By George H. Warnock
There are a lot of songs and a lot of teaching today about the new thing that God is doing... and the new wine that God is bringing forth to His people.
But what about the new wineskins for the new wine? "And no man putteth new wine into old bottles (wineskins); else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish" (Luke 5:37).
However it is not too difficult to discern in the midst of the joy and rejoicing of the new thing that God is doing... a desperate attempt to keep the old wineskins from bursting at the seams. New Wine... Renewal... Restoration... Revival... Refreshing... Glossolalia... Charismatic... and all this in old wine-skins. No wonder there is an attempt to strengthen the seams, and to patch the cracks in the old structures, and a warning to the sheep to follow their shepherds... because if something is not done about it, it would appear that the whole thing might crack wide open, and the new wine may be lost.
Jesus has already warned us what would happen if we try to renew the old forms with the New Life of the Spirit. It can only be for a short season... the old forms will just disintegrate, and the wine is lost...
What, then, are we going to do about it? The same thing, I would suggest, that we did before God began bringing forth the new wine. Recognize that the old forms are no longer adequate, and seek God earnestly for the new provision and the new way that He has in mind for His people.
When God does a "new thing" in the earth it is really a progressive unveiling of what He had in mind from the beginning, but it is something NEW in manifestation in the earth. We always have those that resist anything "new"... they say God never does anything "new" that He hadn't done before. True, we have the SEED of everything that God would ever bring forth away back in time... even as far back as "Genesis." But in the outworking of His purposes there are constantly new horizons, new workings, new temples, new forms and structures, new workings of His Spirit... as He leads His people out of bondage and into the fulness of New Creation Life. "Behold the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them. Sing unto the LORD a new song, and his praise from the end of the earth" (Isaiah 42:9, 10).
There Is A New Song
God is declaring "new things"...and every time God declares a "new thing" there is a "new song" that accompanies that declaration. The new song of the Spirit that is being sung throughout the earth today is not the work of a few good musicians whose talents have found a new expression (though some might seek to capitalize on it)... but the new song of the Spirit is an accompaniment to the "new thing" that God is declaring concerning His people.
"O sing unto the LORD a new song: sing unto the LORD, all the earth..." (Psalm 96). It is the song that God gave David at the time of the dedication of the Ark of God on Mount Zion... and it concerned the "new thing" that God was doing then. But it was really prophetic of the "new thing" that God is doing now. It is the song of His Glory, the song of His Kingdom, the song of His righteous judgments in the earth.
There Is New Expectation
When Jesus was about to appear the first time we are told that all men were in "expectation." God puts that expectation there, because the brooding of the Spirit of God upon His people arouses that new life that is within the shell. The embryonic bird within the shell has that cramped, pressed feeling. It feels hampered, and hindered... and somehow knows there is something better... but it cannot see what it is. It is the Spirit of Life within that causes this cramped, pressed feeling... and the longing to be free is something that God puts there as He seeks to draw us into a realm of greater liberty and greater understanding of His ways and of His Truth. Without that longing. and that continual pecking away at the shell... we can never come into the liberty and joy of the new life. This continual pressure against the shell will eventually crack it wide open, but God is not in the least concerned about that. The shell was only intended as a protection against the elements during the formative stages of our growth. Necessary then... and perhaps for a while longer... but no longer necessary when the bird is fully formed, and comes forth in new life. Let us not get too concerned about the outward forms and framework of Church life and activity, or consider that all is lost when it begins to disintegrate. When the shell has been discarded, there is something else to take its place.
And what is that? A nest has been prepared to house the little birdlings, to shelter them from the elements as they are fed and nurtured and grow into maturity. But the nest, too, is just a temporary thing... for as the Law of Life continues to function in the growing bird, the old nest takes on less and less meaning. In fact, it is not long until it too becomes a cramped, dull, boring place to live. What is it that causes the bird to continue on, expectantly, in spite of the constant change, and the pressures they feel as they become more and more mature? It is the Law of Life within, which in turn produces new hope and new desire to be FREE. And so before long the nest itself, once a symbol of rest and security... becomes meaningless, and suddenly the bird begins to realize why there was so much discontent with the old forms and rituals that were associated with life in the shell and in the nest. Suddenly the bird discovers its true element... in the pure, unclouded atmosphere above. And now it begins to soar into its new environment... forever delivered from the shell and the nest, but moving in perfect order, and under perfect law (even the Law of Life)... and also IN PERFECT HARMONY WITH THE WHOLE CREATION OF GOD.
Let us not be too worried about the cracking of shells, and the tearing apart of nests. (On the other hand, you and I must not meddle with it either.) God has something NEW for His people; something far beyond anything we have known in Church life. No man has the pattern for it. The Great Architect and Builder alone knows the pattern, and the Holy Spirit (God's "Advocate" in the earth with His people) will bring it into glorious manifestation in His own way and in His own time. In the meantime let us continue to abide "under the shadow of the Almighty," even under the shelter of His wings. And be assured that if God permits the shells and forms of our Church activities to disintegrate, it is because He has something far better in mind, In His Divine ultimate, all God wants in the earth is a people BORN of the Spirit, FILLED with the Spirit, and WALKING in the Spirit.
There Is A New Crossing Over
First there was the crossing of the Red Sea, bringing the chosen people out of the bondage of the land of Egypt. But now there must he another crossing. Coming out of Egypt did not take Egypt out of them. The wilderness was intended to do that, if they submitted to God; not merely the "wilderness" as such, but God's dealings with them in the wilderness. But the older generation did not come to know God's ways, and the character of Egypt lingered with them to the end: The new generation, however, would go in all the way. For them there was to be a moving beyond the shell of wilderness life, into new realms of Canaan life. The priests of the LORD were to carry the ark forward, step by step into the Jordan, and stand in the bottom of Jordan while the people marched across. The people were very closely identified with the ministry... but only insofar as the ministry CARRIED THE ARK OF THE COVENANT. "When ye see the ARK OF THE COVENANT of the LORD your God, and the priests of the Levites BEARING IT, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it ("not them")" (Joshua 3:3). No man could look ahead of him and say, "Isn't Eleazar a wonderful priest! I'm sure if I follow Eleazar I'll make it!" Another couldn't say, "I've got every confidence in Ithamar... I'm going to be his disciple... I'm sure he would never lead me astray." The fact of the matter is, the Israelites could scarcely see these men, because they were at least half a mile down the road. All they could see was a CLOUD OF GLORY hovering over the Ark of the Covenant, and perhaps very faintly a company of moving objects that one would suppose were ordinary men. God warned the people that the priests and the ark were to be about 2,000 cubits on ahead of them SO THEY COULD SEE WHERE THEY WERE GOING. Do you realize that a lot of people in this day and hour who are excited about the "new thing" God is doing, do not really know where they are going because they are following flat on the heels of their idol-ministers? Only the sight of His GLORY can lead you and I in the right way. And besides, if Phinehas or Ithamar happen to stumble a bit, or carry on a bit of theological conversation that is really not relevant to the journey... nobody is caused to stumble because all they can see is the GLORY, and all they can hear is the Word of the LORD: "Sanctify yourselves; for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you... Behold, the ark of the covenant of the LORD of all the earth passeth over before you into Jordan..."
Surely God had disciplined the new generation, as He is seeking to discipline the new generation in our day. And one of the things that we must learn by hard discipline is that no man is anything, and no apostle or prophet is anything, and no pastor or teacher is anything... EXCEPT AS HE BEARS THE GLORY OF GOD UPON HIS SHOULDERS. And when the people began to cross over the Jordan, instead of stopping along the way to admire Eleazar and his wonderful sons who stood in the bottom of the river... they marched right on by, and left them standing there alone... and the people of the Lord entered into Canaan FIRST, even before the priests did! The priests, in the meantime, stood in the place of DEATH... perhaps they recalled how Nadab and Abihu had offered up strange fire before the LORD, and were consumed right on the spot. Here they stood in the place of DEATH... the waters piled high on each side of them... any moment they could be swept away if they were not diligent to obey the Word of the Lord.
Says Paul, "But we had the sentence of DEATH in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead" (2 Corinthians 1:9). And again, "For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death..." (1 Corinthians 4:9). And again, "For we which Live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you" (2 Corinthians 4:11, 12).
It is only as the ministry stands in the place of DEATH IN CHRIST, that the people of God may arise to walk in newness of life.
There Is A New Circumcision
The old generation had been circumcised, but the new generation that was born in the wilderness had not been circumcised. Circumcision signified a cutting away of the flesh... and the new generation must enter the land completely cut away from the old life of Egypt. They still carried the "reproach of Egypt"...which they inherited from their fathers. The old life still clung to them. The old generation couldn't shake it off, because they did not have the vision of the Land of Promise. How desperately men have tried to disentangle themselves from the old ways, the old habits, the old lusts... only to find themselves after every prayer meeting, after every deliverance meeting, after every visitation of His presence--much the same as they were before. We are not denying that we may experience a very sudden and a very definite work of the Spirit in our lives; but there is no such thing as "instant perfection." If there is not a heart that is open unto God, and desirous of going all the way with Him, even into the very fulness of the Life of Christ... sooner or later the old life will reappear, and will linger on.
But God has for His people a "new circumcision," to prepare us for a new life in God, and to "roll away the reproach of Egypt." Old Testament circumcision has its counterpart in New Testament baptism. "In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead" (Colossians 2:11, 12), But just as the REAL circumcision was an inward work, rather than an outward ordinance (Romans 2:29; Deuteronomy 10:16); so the REAL baptism goes far beyond the ordinance itself, and is in reality that inward work of the Spirit which completely cripples the old life, and nullifies the deeds of the flesh "by the circumcision of Christ." I think most of us are willing to admit that our experience in water baptism did not bring us into the reality of the Resurrection Life of Jesus. Nevertheless we testify to the fact in baptism; and we really must continue to embrace the truth of it until it becomes REALITY within us. And as the Body of Christ becomes vitally identified with the sufferings of Christ, we are going to experience also the power of His Resurrection Life.
Here they stood, a whole army of young men, on the Western banks of the Jordan... completely crippled because of the circumcision, and helplessly exposed to their enemies. Yet the fear of God was on the inhabitants of the land, and they were completely terrified. We must yet discover that it is in our absolute weakness and nothingness that we may expect to enter into the power and strength of His resurrection life, and he clothed upon with the whole armor of God.
There Is A New Food
"And the manna ceased on the morrow after they had eaten of the old corn of the land" (Joshua 5:12). The manna was a wilderness food, intended to prepare them for Canaan. It was sufficient for their every need in that realm. It was "spiritual" bread because it was given by God, to prove them, to try them, and to cause them to hunger... so that they might "know that man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD..." (Deuteronomy 8:3). The wilderness was a necessary area of discipline, by which God would prepare the people for life in Canaan. It was not intended as punishment, but as preparation. (It became punishment to those who refused to enter the Land, but it was preparation for those who would.) The manna which could not satisfy their appetite was intended to cause them to hunger after God. But for Canaan living they needed the "old corn of the land." In other words, it was "corn of the storehouse." It was PREPARED for them, and it grew right there in the Land. The Land speaks of our whole sphere of life in Christ in the heavenly realm... in the abiding realm of the Spirit. In the wilderness we remained in parched and dry places... with every provision for our need... but never really going anywhere, and never coming into anything permanent in God. Manna from above... water from the rock... healing when we needed it... the Cloud of His Presence in our midst to guide us and to protect us. But it still left us hungry and dissatisfied... or we should say, unsatisfied. In the Land we come into a prepared place... there is nothing in this realm that we can do by our own efforts. It is entirely the work of the Spirit; and because we are in union with the Spirit we are in union with the Son... doing only as He is doing... speaking only as He is speaking... thinking only as He is thinking. It is a place where we constantly ABIDE in the realm of the Spirit... flowing streams. brooks of water... fruitful vines and fig trees... corn and wheat and honey... houses built that we did not have to build, orchards planted that we did not have to plant. What a glorious day when the Body of Christ begins to enter into her heritage, and God's people begin to realize that we no longer work for God (for we are "co-workers with Him")... and we no longer launch crusades and programs for God... and we no longer build New Testament churches... and we discover that what God has in mind for His people has already been prepared by the Spirit of God in the earth, and we simply become JOINED UNTO HIM, and ABIDE IN THE LAND!
Jesus lived in this realm constantly, and in doing so He has shown us the Way... rather, He has BECOME the Way. That is why there was never any frustration, anxiety, or perplexity as He did the will of God. Everything was PREPARED. Of course, this was no push-button type of life... even for Jesus. He had to wait before God... pray long hours on the mountainside... learn obedience through the things He suffered.., bear the reproach of walking alone, and going against the established order of the day. But all this was the FOOD of His inheritance. "I have meat to eat that ye know not of...." Then, as the Father showed Him what He himself had prepared, the Son walked in it, and immediately the plan and purpose of God took on visible form and manifestation in the earth, and the Scriptures were fulfilled. How vastly different from the old ways of the Church, where we have taken the Scriptures and tried to make them work!
Of course, when God's people walk in this Way they will be recognized by the religious order as a strange, peculiar people... as it was with Jesus, If He would do the Father's will... then He must leave the big meetings, and go out of His way to talk to a woman in need at the Well of Samaria. It meant ignoring the pleas of His very close friends, as they implored Him to come and heal their brother Lazarus who was sick. It meant healing a man on the Sabbath Day... when He could just as well have waited till the next day so as not to antagonize the religious order of the day. It meant staying away from Jerusalem during the feast days, when He might have gone there as a miracle worker, and made a name for Himself. It meant setting His face to go to Jerusalem at the wrong time... when everyone knew that it would mean certain death. In short, it meant choosing the Cross according to the will of God, rather than taking His proper place as the Messiah. But He walked in the realm of a PREPARED LIFE... prepared by the Father, and as the Father showed the Son what He Himself was doing, these things did the Son likewise. Men only saw the visible form that came into being, and marvelled at His miracles, at His wisdom, at His teachings, at all the wonderful works that He performed. But the Father simply showed the Son what He Himself was doing in the realm of the Spirit; and because the Son was abiding in the Father, He simply walked through the Land that God showed Him, and brought into open manifestation what the Father had already accomplished.
It is not to be our concern, then, to establish New Testament Churches, and Church Government, or to get involved in any other good and worthy causes. This is the responsibility of the Holy Spirit, God's Advocate in the earth... to bring to pass in the earth what the Advocate at God's right hand has decreed. Whatever God has in mind will come into being in beautiful perfection, as we come into the Land, and partake of the "old corn," and WALK IN THE SPIRIT. That is why we pray, "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven..." His kingdom is sure, and steadfast, and very REAL... but it is IN THE HEAVENS. Our prayer is that it take on manifestation in our lives, and throughout the Body of Christ, and eventually in the whole earth.
There Is New Leadership
We might have mentioned this first in our list of "new things"... but we purposely left it till the last. For though Joshua was the new leader, and was appointed by Moses to succeed him after his death... Joshua must discover, just prior to the full-scale attack on the enemy that a greater than Moses, and a greater than Joshua, was to become the real leader.
God had already told Joshua, "Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people..." (Joshua 1:2). Moses' ministry was great and mighty, but he was identified with an old generation that would not obey God; and when his ministry was finished, and the new generation was ready, God removed him to make way for new leadership under Joshua. With great authority and power Joshua, the new leader, began to show the people the ways of the LORD, and to prepare them for this new day that was before them. God vindicated Joshua on every hand, and Joshua was magnified in the eyes of the people.
But before Joshua could begin the conquest of the Land he had to learn that having the Authority of God was not sufficient. He must learn that... after all was said and done... He was not really the new leader.
One day as Joshua was surveying the strongholds of Jericho, contemplating ways and means of taking the Land.., he noticed a strange personage standing nearby with a clenched sword in his hand. Boldly Joshua walked toward him and asked, "Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?" Joshua was in charge of the armies of Israel. What was this fellow doing there with a drawn sword in his hand? But the answer came back with a sudden rebuke: "Nay; but as Captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my Lord unto his servant? And the captain of the LORD'S host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so" (Joshua 5:14, 15).
"Dear Lord, grant unto Thy servants everywhere, whom Thou hast chosen to lead your people into the new realms of our heavenly heritage, such a direct, open confrontation with Thyself, that they shall know of a surety that Thou, O Lord, art alone responsible as the Captain of our Salvation, and as the Builder and Architect of your Church, to bring your people into the inheritance that Thou hast prepared for them. And grant that these Thy servants might be quick to remove the shoes from off their feet, that henceforth they might walk only in the shoes of Another. For only then will their leadership be valid. And only then will your people be assured of total victory."
What About The New Structure Of The Church
If there is to be a "new wineskin" for the "new wine"... what are we going to do about it? Let us just remind God's people everywhere that God will be as Sovereign in bringing forth the new wineskin as He was in bringing forth the new wine, and we do not have to meddle with it in any manner whatsoever. May we be openhearted before the Lord and come to realize for a certainty, that the Holy Spirit is dwelling in His Body as the living Presence of Christ Himself--not just to influence His servants with certain gracious impulses that will inspire them to fulfill the Word of God, but that He is indeed the SOVEREIGN LORD OF THE CHURCH. No matter how sincere the ministers of Christ may be, they are not going to persuade Him that they have the right pattern for the New Testament Church order, and that He should therefore come forth and crown their efforts with His blessing. The "Glorious Church" that Christ is bringing into being is as far different from the New Testament Church as the pumpkin fruit is from the pumpkin seed. True, they are one and the same in POTENTIAL. But in the formation of the pumpkin there are functions and laws that come into operation that were not relevant to the sprouting of the seed under the ground, or the formation of the flower on the vine. And yet in and through it all there is ONE LAW that remains in constant operation, and without any remission, namely, the LAW OF LIFE.
Now Christ was the true Seed, because He was the Word; and the Harvest is the end of the age, as Jesus said. So we may rest assured that we are now in the hour of the formation of the FRUIT. There has been ONE LAW functioning in the Body of Christ from its earliest beginnings until this day, namely, "The Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus." But throughout the whole process in these past 2,000 years there has been a continual changing of the form and structure of the plant itself; and all this has been entirely consistent with the LAW OF LIFE. True Life cannot submit to any kind of stereotypic pattern. And yet from almost the very beginnings of Church life, and right on through her long history... in times of apostasy and in times of refreshing and restoration... we have had Church leaders getting together and trying to maintain forms and structures that they feel Christ instituted in the beginning, or restoring others that were lost. In the midst of it all, the Spirit of God who is Sovereign Lord of the Church and Vicar of Christ on earth, simply ignores the efforts of men, and moves right on to perform exactly what the Son in Heaven has purposed.
Now we have come to the day of Harvest, and the "glorious Church" that God promised is about to come into being. Men continue to go about establishing patterns of government and Church structure that they feel they have discovered in the early Church, and therefore must be reinstated, And the Lord of the Church simply ignores it all, and moves on to fulfill what He has in mind. For every gardener knows that when that little pumpkin begins to take shape on the vine, he does not have to take some old discarded pumpkin shell and place it carefully over the little bud that has begun to form. to make sure it will know what shape it is supposed to take as it gets bigger and bigger. Somehow, the gardener knows that if he just waters it, and weeds the soil... and perhaps does a little pruning here and there... somehow he discovers that the pumpkin will take on beautiful form and structure without his tampering with it in any way. And he fully expects that the fruit of the harvest will be far more glorious than the seed which he planted... and so entirely different, that he couldn't begin to compare the two.
How can he be assured of this? It is really quite simple. He knows that the whole process is governed by THE LAW OF LIFE IN THE SEED. The seed must fall into the ground and die. He does not worry about that. He is prepared to allow the form of the seed to go into decay and disintegrate... he has confidence that whatever God's intention was when He made the seed, will come forth in beautiful manifestation in the FRUIT... yet far more glorious and more beautiful than the little kernel that was planted under the ground. Once we see this, we cease to worry about forms and patterns of Church structure; for then we are assured that Church government, as well as the framework and structure of Church life, is just as much subject to spiritual change and growth as any other aspect of the Kingdom of God. For God certainly gave us a pattern Son, but He never at any time gave us a pattern New Testament Church. However we do have in the New Testament God's intention for the ultimate New Testament Church, and it will yet come into being.
"That ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1 Corinthians 1:10). Now the Corinthian Church is by no means a pattern Church... but in Paul's letters to the Corinthian Church we do have the seed of God's intention!
"Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind" (Philippians 2:2). The Church at Philippi is not the pattern Church... but in Paul's epistle to Philippi we do have the seed of God's intention!
"...To know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with ALL THE FULNESS OF GOD" (Ephesians 3:19). The Church at Ephesus is not the pattern Church... but in Paul's letter to Ephesus we have the seed of God's intention!
"...That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be HOLY AND WITHOUT BLEMISH" (Ephesians 5:27). Again, we have the seed of God's intention!
"...Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not... he that doeth righteousness is righteous, EVEN AS HE is righteous" (1 John 3:6, 7).
"...He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love MADE PERFECT..." (I John 4:16, 17).
There it is in the Seed! And we could go on, and on, and on declaring God's intention as it is revealed in the Seed. It is not there in fulness in any New Testament Church, but it is there in the Seed! Therefore, rather than attempting to reconstruct the pattern of the seed, God's plan is that we simply PLANT the Seed in the hearts of men, if so be God will grant them grace to receive it and believe it, and embrace it... and then allow God to bring it forth in the fulness of time, in the fulness of His purposes, and in the glory and beauty of New Creation Life.
Let God's ministers everywhere save themselves the trouble and the frustration of trying to establish a New Testament Church in their community or anywhere else in the earth. God has something in mind far beyond anything we can imagine, or even contemplate. Every desire of God that He has expressed in the New Covenant will come to pass... for the New Covenant is simply the New Will that Jesus left for His people, and ratified it by His death on the Cross. The glorified Christ is now the Mediator of that Covenant, And the Holy Spirit is in the earth to be to the Church of Christ EVERYTHING that Jesus was when He was here, and to establish in the earth what the Son has decreed in the heavens.
Let us not approach the New Covenant as something we consider God has delegated to us, to mediate in the earth. We are simply to minister it, and declare it... as faithful ministers of the New Covenant. For as we come to recognize that the New Covenant is not just a compilation of apostolic letters and injunctions, but in reality a CREATIVE WORD that goeth forth out of the mouth of God, then you and I are relieved of any responsibility other than this: to walk in the Spirit, and to declare the Word that proceedeth alive and creative out of the mouth of God.
We are talking about what God is doing. We are talking about God's New Creation. We are talking about a Living Christ building a Living Temple, and breathing His own life into it, as truly as He breathed the breath of life into the nostrils of Adam... only on a much higher plane...
For the first Adam came from the earth... dust of the ground... and God breathed into him a life, soul-life, that would be sustained from the ground from which he came.
But the last Adam came from Heaven.., became a "Life-Giving" SPIRIT... He has "life in Himself"... and the power to impart it to others.
If we are assured that we are born of Adam, and have inherited his life, his soulish life... and the death that comes with it...
Is it too much for us to believe that if we are born-again in the Last Adam, we have inherited His Life, His Spirit-Life, and that His Life will yet come forth in the fulness of His image in His people?