Line Upon Line...
NCW 31, March 1996:
Answering the Third Rebellion
Q. The New Covenant Church teaches that God reveals Himself "line upon line, precept upon precept." But surely that is the way the false churches teach? God can reveal His fullness whenever He wants to and the problem is us. If we truly believe the Gospel, then we can receive the fullness at once. Isaiah said it was the apostate Israelites who taught "line upon line", not God! (Isa.28:10,13).
This is not correct. If you read the text carefully you will see that the apostate Jews and Israelites, who were drunkards (Isa.28:1), were mocking the prophet for "telling them over and over again, a line at a time and in such simple words!" (v.10, Living Bible). There is no criticism here by the Lord that the prophet is doing wrong, only by the rebels! Anyone who has spoken to a drunk knows that it is impossible to have a conversation with him because he has a virtually non-existent attention span. You have to repeat simple things over and over again, and more often than not you are wasting your time. You cannot reason with a drunk.
This picture is so true for our spiritually drunk world today too. Even the simplest truths are hard for the unspiritual to grasp, and like the ancients, they say: "Who does Isaiah think he is, to speak to us like this! Are we little children, barely old enough to talk?" (v.9, LB). Most people, because they resist the truth, can only be taught "line upon line", and that, in my experience, includes those of us who call ourselves Christians, because we are so deeply influenced by the world's way of thinking and doing things.
For those who will not hear the truth, because they are so inebriated, the Lord has only one recourse: "...they won't listen; the only language they can understand is punishment" (v.11, LB). As God sent the Assyrians to punish the stout hearts if the Israelites, so He sends serious problems to those who stubbornly resist His Spirit today. He has said: "(The people) could have rest in their own land if they would obey Him, if they were kind and listen to Him. So the Lord will spell it out for them again, repeating it over and over in simple words whenever He can; yet over this simple, straightforward message they will stumble and fall and be broken, trapped and captured" (v.12-13, LB).
The world does not have rest. They reject the simple truths of the Gospel as "childish" and too "unsophisticated" for them -- they mock it. For them, the cross of Christ is "foolishness". Therefore we must repeat the simple truths over and over again, tiring though it may be. Eventually it sinks into some, and they may be saved.
These principles, however childish they may sound to the worldly, are the only things that will bring them freedom and happiness. They are the elementary principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the foundation stone laid in Zion, a tested stone, "a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: 'He who believes will not be in haste'" (v.16, RSV). He who believes "will never run away again" (Ibid., LB).
The experience of life, quite apart from what the Lord has already stated in Scriptures, has taught me that we learn gradually. Though people have been taught deep and precious truths in this Church they rarely absorb it all at once. One elder, who has been with this Church for nearly a decade, told me the other day that only now is he beginning to understand the revelations received by this Church on love, called the New Olive Leaf Revelations. Though he has read the words a hundred times, only now are they beginning to be written on his heart by the pen of the Spirit.
Though the Lord most certainly imparts great flashes of knowledge to us suddenly, by and large a slow, gradual learning process is the rule for believers. It takes time to learn and God, and so in His wisdom and desire not to overwhelm us with what we cannot manage, administers the Gospel Light in small doses that we are able to bear. Remember Paul. Though he received a revelation of Jesus Christ out in the desert on the Damascus Road, this was a not the fullness of his knowledge of Christ. It was but an induction -- dramatic and sudden -- but only an induction. He had to spend many, many years alone in solitary communion with the Lord in his home town of Antioch, thinking over what he had learned as a Pharisee in the new context of Jesus as the Messiah. He learned line upon line, precept upon precept. Only when he had reached a certain threshold of knowledge did God send him out as an apostle. And even then, he continued to learn, to his dying day. And so it is with us.
I received two sudden and dramatic revelations of Christ in my life -- the first time in a Buddhist meeting when He revealed Himself to my mind as the Son of God, and the second time to my heart when I prayed to know what to do with my life. They were major quantum leaps in my knowledge of the Saviour. And whilst I have had many other dramatic experiences since, none have been of quite the same magnitude, and most have been of the gradual learning variety. And this, I have discovered, is the common pattern amongst most Christians, and by no means to be despised. For I have also discovered that that which is learned gradually, line upon line, is far more durable. Like rocks which can be formed by sudden great pressure (as when carbon is squeezed to make diamond) or cooling (as in larva under the sea), spiritual testimonies are mostly like sedimentary rocks which are formed by gradual pressure over a long time.
I do not believe we have any right to stand in judgment of how God works within individuals, whether slowly (line upon line) or suddenly (as in dramatic visions or theophanies). We do not see all the picture in this life in any case, for "we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror. Now (we) know in part; then (in the heavenly worlds) (we) shall know fully, even as (we are) fully known" (1 Cor.13:12, NIV). It is enough to know that God reveals Himself and guides all those who are willing to be guided by Him. I will not categorise people by the type of experiences they have. What matters to me -- and to the New Covenant Church -- is the spirit that forms within a soul. All have come to the Path from different directions and side-roads; that we are on it and walking One Way is enough for us.
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Last updated on 8 May 1998
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