The Representation of the Invisible God
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 2 - Representation on the Basis of Identification

Reading: Gen. 1:26; Col. 1:15; 2 Cor. 4:4; Rom. 8:29; Col. 3:10,11; Eph. 4:13,15,16; 5:22-32; John 20:21-23; Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8.

The Identification of the Son with the Father

I think we might take our meditation up at the point where it most immediately relates to the Lord Jesus. At the close of our previous meditation, we were especially emphasizing the principle that representation is upon the basis of identification. The Lord Jesus was very particular and very emphatic when He was here in the matter of His relatedness to the Father. He kept that always in view. Of course, every consequence arose out of that. We will not deal with the consequence for the moment, we remind ourselves of the fact. “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30). “Show us the Father... Have I been so long time with you, and dost thou not know Me?” (John 14:8,9; ASV). So we might gather up the tremendous amount that there is which bears down upon that identification of the Son with the Father, of Christ with God. Our special point at the moment is this, that we are not dealing with two, we are dealing with one. That is to say, we are not meeting Christ apart from God, apart from the Father. When we meet Him and have dealings with Him, we meet God.

And, what is more, from the other side God refuses to meet us on any other ground but the ground of His Son. “No man cometh to the Father, but by Me” (John 14:6), and any going to God independently of, and apart from, the Son will have but one result: the Father will refer us to the Son, He will not act apart. The oneness is absolute and is divinely, sacredly, jealously safeguarded and preserved. It is identification.

The history of Israel since then can be summed up on that one principle, that one law.  Israel refused to take account of Christ as God’s Son, set Him aside and essayed to approach God, and found a closed door. From that day the door to God has been closed to Israel. The Father has very effectively and forcefully said to Israel, There is no independent way; if it means a thousand or two thousand years, time will not alter this; you will still be at the place where you will have to come by way of the Son if you are going to find Me! That is the position today with Israel. God is jealous over this thing.

Why is this? The answer could be given in quite a number of ways, but, for our present consideration, it is a matter of God’s intention to bring Christ His Son into the inheritance which He has appointed for Him, the dominion. “Adam was a figure of Him That was to come” (Rom. 5:14), and God had said, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness: and let them have dominion” (Gen. 1:26). That “them” is very significant. We will not follow it for a moment. “Let them have dominion.”—“A figure of Him That was to come.” Says the writer of the Hebrew letter, “Not unto angels did He subject the world to come, whereof we speak. But one hath somewhere testified, saying, ‘What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? or the Son of Man, that Thou visitest Him? Thou madest Him a little lower than the angels; Thou crownedst Him with glory and honour, and didst set Him over the works of Thy hands: Thou didst put all things in subjection under His feet. But now we see not yet all things subjected to Him. But we behold Him Who hath been made a little lower than the angels, even Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour'” (Heb. 2:5-9; KJV: ASV). Here is the Antitype, here is the greater than Adam, here is the One of Whom Adam was a figure, eternally destined to have dominion, with all things put under Him, Jesus, and God is keeping very close to His arrangement concerning His Son. The Son is the supreme and all-inclusive representative of God for executive purposes in dominion, and their oneness is absolute. So it is that, if all God’s purposes are bound up with and vested in His Son, He must bring that Son into His place, that must be His supreme business, that the Son shall there be as God.

That thought is an Old Testament thought in type, as well as a New Testament thought in reality. You know right through the Old Testament God had His representatives, and those representatives were in their day as God here. The statement to Moses is a very utter one. When the Lord was sending Moses to Pharaoh, He said to him, “You shall be as God to Pharaoh” (Exodus 7:1), and in effect, in actual outworking, when Pharaoh met Moses, he met God, and was having to do with God. Whether it were the patriarchs, or whether it were the prophets, by reason of their Divine appointment, they were there as God, dealing with them was dealing with God. The very term “Son of Man” as used in the Old Testament implies that representation, God represented; and God not as apart, God standing by, God committed, God involved. No matter how long you may have to wait, the end is absolutely sure.

Jeremiah represents God on the spot. Well, they may do all sorts of things with Jeremiah: they may refuse his word, drop him into the dungeon, well-nigh kill him, so that officials will go to the king, and say, Unless you take that man up, he will die! They may do that, and years may roll by and it may seem that Jeremiah has not been vindicated, but it will be written, Now at a certain given time in the reign of Cyrus that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah the prophet should be fulfilled... (Ezra 1:1). It does not matter, wait as long as you like, do what you like, it is God you are dealing with; representation. Oh, the Old Testament is full of it in principle, but it is all gathered up into Christ; He is the sum and the total of it all.

It is not necessary for me in a company like this to stress this great fact, that we have to deal with God when we touch the Lord Jesus. When we have to do with the Lord Jesus, we are dealing with God in a far greater way than was true with any prophet of the Old Testament, and it was great enough then.

The Church’s Identification with Christ

But what are we leading to? Well, along this line of representation on a basis of identification, we come to this present dispensation, and the nature of it. This present dispensation is the dispensation of the Church, and the Church is here on this very ground, and if you and I have been baptized into Christ, we have been baptized into His Body. Do not let us think of the Church as something objective and apart from ourselves. We are in this, it has to become a matter of personal application as we speak, not thinking objectively of the Church, but thinking of ourselves as members of Christ.

Well now, this identification with Christ works out in exactly the same way as did Christ’s identification with the Father. That is why I read Ephesians 5:21-32 about husbands and wives and wives and husbands, and why I emphasized that strange word in Genesis—“Let them have dominion:” and you noticed that it is followed out again in Genesis 5:1 and 2. “In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made He him; male and female created He them: and blessed them; and called their name Adam,” called their name Man. That passage in Ephesians 5 about husbands and wives brings out this principle here, and if we could just see that, I am sure it would be tremendously helpful, and lift us away from modern views in this world on this matter. There is this eternal thought, this Divine thought, back of this relationship, this thought of God in representation on a basis of identification, and the phrase to be underlined there is, even as Christ and the Church, the Church and Christ. The oneness here, the identification, is the Divine thought and intent. You are not dealing with two things here, two independent lives, two persons apart. “He made them male and female, and called them Man,” called a plural a singular! And that is what He does with Christ and the Church; that is what He did between Himself and the Son, called a plural a singular, in effect. And He is saying here in other words, that a wife loses her own independent identity when she is married, she loses her own name, she lets go her own separate life. Now her one single idea is the life and vocation of her husband, into which she merges herself, and the twain become one, even as the Church Christ. When we come into the Church, we abandon our own independent separate identity. All that is ours personally and privately is yielded up and we are merged into the Body of Christ, so that the Church and Christ are one flesh, the twain are one: I know that modern views on woman’s place in this world will not accept that, but you are not bothered about modern views: but I hope you are just as strong on these principles. Lift it here.

God has vested in His Son everything, and you inherit everything. The Lord is simply saying about this earthly relationship that it is meant to be a representation of that heavenly thing, that if that relationship between husbands and wives and wives and husbands were as it is meant to be, the husband would be standing for God in this world, as a servant, a minister of God—do not misunderstand that; I do not mean he would put a clerical collar on and go into “the ministry”—he is standing as representative of God in a positive way, and his wife would be working into that, the results of that; not herself apart in independent ministry and life, not pulling another way, but yielding all that is personal to that. That is the Divine idea, and in that way she would come into the Divine endowments, the Divine vocation, the Divine blessing; she would get her portion in that relatedness and, with the loss of what is merely personal and private, in the larger. That is the Divine thought, and the Divine blessing lies in that direction and not in any other direction. Take that, but do not take it as merely a human idea, as the modernist and the people of the world say, That is Paul’s idea about women and we do not accept this! This is a Divine thought going right back, and its vision is Christ and the Church, the Church and Christ.

The point is, it is identification, that on this line where that relationship is right, the effect is this, that when you meet the wife, you meet the husband. I mean this, that she will not act on her own independently, she will express the mind of her husband, she will refer to the husband, and in meeting her you will have to meet the husband. It is no use trying to get round some other way in this kind of woman, to get her to take a line on the quiet when her husband is absent. Oh no, you cannot get her away from her husband; she is bound up there, so one that you cannot meet her apart from him. It is not a matter of whether the husband is present or absent, seen or invisible; you are meeting him all the time. That is the relationship.

The Lord is saying this about Christ and the Church, and He is saying the identification is so one that when you meet the Church, the members of His Body, you are not meeting something apart, you are meeting Him. “Lo, I am with you all the days, even unto the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). That is the principle. That is not merely an individual thing, that is said to the Church: the nucleus was there and it was said to the Church. “I am with you always, even unto the consummation of the age” (ASV). “I am with you.” How? In the midst, right there in you by the Spirit.

Identification and Authority

And that is the meaning of these other words, “Receive ye the Holy Spirit: whose soever sins ye forgive, they are forgiven unto them” (John 20:22,23; ASV). That is tremendous: the Church in the position of Christ saying, Thy sins be forgiven thee. Yes, the Church under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, if really filled with the Spirit, if the Church is Spirit-governed, that is its right, its prerogative to say, “Thy sins be forgiven thee;” on the terms, of course, that condition all forgiveness, namely, repentance and faith. “Whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained” (KJV). The Church says, Look here, my brother, my sister, you are violating a Divine principle and putting yourself out of court, and we assure you most solemnly before God that you have no way with God until you put that right: on the authority of the Holy Spirit we say that to you. And God stands by, and it does not matter, you may wait a generation, a lifetime, that brother, that sister, will not get through, apart from obedience to that counsel. They think the day is coming when they are going to be vindicated along their own line. Not at all! They will die unvindicated if they have not recognized that, in a Holy Spirit governed representation of the Church, they are dealing with Christ.

Of course, I know that the Roman Church has taken this very thing, and it is upon this very basis the Roman Church exists and operates, but of course in a temporal realm. They have brought it down from Holy Spirit government and made it purely a priest-craft matter. Wherever you get truth you will get error that simulates truth, a counterfeit of the true. But the truth is here, and it is a tremendous thing to be in the Body of Christ; and it is a tremendous thing to be in a local representation of that Body of Christ, the Church. It brings you on to executive ground, and I do feel so strongly that what is needed in our day, perhaps more than anything else, is for the Church as represented to function, the Church really to function in local representation. There seems to be such a call for a new functioning of the Church in its local expression along the line of prayer, and prayer that is of an executive character.

In Jerusalem there was the Church, and we mark that again and again they are found in prayer. When Peter is in prison, the Church made prayer unto God. It acted over this matter, and it brought the Lord in on the ground of Psalm 2, and Peter was released. Church function—I submit it to you that this is a great need, that the Lord should have locally represented this Body, which is Himself in expression, Himself in effect, Himself in execution, doing it there in them, through them, by the Holy Spirit. It is that which is called for today in a new way, for meeting this tremendous on-drive of the forces of evil. Who amongst the Lord’s people is unconscious of that on-drive of evil forces? What is going on in the world today? You can see the counterpart of this war in the spiritual realm in almost every detail; intense malignancy, evil, poison, hatred, violence and lies and misrepresentation; that the time is short; and a gathering up of every diabolical bit of ingenuity for destruction. And here within the last days we have had a revival of talk about gas, the idea being that the time is short, the day is drawing in; the enemy will resort to any device, however wicked. That is the idea. But look away from this. You see that in the spiritual realm, you feel it. The enemy is out to crush, to cripple, to annihilate the true children of God if he can, and his intensity was never greater. Why? Because his time is short. “The devil is gone down unto you, having great wrath, knowing that he hath but a short time” (Rev. 12:12). The day is drawing in for him.

How is it going to be met?  I again submit it to you that it is the Church that has to meet this. I confess that I cannot meet this alone; you cannot meet it alone. We have to have co-operation, we have to come on to our ground of identification with Christ and let Christ representatively meet this thing. None other but Christ can meet it, but He can. “All authority hath been given unto Me in heaven and on earth... and I am with you” (Matt. 28:18,20). That cannot be just taken for granted. It seems to me that the Church has to come into a faith position on that ground and act with Christ. I submit that to you for what it is worth, but I feel intensely about it myself, that there is a great call and need for the Lord’s children where they are, as representing the Church, even though they be but two or three in any given locality, really to act in this matter executively in the name of the Lord. “In the name of Jesus”—it is only another way of saying, Representatively we say, representatively we act, it is Christ by us; given always that the Holy Spirit has His place. Well, you see, identification means representation. That oneness with the Lord means that the Lord has a way to express Himself. Well, that opens up all those matters of oneness with the Lord, unhindered oneness, unsullied oneness with the Lord, so that He has a free way of expression.

Identification and Human Relationships

This identification with Christ, and His coming in along that line, if we could see it, if our eyes were open—and I would that our eyes were opened to this—does set up a very real solemn and serious piece of business for the Lord’s people in the matter of human relationships. How can I best pass this on to you and explain what I mean? You know, some of us have been to a number of different countries in this world, among other nations, and one of our greatest difficulties has often been the national character of the people to whom we were ministering. I need not mention different nations and their characteristics, but as you know, different nationalities do differ very much one from another in their constitution, their make-up. They seem to me to represent all the temperaments of humanity. Some are very emotional; others are intensely practical; others mental, in the right sense—I was going to say intellectual, but that is not quite the right word—living always in the realm of the mind. They must have the thing thoroughly threshed out in reason, and they keep yon in that realm. Well, they differ, and our problem has often been this—Oh, we cannot get anywhere here at all, because here is this superficiality, or there is this intellectuality, this intense national disposition! And you might give it up if you accept that and work on that basis alone. But we have come to see that that whole thing has to be relegated to a secondary place and not be allowed to dominate at all. You see, Christ is other than all that, He is different from all that, He is of a peculiar disposition, make-up, constitution. The Holy Spirit is all powerful, and if the Holy Spirit can bring Christ in, introduce Christ into these lives, no matter how they are made, He has introduced that which is going quietly, deeply, surely to work to supersede and transcend all that other. Give Him time and you will find something there that is quite other than the natural disposition, altogether different from the natural make-up. It is something other, and that will hold on its way. That is Christ. Herein is the universality of the Holy Spirit.

Now that is exactly what happened on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem. There were representatives of all nations under heaven; Parthians, Elamites, dwellers in Mesopotamia, they were all there. That was strategy on the part of the Holy Spirit, and that day He came and so spake through the Apostles as to be understood by them all. That was the thing which amazed them. Here are we, all nations and languages under heaven, and yet as these men speak we hear them, every man in our own tongue wherein we were born, just as though it might be that it was but one language that was being spoken. The universality of Christ, the universality of the Holy Spirit! Just how it was done may not be clear, but there was evidently a miraculous transcending by the Spirit of the curse of confounded speech among men. It sets forth a principle, that Christ simply ignores the differences of nationality and human make-up, and He is Himself one constituent, one basis, Who can come into all and constitute all one in the innermost reality, make all one. That is the meaning of those words which we have cited as one of our passages—“Have put on the new man, that is being renewed unto knowledge after the image of Him That created him: where there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman: but Christ is all, and in all” (Col. 3:10,11; ASV). The Holy Spirit can make of all nationalities, temperaments, constitutions, a oneness which is Christ, deeper than what we are in ourselves. We are all different. If we simply met and tried to proceed on a purely and merely human basis, well our differences would be clashing all the time and making immense difficulties. But if we will seek to relegate them to a secondary place and take account of the fact that, being members of Christ’s Body, we all have something in common, and that it is that common something which is to be the basis of our relationship and our going on, which is to be cherished and safeguarded and looked after, then there will be a building up of the Body, and an increase of Christ; and that is the way of representation. Let us deliberately turn our backs on that attitude that says, I cannot get on with so-and-so, I give it up! and say, So-and-so is a child of God, there is something of Christ there and I am going to cling to that. That, beloved, makes for increase, and that too is the way of representation.

I know this, that when there is some real business for the Lord’s children to do, if it is only two of them, husband and wife, or two in a place, some real matter which has to be dealt with corporately together, the enemy works upon all kinds of human conditions to paralyze that. He is out all the time, in advance very often, before we recognize the business that is going to arise, he is out working upon those human elements to get us across one another, to bring strain in relationship, to create phantoms in the mind about one another, and lies. And they seem so true! So-and-so said something and did you notice how they said it, and did you notice how they looked?—and you give an interpretation which has no truth in it! The enemy puts a construction; nothing is too small, too petty for him, and he is trying to get you across one another, a strain in relationships, because there is an issue. Presently you will be required to stand together on some matter, and you cannot; he has seen to that beforehand, by sowing seeds of destruction and discord. These are real things, they are not imaginations; they are the result of experience and observation.

What I am saying is this, that we have to get on to the ground of Christ if Christ is to be expressed, and seek to keep off this ground of what is Jew and Greek, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, and so on. Have that ground where Christ is all, and in all, hold that ground, and then He comes in. Representation of Christ means identification with Christ, and that is the only identification that you and I will ever find here, unless it is identification with the Devil himself. There are only two alternatives, it seems to me.

I do trust you are not confused but are seeing glimmers of light, and that we shall recognize why we are here. We are here on this earth as the Lord’s representative. But it is not that we are here or there and He far away; we are here to be the vessel in which He is, and He is here because we are here. That is to be the implication of our presence. Oh, that this might not just be a theory but more and more a fact, by reason of our living in the Spirit, that our presence may mean to all unseen intelligences, as well as men, Christ is here by His Spirit. The Lord grant it may be so.


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