In August, l931, on a Sunday afternoon, at the age of twenty-four, I was reading my Bible and the Lord spoke so clearly to me that the whole course of my life was changed. I had been very open to the Lord regarding my future, and the Lord met me in the words of Jeremiah 1:4-8a: “Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. Then said I, Ah, Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child. But the Lord said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. Be not afraid …” Jeremiah 1:9, “Then the LORD reached out His hand and touched my mouth and said to me, I have put my word in your mouth.” That’s what the Lord does. He eliminates what is unsuitable and He builds us for His own pleasure. And I believe He has been wonderfully, graciously building for His pleasure in my life. Verse 11-12, “The word of the LORD came to me:“What do you see Jeremiah? I see the branch of an almond tree, I replied. The LORD said to me, You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.” That is how the Lord suddenly fit the course for my life. And from that I knew that I was called. But I didn’t know where I was going. I had to wait still for the Lord to make that plain. The message of God to me that afternoon was so clear that I never doubted from that moment that I was set apart by the Lord for His service overseas.
Several years before—I was just a boy of seventeen—while sitting at home, I once said to myself, “If God ever called me for missionary service overseas, I would not want to have a missionary bungalow and be a man in charge of the work. I would rather want to identify myself with the local people.” That was my feeling at that time.
So, I had thought about missionary work before, but I was never confronted with the actual, clear, concise call for His service overseas. Now, I did not know what to do; what was the next step to be taken? Because I had led a sheltered life, hardly moving beyond my village, I was quite fearful.
During that year, two to three months before, I had attended a meeting in Forest Hill, South London, in a place called ‘Honor Oak Christian Fellowship Centre’. The spoken word was anointed and I had never heard anything like it before, nor had I ever been in such a place. It was wonderful! They met in a big tent in the garden. There were crowds of people and on the platform were three to four fine looking men. There were beautiful flowers and the singing was lovely. When somebody prayed, I thought, “Where is this coming from?” It was someone from the congregation standing up to pray. I never heard a man pray like that before! I listened to the message, but I could not understand. It was language I did not know before.
The message of that weekend was based on Galatians 2:20. “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.” The speaker was talking about the objective and subjective aspects of the cross. I did not even know the meaning of the words, but at the tea I said to somebody, “I did not understand anything, but there is something here for me.” And indeed there was! Before it was through, the Lord was through with me and I discovered what Christ did for me. He did not die in my place. I was put in Him that I should die with Him to the old and live with Him in a new way of life. It became very real to me. I had been a believer for ten years. I believed in Jesus, for the forgiveness of my sins, but I neither knew the victory, nor the victorious life at all. There were besetting sins still troubling me, like Paul, when he says, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” He discovered it and tells us that God put us in Christ. That which is true of Christ will be true in us. When Christ was crucified, we were crucified. And when Christ was buried, we were buried. We were all buried and we are now with Him in newness of life, resurrection life. Oh, how wonderful!
It was a turning point in my Christian experience from which I never went back. I was not at all perfect at that time; I still had to reckon myself dead indeed unto sin and alive unto God. Well, that was the start of my new experience as a believer in Christ.
Galatians 2:20 was a critical verse from my own experience. I was a born again, earnest and sincere Christian, but I didn’t know victory in my life and I needed deliverance from some persisting, besetting sin. The answer came that I hadn’t identified with the death of Christ myself. It was a fact that He died and that I had died in Him. “But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” So I realised that the teaching of Christ being our substitute only wasn’t sufficient. His death represented something much more than that. The gospel is more than Jesus dying for us. Christ being merely our substitute is intolerable; it is not legally permissible for somebody to die in our place; our dying in Him is legal. God’s righteousness had to be vindicated in the death of the sinner, so I have to be identified with the death of Christ; to reckon myself dead indeed unto sin and alive unto God. God would not be righteous if that were the remedy for our ruin: Christ taking all the blame and dying in our stead. No, to satisfy the law, the sinner must die. 2 Sam. 14:14 says, “For we must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground, …, yet doth He devise means, that his banished be not expelled from Him.”
When I realised all that I emerged into a fuller life and understanding. So I used this verse from Galatians a number of times, especially when there were baptisms for which I was responsible. Here is the explanation of our baptism—not only Christ dying for us, but also our dying in Christ and being raised again in newness of life. I am still grieved today when I hear the incomplete teaching of Christ dying instead of us.