Should our Faith be entirely Centred in Christ?

The following paragraph is taken from a statement made by the Bishop of Birmingham regarding the return of Mr. R.J.Campbell to the Anglican church.

"A friend of mine said to me in London the other day that I was taking away a man who had a unique congregation which could not well be held together by any other personality. I am sure that is a strong argument in favour of removing Mr. Campbell from the City Temple. There is something dangerous, both to preacher and to people, in such a situation. Even our Lord Himself felt that it was expedient for Him to go away, because the Spirit had to come and show that religion should not be too much centred upon an individual."

We have emphazised the last sentence, as it is to that that we wish to call attention. With the first part of the Bishop's argument we are in hearty agreement. Even when a preacher preaches the truth of God, which Mr. Campbell has not done, there is always the danger of the people becoming more engrossed with the man than with his message, and of attention being centred upon the servant instead of upon his Master. Against this result of his ministry every true servant of God will labour and pray. There lived a quaint old preacher in Yorkshire who used to hide himself in the box-like pulpits of his day and cry, "Not the man in the pulpit, but the Man upon the Cross!" Good! The spirit of that preacher was right in spite of his eccentricities. John the Baptist stands out as a great example in this respect. He saw the multitude forsaking him and going after the One to whom he had borne witness on the banks of Jordan, and his glad comment was, "This my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:29-30). Yes, the servants of Christ must watch against the ever-present danger of the people to whom they minister leaning upon them instead of upon the Lord Himself.

But what can the Bishop mean by citing the Lord Himself as an instance of the avoidance of the danger of which he speaks? We are loath to think that he would so dishonour the Lord as to imply that it would have been wrong for the disciples to have become wholly engrossed with Him, and that to avoid this danger He felt it expedient that He should go away. But if that is what he does mean, and that is certainly what he says, it is a disgraceful thing that such an extraordinary statement should have been uttered by one professing to be a guide to other Christians. If he had read his text with its context he would have discovered that one of the chief reasons for the coming of the Holy Spirit, who could not come until the Lord Jesus had gone to the Father, was, not that they should be less engrossed with Christ, but that their faith and love and life might be altogether centred in Him, and that intelligently. Hear the Lord's own words with regard to the coming of the Holy Spirit, "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceeds from the Father, HE SHALL TESTIFY OF ME" (John 15:26). "HE SHALL GLORIFY ME: for He shall receive of mine, and shall show it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore said I, that He shall take of Mine, and shall show it to you" (chap. 16:14-15). The Holy Ghost is here to make everything of Christ.

Satan endeavours by every means available to him to corrupt the minds of the saints of God from the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Cor. 11:3), and to turn them from Him as the one Lord, who only has the right to command their faith and dwell supremely in their hearts. For this purpose he transforms himself into an angel of light and his ministers also as ministers of righteousness. And it is not the open hostility of the unbeliever who denies Christ entirely that threatens the faith of the saints so much as the subtle suggestions on the part of those who profess to own Him, that He must not be everything to them; that something else is necessary to make their "religion" complete.

We call attention to this statement, not to occupy our readers with it, or to make the Bishop an offender for a word, and we would gladly believe that he meant other than he says; but in contrast to his statement we want to emphasize the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ is everything in the true faith. He was meeker and more lowly of mind than any of His servants; He did not seek to be served by any but to serve all, and yet He ever set Himself before those who heard Him as the one test for all, and the only Blesser. He did not merely say, as, perhaps, in measure His servants can say, "I tell you the truth," but "I AM THE TRUTH" (John 14). He did not say, "Follow My words," but "FOLLOW ME." He did not say to His disciples, "What do men think of My mission?" or, "What do you think about it?" But "Whom do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" and, "But whom say ye that I am?" His challenge to His adversaries was, "What think ye of Christ?" And to the toiling multitudes He cried, not "Follow the truth," or even, "Believe My words and find rest," but, "COME UNTO ME … AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST." Yes, He claimed a place in the faith and thoughts and lives of men which would have been most awfully blasphemous if it had been done by Peter, or James, or John, or by any other man of Adam's countless race.

But may not all this have changed since His departure to the Father and the coming of the Holy Spirit to earth, as the Bishop's statement seems to imply? The heart that is true to the Lord shrinks from the very suggestion, and all Scripture gives the lie to it. In THE ACTS He was the great theme of the apostles' testimony, and they declared, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (chap. 4:12).

ROMANS tells us that the gospel of God is "concerning His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord" (chap. 1:1-3).

1 CORINTHIANS closes with the solemn words, "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha" (chap. 16:22).

2 CORINTHIANS reveals the fact that Satan, the god of this world, endeavours to blind the minds of men, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine into them. And the apostles preached not themselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, in whose face there shines the glory of the knowledge of God (chap. 4:4-6).

And so we might go throughout the Epistles and to the end of the Scriptures. From the Word the Spirit-taught reader learns that Christ is everything and in all. Every purpose of God and every true hope for man hangs upon Him. In Him the believer is blessed with every spiritual blessing, outside of Him there is nothing but darkness, and judgment, and loss. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.

If ours is that religion that is "true and undefiled," our faith is centred upon Christ, He is the object of our affections, our lives are under the influence of His love, we are controlled by Him as Lord, He is our pattern for service below; we "visit the widow and the fatherless in their affliction and keep ourselves unspotted from the world" because in these things His life is reproduced in us below.