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

Chapter 3 - Representation by the Holy Spirit

Reading: Luke 24:46-49; John 20:21-23; Acts 1:8; ASV.

“And He said unto them, Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and rise again from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name unto all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. Ye are witnesses of these things. And behold, I send forth the promise of My Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city, until ye be clothed with power from on high.”

“Jesus therefore said to them again, Peace be unto you: as the Father hath sent Me, even so send I you. And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Spirit: whose soever sins ye forgive, they are forgiven unto them; whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.”

“But ye shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judća, and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

Continuing our occupation with the matter of the great Divine thought of representation, we shall now be especially concerned with one simple emphasis on the place of the Holy Spirit in this connection.

In our previous meditations we were seeing this Divine thought as revealed in the Scriptures; firstly, God making man in His Own image, after His Own likeness; and then the thought taken up in fulness in Christ, Who is repeatedly declared to be the image of the invisible God; and finally the thought carried over into the Church, the elect, which is to be conformed to the image of His Son, all speaking so clearly of this intention of God to be represented, to be known by representation.

Christ’s Representative Work by the Spirit

Now, the Holy Spirit has a very vital place in this whole matter. When the Lord Jesus officially took up this particular phase or function of His life and work, you know it was then that the Holy Spirit came specifically into evidence in His life and ministry. It is true that He was begotten of the Holy Spirit, it is true that He was very God, but in the official work for which He came into this world, the work of the Son of Man, which is a representative term or title, He stands to represent man, the race. Luke’s Gospel, as you know, is particularly and peculiarly the Gospel for the race, as Matthew is that for the Jew, and Luke’s particular title for Christ is the Son of Man, representative. He takes the place of man as God intended man to be, to bring man in His own Person inclusively to the Divinely appointed destiny. He, the inclusive Man, will advance by all the stages of man’s course to that Divinely appointed end, and eventually, glorified, exalted even at God’s right hand, He will stand as inclusively representative of that new race, that new creation. I say that, as Son of Man, He will advance by all the stages of man’s progress toward that glorious destiny; for He will be there as the first-fruits, the firstborn among many brethren. That very phrase is linked with this thought of representation. He “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15); representative, firstborn. Just as the first-fruits of the harvest were representative of the whole harvest, and the farmer would take the first-fruits and offer them to God in token of the whole harvest which would follow, so Christ was the first-fruits of all creation, and the firstborn among many brethren, and He occupies that position at God’s right hand now representatively, the token of all to follow. But from the very first step, through every stage of that course to the glory, His way is by the Spirit.

The Cross the First Step

In a sense, a very real and true sense, the Jordan was the first step toward the glory. The Cross is always the first step to glory; there will be no glory if there is no Cross, and the measure of glory will be the measure of the Cross. We will leave that and come back to it again presently. The Jordan was the first step toward that glorifying, not of Christ alone and merely in a personal way, but the glorifying of man, the many sons to be brought to glory by Him, the whole harvest to be brought to glory by Him, the many brethren who come by Him. I say, in a very real sense the Jordan was the first step toward that glory, and in the Jordan, as we have already pointed out, the governing idea is representation. A race which cannot be glorified must be put out of the way, to make room for a race which can be glorified. A mankind which can never come to glory must be put away from occupying the ground of a man that can come to glory. So, representatively in the Jordan in His baptism, His death and burial in type, He takes the place of a race, a mankind, which can never be glorified, and it is got out of the way in Him representatively.

In the reality of the Cross, of which the Jordan was the type, we have that blessed accomplishment. All this that can never be glorified, never come to glory in us, has been put away. Are you worried, obsessed and troubled with all that about you which can never be glorified? Well, if you have accepted Christ as your representative, and have stood right into His representative work for you, everything that will hinder your coming to glory has been dismissed, every bit of it; and God is working on that ground with us. The last phase of that work will have to do with our bodies of death; they shall be changed, and made like unto the body of His glory. We are coming in every part of our redeemed being to glory, because what cannot be glorified has been representatively got out of the way. That is, of course, the ground for our faith.

In His coming up out of the Jordan, type of His coming up from the grave, He occupies the representative position of a man who can be glorified, a mankind that can be glorified, a race that can come to glory, and at a certain point in His life these two things were brought together in one hour. In the Mount of Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah spoke with Him of the death, or exodus, which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem, and in that same hour He was glorified. The death and the glory came together in one hour in Him. That is how it can be with Him because He so perfectly represents God’s thought. It is representation.

But then this new creation, this new man capable of coming to glory, of being glorified, this new race as gathered up into Him as its Head, as its first-fruits, as its first-born, can never come to glory, only as from that very point of standing on the new creation ground, resurrection ground. The Holy Spirit takes charge; and so, coming up out of the water, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit as in the semblance of a dove came and rested upon Him. That is the first thing. The Holy Spirit takes charge, so to speak, of this whole matter of bringing to glory, of perfecting this new creation for glory. It is the Holy Spirit’s work from beginning to end.

What was true in the case of the Lord Jesus as the Head has to be true in the case of the whole Body, and Pentecost must be the counterpart of the resurrection side of Jordan, where the Body, brought on to resurrection ground, is taken charge of by the Holy Spirit, to be brought right through all the course and stages of perfecting unto glory. There is a little phrase in Peter’s writings about “the Spirit of glory resting upon you” (1 Pet. 4:14).

So our emphasis is there, that this is the object of the Holy Spirit, this is the necessity for the Holy Spirit; for nothing is possible of all this Divine thought apart from the Holy Spirit.

The Father’s Attestation of the Son

But there is a second part, another side or aspect of this. The Spirit certainly comes, the anointing takes place, but upon the anointing, the Divine voice is heard from heaven saying “This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:4). With the anointing there comes the attestation. God is calling attention to this One, is indicating this One, is pointing out this One, and in effect He is saying, This is My representative! You know that on the Mount of Transfiguration, when Peter in his impulsiveness would be found dictating, advising, suggesting what should be done, the voice, that same voice, came again: “This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him;” referring everything to Him for government, for direction: for dictating. “Hear ye Him.” It is the voice of attestation from heaven at Jordan and on the Mount, singling Him out as God’s representative. It is representation again.

Now those two things go together. They are only two aspects of one thing, because the anointing means that God Himself has committed Himself to this One. That is the meaning of the anointing. As we were saying in our previous meditation, where the anointing is you have to meet and deal with God. “He reproved kings for their sakes, saying, Touch not Mine anointed ones, and do My prophets no harm” (1 Chron. 16:21,22; ASV). It is to meet God if we do touch the anointing or that upon which the anointing rests, or those who are anointed. God has committed Himself in that anointing. Therefore if God is there committed, involved, wrapped up with that, that is God’s representative, and that is as God functioning there. The Holy Spirit has constituted that vessel of representation by His coming and His presence; God is present. That means that all the rights of Divine sovereignty have been taken up by the Holy Spirit and brought into the midst of that which is anointed, that which is indwelt by the Spirit. All the rights of Divine sovereignty are in the Holy Spirit, and if He is present, He is present in all the rights of Divine sovereignty.

I do want you to be able to grasp this, because I feel it is tremendously important for us as members of this Body of Christ, indwelt by the Holy Spirit. We just very faintly touched upon this matter yesterday, and I feel there is something more to be said about it.

The Sovereignty of the Holy Spirit

When this counterpart of Jordan, death and resurrection and the open heaven and the descent of the Spirit and the anointing, when the counterpart of that took place on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came in terms of Divine sovereignty to be present, and it is a thing which you and I have to recognize, to which we have to bow the knee absolutely. It may be that we have not recognized sufficiently that receiving the Holy Spirit of anointing means that the sovereignty in our lives is taken right out of our hands. Have you asked for the Holy Spirit? Have you prayed to be filled with the Spirit? Have you recognized the tremendous importance of the Holy Spirit indwelling? If you have not, then, of course, that will account for all kinds of weaknesses, failures, slowness of growth, powerlessness in service, ineffectiveness in life, and a host of other things. But if you have seen the tremendous importance of the Holy Spirit’s presence in power, in fulness in the life—and I do trust that you have—then, having sought the Spirit, you have consciously or unconsciously, intentionally or unintentionally, invited that the whole sovereignty of your life shall be taken out of your own hands, and that it should be entirely transferred to another; and that involves you in far more than you have any idea of. This is the point we were trying to make yesterday.

On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came in terms of sovereignty, and took hold. He took right hold in terms of sovereignty and, in doing so, He made men say things the import of which they accepted within the compass of their own understanding, it is true. Yes, they were not opposed to those things which they were saying, so far as they understood them, but the things which they were saying, while they agreed with them, only went to the range of their appreciation, their understanding of them. But the Holy Spirit meant infinitely more than that, and before long these very men who agreed up to the point of their understanding and appreciation of the things they were saying, were confronted with the fact that the things they said committed them to a great deal more than they had understood. And that is the practical issue of the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit.

Peter quite agreed, according to his understanding, the range of his appreciation, with what the Lord had said about “unto the uttermost part of the earth.” He quite agreed with what he was saying... “to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:39). But it will not be many days before Peter will stumble right up against it, the very thing he himself has said, and find it meant far more than he intended it to mean, when it comes to Caesarea and a Gentile house. “All that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call!” Peter says, Not so, Lord; and there is a battle. But you notice that the Holy Spirit, when He gets Peter through, comes right down on that situation in a mighty way. It is a matter of which the Holy Spirit has charge, and the verdict, the conclusion of the whole matter is Peter’s report at Jerusalem—“Who was I, that I could withstand God?” “If God gave unto them the like gift as He did also unto us... who was I, that I could withstand God?” (Acts 11:17). There is a man having to go down before the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit. He has been committed to that from the beginning.

Now, what do we want to get at in this matter? It is this: if you and I really do come to the place where the Holy Spirit as Lord becomes resident in us, we are confronted with this great law of the absolute sovereignty of the Holy Spirit to do as He likes with us and to take us completely beyond our own intentions, right beyond our own prejudices, our own traditions, all our past history, take us beyond our present mental range of what we now conceive to be the right and the wrong. We have all got a fixed mental horizon today. At this moment we would all put a certain limit and bound and hedge to what we consider is right and wrong, what we ought to do and what we ought not to do. We move within our own mental interpretation of things, and that is our range. Are we going to bind the Holy Spirit to that? If so, we will never go on to God’s ultimate purpose and end. What we shall find is that the Holy Spirit will demand from time to time that we get rid of our hedges, and let Him lead us sheer out of our own fixed bounds of acceptance and interpretation. He will demand that, that is His sovereign right, and our progress towards God’s final end, and, mark you, the measure in which we can truly be representative for God here, depends entirely upon that capacity for adjustment to a new revelation or indication by the Holy Spirit, our capacity, our amenability to adjustment to what the Spirit will show us.

It seems to me that very often the Lord hedges our lives up to an emergency, a crisis, a disputed position, in order to bring about something new. The fact is, of course, we will not move into anything more of the Lord unless we are compelled to. That is how it works out, and however good and however great and however precious may have been the Lord’s dealings with us, showings to us, impartations to us, the best that He has ever given to us will have to be brought to the place where it no longer meets our fullest need, in order that we should move on to something more. That is the way of progress. We have had, perhaps, wonderful revelations, wonderful dealings of the Lord with us; things have happened in our lives which have eclipsed all that ever preceded them, and at the time we have felt that we have reached the fulness. We have not; there is something beyond this. Just at the time this is as far as it is possible to go, but our experience and our history is that those things which at the time and for a time were so great, so wonderful, so all-absorbing, have come to be as though they were not, with a growing sense of new need, new demand, and another crisis has arisen in which we have had to know something more than has ever been. And the Lord forces situations like that. It is the way of enlargement, it is the way of growth. It seems to me to be His only practical way of keeping us going on. But it is the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit bringing about those crises and making these demands; and I suppose that will be our experience right to the end. If we really are under the government of the Holy Spirit, we will never have reached finality here, there is still more beyond; but to reach it we have to lose contentment with what we have. One of the tragic features of Christianity is the measure of contentedness with that evangelical Christianity. The great need today is a sense of need everywhere, amongst Christians and in the world, a desperate sense of need. The Church will never grow until it grows by this intense sense of need of something more. Men will never come to Christ until they have a real sense of need.

The New Testament is just full of this work of the Holy Spirit acting sovereignly to precipitate situations in which a new knowing of the Lord becomes indispensable to life, to very existence, and when that is brought about the way is open for the Lord to reveal Himself, and to come in in some new way; and that is the enlargement of representation. The Holy Spirit, in His sovereignty, holds us to His step by step method; He never acts mechanically, He acts only in life. So you see, in the Book of the Acts, the Acts of the Holy Spirit, He always kept the Lord’s servants at very short commons in the matter of what He was going to do. He never put the sovereignty into their hands, He always retained it in His own hands. In the Book of the Acts you cannot have a missionary programme; there is no programme there. Men, of course, now have resolved the New Testament into a missionary programme, though in fact it was not one. Would to God we could get back behind programmes, back to the point where the sovereignty is in the hands of the Holy Spirit entirely.

The Holy Spirit Directing Service

That is seen in the choice and sending out of the representatives of Christ. You see it in Antioch; Paul and Barnabas are there, and for a whole year men with whom a great destiny is bound up by foreordination must be there under God’s hand, and await God’s time. Especially was this the case with Paul, known of God from all eternity as the man for a tremendous mission. But even so, and although apprised by the Lord from heaven of his mission right from the beginning—“To this end have I appeared unto thee, to appoint thee a minister and a witness” (Acts 26:16)—he cannot take the sovereignty of his missionary calling into his own hands and work it out. He must get into that company at Antioch, that representation of the Body, and wait for the Holy Spirit. He waits twelve months there at Antioch, perhaps a little more, and then the Holy Spirit said, “Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work where­unto I have called them” (Acts 13:2). The Holy Spirit is holding this matter of their life-work in His hands as sovereign. They cannot decide when to take it up, even though they may know in their hearts quite definitely what their life-work is.

Then, as they go, they are not allowed to sit down and draw up a line of action, a scheme, a plan, a time­table. They go under the sovereignty of the Spirit. They reach a certain point and Paul thinks one day of Ephesus, and his natural mind consecrated to the Lord gets to work. Ephesus is a great city, a very influential city. If only he can get to Ephesus and get the Church planted there, get things going there, it will be a tremendous thing! Yes, I think for the Lord’s sake, we ought to go to Ephesus! But they were not suffered of the Holy Spirit to preach the Word in Asia. Well, Bithynia is a good place, a very important place, and it presents a great door of opportunity: we had better go to Bithynia! No, the Holy Spirit suffered them not to go to Bithynia; and while they tarried, not suffered of the Holy Spirit to preach the Word in Asia or Bithynia, a vision appeared to Paul in the night, a man of Macedonia, and Europe is indicated first. Ephesus and Bithynia will come in the order of the Spirit, in the Spirit’s sovereign time, and the sovereign time of the Spirit is not yet in that direction. The sovereign time of the Spirit is just now in this other direction, Europe, Philippi (Acts 16:6–10).

Fruitfulness Vitally Related to the Spirit’s Sovereignty

Now all this is only taking little fragments out to indicate and emphasize this, that the Holy Spirit coming into a vessel comes in terms of absolute Divine sovereignty to take the rule of our lives out of our hands, and that is why the Holy Spirit can never come and do His work until you have been to Jordan. Until the Cross is a fact, an accomplished fact, there can be no sovereign government of the Holy Spirit carrying all the Divine programme; for the Cross means the deposing, not only of the sinful body of the flesh, but of the natural man. Paul is as consecrated to God, to Christ, as ever a man has ever been on this earth, with one exception, and yet even Paul with his utter consecration to the Lord cannot assume this missionary programme and follow it out himself. He has to be a bond­slave of Jesus Christ, he has to be under the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit, he has to recognize when the Spirit suffers not. There would have been, and there would be today, a very great deal more fruitfulness, if the Church were governed in this same way. What has happened is that Mark 16:15— “Go ye into all the world”—has become a missionary programme that anybody may adopt at will. All you have to do is to get saved, and adopt that, and go into all the world, and preach the Gospel. Well, God forbid that I should disparage anything in the way of preaching the Gospel: that is not the point. But what about the effect of it all comparatively after two thousand years? Half the world is not touched yet after two thousand years.  Look at the difference between the few Apostolic years, with the range then covered and the impact registered, and all the centuries which have followed.

Is not that an argument for this one thing, that you cannot adopt the missionary manifesto and commission and go and work it out yourself; that this is a Holy Spirit business; and while what I am saying may seem to be the negative side, I want it to be the positive. When the Holy Spirit gets hold of the situation, He will do it, but He has to be sovereign.

The Cross therefore clears the way for the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit, and the Cross means that even consecrated natural minds have to have something more than their own consecration as the governing factor. So many say or think, If only I am consecrated to the Lord, then I ought to do anything that comes into my head that I think would serve the Lord! Oh no, that may be zeal, but not according to knowledge; and that may be waste.

The Sovereignty of the Holy Spirit in Relation to His Perfect Knowledge

Now let us not go round the thing any more, but just strike the heart of it. It is this: the Holy Spirit demands absolute sovereign rights in our life, and to take the sovereignty right out of our own hands; and that, of course, progressively. However much we may know, we do not know all that is in the mind of the Spirit, for the Holy Spirit never grows. The Holy Spirit of God never has grown, He never does grow, His mind does not enlarge. You never think of the mind of God enlarging, you never think of God growing. I say that reverently. The Holy Spirit never gets any new knowledge. From the very beginning, the Holy Spirit has all the knowledge that can ever be had, His knowledge is perfect.

That is the significance of that wonderful word in the book of the Revelation, where everything is consummated and brought to its full end: “Saith He that hath the seven Spirits of God” (Rev. 3:1). It is a figurative or symbolic term which means, He that hath perfect knowledge, the perfection of spiritual knowledge. He has that from the beginning, and I say again, the Holy Spirit has never acquired one fragment of new knowledge as He has gone on; He has had it all from the beginning. When He came He had as complete a knowledge of things as ever He will have. The Spirit’s knowledge is absolutely final, but for ourselves what we do not know? At most we know but a mere fragment of what the Holy Spirit knows and means. That means that we are going to get a great deal more knowledge as we go on. We can only get that increase of knowledge as we are prepared to learn things all over again, all anew. You see what I mean. There is no hope whatever unless the Holy Spirit can in sovereignty just show us that we know nothing, and that we have everything to learn, and that His knowledge is infinite and will always be miles ahead of us, and therefore adjustment on our part will be necessary again and again and again. Have you come to a fixed position about truth, about light, about the ways of God, about the mind of the Lord, about what you ought to do and ought not to do, and what you are never going to do? Have you come to a fixed place? If so, you have shut the door on the Holy Spirit. No one who believes in the Holy Spirit could ever possibly say, I shall never do that! Peter said that: Nothing common or unclean has ever passed my lips, and never will! That was his position, but the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit showed that everything of God’s purpose in his apostleship hung upon whether he abandoned that closed position: and he could quote Scripture for his position, too! It does not matter. One of the remarkable things about the New Testament is the unlooked for interpretations it gives to Old Testament Scriptures. No wonder the Jews and the Judaizers who dogged Paul everwhere would say, This man reads a lot into the Old Testament that is not there, this man is putting constructions upon the Old Testament that it will not bear, he has taken out of the Old Testament something that is not there! Look at what Paul says about Old Testament things. I cannot see it means that in the Old Testament. It does look as if he is using the Old Testament and putting a construction on it that was not meant in the Old Testament. It is an extraordinary thing how in the New Testament the Old is given a meaning you could never find without the New Testament. The Holy Spirit knows what He means, and He means a great deal more than ever men have yet seen. The very Scripture you quote may mean more than ever you intended it to mean. I think this is enough to show you how necessary it is for us to be in a position where we are really open to the Lord, and really under the Holy Spirit‘s government, ready to let go our most cherished position, if the Holy Spirit indicates that is the way. To say that, is not to say we are to be unstable and carried about by every wind of doctrine and sleight of men, or that we are just going to follow anything that comes along.

I do not think the Holy Spirit ever denies Himself. What the Holy Spirit has said at one time, He is not going to contradict at another. But what may seem contradiction may be in this form, namely, that the Holy Spirit, transcends what He has already said. Just as a miracle is not necessarily a violation of natural law, but a transcending of natural law, so the Holy Spirit will not contradict or violate anything He has said before, but He will transcend it and, when He does transcend, it may look like a contradiction. It may be you will be able to say, I am quite sure the Lord led me at a certain time and in a certain direction, but He has led me right away from that now! That is not necessarily a contradiction, that is a transcending, a moving on. At that time you could not have gone the further step, He could only get you that far then. But in His own mind that was only a step which was to lead to another, and yet another, and you leave a lot behind in such a process. But oh, the point is that the Holy Spirit shall be able to do what He is after.

Even in the case of the Lord Jesus, it was like that. His was a sinless nature and a sinless natural mind, but He would not use it apart from the Father, and if One with a sinless natural mind will not use it independently, what about us? How much more necessary it is for the Holy Spirit to be sovereign in our case. Everything of power lies in that direction. “Ye shall receive power, the Holy Spirit coming upon you” (Acts 1:8).

The Menace of the Natural Mind

I think we can leave it with this one simple emphasis now, namely, this need for the Holy Spirit to be sovereign. He must. There are good people, godly people, who do not see, and who will not agree, and the problem arises: Oh, they are godly, they are consecrated, they have lived for God for many years, and yet they are so opposed to certain things which seem to be so evidently the mind of the Spirit; and they would deny that. What is the explanation? Well, there may be several explanations, but I suggest that this is one possible explanation in a great many cases, namely, that the natural mind has never known the Cross; yes, the consecrated natural mind. I am not talking about the wicked natural mind. The consecrated natural mind has never known the Cross. Our own mind is still our mind, it is our judgment, even after we are saved. What we have said about Paul and Ephesus and Bithynia, and other cases, is true of all the most consecrated people. They still have a mind which they can follow which is not the mind of the Spirit. The mind of the Spirit is acting in another way from their mind. They would go this way for the Lord. Oh, so devoted to the Lord, it is all in the Lord’s interests; they would go that way, but the Spirit is taking another course. Upon what does the whole issue rest at such a time? Upon whether the Cross has been planted sufficiently deeply in that life as to take the sovereignty of mind out of its hands, so that the mind of the Spirit can be sovereign. That is a very important thing. Are you quite sure that the sovereignty of mind has been taken out of your hands into the hands of the Holy Spirit, and that it is the sovereign mind of the Holy Spirit that is governing, and that it is not merely the case that you are sure of yourself, quite fixed and final in your own conviction about a thing, and that your own strength of mind and will, your reason, back of it all has fixed you there? You may be a most devoted child of God, and yet it can be like that with you. It is a terrible possibility for the Spirit not to be sovereign in a most devoted child of God, for their own minds still to be sovereign. There is no way through there; that is deadlock, that is a closed door. If we are going to be here in that growing representation of the Lord, we have to be on the same basis as the Lord was on. That is to say, from the first to the last it is the Spirit Who is to be sovereign, and that by the power of the Cross.


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