Knowing God in Christ
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 13 - The Need for the Anointing of the Spirit

We want to remind ourselves that, while the forty days were a parenthesis, they were only a parenthesis. We want rather to change the emphasis and say that, after all, they contained more in them than we have seen; yet they were only a parenthesis for everything was still objective. Whatever they entered into, or whatever happened to them, was still only by outward help. It says that He opened their understanding, or, opened their eyes. It was a fleeting thing, transcendent, something that happened to them for the moment, and it was by an outward act of His, by something done in that way. It was by His help and if it had all been left it would only have been another phase of history. If He had left it there at the end of the time it would have been just something, though very wonderful, that had happened; something that had taken place; something which had been a wonderful, amazing, mysterious part of their lives. They would have moved on from it, and it would have remained as a phase through which they had passed. There was the phase of the earthly walk, and then there was the phase of the resurrection. Both would have taken their place in history and become a memory, and that is all. It was not yet an inward part of their life and their being. Just as there was the prospective element about the three-and-a-half years of His movement and His teaching, and His work, so there was the prospective element in the forty days. Something else was required. It was all pointing to something else.

There are many prospective features about the forty days if you care to look at them again, which we have no time to do now; we will content ourselves with but one point which embraces everything else.

In John 20 we have these words: "Then he breathed on them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit." This was spoken on one of the occasions of His appearing to them. Now that was prospective. Not at that moment of His breathing did they receive the Holy Spirit, we know quite well, but it was a promise and a proviso. It was a designating of them as responsible to the Spirit when He should come. It was a securing unto them and of them unto the Holy Spirit. With Him, of course, the whole matter was timeless, and there is a sense in which there was no time in this, it was as good as done when He breathed on them, but actually and literally on the other hand, it was prospective, it was a looking forward; "Receive the Holy Spirit." In that one inclusive prospective feature of the forty days you have gathered up the one great need which is essential to make all those values inward, abiding, permanent and living; turning history into experience. That is bound up with receiving the Holy Spirit.

We just want to look at that in its various parts. We have realised our need and confess it. We have expressed our longing and our desire that all that which has been presented to us should become a living reality in us. We declare that we believe it possible, because with Him all things are possible. Then how shall it be? How can it be? By what means can our desire be realised and His will fulfilled, and the impossible be made actual? "Receive ye the Holy Spirit" is the answer. It is all the Holy Spirit's work.

The forty days do not take the place of those great chapters in John 14 and 16. "I will not leave you as orphans..."; "I will send you the promise of the Father..."; "When He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth... He will take of Mine..."; "He will not speak of Himself...". That was not fulfilled in the forty days. Something that looked very much like it, something that seemed very much in that realm (and it was) took place, but it was not the fulfilment. There was a real tasting of it, but it was not the abiding and established thing that the Lord had promised. The Holy Spirit must come to abide for the age, to Himself establish and make good all that the Lord had shown, had revealed, had set before. That is elementary, but I am quite sure that we are ready to admit that we need a new touch of the Spirit to bring us in a new way into this. That is what we need, what we must have, but, blessed be God, that is what He has provided, and what He intends.

Of course a lot may depend upon what we mean by a touch of the Spirit. Some things that we mean, the Lord does not mean about that, and the way in which that should happen according to our minds is not the way in which it actually does happen. Let us be frank about these things, and not allow any traditional interpretations of the Holy Spirit's coming and working to lead us astray. There are those children of God who can fix more or less definitely the time when they consciously received the Holy Spirit, just as there are those who can fix the hour when they were born again. There are others who cannot fix that hour in either case, but who, nevertheless, are born again and have the Spirit. We want to be quite clear about this, because some people get into trouble if they have not had some burning experience going through their whole being in a certain moment when they receive what is called the baptism of the Spirit. The increase of the work of the Spirit in illumination, in quickening, has often come through suffering, a dark time, a deep time, a time of total eclipse, a time of great emptying, going again (as we say) into death, and coming back, not with some new burst of revelation, but with some fresh secrets. That is the Holy Spirit going on with His work, doing this very thing. You know when the Lord touches anew, and that is as real a work of the Holy Spirit as any great cataclysmic burst and demonstration and sensation. So do not tie this matter up to any given, specific method. Our Pentecost may be without a sensation, but be very real.

What we want to recognise is that it is the result, not the method, that matters. The question before us is not: Did we, in receiving the Holy Spirit, have certain particular and peculiar sensations and accompaniments in any realm? but: Have we the evidences of having received the Spirit? Do we know the Lord Jesus in this resurrection way, this living way? Do we know the opening of the eyes? Are the results of the Spirit's activity known?

The Lord desires to make this good in the case of everyone, and perhaps He may do so in a different way with everyone. Please do not feel that you may have missed the reality because you have not gone by a certain prescribed course. It is always dangerous to confine the movements of God to one line.

We must seek to break this up a little, and work from its beginning. "He breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit'." I can never read that without somehow my mind linking it with the beginning of the book of Genesis, "He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life". I think it is quite a true and right link and association. In the first place in Genesis you have the old creation by the breath of God, and all that came in with that creation required that breath of God in man to make its values and its meaning of practical account. God may have a world, a universe, but for that universe to be turned to practical account He must have a living man. He brought in man, and breathed into him the breath of life in order that His already created world might be turned to practical account. By the breathing everything was given its real meaning and turned to value.

Pass that over to the new creation, and here is the Head of the new creation - or the Creator Himself - on the ground of new creation breathing, and, in effect, saying, "You, the church, are the new creation man, to occupy this new world which has come in with resurrection, with all its new values, all its new potentialities". This new world of the resurrection requires a new man to give it its practical meaning. So He must bring in the men, and He breathes on them, and the church is the one new man inbreathed.

If this is the new creation, its very name presupposes the end of an old. Of course, we always come up against that sooner or later, somehow or other. It is quite useless for us to contemplate the Holy Spirit on the positive side, with all the new values and meaning, until we have looked squarely in the face the end of the old creation. We have seen it in the case of these very men, and that they had with them for evermore this knowledge, which they could always declare as a positive thing in their history. There was a day when, in spite of all my good desires, intentions, professions, protestations, in spite of all that I knew about the Lord Jesus, in spite of all that I tried to do for Him, there was a day when I died, and all that died with me, as a hopeless, unprofitable thing; a day when I came to see that in men, even in a religious way, dwells no good thing.

Each one of us must be in the place where we can say, "I know, not as having been taught it, not as having read it, not as having come by it as a part of a system of teaching with which I have become associated, but I know, written deep down in my own heart, as a part of my own spiritual history, that nothing is possible apart from Christ risen". All is unprofitable. That is not all done at once. It is only done in parts, and there will always be more to be done in that way, but there is that which is sufficient to make us know in our hearts that that is true. We may yet have to discover through futile attempts, that that is more true than we had realised. We may yet have to discover how utterly unfruitful and unprofitable we are, more than we ever thought, because this flesh is a "die-hard"; it takes a long time to really give up the ghost. It clings to its own ability to do something, and to know something, but nevertheless, however long-drawn-out that may be, and it may be lifelong, there is that from which it begins, where it comes home to us in some way which is a foundational thing, that the old creation is, so far as we are concerned, ruled out as unprofitable to God, and lies under His ban as a worthless thing.

Have you got a cross in your history? Have you got a grave in your history? If you have not then you are dwelling in the shadows. You may get flashes and touches, but they will be fleeting, transient, coming and going. If you have a cross and a grave in your experience, in your history, the Holy Spirit has got what He requires, and it is blessedly possible for you to have the abiding of this risen life in which all these values are made good, and growingly good.

What is the new creation? With it there comes first of all a new consciousness. You are conscious that things are new, and things are different. It is a new consciousness as to the Lord. You are alive to that to which you were never alive before; in every realm things are the same, yet entirely different. Somehow or other you move in the same surroundings, and touch the same people, but there is something new. There is a new consciousness. Things have become different.

You know how true this is in conversion. When you are born again truly, you go back to your business and it is the same business, and you are with the same people, and the same old routine, but you are different, and you have got a different consciousness, and you have, therefore, a different consciousness about you. There is a new aliveness that comes in with the new creation to what was so dark and dead before. Take just the matter of the object of being alive. Before you did not know why you were alive, but now there comes a sense of a new purpose. You may not even yet know what it is, but you have a new sense that there is purpose in your being here in this world. We have often said one of the blessed marks of new birth is that there is a new consciousness of having been born for a purpose. What is it that makes the new convert want to do something in relation to Christ? It is the new consciousness of purpose. This is the work of the Holy Spirit.

I believe that when the Holy Spirit really has His way He makes remarkable differences in this direction, that we see people differently. Before we saw them for what they are in the flesh, and found them exceedingly awkward and difficult and impossible. Somehow or other when the Holy Spirit really gets hold of us there is a new consciousness as to people, our relationships, and we see something that we never saw before in people. Things are very much more possible than they were. You and I need the Holy Spirit in this direction. Whether you are able, out of experience, to follow what we are saying, it makes no difference to the fact. If you have got an impossible person to work with, and the Lord has called you alongside of that impossible person, what you need is the Holy Spirit to enable you to have a consciousness and to see something more than just the natural condition, to lift above that level. The Holy Spirit does give this new consciousness.

Not only do we have a new consciousness, but we have a new capacity. The Holy Spirit gives capacities that none of us have by nature. We may by nature be very limited in our capabilities. By the anointing of the Holy Spirit we may have capabilities that the best men and women of this world without the Holy Spirit have not got. A truly Spirit-indwelt child of God has capabilities and capacities that no one else has. This very breathing carries with it capacity. Until Adam was breathed into he had no capacities for all that he was intended to do; but when he became a living soul by the breath of God he had capacities for knowing, for doing, for understanding. The new creation is like that, with new capacities, capabilities for knowing, for understanding, for doing, that we never had before. No child of God ought ever to settle down and finally accept the position that they "cannot" in any particular. We should never say in any matter that is presented to us in the will of God, "I cannot". The presence of the Holy Spirit means capability and capacity for doing things which we could never do before. We ought to prove the Lord in that way.

This new creation, then, is the result of the Holy Spirit, it is by the Holy Spirit, but that means that all things have to be of Christ. In the new creation all things are of Christ. The Holy Spirit sees to it, and keeps us in accordance with that.

In the forty days the disciples were making wonderful discoveries about Christ, and the Holy Spirit comes to make known to us the meaning and values of Christ. That is the very nature of the new creation, that all things are of Christ and we are forbidden to have anything else. The Holy Spirit calls upon us to regard everything just in the light of Christ. How far is that Christ? How far does that accord with Christ?

Let us remember that we are thinking about the great values of Christ risen. We have said that these are our desires, our longings, our needs. We have reached out. Very well, the Holy Spirit can make it all good, but the Holy Spirit will require, in order that He may make it good, that we have all things according to Christ. If you and I are according to ourselves, according to one another, according to nature, according to the world, according to anything that is not Christ the Holy Spirit does not operate. He does not operate in the matter of life.

Take our judgements of one another. I do not know what your experience is, but I am quite sure that not a few know the Holy Spirit's checking up in the matter of talking about other children of God. You do not need to be told by anyone that it is wrong, and you have made a mistake when you have been criticising some children of God, when you have been speaking of their faults, and what they are, and really bringing out what is there of imperfections, making something of it, or doing them any kind of injury. You know quite well that you feel miserable afterwards, and you make up your mind that you are never going to do it again, but, of course, you will do it again. Then we try to cover up our tracks by perhaps finding a few good things about them, and mentioning those, but we know quite well something has happened, and we have a bad time. That is not according to Christ. We have all much to learn in this way. Everything of the new creation is of the risen life of the Lord, and it is necessary to have everything according to Christ. If you and I can frustrate the Holy Spirit's activity in eye opening, illumination, revelation, life-giving, or in any other of the great values and benefits of Christ risen, we can frustrate His work by indulging in something that is not Christ. We have got to allow the Holy Spirit to be here, and to govern in our hearts; when He would say, not in words, but in the very feelings that He causes to come into us: Now that was not Christ, that is not Christ, therefore it must go, we have to adjust to Christ, and then the Holy Spirit will make good to us and in us these resurrection values.

It is so easy for us to get up and talk about receiving the Holy Spirit and everything will be right, all will be well if only you get the baptism, the filling, the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and that what you need is the Holy Spirit. Everybody knows that. We have got the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, His person and His work, what He is for, and all that. We know that. We ask the Lord for the Holy Spirit, and cry for the Spirit, and we want to get more inward over this matter, and that is what we are trying to do. The Holy Spirit demands new creation conditions, and new creation conditions are that all things are of Christ. And if you and I in the simple things of everyday life, are not according to Christ, we frustrate the Holy Spirit, but in so far as we adjust the details of daily life to Christ in our talk, in our dress, and in every other way, then He is able to do His work. The Lord seeks to get rid of things that are not according to His mind, and if we do not follow the suggestion of the Lord, we can say goodbye to all our talk about the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the mighty working of the Holy Spirit. The whole thing is held up by conformity to Christ or failure in conformity to Christ. If you want to know resurrection values, listen to the Spirit on details. Do not get great, vast, sweeping ideas, but listen to the Holy Spirit on details as He is trying to get conformity to Christ in our speech, in our dress, in some conduct of ours, to put us right in line with Christ, in Christ-likeness, humility, selflessness, and a thousand and one other things.

The Spirit speaks so quietly, but, oh, what is bound up with that quiet voice! Our very life, our very growing knowledge of the Lord is bound up with it.

So Pentecost (that is a great word, and how the very word carries people off their feet) may be a matter of your having your lips crucified, your desire to be taken notice of crucified. Pentecost may just be that for you or for me. The whole of Pentecost may hang upon that. The Holy Spirit is very careful, and very particular. He overlooks nothing.

Far be it from us to make the Christian life difficult. The Lord trains us steadily, and spreads His training over a long enough time for us to learn without getting into distress. Nevertheless, in the end the Lord Himself in us and our life and our knowledge of Him, and everything else meant for us, depends entirely upon how we respond to the Spirit's requirement that things should be according to Christ. Do you believe that? You can get to your Pentecost that way. You can get to the knowledge of the Holy Spirit that way. You can get to this marvellous new consciousness and capacity and illumination and all else simply by recognising that everything now has to be of Christ, according to Christ. That is the first demand.

Then the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the new creation, being breathed, constitutes the Body. The Body is constituted by the Breath, just as in Ezekiel 37 the scattered bones by the breath of the Lord came together and became articulate, living bodies, so the Breath of the Spirit constitutes and forms the one Body. He is the Spirit of the one Body, and it is a violation of the Holy Spirit when there is anything about us which is other than according to the meaning of the one Body - schisms, divisions, personal separations on spiritual grounds, or as affecting our spiritual life because natural elements come in. That is a frustration of the Holy Spirit; that is a violation of the Holy Spirit.

We were speaking about the church, the House of God. Let us remember that it was for this that Christ died, and the church, His Body, is His Bride, and that is the issue of the Cross and the resurrection, the object of it all. Calvary in all its range had its supreme meaning in the church, His Body, His Bride. "The church of Christ which He purchased with his own blood". Now if that was the supreme object of Calvary, if that is the issue of the resurrection, the Holy Spirit has that as the supreme thing, the one Body. If you and I are going to be Holy Spirit governed, it will work both ways. It will mean that we shall have growingly this Body consciousness, there will be the development of a fellowship-with-saints spirit in us. One of my problems (and I do not think that the existence of this contradicts what we have just been saying) is how people who profess to have received the fulness of the Spirit can criticise other people of God, and be governed by suspicion and prejudice. It seems to me to be a great contradiction. It shows that somehow the Holy Spirit is, after all, very definitely in subjection to something other, and that "something" is not in subjection to Him. The judgement is not in subjection. A full way for the Spirit must issue in fellowship, and if that fellowship is not spontaneous, is not with us, we may take it that the Holy Spirit is not being able to go on with His work for some reason or other.

All that means that the resurrection values of the Lord Jesus are for the Body in the intention of God, by the Holy Spirit, and that we can only have them altogether. We cannot have them as our own personal and private property. You cannot take these values and walk away with them, and have them just alone. You need the thing that the Lord has appointed for the enjoyment of resurrection Life. It requires the assembly for the fuller enlightenment. The individual does not get the same enlightenment as the assembly, and the larger enlightenment comes through the assembly, and so also the larger Life. If we want personal accession of Life we shall get it in fellowship. As scattered individuals our life is limited, and sometimes it is crushed down. If we come together as the Lord's people, then there is an accession of Life, and we go away refreshed. The Holy Spirit requires the assembly, because that is His object. He is the Spirit of the one Body, and it is in true Spirit fellowship that the Lord's people come into the values of Christ risen.

Just as Thomas will not get the benefits while he goes wandering about on his own, but he gets those benefits when he comes into fellowship with the others, so it is always the case. If you want to lose joy, and the life and values of Christ risen, just break away from the Lord's people in spirit, and go and live on your own as spiritually detached. Spiritual detachment, for any reason at all, is the enemy's great chance for contradicting the testimony of the risen Lord, and doing great harm to the work of the Holy Spirit. He is the Spirit Who constitutes the one Body.

The Holy Spirit means, of course, a great deal more than we have said. All this applies to every part.

It is the Lord's desire, the Lord's will, that everyone of His own to the least, even to the youngest, should live in the values of the anointing Spirit. When there is a place where there are many gatherings, and there is a great volume of speech, there is a danger, especially to the younger people, of regarding that as their Life; and it is: "Does So-and-so say this or that? And if Mr. So-and-so says it, then it must be right; that we accept!" That is all very good, but the Lord wants you to have the anointing yourself, and there is a right sense (please do not take this wrongly) in which the anointing makes us independent, makes us an individually responsible being, one that has spiritual intelligence. It is a great thing when you find those who have their own personal knowledge of the Lord and the things of the Lord, which they have got from the Lord, and with the Lord in their own life with the Lord, and they are not going out to others and giving out what they have got from meetings or from their teachers, but are able to speak of their own walk with God, of their own knowledge of the Lord, and what the Lord has shown to them. The Lord would have it like that.

Do you believe that you personally can be taught of the Lord? You can be taught of the Lord now. You can be an intelligent one, with spiritual intelligence. You can know in your own heart the truth. The Lord would have it like that, and only if it is like that will there be a true growth. The other, after all, is a false truth, it is not real, and that falsehood will at some time be disclosed, discovered; we shall find that we have got a top-heavy structure, and it will come down. We have a building on the sand, and when the storm comes, down crashes our building of teaching and religious knowledge and spiritual instruction. The Lord would secure us against anything like that, by telling us that the Holy Spirit Himself would be our personal teacher, and we have to have dealings with the Lord over things. Believe it first of all. Do not rule yourself out of that realm, but believe that the Holy Spirit can give you new faculties, these spiritual faculties, these capacities. Believe that they may be developed by use until you know just as well as the one whom you now think knows the Lord better than anyone else.

Everyone should have the values of the anointing, and should have very definite dealing with the Lord about it. Be precise in the matter, and say, "Now, Lord, you have given the Holy Spirit, Who You said shall guide us into all truth, reveal Your things to us. As one who knows, who believes, who trusts You, one who is abandoned to You, one who accepts all the meaning of the Cross for the setting aside of nature, I definitely count on You in all faithfulness and truth to make this true in my case, that the anointing teaches me, and I am taught." The Lord will have His own ways of teaching. They will differ. He will use many means for teaching, but how He does it does not matter so much; the thing is that you and I come more and more to the place where we know, and say, "We speak that we do know, and testify that which we have seen, and (in a spiritual sense) our hands have handled...".

The Lord make that good to us.


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