I do not believe that the Lord originally thought of having a general Church, and then a special one within it; a general mass of believers, and then a company called ‘overcomers’ in the midst. That has never been the design of God. It is what we might call an emergency state of things, and is essential because of general failure. It seems to me that the very word ‘overcomers’ presupposes that there is failure somewhere. The Lord’s purpose for all His Church, as a vessel which nevertheless may only be realized in a few, is that it should maintain the testimony of a life which has conquered death, and will conquer death right to the end. It is a life question.
The Lord Jesus is constituted the great Witness upon the ground of the power of God which was exercised in Him when He was raised from the dead. Remember that the testimony of Jesus is always related to His being raised from the dead; that is, that He lives by a power which has conquered death. He is the Life on that ground, on that basis, in that sense, and those whom the New Testament approves as witnesses to Jesus are not those who talk the truth about Him, but are witnesses of His resurrection – that is, of course, in a spiritual way – witnesses to Christ as risen. The New Testament’s testimony of Jesus is that God raised Him from the dead and that He is alive for evermore. That is the essence of the testimony. Thus the whole question resolves itself into one of testimony in life, a testimony of life. It is not a testimony of doctrine in the first place, but a testimony of life. Is the flame burning as at the beginning, witnessing that Jesus lives and is triumphant, even over the dark, deadly background of this world? That is the question for the Lord’s people; the question for your life and for mine, and for every collective instrumentality.
I have not the slightest shadow of a doubt but that the issue of our day, of this hour in the Church’s history is, more than ever, the issue of life and death in a spiritual sense. There is a strange, deep, terrible sapping of vitality, mental and physical vitality as well as spiritual. Spiritual people, at least, know something of that. And lying at the back of it is the final conflict of this age. It is the spiritual issue of life and death.