see–then believe–single sight, then simple faith. But I had double sight, and that was my confusion. I saw two powers, good and evil–with plenty of evil. How could I bring the evil within reach of effectively believing God is dealing with it?
So my first step of enlarged understanding was to discover the single eye–to step from seeing God personal to God universal. It cost me a year to get this finally and completely settled. Thank God, He put me through that painful period. It has altered all my many years–this seeing and knowing how to believe with no weak spots in any situation–and made me able to help others to do the same. As I say, the change didn’t depend on the believing, but on the knowing what I could believe. There had to be an expansion of my inner understanding before there could be an expansion of believing.
I first had to have a shock–and this was God’s way of shocking me: In the course of my reading, I ran across William James’ Varieties of Religious Experience. As I read, it seemed to me that he was saying that Paul’s conversion was just an inner self-adjustment, not an outward meeting with God on the road to Damascus. I may have misread him, but God meant me to read it like that, for my benefit: a negative to fit me for a total positive! Its effect on me–crazy though it may seem to you of more settled faith–was suddenly to make me wonder whether, after all, there is a human self-sufficiency with no need of God–and perhaps even no God! In other words, I did not have an all-encompassing faith which answered all possible doubts and questionings. But I needed a God with no possibility of a hole in Him.
That sent me on a desperate search. I must have a "total God" or nothing. Indeed, I went so far as to say to God, if there was a God, that I’d had a twenty-year love affair with Him…He was all in all to me…so if He really was phony and non-existent, I would choose to be phony also, and in my love would cling to Him and be a phony along with Him. Love weathered the storm when the "faith boat" was being rocked. I went through a year’s search with much agony of spirit–believing, yet not believing. I need not go into details, except to say that, helped somewhat by the great mystics in their pursuit of and finding union with God, I too finally had a great inner "recognition" that He is all. That is why I am so strong on that now His being "all" has meant for me, ever since, that whatsoever there is in the universe, of whatever kind–whether good or evil, negative or positive, including Satan and all his works–God is the source of all, for He is the True All, the Alpha and the Omega. (I am not saying at this moment how that can include evil as well as good, but will explain that shortly.) But it became burned in me like a brand that I am one with Him in whom the universe is one. It is like a permanent inner light in me, for He is light…and we are light. Some talk of a "cosmic consciousness," and this became that to me, and I am branded.
From Negative to Positive Believing
Universal seeing and knowing, with no further double vision–that is what matters. That is the only key to a believing with no kinks in it. While we see Good and Evil as two powers–which was my trouble–we will naturally have a seesaw believing.
The first principle of faith in action, then, is that inner seeing must come before proper believing. Now in this world full of evil and problems, we will always, as humans, start by "seeing things as they are"–as they appear to be–and that means seeing and believing in something that disturbs us, which we call evil, and so it may be. This is "negative" believing…and what we are inwardly seeing, and therefore believing, is what we outwardly transmit to others. We can’t help it in our looks, words and deeds, for all we share with others is ourselves; and if we see things as evil we transmit negative believing to others–we transmit darkness, not light; death, not life.
Is there an alternative? Yes, there is–and that was what settled into me, once I saw God as all: that there cannot be two powers, for He is one, absolute and supreme. But how, then, can I include the workings of an evil power, of which the world and people are so full, as an expression of the one power which is God, who is love?
For that I had to find my solution, and of course I turned to the Bible. There I found the plainest statements, which did link God with evil. The prophet Isaiah said plainly (45:6-7), "I am the Lord, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil [Hebrew ra–adversity, calamity]; I, the Lord, do all these things." That statement is total enough. But there are plenty more. To Moses, God said (Ex. 4:11), "Who hath made…the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord?" When Jeremiah spoke of God’s coming judgment on rebellious Israel with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, he said that God had called the heathen king who would destroy them "Nebuchadnezzar, My servant" (43:10)! The Assyrians God called "the rod of My anger" (Isa. 10:5). All the destructive plagues of insects that destroyed harvest after harvest in the days of Joel the prophet, "the palmerworm, the locust, the canker-worm, the caterpillar," God spoke of as "My great army which I sent among you" (See Joel 1:4 and 2:25). There are dozens of such sayings by the prophets.
We all know about Joseph, and he went even further. He left no room for us to say that God "permits" evil things to happen but does not direct them; for, even though he had suffered thirteen years by being sold as a slave by his brethren and then being thrown into prison because of the false accusation of Potiphar’s wife, still he told his brethren, "Ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good" (Gen. 50:20). Meant it! To "mean" is not to "permit." It is direct purpose and planning.
Peter, in a startling statement in his speech on the day of Pentecost, when referring to the greatest crime in history, told the crowds: "Jesus of Nazareth…Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain" (Acts 2:22-23). Determinate counsel–there’s no possible permissiveness there! And when the believers in those early days of persecution were praying together, they said in their prayer: "For of a truth, against Thy holy child, Jesus,…both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done" (Acts 4:27-28). What could be stronger? Jesus Himself, above all, when He stood before Pilate, and Pilate had said "Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?", answered, "Thou couldest have no power at all against Me except it were given thee from above"! From above? We would say, if we believed in two powers, "from beneath"!
But Jesus saw only one power. At the Last Supper, as Judas left the table to betray Him, Jesus merely said to His disciples, "The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me." Nothing! Jesus did not see Satan as having any inward footing in Him. And He said the final word when the soldiers were come into the garden to arrest Him, and He told Peter, "Put up thy sword into the sheath; the cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?" And what was that cup? Satan’s taking Him to Calvary.
I had the answer to God "meaning evil" when I saw that a person is a person only because he is free. Therefore, when God created persons in His own image, they could be persons only by being free, as He is free. And as we have seen manifested in the history of our human family, that had to include our freedom to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree, which in turn had to include its tragic consequences, the sorrows that God in His faithful love told Adam and Eve would come to them. So in creating persons like Himself, who would be free to manage His universe, they must be free and responsible. He could do no other, or they would not have been persons. As freedom involves the necessity of making choices, He therefore created them with the possibility of choosing the opposite to Himself, the evil–and they did. In that sense, therefore, God created evil, because, as we have seen, there cannot be consciousness without opposites.
It does not mean that God is the doer of that evil. As Paul said, "God forbid!" (Rom. 9:14). And James said, "God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man" (1:13). God does not sin; nor is He responsible when we sin. He created freedom, and it is in freedom that there must be this possibility of the alternative choice, and thus in that sense alone He created evil. Satan himself was God’s created being, of the highest order. In his freedom he rebelled, and founded the kingdom of darkness of which he is the god. But he is still forever God’s Satan, and God deliberately used Satan, for instance, to bring Job to the final end of himself (as He uses him in all our lives!). And that is one of the great recorded evidences in the Bible that God is manipulating Satan, not Satan God (Job 1:8 and 2:3). Stretch this out, and (without excusing Satan for his evil designs) we find in all human history we can boldly call Satan "God’s convenient agent." We have already sought to make plain that if Satan had not first been free to take us the wrong way, we would never now be safely settled in the right way through Christ. Watch carefully, and see God continually using evil for good purposes: "meaning" the evil as the product of our freedom, but using it for His overcoming grace.
In that sense, then, the Bible says that God "intends" the consequences of evil, whether referring to its corruptions within our personal lives or to all its horrors of disease, disasters, death, cruelties, "man’s inhumanity to man." To think that God is taking pleasure in these things, however, is utterly untrue. We know that our fallen, evil condition so pierced His heart that, to redeem us from it, He came in the person of His Son to be perfected in suffering, right up to "tasting death for every man."
But it is necessary that we do recognize that, in another sense, He does "mean" evil in all its tragedy, and understand why He means it. Only by that recognition can we be firm and strong–and praising!–when the storms of evil are blowing around us. If, when distressing conditions hit us or our neighbors, we only can say that God "permits it," we seem to imply a weakness in God as if He is sorry about such things but can’t help it. However, an element of disturbing incongruity keeps us from ever picturing God as sitting back and leaving the devil free to do his damndest.
So what is the result? When we have these solid grounds for knowing there is no other way except that we humans must reap our share of the sorrows of life, and that God purposes exactly what has come to us, we then can accept these trials in a totally opposite way–as all joy, instead of all horror. For we know this is the negative background for His great design of perfect love. All is perfect, and He is working out everything "after the counsel of His own will." It is always "the good pleasure of His goodness." And if good and enjoyable to Him, we know it is good and enjoyable to us.