The Complete Green Letters is a compilation of five small books written by Miles J. Stanford espousing the identification and positional truths found mainly in the epistles of Paul. This is a valuable work, especially in light of the fact that identification truths are seldom taught today. There are a great number of books in print dealing with Christian living that make little or no mention of our position in Christ and how it affects our daily walk. Stanford’s work goes a long way towards filling that gap, and in the process refocuses the readers’ thinking. This is a book that is well worth our attention. The following quote catches the essence of what this volume is all about, “Let us cease laying down to the saints long lists of ‘conditions’ of entering into the blessed life in Christ; and instead, as the primal preparation for leading them into the experience of this life, show them what their position, possessions, and privileges in Christ already are” (p.27). Amen!
Nevertheless, I would express three major concerns. First, Stanford is a strong supporter of the Keswick Convention teachings. The Keswick Convention laid heavy stress on identification and position, with which we are in agreement. But somehow the teaching evolved into a “Let Go and Let God” mentality. Stanford (in personal correspondence with me) denies that this is his view, but I fail to see otherwise in many places in The Complete Green Letters. One way or the other we receive the impression that our responsibility is to reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God (so far, so good) and then God does the rest (not so good). A typical quote: “The Holy Spirit says, you cannot do it; just withdraw; come out of it. You have been in the arena, you have been endeavoring, you are a failure, come out and sit down, and as you sit there behold Him, look at Him. Don’t try to be like Him, just look at Him. Just be occupied with Him, forget about trying to be like Him. Instead of letting that fill your mind and heart, let Him fill it. Just behold Him, look upon Him through the Word ” (p.16, 17). This is not altogether wrong, it just goes too far. Stanford doesn’t even believe we should ask the Lord for help, “We do not go to Him for help, but we rest in him as the All-sufficient One” (p.230). Both Hebrews 2:16-18 and 4:14-16 certainly seem to contradict this.
Another concern is a cousin of the first, that is, as we reckon on the identification truths we will cease from our struggles with sin and life and find rest and ease. The Christian life becomes easy — our conflicts are gone, we have found the spiritual secret. By using Hebrews 4:9-11 improperly, I believe, Mr. Stanford calls us to enter Christ’s rest. Quoting C.H.M. he affirms, “So, in the spiritual labor of faith, the moment or period comes when we know. Every vestige of strain and labor is gone” (p.62). We wish. “If we turn from our position of rest to fight against sin, and work to improve our condition, we have stepped off the rock of grace, into the swamp of self-effort” (p.123). See pages 233, 261.
One more issue that bothers me is the mentality that these truths are reserved for the few, the elite. Mr. Stanford teaches that while the knowledge of these things is available to all, only a few, and only over a long period of time, and only as the Holy Spirit chooses, will anyone ever discover these things. This is akin to Gnosticism, if we are not careful (although I am certain that Mr. Stanford totally rejects Gnosticism). I believe that the truth of God’s word is available to all of God’s people. While there are different levels of maturity, to be sure, I find no Scripture to undergird the concept that these truths are findable by few, and then only after years of frustration with the flesh. The average time that elapses between the beginning of their ministries and the discovery of identification, for the spiritual giants of the past mentioned by Mr. Stanford, was fifteen years (p.8). “Actually, the pulpit is not the ideal medium for sharing the truths of identification. No matter how sound an alive a congregation may be, there are only a few individuals at any one time who are ready to enter into the truths of the Cross” (p.235). See also pages 29, 41, 293, 294 and 297.
While these concerns must be taken seriously, Stanford’s clear teaching of the Law (“Any promises or vows we make to the Lord, any code of ethics or rules of conduct that we set up for ourselves or have placed on us, are on the basis of law and therefore result in failure and ever-deepening enslavement. The principle of law applies to the self-life, and can produce nothing but self-righteousness” [p.207]), the flesh and the positional truths more than make up for whatever deficiency there might be.