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

Chapter 4 - Representation the Essence of Service

[Note: At the end of chapter 3 in the AWAT magazine were the words "To be continued" but no more chapters were published. However, in the manuscripts that were left behind (edited and supplied by the Golden Candlestick Trust) these remaining chapters were found and are included here as chapters 4-6.]


"Others said, These are not the sayings of one possessed with a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind? And it was the feast of the dedication at Jerusalem" (John 10:21-22).

"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 Judaea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when he had said these things, as they were looking, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight." (Acts 1:8-9).

We have been led to be occupied with the Divine thought of representation: the Lord present and known by means of representation. We have seen that that Divine thought is gathered up in fulness in the Lord Jesus. All Old Testament means of representing God, whether the means was personal in the case of prophets and kings and priests, or along the line of witnesses from Abel onward, or whether it was in the types, symbols, signs; everything pointed on to and was gathered up into Christ as the consummate representative of God. Then we have been seeing how that Divine thought on the ascension of Christ has been transferred in and by the Holy Spirit to the Church and its members as a Body, the very meaning of which is representation, and that the Church with all its members here, scattered as they may be over all the earth, just comes into that whole spiritual succession to perpetuate that divine thought of being here to represent the Lord. We have said a lot about that along quite a number of different lines, or dealing with a number of its aspects and features.

Now we are going to be occupied with one other specific feature of this matter of representation for God, and that is representation as being the very heart and essence of service. In our previous meditation, we were seeing that the whole matter of representation was taken up by the Holy Spirit, and that this divine thought, from start to finish, every step and stage, is in the hands of the Holy Spirit. What we have to say about service immediately links up with that and issues from that. There are many ideas about Christian service, the service of God, the work of God. It may be well if we just for a moment sought to really adjust ourselves to the essential nature of service, to put away all our notions on this matter and really get to the heart of the matter.

What is the very heart and essence of the Lord’s service, the work of the Lord? The answer is found in this word — representation. That may include many things, it may cover a lot of ground, but it may be a very simple matter indeed without a great many things. It means simply this, our being on this earth implying the Lord, the very fact that we are here carrying with it the implication of Christ. It conveys quite positively the fact that the Lord Jesus has not departed from this world, has not left this earth, but while in glory is also here quite definitely and positively. It may often be quite impossible to say much about it. Now, do not make that a cover for silence. Sometimes it is impossible to say very much, sometimes it is impossible to do very much, to engage in the various forms of activity in what is called the Lord’s service. There may be very severe limitations and straitness may be on all sides. It does not necessarily affect the matter of the Lord’s service at all; that is not the point. In the first instance, the service of the Lord is not the amount said nor the number of activities engaged in. The Lord’s service is a matter of being, in the first instance. It is this tremendous implication carried effectively and positively in a vessel, in a witness, in a being, the implication that God is here, the Lord is here, the Lord is in His world, the Lord is in the midst, the Lord is available, the Lord is accessible, the Lord is near, the Lord is real, the Lord is living, the Lord is willing, is ready, the Lord is at hand — all that as a many-sided implication of our being on the earth. That is the service of the Lord. That is the very heart and essence of service.

The Holy Spirit the Spirit of Service

Now we have to break that up and seek to grasp what that means. We have said that the Holy Spirit came to constitute the church on the very basis of Christ’s being here. Just as at Jordan He came upon the Lord Jesus and from that moment constituted Him in a more definite and public way the representative of God, so He came at Pentecost to constitute the body of Christ on that same basis as the continuation of that representation. The Holy Spirit came to constitute a representation.

In this meditation we come back to this, that the Holy Spirit is most decidedly and positively the Spirit of service. This may be a very simple beginning, but it may do us good to just be reminded of this. It has always been the case that when the Holy Spirit has really gained His place in a life, that life has very quickly become governed and mastered by the Spirit of service, and I feel that something must be wrong if ever a Christian life loses the Spirit of service. If ever you or I lose that urge to the service of the Lord, something has gone wrong. I am not speaking about forms of service. I am speaking about the spirit of service.

So we find that, right at the beginning, the Holy Spirit created this urge to serve the Lord, became within the mighty energy to service. A tremendous concern was planted in the heart of those who received the Spirit, about the Lord being known by others, about the Lord being brought to others, the Lord getting His place in others and in all the earth — a real concern about it. That is a mark of the Holy Spirit. There is something wrong if that is not found in us, a real concern that Christ should get His place and be brought into His place in the people of this world. Let us ask our hearts quite honestly now — is that true in our case?

We do not know exactly why the apostle Paul when he reached Ephesus and found certain disciples there, immediately put a very pointed question to them — "Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed?" (Acts 19:2). We do not know exactly why he put that question. It might be any one of those things which betray the absence of the Spirit. Paul simply came to the conclusion that these people did not bear any marks of their having received the Spirit; there is this lacking or that. But we can take the question and if it is true that you or I are devoid of a real concern to serve the Lord, that question has a right to be asked. Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed, or have you in some way swamped the Holy Spirit with other things in your life and He is unable to function normally? His normal functioning will be to put deep down as the mightiest thing in our hearts a real concern that the Lord Jesus shall come into His place in other lives in ever widening circles. The Holy Spirit is, as a fact, the Spirit of service, and we may ask ourselves truly and rightly the question, if we are not actuated by that Spirit of service. The major question arises, What has happened to the Holy Spirit where we are concerned? Let us face the fact. We do not know what is going to happen in coming days. It may be that the Lord is going to need a new force of representatives, for there is a growing demand, there is no doubt about it.

Whether it be that some are going to be sent out specifically in this capacity or not, it does not alter this fact, that each one of us, having received the Spirit, should bear this mark of the Spirit: a deep and undying urge to serve the Lord in this sense, that He should be brought into His place over as wide an area as possible, in as many lives as possible. The Spirit of service is the Holy Spirit. Let us remember that. Now, if there is need, get down to exercise before the Lord about that. Everything will take its rise from that. It may be there is not an adequate concern, no real passion to serve the Lord. Now will you honestly answer the Lord in your own heart on this matter? Ask yourself the question, Have I, above all concerns and interests in life, a desire to serve the Lord? It is not, how am I going to serve the Lord? Suspend that, put it back on the Lord. It is not whether I am going to give up what I am doing now and be a minister or a missionary. I am not talking about that. I am talking about the spirit of service, and the thing is, am I above everything else in life concerned for the Lord’s service, to serve the Lord? It may be that I shall serve along this line, in this capacity or in that; it does not matter. The thing is that I serve. Above all other things that I do and through all other things that I do, however much I may do, that it is the Lord’s service that is governing me, and is dominating. It is to serve the Lord, that my life shall really serve the Lord. I am not going to serve this world, I am not going to serve myself, my own ambitions or reputation. It is the Lord and His service. Suffer that appeal to you, but the Lord knows why He gives this emphasis.

I simply put it back here, that it is as clear as daylight when you come to the New Testament and look at the fact of the Holy Spirit’s coming, that He produces a great concern that the Lord Jesus should be served. No one can get away from that.

The Nature of Service

That being the truth, the foundation of service, that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of service, and that those who have the Holy Spirit are governed by a spirit of service and that you cannot really be a Spirit-filled life without a real concern for the Lord’s service, that being so, we can go on to see the nature of service. What does the Holy Spirit do to make for service? This, perhaps, is where some adjustment is needed. I am quite sure in a general way in evangelical Christianity, adjustments are needed on this matter. In the first place the Holy Spirit does not make official workers, that is, He does not make missionaries officially so, He does not make ministers officially so, He does not make any officers as such in the first place. We think of going into the Lord’s work and we at once get certain forms and modes of service. We think of a missionary, that is, a class, a particular kind of person; a minister, that is a particular kind of person too. He is marked out from everybody else in various ways. You can tell he is a minister, he calls himself a minister, he is different. That is something official; or in many other forms of Christian work officially, we think of the Lord’s service, and the Holy Spirit does not begin there at all.

What the Holy Spirit does is to make people. He constitutes representatives, He deals with individuals. He does not give them, in the first place, something to say, He does something in them out of which all their saying comes. He does not tell them what to do; He so works in them that they go and do it, it comes out, it is spontaneous as the result of something done in them. If this were not true, and where this is not true, you get all sorts of false and artificial positions. Quite a lot of young men and women are ready to throw up business and go out and be a missionary. There is something romantic about it. They could serve the Lord so much better if you put them down in the heart of Timbuktu. But here they are in the heart of a tremendous crying need, and they are not serving the Lord at all. That is false and artificial. The Holy Spirit does not do that. The Holy Spirit makes witnesses or representatives — the same thing, and if you are not a representative where you are, do not think that by changing to some foreign land where they are dark heathen that you are going to be a representative there. It does not work that way, not under the Holy Spirit’s regime.

We are constituted representatives and when we are representatives, then the Holy Spirit disposes of us and puts us here or there, where He will. In His sovereignty He appoints to the sphere, but He does not appoint officials, He appoints people. A mere official may cut no ice at all, and the Lord knows that Gehazi may be the official servant of the prophet and he may get hold of the prophet’s rod and go in his official capacity with the insignia of office into the death chamber where that boy lies and he may manipulate the insignia of office and put it this way and that, but nothing happens. The woman saw through Gehazi and said, I am not going with you, I am going to stay with the prophet! When the prophet came as the man anointed of God, he spread himself upon the lad, identified himself with the lad in a vital way, and he was literally dragged back from death into life. That is not official, that is vital, that is a person (2 Kings 4:17-37). "Why could not we cast him out?" said the disciples after that ignominious failure at the foot of the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:19). Well, we perhaps ought not to give an answer to that other than the Lord gave, but perhaps they had tried officially. We are disciples of Christ! They had evidently made an attempt at casting out the demon. The Lord said, in effect, This thing is done vitally not officially, you cannot do this by merely bearing the name of a disciple, you have to be a divine representation! It needs no reiteration and overemphasis.

These are principles of service. The Lord makes people, makes men and women, the Holy Spirit does that. He does not make officials. The service of the Lord is fundamentally personal and springs out of what the Lord has done in us, and it amounts to Christ coming into a situation by us. I am sure none of us would covet anything more than that, that our very presence might mean in influence and effect the presence of Christ, but that is it; that is the service of the Lord that He comes in by us.

All sorts of perils and dangers are associated with that, and you know how foolish people are, that immediately the Lord does something through a channel, by means of an instrument, people begin to make something of that person at once. ‘Oh, let us call so-and-so, if only he will come, if only she will come’, and they begin to make something of the vessel, and the next time it does not happen. It is the Lord and He is very jealous and you can never take anything for granted. You have got to recognize all the time it is the Lord, but this is the service of the Lord. That is why it is so necessary for one who really brings Christ into a situation, to be a thoroughly crucified person who will never take any glory to themselves, who will never allow people to make of them experts in spiritual matters, but it is the Lord. If it were not for the Lord, nothing is possible. It is only a crucified man or woman who can serve the Lord really because service is bringing the Lord in. It is all the Lord.

There is a lot of history behind what I have just said. If I am not mistaken, that is the explanation of all Paul’s suffering. If ever a man brought the Lord Jesus into a situation, Paul did. If ever a man’s presence meant the presence of the Lord, his presence meant that. But there is nothing in the natural realm where Paul was concerned which gives him anything whatever to trade upon. If we are not mistaken, the right reading of Paul’s life is this, that Paul himself was more often than not unconscious of any demonstration of God’s presence. If you had asked him, he would often have had to say, "No, all I am conscious of is extreme weakness, dependence, need, helplessness; I am not always aware of the mighty power of God resting upon me, I am not always aware of being lifted completely above my infirmities, weaknesses, I am conscious of them all the time; if anything is happening, it is happening in spite of all sorts of things which cripple and limit and seek to defeat and destroy me; the Lord is doing it in spite of these things!" I believe that was the true history of Paul. The Lord kept him there.

It is the mystery of Christ. See the Lord Jesus here in the days of His flesh. Look at Him purely along a human line. What do you see? Well, men do not see anything but a man, perhaps a very ordinary man at that. Evidently there is nothing about Him as a man which overpowered them, which made them feel: Here we have a superman! No, nothing like that. Probably they saw weakness. "His face was so marred more than any man’s" (Isa. 52:14). They saw tiredness. There was no difference between Him and us regarding His humanity, but there is something in spite of that, something that you cannot account for. It is not natural at all, it cannot be accounted for along any other line. There is something else here. That is the mystery of Christ. It is God here present in this weakness.

And the principle is carried over to His servants and to His Church. If you look for any explanation at all along human lines you will not find it. You will find a great deal which seems to provide a background for wondering whether anything more is going to be possible, and the mystery of Christ is this, that it goes on and it comes again and again, but it does not get rid of all these human weaknesses and limitations. It goes on in spite of them.

I believe we have got to come to some acceptance on this point. It has got to be something we settle before the Lord. That amounts to this, that naturally we might die, a hundred times, a thousand times; from every natural standpoint, you might take a very short lease of life, but we will live to seventy, eighty, ninety years of age — until God says, it is finished! I think we have got to come to a settled place about this matter, that we are not going to finish up, if we are here representing the Lord, until the Lord says, "Finished!" though all the best human opinion, all scientific wisdom and understanding, might say, "No!" I believe this is something we have got to settle before God. Some of us again and again have felt that the end has come, but it has not been. It is a coming up again and again, and you cannot account for it. It is not hysteria at all, it is God, the mystery of Christ. Shall we not settle back on that and say, Yes, it will be, until the Lord says, "Finished" it is not going to be finished. You have your bad times and feel the Lord has done with you or that you are finished. Do not accept anything until the Lord says so, and you know when the Lord says so. That by the way.

The point is that it is the Lord. It is not what we are, what we do, at all; it is the Lord coming into evidence. That is the service of the Lord. The Lord is coming in by us in this representative way, and it is all Himself. That is the Holy Spirit’s method, that is the Holy Spirit’s way of doing things. That is the service of the Lord. Oh, it is not our going out to preach this or that or another doctrine or all the doctrines of Christ. It is that we are where we are in the will of God as being there for Christ, implying Christ, signifying Christ, and if that is true, hell will be provoked, for hell is ever-determined that Christ is not going to have His place.

What we are saying is that it is a matter, not of office, but qualification, and qualification is spiritual. Spiritual qualification is that, by the anointing of the Spirit, Christ is brought in by us and this is representation.

We can apply that. Of course, it begins with the individual. It has got to be true in the case of every one of us individually just where we are. That has got to be the meaning of our lives. We call ourselves ‘Christians’. Well, Christ — what is that? The very word is ‘The Anointed’. All the anointing in the Old Testament points to Him and is gathered up in Him, the Christ. It points to the Christ, the Christos, the Anointed One. Christ; then the anointed ones, and we have seen that the anointing means God committed, God there. That is what a Christian is. What is a Christian? — an anointed one, and anointing means God by His Spirit is there. So wherever we are in the will of God, it is to be God by His Spirit there, and it has got to be individually so, and that is the service of the Lord foundationally.

Universal Representation in One Body

But of course the Holy Spirit did not stop there. This divine thought is a collective thought, a corporate thought. It must affect and involve the individual, but ultimately it works out to universal representation in one Body, the Church, God represented in the Church, and then in the New Testament the one universal Church, the Body of Christ, locally represented. It is not just a matter of collecting a number of people together in any given place, people who have accepted certain teaching and therefore have a common creed and they meet together. The Holy Spirit is doing something deeper than that. It is not firstly external, from the outside, objective. What the Holy Spirit is doing is bringing into being in each locality a corporate representation of Christ, that that company there is Christ corporately present. "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I" (Matt. 18:20); it is Christ present. That is the meaning, that is the purpose, of a local company of the Lord’s people, and there is something, as we have so often said, about the corporate expression of Christ which is of peculiar value, meaning and power.

I know some of you will find your heartbreaking problem in that very realm. "I am alone where I am!" Well, you are not. In the first place, you must remember and maintain the fact that you are a member of a great Body, and in the realm of things spiritual there is no separateness. I wish we could grasp this which seems such an abstract thing, but, I feel, a thing of tremendous importance and reality. There is a great deal of pressure today being felt by spiritual children of God, terrific conflict, and when you look around for the explanation, you cannot find it. Some of us where we are there in the North, have felt terrific pressure, conflict, strain, as though the enemy was out for our utter destruction, and we look immediately around us to see what the explanation is and we cannot find it. We cannot really give an answer to the question as to what it means from what is immediately around us. It is not that something tremendous is happening round us, so great that the enemy is out to kill us for it. What is the explanation? I submit it to you, not without New Testament support for it, that "if one member suffer, all the members suffer" (1 Cor. 12:26), and are there not many members of the Body over the earth who are suffering immensely in these days? And if this Body is a Body that is bound together by a great spiritual nerve system, if the Body is a true metaphor or representative thought for the Church, it is not just an organization, not just a building of cold stones without life, but a Body which is shot through and through from the uttermost extremities by the keenest nervous system, so that you cannot touch a needle point anywhere without affecting the whole Body. That is how it is with our physical body, and if that is transferred to the Body of Christ, the Holy Spirit Himself being the nerve system binding the Body together, may it not be that those members who are suffering so much are registering their suffering in other members of the Body who are sensitive, who are alive. The more alive we are to the Holy Spirit, the more we shall suffer with other members of the Body. The Holy Spirit means to draw us out to stand with them and for them, and not knowing, not having information as to what is happening, nevertheless, interpreting this as the meaning. There is a great need for our standing strongly, not only for our own life, but for the life of many others. There is no doubt about it, the Holy Spirit is making for corporate representation of Christ, and the devil is out to scatter saints, and, scattering them, break them down and destroy them, and the Holy Ghost is reacting to that because this corporate representation means a very great deal indeed.

The Power of the Holy Spirit

I am going to close on this note. "Ye shall receive power, the Holy Spirit coming upon you, and ye shall be witnesses unto Me... ye shall be My representatives, in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." Ye shall receive power... the Holy Spirit coming upon you... and my last note is just this: that for all this service of the Lord, this representation, this bringing in of the Lord, this standing in our place against the forces of evil which are bent on ousting Christ from this world, for suffering as His representatives, for it all, we may ask the question: Who is sufficient for these things? The answer is "Ye shall receive power, the Holy Spirit coming upon you." The Holy Spirit constitutes the vessels and the service. He is the Spirit of service and He is the constituent factor in the vessels of service. He is the power by which this representation is maintained in the earth. "Ye shall receive power...". The Lord knew quite well that these men would never stand to bring Him in, to imply Him. He knew Peter well enough in spite of Peter’s boasts. He knew those men and He said, "Tarry ye in Jerusalem, until ye be clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). "Ye shall receive power, the Holy Spirit coming upon you." Then we can see what happened. The man with all his boast of what he would do and suffer and go to death, ran away and denied his Lord with oaths and curses before a mere serving-maid downstairs — that is the worth of his courage when put to the test. But there is no cringing about that man standing up on the day of Pentecost and confronting the murderers of Christ and laying the charge for His death at their door. "When they saw the boldness of Peter and John..." (Acts 4:13). That is what the Holy Ghost can do for us. The Holy Ghost can change a cringing coward into a courageous, bold man. He is the Spirit of courage, and He did a good many other things as well. "Ye shall receive power, the Holy Spirit coming upon you." That is our hope, our assurance — the Holy Spirit. Let Him have His way, make sure He has a free course to make us true servants, that is, representatives of the Lord.

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