"CHRISTIANITY is not character, but Christ." This utterance by President Woodrow Wilson of Princeton University, expresses at once the simplest fact and the profoundest philosophy of the Gospel. Christianity presents a sharp contrast to all other religions. For example, take Buddhism and Mohammedanism. Like Christianity they are missionary religions. But as religious systems they exist entirely apart from their founders. It is true that Buddha and Mohammed are worshipped by their respective devotees; but they have only a historic relationship to the religions which they founded. In no wise is Buddhism dependent upon Buddha, nor Mohammedanism upon Mohammed. With Christianity, however, exactly the opposite is true. Jesus Christ appeared in history, founded a religion, and is worshipped by His followers. Thus far Christianity is like Buddhism and Mohammedanism; but at this point the resemblance ceases. For while Buddha and Mohammed died, Jesus Christ lives. Moreover, Christianity is not like other religions, merely a body of teaching, nor a round of ceremonies; nor is it even a code of ethics. It has, indeed, a body of teaching, which is the sum of revealed truth; it has ceremonial rites, which are Divine ordinances; and it has a system of ethics, which is the highest in the world. But Christianity is more than doctrine, more than ordinances, more even than morality. In fact, as the term is commonly employed, Christianity is not a religion. It is a life. Its essential element is the vital union of the soul with God. Apart from the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, not merely as the historic Founder, but as the supreme Fountain of a new life of Divine knowledge, love, and power, Christianity would exist only in name. Take Christ from Christianity, and it would descend to the level of one of the religions of the world. Jesus Christ is the sum of all doctrine, the source of all virtue and the spring of all service. Hence, it is true that Christianity is Christ and Christ is Christianity.
Writing on this very point, in his little handbook on the Evidences of Christianity, Canon Row, of England, says: "Christianity differs from every other known religion in the fact that it is based on the person of its Founder. He is the sole foundation on which the church rests; the principle of its unity; the inspiring motive to holiness; the spiritual power which makes the Christian strong in the discharge of every duty; in a word, Jesus Christ may be said to constitute Christianity itself. In proof of this, I say, read your New Testaments and you will see that what I say is true. The Revised Version (my edition) consists of one hundred and ninety-four pages, and there are not five in which the sacred name does not occur, or is not directly alluded to, and in some it occurs twenty times. Of all the religions now existing in the world, Buddhism is said to number four hundred million, and Mohammedanism, over one hundred and twenty million votaries; yet if we were to strike the person of Sakya Mundi, the founder of Buddhism, and that of Mohammed, of Mohammedanism, out of their respective systems, their religions, as systems of religion, would remain intact. The same is true of Brahmanism, Confucianism, Zoroastrianism, and every other religion of the past or present. It is true even of Judaism, for the person of Moses might be removed out of it, but the system would remain intact. All these religions have had founders, but they have not one of them erected their systems on their own persons. But Christianity is so based on the person of its Founder that if we remove every reference to Jesus Christ out of the New Testament, the brief remainder becomes a mass of shapeless ruins."
As a life, Christianity may be defined as the union of the soul with Christ. This sublime truth finds symbolical representation and explicit statement in the New Testament.
There are five symbolic representations of this vital relationship:
I. The Architectural figure; or the relation existing between the foundation and the building.
"And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone;
"In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord:
"In whom ye are also builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit" (Ephesians ii. 20-22.)
"Rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving." (Colossians ii. 7.)
"To whom coming as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God and precious,
"Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." (I. Peter ii. 4, 5.)
With these passages the reader may also compare Psalm cxviii. 22, and Isaiah xxviii. 16.
Jesus Christ is the foundation; and His people are the building. The key which interprets the spiritual meaning of this symbol is Inhabitation, or Indwelling. The occupant of the temple of believers is the Holy Spirit.
"And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (II. Corinthians vi. I6.)
II. The Marital figure; or the relation existing between husband and
"Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that ye should bring forth fruit unto God." (Romans vii. 4.)
"For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy; for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." (II. Corinthians xi. 2.)
"For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
"This is a great mystery; but I speak concerning Christ and the Church." (Ephesians v. 31, 32.)
"Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to Him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready." (Revelation xix. 7.)
"And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let Him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." (Revelation xxii. 17.)
Christ is the Husband; and His people constitute His bride. The key which interprets the spiritual meaning of this symbol is mystic love. The Old Testament abounds in allusions to this relationship between Jehovah and Israel. Read, for example, Song of Songs, and see also Hosea ii. 14-23. The result of this holy relationship between Christ and the believer is the fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians v. 22, 23.)
III. The Vegetable figure; or the relation existing between the vine and the branches.
The beautiful allegory of the vine and the branches in John xv. 1-16, is an unfolding of this vital union between Christ and the believer. It should be very carefully studied. Read also Romans xi. 17-24.
"For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection." (Romans vi 5.)
"As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him; rooted and built up in Him, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving." (Colossians ii. 6, 7.)
Christ is the true Vine; and His people are the spiritual branches. The key which interprets the spiritual meaning of this symbol is Fruitfulness. Read Psalm lxxx, and Isaiah xxvii. 2, 3.
IV. The Physical figure; or the relation existing between the Head and the body.
"Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of a harlot? God forbid. What! Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? (I Corinthians vi. 15, 19.)
"For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular." (I. Corinthians xii. 12, 27). The whole passage-vs. 12-27-will repay careful study.
"And hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the Head over all things to the Church,
"Which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all." (Ephesians i. 22, 23.)
"But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ." (Ephesians iv. 15.)
"For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth it and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the Church;
"For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones." (Ephesians v. 29, 30.)
Christ is the Head; and the Church is the body. The key which interprets the spiritual meaning of this symbol is Completeness and Mutual Dependence and Administration. In I. Corinthians xii. 12, there is a striking expression: the Church is called Christ.
V. The Racial figure; or the relation existing between Adam and Christ.
In the fifth chapter of Romans, verses twelve to twenty-one, a historic and doctrinal parallel is drawn by the apostle Paul between Adam and Christ. To understand this passage is to be well grounded in the doctrines of sin and grace.
"For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.
"And as we have borne the image of the earthy; we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." (I. Corinthians xv. 22, 45, 49.)
Adam is the head of the natural race; and Christ is the Head of the spiritual race. The key which interprets the spiritual meaning of this symbol is Representation, or what is called in theological language, "Federal Headship."
Then there are in the New Testament a number of explicit statements of this vital union between Christ and the believer. For example, believers are said to be in Christ and Christ is said to be in believers.
"At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in Me, and I in you." (John xiv. 20.)
"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me." (John xv. 4.)
Again, both the Father and the Son are said to be in the believer.
"Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love Me, he will keep My words; and My Father will love him and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him." (John xiv. 23.)
Christian experience, in its varied phases, may be expressed in terms of the believer's union with Christ. For example, Conversion is the sinner's turning to God in repentance and faith to be united to Christ. Justification is the new standing which the believer has through union with Christ. Regeneration is the new life which is imparted to the believer through union with Christ. And Sanctification is the purity and maturity of the believer's life through union with Christ.
Some essential characteristics of the believer's union with Christ may be mentioned:
First, it is organic.
In Ephesians v. 30, we read: "For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones."
Second, it is vital.
In Galatians ii. 20, we read: "I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me."
Third, it is spiritual.
In I. Corinthians vi. 17, we read: "But he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit."
Fourth, it is mysterious.
In Colossians i. 27, we read: "To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles which is Christ in you, the hope of glory."
Fifth, it is eternal.
In John x. 28, we read: "And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand."
This supreme fact of the essential connection between Christ and Christianity, on the one hand, and of the vital union between the believer and Christ, on the other hand, finds expression in the simple watchword of the Christian and Missionary Alliance: "Christ our Saviour, Sanctifier, Healer, and Coming Lord." This familiar phrase is popularly called "The Fourfold Gospel." The Alliance has neither formal creed nor official confession of faith, so called; it has not felt the need of one. For it is in substantial accord with evangelical truth; and in common with the various denominations accepts the great body of Protestant theology. By this we mean such fundamental doctrines as: The verbal inspiration of the Holy Scriptures as originally given, the Deity and vicarious atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, the lost condition of the sinner, the necessity of the new birth, the personality and deeper life of the Holy Ghost, the evangelization of the world, the second coming of the Lord, the eternal salvation of those who believe in Christ and the everlasting punishment of those who reject Him.
But the Alliance has a special calling and a distinctive testimony. This finds expression in the simple and popular statement of "The Calling and Work of the Alliance."
"Pre-eminently we are witnesses to Christ. We are glad to testify to Him before we speak of any of His blessings or gifts to men. It is Christ as a Person, as a living reality, as the supreme fact of history and life, Jesus Himself, Who is the theme of our testimony. Soon He is to appear in the vivid and glorious revelation of His personal majesty, filling all earth and heaven. But meanwhile He is projecting His personality upon the age, upon the thought and heart of His people, and upon our individual lives, and He wants us to know Him, to represent Him and to reveal Him to men. Above everything else this is a Christ movement. If we are saved it is Christ Who saved us. If we are sanctified it is Christ Who is made unto us sanctification. If we are healed it is because His life is in us. And the hope of the future is not the glory He is to reveal, but the return of our King Himself, our Beloved and our Friend."
To give salvation to the sinner; to make Christ real to the believer; to present Christ in His fulness through the power of the indwelling Holy Ghost as the complete satisfaction of every need of spirit, mind, and body; to give Christ and the riches of His grace to the heathen world:-this is our special calling and distinctive testimony. In a word, the mission and message of the Christian and Missionary Alliance is to proclaim neglected Scripture truth and to prosecute neglected Christian work both at home and abroad:-- "to give the whole Gospel to the whole world."
From the beginning it has been the spirit of our movement not so much to preach doctrine as to preach Christ. The aim has been to avoid the controversial side of disputed questions, and to present "the fulness of Jesus" for Christian life and service. Take, for example, the second part of our attractive watchword: "Christ our Sanctifier." This phrase expresses at once the simplest fact and the profoundest philosophy of holiness. On this supremely important theme it is our mission and our message to present the living Lord, Who is "made unto us sanctification." So far as possible we leave the plane of theory and rise to the simple and sublime truth of the indwelling Christ. We do not, therefore, emphasize inner states and subjective experiences as much as we emphasize the Lord. We do not magnify the blessing; we magnify the Blesser. We do not talk about "it" but about "Him."
A story is told of a London clergyman who visited a woman in trouble about her soul. She could not understand the way of faith. The minister noticed that she was in destitute circumstances; and giving her sixpence, he asked her what she could get with it. "Why, sir," replied the woman, "I can get a penny-worth of bread, a pennyworth of butter, a pennyworth of tea, a pennyworth of coals, a ha'pennyworth of sugar, a ha'pennyworth of wood, a ha'penny candle,-and then I shall have a ha'penny left." "But how," inquired the clergyman, "can you get so much for so little?" "You see, sir," responded the woman, "it's all in the sixpence." "Well, but how," he asked, "did you get the sixpence?" "Why, sir," she said, "you gave it to me, and I took it." Then the minister said: "My good woman, God is offering you Jesus Christ, just as I offered you the sixpence. Will you not take His gift just as you took my six-pence? If you will accept Christ, you will find that just as the food, the warmth, and the light are all in the sixpence, so all you need is in Him."
But while emphasizing the indwelling Christ, our Alliance has always clearly and unmistakably stood for "a real genuine experience of righteousness of heart and life." In the language of one of our official leaflets this means "a testimony of a life of holiness, a mighty complete inworking of the grace and power of God, sufficient to overcome the power of sin, to lift us above the dominancy of self, to fill us with the Spirit of God, and to reproduce in us the very life of Christ Himself. It (this testimony) meets the hunger of a great multitude of weary, dissatisfied and defeated lives, who are asking, 'Is there not something better than this old round of sin and failure? Is there not as much power in our Christ to keep us now as there will be some day to glorify us in heaven beyond?' And we tell them that 'He is able to save unto the uttermost all that come unto God by Him.' But we are not too fastidious about phases and phrases if there be real genuine experience of righteousness of heart and life; but we love to emphasize the Christ side of holiness; not self perfection, not the restoration of what Adam lost, but a Divine life-union with God, the nature of Jesus Himself, the indwelling and overcoming power of the Holy Spirit; not as the result of a slow and toilsome struggle, but as the free gift of grace bestowed upon every surrendered and believing heart."
Sanctification is not a garment to conceal unrighteousness. It is not a veneering to hide a life spiritually untransformed. Sanctification means renewed character and righteous conduct. It involves a radical revolution in personality. There is a change in the temper of the mind, in the disposition of the heart, and in the bent of the will. But the blessing of a clean heart is inseparable from the possession of the clean heart by the Holy Ghost. Without His presence the cleansing of the temple would not be permanent. Sanctification is not ours apart from the person of Christ. We are holy only as we are in vital union with the Holy One. When we get Him, we get everything in Him. "He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things." (Romans viii. 32.) Thus our watchword for a holy life and a fruitful ministry is:
"Everything in Jesus, and Jesus everything."