Knowing God in Christ
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 3 - Progressive Knowledge through Loving, Obeying and Trusting

Reading: John 14:19-31.

You will see that this portion of the Word bears quite directly upon what the Lord has already been saying to us concerning knowing God in Christ. "After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will also live... ("Because I live" points on to the resurrection) In that day (when I live, and you live, in that new way, on resurrection ground, with all that it means) you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you". The relationship of the Son with the Father, and of His own with Himself, will be of an altogether new order and nature in that day, the day of resurrection; and as to that relationship, there will be a new kind of knowledge. It will be a resurrection knowledge, or a living knowledge.

So we come back again to the matter of the knowledge of God in Christ.

There are two things of a general character, but which are very important, to be said at the outset.

Firstly (and we only mention it, though much more needs to be said about it), the prospective element or nature of all Christ's teaching. It is a matter which can hardly be overlooked, that in all His teaching, in all His utterances, the Lord Jesus was looking onwards, pointing to a future time. Nothing at that moment was complete, and the comprehension of what He was saying was only partial. He was looking for a day when what He was saying then would be understood, seen and apprehended in its fuller significance. So, about everything in His life at that time, there was this prospective element. The phrase so often escaped His lips, "In that day...". When we come to the time of His resurrection, which was "that day", we find at least the beginning of the fulfilment of that expectation and promise, "Then remembered they His words"; then they understood and entered into it.

We are in "that day", the day when the fuller and more perfect knowledge of the meaning of Christ is available to us, is for us. We are in the day of the resurrection illumination, and we are not looking now particularly for a coming day when we may have that knowledge; it is for us now. We say that because, while Paul is still right when he says, "Now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then shall I know even as I have been known", a great many of the Lord's people content themselves with a smaller knowledge of the Lord than they ought to have.

Secondly, and closely related to that, this knowing of God in Christ is a primary factor in that maturity which constitutes the governing body for the coming age. Let us break that up.

There is to be a governing body in the age to come, a company who are to be with Christ in His Throne in government. All believers will not be in that governing Body. They go by different designations. They are sometimes called "the overcomers". Whatever title may be given to them, the fact is that there is a governing body going to fellowship with Christ in the coming age for governmental purposes.

The primary thing which constitutes such a governing body is a particular knowledge of the Lord; not a knowledge which is reserved for them, but a knowledge which is available to all the Lord's children, but to which only certain come. Hence the importance of this matter of knowing the Lord, knowing God in Christ, because this knowledge leads to maturity. What is spiritual maturity? The answer is in a simple phrase. It is knowing the Lord, perhaps in a way in which the majority do not know the Lord. You know a mature Christian by this very characteristic. You have to say, 'That one knows the Lord'; and when you say it like that you are singling them out from amongst the mass. You are speaking of maturity, and it will be such in that specific sense who form the governing body; a mature company to be entrusted with particular responsibility in relation to Him in the age to come. It is not a matter of election or of selection. It is a matter of spiritual growth, growth in the knowledge of the Lord.

Those two things need to be recognised, and we can come simply to the Word that is here in this portion, which presents to us the law of this growing knowledge of the Lord.

The Progressive Revelation of the Lord to the Heart

What is that law? Judas (not Iscariot) put this question to the Lord: "What has happened that You are going to disclose [manifest] Yourself to us and not to the world?" 'You have manifested Yourself to the world. You have been here so that all men could see You, but now You say that is not going to be so, that You are going to manifest Yourself only to us and not to the world. What has happened? What does that mean? What has come to pass that there should be this change?' Really Judas was asking, 'What is the law, what is the secret, what is the law, what is it that governs this change of situation? On what ground will You reveal Yourself to us, so that the world is apart from that manifestation and it shall be ours and bound up with us? How shall we receive that greater manifestation of which You are speaking, which will be peculiarly ours as something apart?'

It looks almost as though the Lord Jesus sidesteps the question, or at least it does not appear as though He directly and immediately answers it. But if the Lord Jesus did not answer the question in its form, He answered it in its substance, and this answer goes right to the heart of the question of Judas. What is the governing law of an enlarged, a progressive revelation of God in Christ to the believer? "He who loves Me and keeps My words". You can have nothing simpler than that. You say, 'Oh, but I thought some educational advantages must lie somewhere behind this matter. I thought that I should have to be someone with certain abilities above the average to be able to understand, to know, to grasp the great things of the Lord. I thought I should have to be someone of special capacity for this progressive revelation of which you speak, and I have given up any hope of ever attaining unto these things, they are too vast for me, I am just a simple believer, and I shall never be anything else.' Listen! "What has happened that You are going to disclose [manifest] Yourself to us and not to the world?" 'What is the basis, the nature of this great revelation which You say is coming in that day? How can we have it? How can we have the thing which the world can never have?' "He who loves Me and keeps My words". How is it that the world cannot have it? Well, 'He that loves Me not and keeps not My words is excluded from the revelation of the manifestation'. Love issuing in obedience is the law of the full manifestation of the Lord to the heart in a progressive way. That is all.

It is not capacity or ability in the human sense inherited or cultivated, but a question of heart. Revelation on the part of God presupposes a disposition on the part of man; that is, it requires a disposition. What disposition is that? It is the disposition which does not question, does not doubt, does not hesitate, does not hold back debating and wondering, but the disposition to trust in Love and do. After all, that is the basis of the whole life with the Lord; it is so simple that we are almost offended at its simplicity when we have thought that all these other things were important. If we are going on unto the knowledge of the Lord we are destined to make this discovery, either to our joy or to our sorrow. It is so possible to build up a mighty structure of wonderful truth, and get into the place where we think we know, and then discover after years of that sort of thing that in our heart we do not know. A calamity overtakes us, some sort of trial, and we pass into the depths of adversity, and make the discovery that really in our hearts we have not got the quiet, simple, confident rest and trust in the Lord that we thought we had, and we go all to pieces. There is nothing more tragic than someone who has stood in a great range of truth, of doctrine, in the place of much knowledge like that, going to pieces in the day of adversity. On the other hand we may make this discovery to our great joy; it is not our Bible knowledge, be it small or great; it is not our teaching or all that which accompanies the things of Christian life. It is a matter of our heart relationship with the Lord expressed in a disposition to trust Him, to believe Him, to obey Him.

Do not think of an overcomer as some wonderful creature. I do not believe that the New Testament in all its address to what we may call "overcomers" was intended to get people to be something extraordinary in themselves, but it was intended to get them from being less than the Lord wanted them to be. The whole tendency in New Testament times and ever since is retrogression, is decline, falling short of what the Lord had presented. It was not to be something extra to the Lord's revelation that that word was given, but it was to be something extra to that poor expression of the Lord which was found everywhere; something extra to the normal. It was to be just all that the Lord wanted. How can we be that? How can we know all that the Lord wants us to know in order that we may grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord? This is the law, "He who loves Me and keeps My words, I will make My abode in him and will manifest Myself to him". Though that is not the actual statement of the Lord, it is the direct answer to the question of Judas. 'Judas, you ask Me how I will manifest Myself to you and not to the world. My answer is this, He who loves Me and keeps My words.' That is the basis of the manifestation. It is a disposition to trust the Lord in love and obedience.

When you come to look into it, it is perhaps not so simple as it sounds to trust the Lord. It is that that makes it a matter of the heart and not of the mind. When we talk about trusting the Lord it sounds so simple, and when the Lord puts us into the dark and shuts us away from anything that could call for trust, and calls us to trust Himself and gets us down to bedrock, we find things are not so simple. So often the Lord needs to gets us to the place where we trust Him for Himself, where we say, 'Lord, You are perfect in wisdom, in love, in mercy, in truth, in righteousness. If there is any failure, I take the blame for all the failure. You cannot fail. Because of what You are, You must eventually show Yourself faithful.' We come through the dark time simply clinging, not to what the Lord is doing or not doing, but to the fact of what He is Himself. Is not that the essence of Love? See it in relation to your own in this world whom you love. What is the essence of your love? Very often amongst believers there is the necessity to take a course with another which is open to misunderstanding, becoming involved in a situation where they have to do things which they cannot explain at all, and they seem strange things, all contrary to what might be expected, all contrary to good faith. Other people look on and say that they were failing, they were sacrificing confidence and trust, but the one who loves takes this attitude and says, 'I love them, and I trust them too well to believe that they are doing anything wrong or mean or false, and although I do not understand at the moment why they should do that, I believe in the end I shall find there was no breach, there was no fault, and I just go on trusting.' It has to be like that amongst brethren. It is a poor kind of relationship when we have to get down on our knees and explain every action, and beg them to understand that we are doing the right thing, although they do not see it. It is a far grander thing to know that you can go on, and, although you cannot be understood for the moment, you are trusted.

If that is noble amongst men, has not God the right to expect something like that? Has not Christ the right to look for that attitude? At best we may fail and be wrong after all, but He never. "He who loves me and keeps My words". 'It is the expression of an implicit faith in Me for what I am. That gives Me the opportunity of revealing Myself, making Myself manifest.' The progressive knowledge of God in Christ is to the heart that trusts and the heart which has a disposition to obey the Lord.

Be careful about the word "obey". So often we mentally have a kind of catalogue of things about which we think obedience is required, and we reduce the whole matter of obedience to some of these things, and when we hear a word spoken about being obedient to the Lord we either think of some ordinance that we have got to obey, or some outstanding thing that has been a matter of reservation; some question or some fear. Let us remember that this kind of obedience the Lord speaks of is all-round obedience. It is not just the public obedience to the Lord in outstanding things. It is obedience in secret. Very often we are found out in the matter of obedience away back in the secret place where no one else in all the world knows anything about that particular thing, and the Lord has just mentioned that to us. Sometimes it is in our domestic life. The Lord has said something about a thing that wants attending to, something that is not to His glory, and obedience touches there. It might be in our business life. It may be anywhere, just something that is not according to the mind of the Lord, and if only we were to allow ourselves to reflect upon it we should know that that is not glorifying to the Lord. Obedience touches that, and remember that whatever may be the amount of teaching that you get in conferences or in meetings, this resurrection manifestation of the Lord to your heart can never come where there is not the obedience of love in every realm of your being. Lack of obedience shuts the door to revelation to the heart if there is not this disposition to see to things about which the Lord speaks, whatever they may mean.

That is a simple word, but it is foundational, and it goes a long way. We can link the statements in the New Testament with this without hesitation. Take Paul's great cry in Philippians 3:10: "That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection". It is the same knowledge as this. It is the knowledge of Him. What is the basis of that knowledge? For Paul it was this: The Lord must have me altogether in heart. That is Philippians 3, the Lord having the man absolutely. Leaving the things which are behind, counting all other things but loss, dross, refuse, "I press on". It is not some extra kind of knowledge; it is simply the knowledge of the Lord. It may be a fuller, a more advanced point of that knowledge, but it is knowledge which will go right on for all of us, and the one law governs from beginning to end, the first expression and the final expression of Christ, our Lord. "He who loves Me and keeps My words".

"Judas, because the world never loved Me, nor keeps My word, I shall not manifest Myself unto it. If you and your fellows here love Me and keep My word, I will manifest Myself, I will come unto you, I will make My abode." It is the same word as He uses at the beginning of John 14: "In my Father's house are many resting places". We have our resting place in the Father's house. He has His resting place in the loving heart. His word is, 'We will come and find Our resting place, just as you hope to find your resting place in the Father's house'.

Let us remember it is not something wonderful or something technical, it is a matter of the heart being disposed to love and trust and obey the Lord. He, finding that disposition and that expression and that response to Himself, will manifest Himself unto us, and these will be the mature and the governing people.

We would say to all those self-designated "simple souls", who think they can never attain unto anything: it is just that which is the ground of your claim. If only you will love the Lord, and obey Him, and trust Him at all times, you will come through to a high and glorious place. That is the way.

The Lord teach us in our hearts the way.


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