"His Fullness"

Notes of an address at High Leigh, August 23, 1931

"And of His fullness have all we received, and grace upon grace."

It may be that at these meetings questions will be raised in your hearts: questions as to your past, questions as to your present mode of living, questions as to your future, of what you shall do with your lives, and how and where you shall serve the Lord to whom you belong. Some of you may have sleepless nights through exercise of heart about these questions, but don't be afraid of that, the deeper your exercises are the greater the blessing, if they turn you wholly to the Lord Jesus, for you will find in His fullness an answer to every perplexity, and every question. I will read to you my text in its connection, omitting the parenthesis in verse 14 and the testimony of John the Baptist in verse 15. "The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. And of His fullness have all we received, and grace upon grace." What does it mean? It is the limitless sea of divine grace flowing in upon the shore of human need, wave upon wave, filling up every inlet and creek and cave; and all it looks for is room for its blessedness. It is the fullness of the Godhead brought down to us in Jesus, for in Him it pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell, and the fullness dwelt in Him, and still dwells in Him for you, for "in Him (who is your Saviour) dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." You have not a need that He cannot meet, there is not a crevice in your heart that He cannot fill. Will you be humble enough and sincere enough to receive from Him?

The penalty and the power of sin

I have found that if I wanted the explanation of a great saying at the beginning of any book in the Bible I had only to search that particular book for it, and I believe we find in John's Gospel what His fullness, grace upon grace, means. If any one of you are troubled about the past, if your sins lie upon your conscience, an intolerable load, I would ask you to consider verse 29 of our chapter, "Behold the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world." This is the first public testimony that was borne to Jesus as He appeared among the multitudes of men, and it is as the Lamb of God that you must first make His acquaintance. This is the beginning of His fullness for you, the first wave of it, that can sweep away your sin-caused misery, and deliver you from the burden and penalty of your sins for ever. Dwell upon the title that is given to Him here. He is the Lamb of God, and that marked Him out at the beginning of His public pathway for suffering and death. His life of service to men and God was to reach its climax at the cross. He was to die there as a sacrifice for sin. And He set Himself steadfastly to reach that predicted end. Nothing could turn Him from it, for apart from His death His fullness could never have reached you, you could never have been saved. But now you may know that He bore your sins in His own body on the tree, that He was wounded for your transgressions and bruised for your iniquities. Weary, heavy-laden sinner, "Behold the Lamb of God," and just as Bunyan's pilgrim lost the burden that was bound upon his back when he came to the place where stood a cross, so shall you lose yours. You shall be saved from the penalty of your sins.

But there is more, the grace flows, wave upon wave, hence in verse 33 we read, "the same is He that baptizeth with the Holy Ghost." He removes the penalty of sin and He also breaks its power. And I believe I am right in saying that there are some of you here who, while being quite sure that you have been delivered from the penalty of sin, are still sighing, it may be secretly, under its power. You are slaves who should be free. His fullness can set you free and nothing else can. If you have believed the gospel, He has given to you the Holy Spirit, who dwells in you. "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? For ye are bought with a price." The price is the blood of the Lamb, and now He has taken possession of that which He has purchased by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and it is by the Spirit that His fullness will reach you, setting you free from the power of sin.

Let us consider this. How is it brought about? I know, from my own experience, that the usual thought in a young Christian's mind is that he must grapple with his sin as one would grapple with a huge snake that held him in its coil, and he hopes and believes that the Holy Spirit has come to aid him in this struggle and give him final victory, and because he can see nothing beyond this notion, and is taught nothing beyond it, he struggles in vain, until in despair he cries out, "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me?" And that is the point of victory to which you will speedily come, I trust. The Holy Spirit must stand by, if I may use the expression, and wait until that point is reached. But when you lie a helpless, wretched soul, admitting defeat, and emptied of all your self-confidence, you are ready for His fullness, wave upon wave.

Mark the fact, that following the announcement that the Lamb will baptize with the Holy Ghost, we have "the next day after," when "John stood and two of His disciples, and looking upon Jesus as He walked, he says, Behold the Lamb of God! And the two disciples heard Him speak, and they followed Jesus." John was entranced and bore witness to the One whose glory filled his vision, and his testimony was used by the Spirit to send these two men after Jesus. Here lies the secret of deliverance from the power of sin — your heart must have an object that will carry your thoughts and desires outside yourself, and Jesus is the only One worthy and able to do this. The great work of the Holy Ghost is not to give you extraordinary gifts or great power that will make you famous, but to fill your thoughts with your Saviour's grace and glory; He has come to take of the things of Christ and show them to you. An unsatisfied and selfish heart can never be free from the power of sin; and this question of freedom from sin's power is a heart question. You need to learn what is meant by, "the expulsive power of a new affection"; then you will be able to say, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord."

The world and its spell

I pass on to chapter 4 where the story is told of a woman who had come under the spell of the world, and it had disappointed and degraded her. Hers, up to that hour, had been an unsatisfied life, and she had been the sport of the devil. With weary foot she carried her pitcher to Jacob's well on that mid-day as usual, a solitary sinner, shunned by all who knew her. But what a day that was to be for her! Jesus was there before her, for her sake He had journeyed into Samaria, and there He waited for her. What a difference that short interview with the Lord made to her! It changed her and sent her running to the men of the city, saying, "Come and see a Man… the Christ." He was a Man; as to that there could be no question, for He was thirsty and hungry and weary, but this man was the Christ. Her eyes had been opened to see what others could not discern who looked not at Him by faith, and her heart also had been opened and of His fullness she had received. "Do you mean to tell us," those men would say, "that He talked with you?" "Yes," she would answer. "You would not talk with me, you all shunned me, and I do not wonder at it now, and no Jew would have dealings with me, but He sat by my side out yonder and did not make me afraid, but He talked with me until my misery gave way to hope, and hope to joy; even His disciples marvelled at it, and I marvelled more than they." "But He did not know you; if He had known you, He would not have talked with you," they would say. "Not know me?" she would answer. "Why He knew me through and through and yet He did not spurn me. He told me all things that ever I did."

But what was it that He had said to her that had changed her so? Not the exposure of what she was, but the revelation of His fullness. Listen to His words, for they are the words of eternal life. "Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst, but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." What an arresting word! Yes, but a true word, and the word of Him who spake as never man spake. The world cannot satisfy any human heart, nothing can but the fullness of God; but that fullness is in Christ and HE GIVES IT. He has not came to us demanding what we could never give, but giving, and He gives without stint, grace upon grace. See how He proposed to raise her from a degrading search for happiness in a world that can never give it, to God Himself whom she had altogether forgotten. His gift of living water was not only to satisfy her, but was to spring up within her to its source; to the region from which it had come, to God Himself. This was something more than freedom from the power of sin, it was the creature put in right relations with God the Creator, but God revealed, not now in His power, as when He made the worlds, but in His love as Father who sent His Son to be the Saviour of the world, for the Father seeks worshippers.

The Failure of Organized Religion

We come now to chapter 7, and here there is exposed another side of the world. It is not its gross and degrading side, but its religious side. It was on the last great day of the greatest religious feast in the Jewish calendar that Jesus stood and cried, "If any man thirst, let him come to Me, and drink. He that believes on Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." The Lord looked upon the weary faces of those zealous religionists, and into their hearts. He knew how empty of blessing were all their forms and ceremonies and how obnoxious to God was all their ritual. He had watched them throughout that feast and waited for the last great day of it, and then He presented Himself instead of all that that had disappointed them, "COME UNTO ME," He cried. How magnificent is His offer and how blessed must be His fullness who makes it. He does not speak of a river, but of rivers, and rivers of living water! and these not flowing in but flowing out — flowing out to a barren, polluted, sin-burdened and disappointed world. And the only qualification is thirst, "if any man thirst, let him come to Me." There are many who are trying organized religion in these days. Ritualism makes its appeal to them, but it is a dead and barren thing; there are no living waters in it, it leaves the soul unsatisfied and unsaved, while it gratifies the senses and deadens the conscience. You may not have been attracted by that sort of thing, but do you thirst? Have you been trying to satisfy yourself with going to meetings, and a humdrum round of religious duties? Do you feel that your life is not the life that the Bible describes, that there is a lack in it, and that consequently you are not happy yourself nor the blessing to others that you desire to be? Here is the answer and remedy. "COME UNTO ME." Remember the words "His fullness," and you will come with great expectation. Take His own words to Him, and say, "Lord Jesus, these words are Your words. I have not yet realized their meaning, but I come to You and ask You to make them real to me."

Search no longer in your own heart for anything to satisfy you and bless others. "Come to Me." Turn not to religious ceremonies. "Come to Me." Do not trust in gifted men, or in conferences, Scriptural literature, or correct ecclesiastical position. "COME UNTO ME." Have personal dealings with Christ. Drink of His fullness and the waters will flow out from you. In your home and at your work, when you teach in the Sunday-school class or stand up to bear witness to the world of your Saviour, in life and testimony, day by day, hour by hour, RIVERS OF LIVING WATER!

Come, then, to Him, and say —
"Oh, fill me, Jesus, Saviour, with Thy love,
Lead, lead me to the living fount above,
Thither may I in simple faith draw nigh,
And never to another fountain fly,
But to Thee."

What shall we do?

There are two Old Testament Scriptures that I will refer to in closing, to illustrate the exercise and diligence that are necessary on our side. In 2 Kings 3 three kings and their armies were on the verge of death from thirst, there was no water for man or beast. But God's prophet, His representative in the midst of the land, appeared, and being the prophet of grace, he brought in God's fullness for the need of that host. He said, "Thus says the Lord, Make this valley full of ditches. For thus says the Lord, Ye shall not see wind, neither shall ye see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, that ye may drink, both ye, and your cattle, and your beasts. And it came to pass in the morning, when the meat offering was offered, that, behold, there came water by the way of Edom, and the country was filled with water." God alone could send the water, but they had to make room for it; to dig channels for it, and remove everything that would hinder it from flowing into the valley. And here is your side of the questions. Some of you have longed for a deeper knowledge of the fullness of Christ, but you have not longed enough to dig the ditches. There are things that are hindering the inflow of the waters, and you know what they are, and if you don't, and will carry David's prayer to God — "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Ps. 139) — He will show you what the hindrances are. Then in the energy of the grace that He gives, arise and get rid of them. "Make the valley full of ditches." At the time of the morning sacrifice the waters flowed. That sacrifice spoke in figure of the preciousness of Christ to God, and it is as we appreciate Him, and are prepared to count other things but dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Himself, that a new morning begins for us and the waters begin to flow.

There is another necessity, and this we see illustrated in Ezekiel 47. It is the story of the river of blessing that flowed from the house of God, and into which the prophet was led step by step, until he found it to be waters to swim in, unfathomable and shoreless. But he could not have gone into those waters if he had not kept in company with the man who held the measuring line. This man was a figure of the Holy Spirit, "who searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God" (1 Cor. 2:10). He it is that "will guide you into all truth" (John 16:13). The fullness must flow into us, we must make room for it and receive it wave upon wave, and we are to be led into it also, and the Spirit of God is the only one who can lead us into it, hence we must heed the exhortation, "And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed to the day of redemption" (Eph. 4:30). May every one of us be able to say with full hearts and radiant faces, "Of His fullness have all we received, and grace upon grace," for His Name's sake.