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

Chapter 6 - The Way of Attainment of Knowledge Necessary for Representation

"...marked out the Son of God in power... by the resurrection of the dead" (Rom. 1:4).

"...till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a full-grown man" (Eph. 4:13).

"I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord... that I may know Him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, becoming conformed unto His death" (Phil. 3:8,10).

There is a matter that I want to bring to you now which perhaps, unlike the word of the previous meditation, will call for a little more exercise on your part, not just mental exercise, but it will call for some giving of ourselves intensely to it in order that we shall grasp the great significance that lies here.     

Before we come to that specific matter or point, may I remind you of the very great value and importance which the Scriptures attach to spiritual knowledge. There is all the difference between spiritual knowledge and mental knowledge or mere head knowledge. We may say rightly, according to the Scriptures, that everything for the life of the child of God depends upon spiritual knowledge and is bound up with spiritual knowledge. "This is life eternal, that they should know thee the only true God, and Him whom thou didst send, Jesus Christ" (John 17:3). So life eternal is linked with a certain knowledge, and from that very first thing in the history of the child of God (that is, eternal life by knowledge) everything else is linked with a particular, specific knowledge. That is, we have got to know in a spiritual way in order to grow in the spiritual life.

You notice how much importance the apostle attaches to this. "I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord." And that is not completed even at that point, for he afterwards follows on by saying as something still lying ahead — I press on that I may know Him! He is a man who has a vast knowledge of the Lord but who is so aware of the tremendous importance and value of spiritual knowledge as to put all other things which are of account to men aside as worthless for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Then there is this great prospect presented and opened out in Ephesians 4. The ascended Lord gave gifts among men; He gave ministering gifts, apostles, prophets, and so on, for the perfecting, the building up of the body of Christ "till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God". It almost seems as though what is implied is this: that the goal of this body of Christ of which he is speaking, the Church which is His Body, is the full knowledge of the Son of God. Everything must be linked with that full knowledge of the Son of God.

Now, of course we understand this in a little way from our own spiritual experience and history. Every one of us who has any real spiritual life and history knows quite well that we owe our spiritual growth to spiritual knowledge that has come to us. We say: when I came to know (whatever it might be) when I came to know in a spiritual way, in a vital way, when I came to know that, it made all the difference. From the time I came to know in that way there has been a difference; I have been different, it has meant a great deal to me that I came to know! All the differences are made along that line of progressive, growing knowledge, spiritual knowledge, inward knowledge.

So the Word would reveal to us this: that all that God has intended in Christ for the saints, the great destiny, the great vocation, the great attainment — and what a calling it is, what an , as Paul calls it — all that is to be reached by spiritual knowledge, by a progressively and continually coming to fresh inward knowledge. We can say: I know, I have come to know, and I am coming to know, and the Lord is leading me to know! It is like that, that is the way of it. That is simple, but I simply wanted at the outset to emphasize and remind you of the great value and importance that is bound up with spiritual knowledge.

The Law of Spiritual Knowledge

Now, the thing which I want to get over to you, as the Lord alone can enable me, is a law which is found in the Scriptures throughout; a law of spiritual knowledge. I have seen that there is a law wrapped up in the Scriptures which governs this whole matter of spiritual knowledge. In the Old Testament, of course, it is presented very largely in a typical way, but the law is a spiritual law and it governs this knowledge which is spiritual enlargement, growth, and progress in the life of the child of God. The law is this: there is a place necessary in order to have the knowledge.

Now, if you go back to the Old Testament, of course you find it just full of that in type, in figure. For instance, the light of the purpose of God was only disclosed to Abraham when he came into the land, not when he was in Mesopotamia. God told him to get out of Mesopotamia, and it was not until he came into the land that God disclosed to him His purpose. It was necessary to be in a certain place before he got the knowledge.

The light of God and of the name of God was not disclosed to Jacob when he was in Paran (Gen. 21:21), not when he was in the foreign country, but when he was there on the spot at Bethel. He did not get the light of God, of the Name of God, until he had got to that place.

The light as to the Divine dwelling in the tabernacle was never given to Israel in Egypt but waited until they got to the place where the tabernacle was to be in the wilderness.

A place was necessary in order to have the knowledge and the Old Testament is just full of that. You know that place names in the Old Testament are always typical. You know how much is bound up with Gilgal. You have to come to Gilgal in order to have a certain kind of spiritual knowledge — Bethel, Hebron — and so you go on, and the Lord fixed places in the Old Testament for the revelation of Himself. "Where I put My name" (Ex. 20:24), if you come there you will know Me. You will not know Me out there somewhere else; you have to come to the place I have appointed, there I will meet you! That is the type.

In the New Testament, in the spiritual side of this, of course it is not geographical places, it is not a certain local gathering. You do not have to go to Honor Oak or anywhere else before you get the light! It is not geographical spots or places, but it is a spiritual place that you have to come to before you get the knowledge.

Well now, that opens a wide, large field, and we just indicate one or two of these places which are the places of spiritual knowledge which has to do with our coming to the full knowledge of the Son of God, to the full-grown man.

Resurrection

"...Determined (marked out) the Son of God in power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead". The knowledge, the light of the knowledge of resurrection, demands that we come to a place and that place is the place of death. That is simple and well-known, but it is a law. It is a law written in the Old Testament in type and figure again and again. The resurrection demands that you come actually to the place of death. The law is made clear in the New Testament. You have to be in the place of death and burial before you can know Him and the power of His resurrection, before you can have that knowledge of resurrection with which so much is bound up. Oh, everything at the outset is bound up with that, that we know union with Christ in resurrection, not as truth, not as doctrine, a creed, but in an inward way, a spiritual knowledge.

There is a very remarkable paragraph in Ezekiel 39. Of course, there is the prophetic side to it, but there is also the spiritual as there always is in prophecy. Gog and Magog come from the North into the land, and then the people of God come back from captivity into that land, and the Lord comes in judgment against Gog and Magog who have invaded His land and slain many. And then the Lord calls for the whole people to rise up to bury the dead that have been slain. They are to bury through a whole period of seven months, a perfect spiritual work, in burying the dead. All the people are to do it, but there is to be a certain company appointed to go through the land, and wherever they find even an exposed bone they are to set up a mark. And then this appointed company who come and find this mark over an exposed bone, are to bury it; so objectionable is anything dead and not buried that He is going to have it put out of sight. They cannot possess the land, they cannot come back and enjoy the inheritance while there is something dead that is not buried.

I remember a brother once speaking about baptism. He said, "When you came to the Lord and you saw that Christ died for you, did you not see when Christ died, you died? Well, why have you not got your corpse buried?! The only place for a dead person is the grave!" Well, that is very blunt.

This is the Lord’s thought. Christ is the inheritance, Christ is the land, all the fulness represented by Canaan is in Christ, all the wealth, the land flowing with milk and honey. And the Lord’s people cannot come in and possess and enlarge their inheritance in Christ, the full knowledge of Christ, if there is anything dead that is not buried. The Lord says that we are dead, we were crucified with Christ (Rom. 6:6), and the New Testament principle is this: that it has got to be put out of the way, out of sight, before we can come into fulness, full possession and enlargement. It is simply emphasizing this law of the Word of God throughout that in order to know resurrection knowledge, we must come to the place of death and burial, that is, the putting away firstly of the whole body of the flesh and then of the whole natural man. It is only as you and I in the natural life are buried, are put out of sight, out of the way, that we can know Him. We are standing in our own light when we are not buried, when we are not out of the way; when we have not come to the place of death we are obstructing the light of the full knowledge of Christ.

You know how true it is, when the natural man is in evidence, the spiritual man is in eclipse. When the natural mind is active upon the things of God, the Holy Spirit does not show us the things of God. That natural mind has got to get out of the way to know resurrection, which is not just a thing once and for all, but a thing in which much more obtains for us which is to be known. Paul says, "...that I may know him and the power of his resurrection" (Phil. 3:10). Paul had been on the road a long time when he said that. "Unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us..." (the power of His resurrection). That depends entirely upon the working of death, our coming to the place of death. The law is this: that the more we come to the place of death to the natural life, the self-life, the more we come to the place of knowing the full knowledge of the Son of God in terms of resurrection.

Sonship

The light of sonship demands a place. You know that that is the whole argument of the letter to the Galatians. It was a question of sonship, and the apostle is saying, "Before you can know sonship, you have to come to a place where sonship is known, and the life of sonship is only possessed when you come to the place of the Spirit as over against the flesh." I cannot stay with Galatians along those lines, but here is the truth. Sonship is something much more than being born again, than just being a child of God. Sonship is the coming to the full knowledge of the Son of God, it is growing up into Him in all things. Sonship is an added thing. You cannot come to the knowledge of all that sonship means as something more than childhood unless you come into the place where the Spirit takes ascendancy over the flesh. It is a place; it is a place of crisis.

It may be like Jacob’s Jabbok where that strength of self-life is touched and withered in its very sinew, in the very strength of the thigh. Jacob’s self-life is deeply affected from heaven, and then his name is changed to a heavenly name — Israel, a prince with God, a spiritual people, no longer carnal. You see, the law of the knowledge of the Son of God depends upon our coming to a place.

Does this not say how hopeless it is to try and get spiritual knowledge by study, by information? Not one of us have ever got this from books, from people. This thing has got to come by our coming to a spiritual position. We have got to get somewhere. We cannot take it on from others. We may get help from listening and reading, but we cannot get this full knowledge of the Son of God in that way. We have to come to a place, we have to have a crisis. The knowledge of sonship depends upon the place where the Spirit is established as sovereign Lord over the flesh.

Christ’s Sovereign Headship

The light of the knowledge of Christ’s sovereign Headship demands a place. This is Colossians — the sovereign Headship of Christ, His supreme authority as a functioning thing. Christ is sovereign Head of the church, Christ is exalted above all principalities and powers, Christ is pre-eminent, transcendent. That is great truth, but that is not good enough for me as a truth. I want that thing to become an actuality in my experience; that mighty authority and power of Christ has got to become a reality in dally life. Somehow I have got to get into that where I can lay hold of it and appeal to it and it works; where the forces of evil are over­powered by it in my experience as they assail me; His sovereign Headship has to cover me, protect me, guard me from evil forces and deliver me. I have to know His all-authority, I want to know Him in His sovereign Headship.

To know that, I have to come into the place of relatedness to the Head in the Body. "Holding fast the head" — this is the word of Colossians, "...holding fast the Head, from whom all the body, being supplied and knit together through the joints and bands, increaseth..." (2:19) I have to get into line with the members of His body in a spiritual way under that Headship; that is, I have to forsake all independent, detached and unrelated ground. It is a position. If the enemy can get you and me detached and unrelated and separate, he is going to rob us of the benefits of Christ’s sovereign Headship. If we are going to know the value of Christ as our sovereign Head in all authority, we have to get into a relationship with that Head with other members. "Holding fast the Head, from whom all the body...", every part.

Full-Growth

You come to Ephesians "...the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a full-grown man..." (4:13). What does it demand? Well, if Colossians sees me in relation with other believers holding fast the Head, Ephesians sees me in relation to other believers working together corporately. Colossians is the upward aspect of the Head. Ephesians is the outward aspect of the body to the other members, and these are complementary. To come to full-growth and to the full knowledge of the Son, we have got to come to the place where the body is a reality, not just a doctrine or a truth. So often when we speak about this matter of the Body of Christ, the Church the Body of Christ, the rejoinder from many is: of course! We take it for granted, all believers are one Body, they are all members of Christ and we are all one Body! Yes, that is the fact, the truth, but what about the practical working of it in a spiritual way? That is something different and something more. It is a strange thing the people who hold that can still without any question go on in schisms and divisions and all kinds of distinctions here on this earth among Christians. They can be cut up into a thousand denominators and this truth of the Body is not a working thing which simply rules out all that, refuses all ground of schism, division, and every kind of human department amongst Christians. It does not effect that with so many.

Well, you say, does it matter? Look at the Church, look at the Lord’s children today. What about the full knowledge of the Son of God? What about this growth to the fulness of Christ? Oh, there is an appalling and tragic ignorance among the majority of the Lord’s people of the Lord Himself. The ignorance is awful and the result is that the spiritual power is very small indeed. It does matter to our coming to the full knowledge of the Son of God, it does matter to our growth up into Him, to the attaining of the fulness of Christ, the full stature of Christ. It does matter whether the truth of the Body is a practical thing, not just theoretical. You have got to come to the place where you forsake all ground that is other than the ground of the absolute and working spiritual oneness of the Lord’s people. To occupy such ground means limitation and loss, as the history of the church proves, and as all the activity of the enemy demonstrates. To divide the Lord’s people is to weaken and limit them. To bring the Lord’s people in spiritual oneness is to build them up and make them a force with which the enemy has to reckon.

Will you remember this law? It is everywhere in the Old Testament. The Lord says in such a place I will meet you. You can go anywhere in all the universe but that place, and you will not get that knowledge. Even Saul of Tarsus, elect from eternity, chosen from the ages to be God’s apostle to the Gentiles, foreknown and foreordained, will ask the question: "What shall I do, Lord?" (Acts 22:10), and the answer will be, "Go into Damascus and it shall be told thee there." It was not that Damascus was anything more than any other place, but the Church was there, and the Lord was not going to meet any man, even a destined apostle, on any other ground but that. He says, I am in My Body, I will meet you in My Body! That is a spiritual law. If you have been wandering the world, ask the Lord to show you that spiritual place, that spiritual position, where you will find what you are after. In the case of most of us, the Lord has had to deal with us in order to bring us to a spiritual place in order to show us something. When the Lord brought us there, we saw. We found there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.


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