Life in the Spirit
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 4 - Filled With the Spirit

There is a phrase in the New Testament with which we are very familiar. I refer to the phrase, "filled with the Spirit". I have been struck with the fact that the phrase occurs only in Luke's writings, with but one exception, and that is in the letter to the Ephesians.

Luke's object in his writings is to present Christ as Son of Man, as God's perfect Man. That we know to have governed his taking in hand to write his treatise to his friend Theophilus, a Greek, whose whole mentality circled round the ideal and perfect man, and who, therefore, in his whole make-up would be looking for such a man. In accordance with that mentality Luke took in hand to write a first and a second treatise to his friend, and in so doing his whole object and careful purpose was to set forth Christ as that Man. So that both in the Gospel and in the Acts we have the Man, Christ Jesus, or the Son of Man, particularly referred to.

Man According to God's Mind

It is significant that with but one exception every occurrence of this phrase, "filled with the spirit" is in Luke's writings, showing, I think, quite clearly and conclusively that it is being filled with the Spirit which makes man what God requires him to be; or, to put that in another way, it is man marked out according to God's mind by being filled with the Spirit. The Man that is set forth by God as His mind for man, as His ideal, as the Man which answers to Him, is the Man filled with the Spirit. To put that again in other words, it is essential to be filled with the Spirit before there can be attainment unto that manhood as represented by the Lord Jesus. If there is to be a marking out by God of that which satisfies His thought in humanity, it must be according to this Man, the Son of Man, filled with the Spirit.

The exception is also very illuminating and significant, because that exception occurs in relation to the corporate man. In Ephesians we have the "one new man" brought into view, the corporate man, and in that connection there is to be a filling with the Spirit. So you see the principle holds good, whether in Luke or in Paul. That filling with the Spirit is the way and the basis of the realisation of what God has in view for man.

With that before us we are able to proceed, and once more come to recognise or to take a view of what it is the Lord is saying to us.

Man in the Throne

The point which we have reached is, firstly, that God has perfected, in terms of Sonship, a human nature which He took upon Himself, and has taken that perfected human life, human nature to heaven. That is the first step. It may be necessary to repeat that, in speaking thus, we do not mean that there was anything in that particular humanity that was sinful, but just as a babe may be flawless, perfect as a babe, and yet has to grow in every sense, inwardly and outwardly, to become a perfect man, so Christ was perfected, not by reason of any imperfection in Him in a moral sense, but by reason of testing unto the full development of those perfect powers in His humanity. So in that sense the full-grown Man is in God's presence, the fully developed, perfect humanity.

The Descent and Work of the Holy Spirit

The second thing is that the Holy Spirit has come in consequence of that. The Holy Spirit could never come to do His real work in this dispensation until that was established, and in consequence of the exaltation, the glorification of the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit has come. The Holy Spirit, therefore, from the outset is bound up with the Lord Jesus in heaven in His purpose. He has come in consequence of that to do in the Man corporately a two-fold thing.

Firstly, His work is to implant that Man, Christ Jesus, in His perfected humanity, as the indispensable, the irreducible minimum for the new creation. Against that everything that the enemy can do, every device, every subterfuge, will be set. The devices of the enemy are very often religious devices, and we find that one of the things which more successfully subverts this essential issue is religion. Religion can be, and has proved to be, the greatest enemy to the essential purpose of God. What are we continually meeting? (You will forgive me if I speak of a certain realm of things that is the only realm that can come under our survey, our purview, and it is not with a view to striking at that thing in particular, but we take it by way of illustration). We are constantly meeting people who, when asked if they have been really born again, will answer that it is not necessary, that they have been confirmed, or they have joined the Church, or something like that. They were baptised when they were infants, and regeneration, new birth, as an experience, goes by the board. It is a fact, however unsavoury it is to speak of. In this and in many other ways the enemy's most successful means of diverting from the issue is religion. Very often what is called the Church is put in the place of the essential, and so by any means within the range of his sinister and diabolical and supernatural resource the enemy seeks just to turn things at that point of introducing Christ into the believer. Once Christ is within you have very God to encounter, the Devil has to meet all that God stands for. It is a tremendous thing to have Christ within. It is indeed the very hope of glory. But see what substitutes there are for that! They are numerous.

The Holy Spirit has come, in the first place, to introduce Christ - who as Man has all the Divine alliance with Him - into the believer. We ought never to be satisfied until we have good reason to believe that this has actually taken place in the case of any soul with whom we have to do; not mental assent or agreement or any such thing, but that real thing which is regeneration.

All that union with Christ means is gathered up into this simple form, and presentation, of Christ introduced within, or, in other words, it is Christ dwelling within our renewed spirits. That is deeper and more inward than our souls. Christ's main residence is not in our souls, because we still go on with reasonings and thoughts which are not Christ; feelings, passions and desires which are not Christ; willings, choosings, and actings. That is all soul. Christ is resident deeper than that. It is of the utmost importance to recognise that, because there are many who for various reasons have lost their mental balance, and then that fact causes them to imagine, feel, believe, say, and do things which are utterly horrible. But nevertheless in the deepest reality they are still God's children. It is simply the outer human fabric that is broken down, perhaps by excessive nervous strain, and they get into asylums. Are we to say that by reason of these misfortunes, these things which come to our humanity, they cease to be God's children? Not at all. Christ dwells more inwardly than in our souls, namely, in our renewed spirits. That is why it is so necessary that the real transaction should take place, so that whatever happens outwardly, whatever forces we may have to encounter, physical or mental or spiritual, the deepest fact remains, that in our spirits Christ abides. That is where sonship is. It is a matter of spirit union.

The second thing with reference to the Holy Spirit's coming is that, because Christ is one, the work of the Spirit makes all believers one Body in Christ. The introducing of Christ into a believer or into individual believers is not the introduction of so many Christs into so many believers, not a matter of there being as many Christs as there are believers. Christ remains one, and inasmuch as Christ is one and indivisible, and yet is introduced by the Spirit into a million believers, the Holy Spirit, therefore, makes of the million believers one Body in Christ. The Body is one because Christ is one. "There is one body, and one Spirit... one Lord..." The Holy Spirit is, therefore, not occupied with individuals as individuals. The individual only comes in as a part of the Holy Spirit's purpose, as a part of that essential Body of Christ in which He is to have the full expression of Himself in the ages to come. That Body is called the Church, and no other Church is known in the Scriptures. The only Church recognised by the Word of God is that Body of believers in whom Christ is resident, making them one corporate Body.

"As the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body; so also is the Christ". (1 Cor. 12:12). The article is left out of the Authorised Version, but in the Greek it is there. It has been recognised that the Greek article in the New Testament is a thing of very great importance. Its presence or its absence means something far more than the presence or absence of a mere part of speech. It governs a far-reaching truth. What is the Christ as viewed from this standpoint? The Christ is a Head and members, all one Body.

The Holy Spirit is here, firstly, to introduce Christ into the believer, and in so doing He is forming in all who believe one Christ, constituting one Body, and that is the Church as in the New Testament.

The Believer's Primary and Comprehensive Obligation

When that has been recognised, then believers are committed to certain obligations in relation to Christ within. The first and comprehensive obligation (the obligation which includes a great deal more) is that the believer must forsake the pre-new-birth ground, and all that that means. That is only another way of saying that the believer must forsake the whole ground of what he is by nature. The Lord Jesus used very simple figures of speech to embody great truths. He could never say what the truths were that He was embodying because there was no spiritual understanding, the Holy Spirit had not come. Afterward, when the Holy Spirit had come there was illumination and enlargement of the fragmentary things that He said. He packed all this great truth of forsaking the ground of nature into a few brief words: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me". "Whosoever doth not bear his own cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple (taught one)". "Deny himself"! You can take hold of that phrase and talk about self denial, and apply it to all sorts of things, whereas the Lord Jesus meant by that the repudiating of the whole ground of natural life, and not to be governed by it at all. It is Christ that has cut that off by the Cross, put the Cross against that, and by the meaning of the Cross said to all that is ourselves by nature, 'You have no standing here, you are not the governing thing here'. When you have done that you can become His disciple; that is, you can become His taught one, you can enter into His school to learn what it is not to live on that ground, but on His ground. That is our comprehensive obligation, to forsake the pre-new-birth ground and to abide on the ground of Christ.

Here again the Lord Jesus put into an illustrative form the great truth of having our lives on His ground. "Abide in me". "As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; so neither can ye, except ye abide in me". The illustration is perfectly clear and simple, but you need all the illumination of the Holy Spirit through the later word to show what He was talking about. What is abiding in Christ? It is not abiding in yourself, it is getting outside of yourself on to His ground, so that He governs everything. That is very simple, but vital.

Walking by the Law of an Inward Life

This also has several phases. One is that, since the Holy Spirit has brought Christ within, we have to live and to move henceforth by a new walk with the Lord. John said that we were to walk even as He walked, that we should walk even as He walked. How did He walk? His own statements about His walk are perfectly clear, that He abode in the Father, had His life in the Father, lived by the Father, did nothing out from Himself, but whatsoever the Father did. It was deliberate, persistent walking in the Father; in other words, by inward relatedness and communion, fellowship, oneness with the Father. That is how He walked. So that ours is to be a life in which we move in all things by an inward walk with Christ, as differing from walking by an outward order, an outward system of things. There is a system of Christianity to which we are expected to conform if we are Christians. It is the thing that is set up and established, and as Christians we are supposed to conform to it. That is not the first consideration, and that may be misleading. Our walk is not according to any outward rule or system or order in the first place. Our life has to be inward, with the Lord. We must recognise that everything is now to come from the inside, from the Lord within. That means a great deal more than the word may convey.

This can be illustrated by taking certain instances. There was the whole established Jewish system with its headquarters at Jerusalem, and, as a Jew, it was expected of the Lord Jesus that He would be in complete conformity to that, and under its government. So at a certain time when there was a feast at Jerusalem His brethren said to Him that He should go up to the feast, and show Himself openly. 'If He had nothing to be ashamed of why should He remain apart in secret; and, in effect, He would be misunderstood if He did not, would be regarded as a disloyal son of Abraham'. From every standpoint of human reasoning He should have done it. There was everything to support His doing it from the outward standpoint. Truly He would be misunderstood. But there were, in addition, all the other considerations of how others might be led astray, and made to stumble should He not do so; and, after all, was not that the system which God Himself brought into being, did not that originate with God? His answer was: "You go up... I go not up..." When they had gone up, then went up Jesus also. It is so plain, you cannot miss the significance of it. It simply works out in this way, that He refused to be governed by any established thing on the outside, and stood His ground to be governed by the Lord, by the Father. His position was this: Father, do you want Me there? Not, Is it expected of Me? Is it the thing that is done? Is it a matter of conforming to the accepted and established order of things? He refused to move until He knew that the Father wanted Him there, and when He knew that He went up, and not before. It did not matter what people thought about it, He was governed inwardly by the Father, and not by something put on Him which was the common and accepted and established thing.

Christ dwelling within puts the believer upon that basis, henceforth not to be governed by Christianity as something which has been constituted as a world order and system, but by the Lord within. The Holy Spirit has come to do that, to bring that about, that we should live from the Lord within. That means, of course, knowing the Lord within.

Submission to the Holy Spirit

Secondly, this means for the believer that he (or she) must submit to the training of the Spirit of the Father, by which we come to sonship, or to maturity, which means, of course, spiritual intelligence, spiritual strength, spiritual fulness. That is a large statement. Let us break it up.

We must submit ourselves to the training of the Father through the Spirit. The Spirit of the Father would deal with us as with sons. The Holy Spirit will take up this work of training. It is called chastening in the letter to the Hebrews. It simply means child-training. That work will be quite definite. The Holy Spirit will deal with us if we are going to accept this life of inward union with the Lord, and we shall not graduate in five minutes. The trouble with so many is that they foreclose the matter because it seems so slow. Let us remember for our comfort that the Lord usually hides from the individual concerned what He is doing in that individual. If you knew that you were getting on and getting so much better, you would begin to glory in the experience, make something of the thing, and God only knows how this self impinges upon His holy things, and how in its horrible pride, which is such an abomination, it is always ready to spoil the precious fruit, to take and have for itself. So the Lord usually hides from us and our sense is of getting a great deal worse rather than a great deal better, being a great deal less rather than a great deal more. May it not be that the fact that we are not feeling just the same as we did feel, but are feeling worse, feeling less, feeling poorer than ever, is a mark that the Lord is working.

The point is that we must submit ourselves to this training work of the Holy Spirit, concerning living on Christ's ground and not on our own. It will be a process, a long-drawn-out process, which may never be finished while we are on this earth, however long we stay here. There may be a great perfecting to be added in the moment in which we are translated. Nevertheless, whether much is crowded into a short time, or whether this means that the Lord has to take account of our slowness of response, and perhaps rebellion, and has to spread it over a long period, the fact remains that the Holy Spirit is going to teach us, if we will let Him, the difference between living on our own ground and living on Christ's ground.

We must submit first of all in one inclusive act, and put ourselves into the hands of the Holy Spirit, and then as He goes on with His graduated process we shall be called upon again, and again, and again, to say, Yes! to the Holy Spirit. We shall be smitten; we shall fall; we shall stumble; we shall fail in this matter, but the Holy Spirit will use those very things for our education. We shall learn, just as children learn, not to do certain things by the suffering which comes in doing them.

All this is leading to maturity, that is, to spiritual intelligence. It is very important to the Lord to have spiritual intelligence in His people, in His children. That is mainly because of responsibility that is going to rest upon them. There will be responsibility in this life, the helping and enlightenment of others; for in the process we are even now coming to a priestly position, and the office of a priest, you will remember, was always to instruct. A priestly position is bound up with sonship. It means spiritual strength. Oh, that we had a clearer perception of the difference between natural strength and spiritual strength! So often the greatest spiritual strength comes through the naturally weak, in those who have been most utterly weakened by God in themselves.

The Lord's end is fulness: "...the fulness of him that filleth all in all"; "Ye are made full in him". Experimentally this comes by the teaching and training of the Holy Spirit, to which we must submit ourselves. That submission is something that we must recognise from first to last. We shall only defeat the ends of the Lord's dealings with us if we are other than submissive to Him.

The Believer's Relationships

The next thing is that our relationships are to be governed by Christ within. You notice that at the beginning we divided between the individual and the corporate. Now we have been speaking about that which relates to the individual; we pass on to recognise that which relates to the corporate. Because Christ is within by the Spirit our relationships have to be governed by that fact. This means two or three things.

Firstly, it means that a basis of relationship must be recognised, laid down, and settled as a final governing law. Christ is within all believers. If they are truly born anew Christ is within by the Spirit. We must, as believers, have it clearly settled that this is the basis of our relationship. As we look at each other, we must not be governed by what we see on the outside. It is an established law that our relationships are now on the basis of Christ within us. That is where we start.

That means, in the outworking, that we must keep to that basis, and not be moved by people's natures. That works in two ways, according to the kind of person that is met with. All is very easy, of course, when people are nice, and kind, and considerate, and gentle, and thoughtful, and open. It is not difficult to go on with them. But that has very often carried people on to a purely natural level and has been disastrous. Much havoc has been wrought in lives by that. The nice kind of people become the centre of a circle, and others attach themselves to such because they are so nice, and in the end it means disaster. In our going on with one another we are not to be carried away by the niceness of one another. We are not to be influenced by that at all. That is very dangerous. Beware that nature on that side is not the ground of relationship. Absalom was a very nice fellow, and he won the hearts of the men of Israel with kisses and fair words, and was probably a fine fellow to look at but you know the result of that.

On the other hand, we are not going to be governed by what believers are naturally in the opposite way. Our relationship is not to be governed by what we see in one another which is so difficult, that against which we naturally revolt. We are not going to wash our hands of one another and say we cannot get on together. Now this is very practical. It is going to demand something from us. That is not the basis of our relationship at all.

We are not to be governed by people's natures, one way or the other, if they are the Lord's children, but on the basis that Christ is within.

The Importance of Growth for Fellowship

Then further, there must be spiritual growth for spiritual fellowship. You can be related without the more positive thing of fellowship. The relationship remains, but now you are moving in fellowship, and there must be spiritual growth for real spiritual fellowship. Fellowship is intended to be the outcome of our relatedness, and a relatedness which does not lead to fellowship is bereft of its beauty and its fruitfulness, and of its real purpose. We cannot go on with one another beyond the point of a common basis, a common ground. I cannot go on with you simply on the ground of your wanting to go on with the Lord, while all the time there is the preponderance of yourself; and you cannot go on with me on that ground. We can only go on together in so far as there is a common ground of Christ. "Can two walk together except they be agreed?" It is not a question of, Can two be related except they be agreed? Yes, they can. You can have children of the same parents, in the same family, and thus related by one blood, yet they may not be walking together. The question of walking together is a matter of going on, making progress. You can only walk together in so far as you are agreed, as you have common ground. If one stops short and the other goes on, fellowship is limited between those two to the point of advance. If one goes on in the flesh and the other goes on in the Spirit, at the point where their both going on in the Spirit ends their fellowship ends, not their relatedness. We must not be governed by people, though they be Christian people. We must not be governed by a system of Christianity, Christian system though it be. We must be governed by the Lord the Spirit in everything.

That is where fruitfulness is. If we get that ground of moving together in the measure of the Spirit we shall be on the ground of absolute effectiveness. There are so many things involved in this. So often a person sees something mentally, grasps something, gets it from someone else, and essays to go on in that, but that thing has never been wrought into their being, they have it secondhand. It has never been wrought in their being by chastening, discipline, training of the Holy Ghost, and come forth from within them. We want to be sure in such matters that the thing is inwrought of the Holy Ghost.

It may seem difficult. You may think this is going to mean a lot of thinking out, and always being on the alert. No. These are the issues, this is the working of things. You need not take hold of all these details, all this technique of life in the Spirit. The secret is that the indwelling Lord governs, and that is possible to everyone. We have here put before us spiritual facts, and then it is for us to give ourselves to the Lord to make those things alive in us. All this is the outworking of a basic thing, and it is only intended to point out the basic thing, because of the dangers of artificiality, unrelated, false positions, which will inevitably lead to disaster. We must give ourselves to the Lord to teach us, it may be slowly, and through painful experience, nevertheless unto the greatest value to Him and to all His interests, what life in the Spirit is. That involves a great deal more than the phrase itself would convey.

What is life in the Spirit? If you take that as a phrase, as an idea, then you may feel that it is a sort of power in you just swaying you this way or that. That is not good enough. What is the Holy Spirit doing? To what is He working? What is He after? The Holy Spirit only operates in relation to glorifying the Lord Jesus, in all the meaning of His Manhood at God's right hand, and it is His to bring that Man, Christ Jesus, that Divine Man, into us to take our place. It is the constituting of another Person in us, other than ourselves, with His own thoughts about things, His own ways of doing things other than ours, and we, by the operation of the Holy Spirit, have to come to the place where, steadily and surely, by our submitting to the operation of the Holy Spirit, He takes our place. It is a process, but that is what the Holy Spirit is after, to put Christ where we have been in that sense.

Remember that everything is to be governed by Christ within, and everything will be determined as to its value, its genuineness by the measure of Christ that is in it; not by what we do for Christ, but by the measure of Christ Himself in it. Everything is determined by that, and must be so.


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