That Which Was From The Beginning
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 8 - The Maintaining of the Testimony in Life

We have seen the testimony brought in with Christ and then deposited in the vessel, the church - in His own. Now the question arises in view of all that hostility and that which is inimical to the testimony: How is it to be preserved and maintained? The answer in the Word and in this particular letter with which we are occupied, is that the divine provision against all that is hostile and inimical and for the maintenance of the testimony, is the blood. Read 1 John 1:7: "...if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin." And 1 John 5:5-8, "And who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three who bear witness, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and the three agree in one."

Wherever in the Word of God we come into touch with the blood, we always find a vital energy, a vital element, something active, something energetic. You never find the associations of blood as merely passive. They are always active. The blood is always, whether it be in type or in spiritual reality, represented as an active force and an energetic element. On the one hand it is seen as withstanding something, withstanding death. On the other hand, it is seen as making to live.

The Blood

Take as an illustration the blood sprinkled on the door posts and the lintel in Egypt, and you find that it is there as a positive factor, resisting death. The picture is that of death coming to destroy. Strong words are used. The destroyer (and what a destroyer death is!) is coming to Egypt and will lay hold of all that he can and break in wherever he can break in. There must be an effectual resistance set up to him and that resistance is provided by the blood. The full illustration is much more than that, and we should need to get into the whole of the meaning and method of blood resistance as in the system of things in those days to understand it fully. That blood being upon the very threshold of the house was something that the destroyer feared. As we have often pointed out, the Hebrew sees a receptacle as on the very threshold in which the blood was caught, so that there was a complete encircling of blood. Any hostile force that dared to go through that circle did so at the risk of its own destruction. Superstition arose about that later on and in various forms thresholds became places of superstition. That is why you hang a horseshoe up on your door, why you hang a charm over your door. You find that, in different parts of the world, the doorway or the threshold of the house is regarded as something sacred and there is associated with it forces that are supernatural. In the Gospel thieves are represented as not coming in by the door but climbing up some other way, because of the superstition of the doorway. 

That is a mere hint at things, but here you see the blood was provided as a protection and the enemy coming would not cross that threshold, would not pass over that threshold, through that circle, because that meant destruction. This is typology, but it carries principles which are revealed in their meaning in the New Testament. It was an effectual resistance to death in Egypt and on other occasions.

Then, take the other side, for instance the tabernacle. The result of death having been dealt with brings something of God into being and then you get the tabernacle brought in. Everything in the tabernacle - the curtains, the vessels, the altar, the priesthood, the covenant... what is called in our translation "the book" - are all there, but as yet they are not functioning. It is a divine provision, but they are not active. Not until Moses takes the blood and sprinkles the book and all the people, and the priests and their garments, and the curtains and the altar, and all the vessels, do they begin to function. From that moment they are active, they are as it were alive, so that on the one hand, the blood is set forth as resisting death and withstanding death, and on the other hand, making what is of God alive.

You come to this letter of John and you find that the references to the blood are associated with activity: "The blood of Jesus His Son cleanses" (the Greek tense is present active, "is all the time cleansing"). It is something active. When you remember that John wrote this letter many, many years after the death of Christ and yet he is using the present active tense about the blood, and indicates that it is not only present but is continuous, you see that the blood is not something the activity and vitality of which was associated alone with the hour in which it was shed, but it is something effectual years and years after.

Then when you come over to chapter 5 the blood is said to be bearing witness. "There are three that bear witness..." and the blood is associated with the Spirit. The Spirit is witnessing. Now, we can believe that the Spirit as a personal intelligence would witness, but it is said of the blood that it is doing just exactly the same as the Spirit is doing, and so the blood is brought almost into the realm of being a living, intelligent thing: witnessing. It is the thought of the energy, the activity and the vitality of the blood.

Why is this so? What is it that gives to the blood this active, energetic, vital character? Why is the blood such a force in the universe against that which is not of God, and for what is of God against death and for life? The answer is very simple: because of its nature. In the typology the blood was the blood of an offering, without spot or wrinkle or blemish or any such thing; therefore the blood in type was represented as being wholly without corruption. Only in type was this so, but it had to be so in type, and the beast had to be, so far as things go in that realm, perfect. When you come out of the type into the antitype, the blood is the blood of One Who is perfect. It is incorruptible blood. It is holy, sinless, undefiled. It is the nature of the blood which gives it its power and which is the secret of its energy.

The Water

Look at some of these statements here in 1 John 5 and you will see what we mean.

"This is the One that came by water and blood... not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood" (verse 6). What is the water? Some would answer, The Word, but that is not so in this case. You are not dealing with the laver now. The water here stands for judgement. It is the judgement side of things. It is judgement as by the flood in the days of Noah. It is Romans 6, "...buried with Him in baptism". It is the judgement upon all flesh, and the putting of it out of God's sight in death and burial. Says the apostle, referring to Noah and the flood: "Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you" (1 Peter 3:21). So the flood and baptism are type and antitype. It is the judgement side of the flesh in putting it away from God's sight. Jesus Christ came with the judgement, but not with water only, but with blood. What is the blood? That is the righteousness side. If the water is the unrighteous side, the blood is the righteous side. If the water is the death and judgement side, the blood is the life and the righteousness side. Jesus Christ came by judgement on all flesh, and life through righteousness. How magnificent this argument is in the light of the context!

Testing the spirits, proving the spirits, testing error, false doctrine, false prophets, false spirits; that is what is here. It is not just the incarnation. That is not the point of the test. The test is not just: Do you believe that Jesus Christ came in the flesh? That is only going halfway. Of course many might confess that He is come in the flesh, and you get a great emphasis upon the historic Christ and you can get a new theology, as it is called, which will admit the deification of humanity, of God being in man. So you get the divinity of Christ, and the divinity of man, and there is glossed over the whole question of the real nature of the Person of Christ by this subtle trick of admitting, "Oh, yes, you will find God in every man; you will find a little more God or a good deal more God in Jesus than in other men. It is a matter of degree." In that way it will be admitted that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, and you simply have got a twist on things, and cut away the real ground.

Now complete the matter. Do you believe not only that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, but that coming in the flesh He has come by water and the blood? And thus that He has come to wipe out all flesh in judgement, and to give life and only by way of His Cross, which is the water and the blood? Otherwise there is no hope of fellowship with God. That is the argument. The blood speaks of a holy nature provided by God as the ground of life and the way of life.

The strength and the energy of the blood is found in the fact that, on the one hand, an unrighteous state of things has been put away in judgement and now a righteousness has been brought to light and provided as a ground of standing before God. He is set forth as a propitiation through His blood (literally, a Mercy Seat). We are taken back again into the tabernacle, and we see the Mercy Seat, which is made effectual by the sprinkled blood. The blood is taken through into the Holy Place and sprinkled there, and is an active thing. What is the nature of this activity? Man and God meet there in the Mercy Seat by the effectual operation of the blood. That is a type of Christ.

Our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son. How? By reason of the blood. How is it going to be maintained, and how is the testimony of life and in life to be preserved? The one side of that is, "If we walk in the light as He Himself is in the Light..." that is the one side. That means, as John here says, "This is the message that we heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all". As we have already sought to point out, that means that with God there is nothing whatever of all that realm of things called darkness. God is other than that, and to be in fellowship with God means that we have parted company with that whole realm that is other than God. We are now abandoned to all that is God and that is "no darkness at all". Then the other side, "if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light... the blood of Jesus, His Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). This, of course, would be understood by the people to whom the letter was written. If we were to put it in other language we should say this: The holy, righteous, perfect life and nature of the Lord Jesus keeps on availing for us to make us live, to keep us in life, where no death touches us. The testimony is in the presence of God. In heaven the blood witnesses and testifies. It testifies to the fact that if you and I are in faith union with God in His Son through the Cross, we are on a basis where death can have no power, and where all that leads to death can have no dominion. It is victory through the blood. In other words, it is victory through a holy and righteous and perfect nature which cannot be overcome by the enemy by death.

Let us ask a question: What is it that really does overcome the world, the flesh and the devil? What is it that renders these helpless and impotent in spite of all their power, when they are at work against the Lord's people? Is it our resolution? Is it our perseverance? Is it our effort of any kind? No! It is the provided ground of God in a perfect nature. The prince of this world had absolutely no power over the Christ, because He had nothing in Him that was like himself that could be laid hold of by the devil. Therefore the prince of this world could be cast out.

That perfect nature of the Lord Jesus is provided by God for us to stand upon by faith. Immediately you and I begin to look at our own interests and try to find something good in them to stand upon, the enemy will make short shrift of our victory, and we shall have a very bad time. But as we stand on the ground of the blood, which means an incorruptible nature and therefore an indestructible life, there is victory, and the testimony of life in Christ is maintained.

Our appeal must always be to the blood, and as sure as we appeal to the blood in faith, there will be victory. This is the secret of overcoming. The question in John is the question of overcoming. Who is he that overcomes? Even he that believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, is come in the flesh. What does that mean? How did He come in the flesh? "This is the One that came by water and by blood..." He that overcomes does so on this ground: that Jesus Christ has come by water and blood. From God's standpoint Satan had a ground upon which he could operate, and God simply took the ground away from him and put it down in a grave in judgement, where Satan cannot get at it. The Lord does not defeat the devil by striking him a blow, but by taking his ground away from him. You and I will never be able to rise up against the enemy and smite him in a direct way. We shall have to first of all look round to see what ground the devil has, and in getting rid of the ground we get rid of him and we rob him of his power. Oh, that the Lord's people could grasp this. It is a secret for the Lord's servants.

Sooner or later, if you have not already done so, you will come into touch with cases of lost assurance of salvation, cases where there has been an acceptance of the idea of having committed the unpardonable sin, having been given up by God, having become entirely possessed by the devil: darkness, terrible darkness, where hope has gone and assurance has gone. These are real things. The occasion is not always sin; sometimes it is sin, but sometimes it is simply the breakdown of the nervous system through overstrain. If for some reason or other the nervous system breaks down, a man is no longer able to stand up against things. Whatever may be the cause, the fact is that there are plenty of people about like that, and who is to say that you and I may not be attacked in that way at some time? We are just as subject to a nervous breakdown as anyone else. We might at sometime or other have a terrible onslaught of the devil, blotting out everything for us in the realm of our consciousness of the Lord.

What are we going to do with these people? How are we going to deal with the situation? This is the victory, this is the secret, and that is why the devil hates the blood. One remembers some years ago being asked to visit and try to help such a case. It was a desperate situation where the person thought he had committed the unpardonable sin and was in awful, dark, dread and horror. We tried for a solid hour and a half to get that person just to allow the mention of the blood to pass his lips. We tried this way and that way, and another way. After a long time it seemed to be coming, and then it just did not get through. For nearly two hours we worked to get an appeal to the blood of Jesus, but without avail. Why was it? That was not normal. There was something else there. The ground of hope was set aside, the ground of the blood. The only way of escape, the only way through, the only way of victory, the only way of maintaining and preserving the testimony is by reason of an intelligent apprehension of the meaning of the blood, and a standing on that ground. There is such a thing as unpardonable sin, but ninety-nine out of every hundred who believe it is true of them are labouring under a lie of the devil. I wonder whether the fact that they have not committed it, is manifested by the fact that they are so concerned about their spiritual state, and if a person who has committed that sin will have any concern about it. The very fact that when Satan does really get a grip he does everything in his power to prevent an appeal to the blood is itself an indication that that is the way of deliverance from him, that is the way of victory.

Now, it is not only in extreme cases like that, but almost every day of our lives we may be up against some operation of the enemy to quench the testimony of Christ as risen. Death works all around us, the spirit of the world is around us, playing upon us, and there is enough in our fallen nature which wraps us around to provide a good field for the operation of death. Our battle for life is often in the realm of our own make-up, what we find in ourselves. In the spirit of the world about us, death and the naked forces of the evil one working death, seek to bring our testimony down into defeat.

 The Testimony of His Risen Life in Us

What is the secret of victory? "They overcame because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony". Those two things go together. What is the word of their testimony? They testify according to the threefold testifying in heaven: the fact that in Christ's death all the ground of satanic right was put away; the fact that in Christ's blood there is holiness for us who are unholy in ourselves; the fact of Christ crucified. You and I need day by day to know more of the mighty value of the precious blood of Jesus against the working of death against the testimony of our risen Lord in us to meet these death attacks in spirit, or mind, or body, in the power of the blood.

Now, all this is analysis or simply explanation. The fact is there, but intelligence about these facts is very necessary. Many people use the phraseology and truly believe in the power of the blood, but they do not understand why the blood is potent and so they come to a time when, for want of a deeper and fuller understanding of things, they find that their phraseology is not enough to meet the assault. They need to know why the blood is so potent, so energetic, so terrific, and they have to be taken this step further because it represents and sets forth a ground of incorruptibility and deathlessness because of incorruptibility upon which we can stand by faith before God. No judgement, no condemnation; no ground for the accuser of the brethren, because we are not standing upon what we are, but upon Who Christ is. That is the ground of the blood.

Here is the secret of preserving the testimony in life. We are saying a lot of things which may sound technical and they may sound difficult, and some reaction might be: "Well, why not let us remain with the simple Gospel?" The point is the point of this letter, as we have tried to show all the way through, that at an end time things are going to become increasingly intense for the testimony of the Lord Jesus and the powers of evil and darkness are going to become very much more active. The Lord's people are going to find themselves in the vortex of a final terrific conflict, and faith is going to be assailed with new intensity. The problems of the life of believers are going to become much more acute, the world situation is going to be very much more difficult for the children of God, and you and I are going to find as we go on that the Lord's people are going to need help. The servants of the Lord are going to find themselves in difficulties. There have been times in the past when you could go on with comparative ease, when the way was fairly straightforward in the work of the Lord, but we are passing out of that time. You do not get the same situations today as at one time. Problems are arising everywhere for the Lord's people, and the Lord's servants; the problem of getting through, the problem of being able to hold your own, to stand your ground, to say nothing of effecting things.

Now it is an end time: "Little children, it is the last hour (NKJV)", and in a last hour state of things the only thing which will be enough is that which was from the beginning, that which came in with Christ at the beginning, and we shall need all that in the end to get us through. If this testimony is going to come out at the end triumphant, we shall need to know the secrets of the Lord, we shall need to know what the meaning of having eternal life is. Let us rejoice in the fact that we have got it, but let us ask the Lord to show us what it is and what it means. It is a glorious thing to have the anointing, and we rejoice in the fact, but we need to know the values of the anointing. It is a great thing to know the precious blood, and to rejoice in the precious blood, but you and I need to know the deeper mysteries of that blood. Oh, the depths that are in the blood of the Lord Jesus... the values, the potencies! We need to know the secrets of victory, and here they are.

"Who is the one who overcomes", and will overcome to the end? It is those who know that Christ means, "the One who came by water and blood", the Anointing and the Life. These are the things which make for victory, and keep the testimony strong unto the end.


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