The Faith of the Overcomer
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 1 - Faith in Christ in Relation to Divine Purpose

"...that I might live unto God... that which I now live in the flesh, I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me". Galatians 2:19-20.

Let us for a moment reflect upon that well-known statement: "...that I might live unto God... I live: yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and that which I now live... I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God..."

I think it is a matter of very great importance indeed that we should recognize the objective aspect of the Apostle's faith, and of the faith which is to be likewise in us. I mean that the Lord Jesus is the object of faith as presented here, and that makes faith objective, and if we grasped that as we should, clearly and strongly, it would make us very safe, and it would deliver many of the Lord's people from those perils which so often beset them.

Now note: the Apostle says, "I have been crucified with Christ..."; not, I am being crucified with Christ; not, I am going to be crucified with Christ; not, I once started being crucified with Christ and am going on being crucified with Christ to the end. That is not what is said, but, "I have been crucified with Christ". What he means is that the thing was done in totality when Christ was crucified; not that a part of me was crucified, and a good deal more left to be crucified, but the whole was crucified in Him. Now says he, in effect, I have definitely accepted that as a full and complete thing, an actuality: in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me, I have been crucified. That is where the life of faith begins. It was done.

Faith in the Indwelling Christ

It is not therefore, my business to be seeking every day to be crucified, to be taking myself into account and keeping myself in all that I am by nature in view, in order that it may be crucified: all that rests entirely with Him, as I repose faith in Him. That is not my business, it is His. I have been crucified, I am alive; and yet it is no longer I, but Christ who liveth in me. Now my position is one of faith in Him, who in Himself took me to the Cross, in whom I was crucified, who gave Himself up for me; faith in Him, that He will perfect all that which concerns me. I repose faith in Him objectively as one who, while in me, linked with me, is nevertheless apart from me in Himself. Faith in Him to make everything good was bound up with that Cross. It is not a case of my worry, my care, my fret, my anxiety, my strain, but of faith in the Son of God.

Now if you have any question as to whether that is the meaning of the word here, and the value of it, you have just to look at the context. In what connection did Paul say this? "I through the law died unto the law... I have been crucified with Christ." The connection is with the law. What was the purpose and object of the law? The law is good, and the law is perfect, and the law is intended to make us God-like, to reproduce godliness or God-likeness, or godly features in us. The law is an expression of God's mind, what God's thought and attitude is toward life, both against many things and for many things. Thus the law was intended to make men holy, to make men perfect, and the Apostle applied himself to the law in order to be holy, to be according to God's mind. He found that the law could not effect this, because of what he himself was. Paul makes this clear in the letter to the Romans, where he shows that the failure of the law was "because of the weakness of the flesh". Nevertheless, that was the object of the law.

The law, then, has failed because of weak man; but there is a strong Son of God. I have been crucified unto the law, in order to live unto the strong Son of God. The law is exchanged for the Son of God. The Son of God takes the place of the law. The law cannot make God-like, but the strong Son of God can, and that because He lives in me. The law found nothing in me of strength, of capacity, of ability to satisfy God. That is where the law failed, because there was nothing in me. But now Christ lives in me; and I live; "yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me". Not then by straining to keep the law, which ever means failure, but by trusting in the Son of God, I reach God's end, and come to the place where the law was intended to bring me, but failed so to do because of there being no strength, no good in me. But now I get to that end because Christ is in me and able to bring me to it, and all that is required is that I repose implicit faith in Him, not continually worrying about my crucifixion. That is done in Christ, and I leave all the outworking of that with Him. Oh, the infinite peril, the multitudes of perils in that self-consciousness which is born of a wrong kind of subjectivity, a subjectivity which is occupied with what we are and what we are not, instead of the right kind of subjectivity. Christ is the subject within, and I am occupied with Him - "faith which is in the Son of God"; occupied, not with my imperfection, but with His perfection; not with my weakness, but with His strength; not with my inability, but with His power; not with myself at all in any way, but with Him. The occupation of the man of faith is with the Son of God, "who loved me, and gave himself up for me".

So we must never be found occupied with how we happen to be at the moment, or at any time. It is just possible to be occupied with ourselves when we are feeling fine, and saying, We are better today. That may be as fatal a ground for the enemy to catch us upon as our being occupied with the miserable side of our beings. No, not good, bad, or indifferent; none of the phases or features of our selves and our own condition must hold us at any time, but we must ever be "looking off unto Jesus, the author and finisher of faith".

Christ lives! That is where we begin. Then, Christ lives in me! And the other half of the statement is, I live by faith in Him. He lives in me; I live in Him, by faith. Paul, as you notice, draws all the strength away from the "I" here. "Nevertheless I live"; and then, so to speak, he half retraces his steps, and says, "yet no longer I". It is as though he were afraid of that "I". I live; yes, I live; yet - "yet no longer I, but Christ..." He at once draws all strength away from that "I" and puts it all on "Christ". That is the life of faith. Let us remember that it is not faith as an abstract thing, which is of any value. Indeed, we might go as far as to say it is not faith in itself at all. The thing which makes faith virtuous and effective is its object. It is not faith, but the object of faith, that is the main factor. Paul does not stop short and say, I live by faith. He makes that very clear, very emphatic: "faith which is in the Son of God". The Son of God! The full title; God in expression as Son, that is, God in emanation. It is quite impossible for God in Himself, and what He is in His essential being, to dwell in us, to be linked with us. It could never be. He must come in a way which makes His union with us possible, and that way is in this expression of Son.

In this letter to the Galatians there are three outstanding persons. The one, of course, greater than, and eclipsing all others, is the Son of God, Jesus Christ. He stands there as the great central, dominating figure. But then, as before Him, on either side, there are two other great figures, Abraham and Paul, with the Lord Jesus, so to speak, standing over them, with a hand resting upon each. There is union between them. Paul stands also linking hands with Abraham. In this letter Paul does join hands with Abraham, as you will see, standing on the same ground of faith as Abraham, linking on that ground, and then faith becomes the great factor in the letter.

This twentieth verse of chapter 2 is an all-governing verse. It gathers up and summarizes the whole of this letter to the Galatians. All that is in the letter is gathered into that verse. We may see that in some measure as we go on.

The Sevenfold Ground of Faith

Now there are seven things into which faith brought Abraham, and Paul takes hold of Abraham's hand over the years, and on the same ground of faith makes it perfectly clear that faith has brought him into those same things; he is with Abraham there. The issue of that is that the Church is called on to that sevenfold ground of faith, because the Church in its peculiar fullness comes in through Paul; I mean, so far as revelation is concerned.

Let us then look at these seven things, saying a brief word about each.

(1) Oneness with Divine Purpose

Firstly, faith brought Abraham into oneness with Divine purpose. There was sovereign purpose in the heart and mind of God when He appeared unto Abram in Ur of the Chaldees, and all God's activities with Abraham were with that purpose in view. What was the purpose? The purpose was a heavenly seed in union with God's Son.

Now will you refer to one or two passages: Chapter 3:7,16,26-29. You see the purpose, a heavenly seed in union with God's Son. Abraham's obedience of faith brought him into active and working oneness with that great purpose of God. I say God came with purpose, and God made a statement, but we know quite well that it required faith, and genuine faith, inasmuch as it demanded a big movement on Abraham's part, for God's purpose to become an actuality through him. God may have a great purpose: He has a great purpose concerning the Church, and in a related sense He may have a purpose concerning each one of us: there may be a ministry given us of God in relation to His purpose, and that becomes the purpose of our own lives; but with all the purpose that is in the heart of God it is rendered inoperative while faith is lacking in us. It is held in suspense until faith is exercised on our part. The fulfilment of all Divine purpose demands faith, and can only be on the basis of faith. Faith brought Abraham into oneness with that great purpose of God, and faith is likewise required to bring us into active oneness, both with the whole purpose and with that part of it which particularly relates to us in the thought of God. "Without faith it is impossible to please God"; and God's pleasure is found in the realisation of His purpose.

(2) Oneness with Divine Method

Secondly, faith brought Abraham into oneness with the method which God intended to employ throughout in the fulfilment of His purpose. What was and is God's method? It is separation from the earth and nature, and union with heaven (Gal. 4:25-26; 6:14-15). There is the world, earth and nature, all cut off by the Cross: there is separation therefrom and union with heaven. We know enough of Abraham's life to know how truly God followed that method with him: "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house..." But that was only the beginning of his exodus. The principle was applied right on to the end - out, out, more and more out; out from the earthly, out from what was of this world, out from himself, his own mind, his own judgment, his "I". And then, union with heaven; a growing, deepening union with heaven. That is God's method of realising His purpose. Now if there is one thing more than another which really characterizes the Church, as the Body of Christ, it is that, on the one hand, it is outside, of the world and the earthlies and the natural, and on the other hand, it is in union with heaven, it is heavenly. Faith brought Abraham into oneness with God's method, and it is perfectly patent that unless there is faith we shall not come on to that basis. It needs a lot of faith, faith to live with your feet off the earth spiritually; for where there is no faith, or where there is a lapse of faith, we shall go down to Egypt as Abram did, we shall turn to Hagar as Abram did, we shall seek for the tangible, sentient ways of realising Divine ends, we shall lean on some earthly resource. Such, then, is the way of faith, the way of the eternal purpose. Those two things go together. In Ephesians we have the eternal purpose and the heavenly position of the Church. Paul joins hands with Abraham on that ground, and both are linked with the heavenly Christ, outside of this world and in heaven.

That is enough upon that point for the time being, but you can see Galatians 2:20 in all this. "I have been crucified...": I have been put out of myself, and I have been put out of the world; "yet I live; and yet no longer I... Christ liveth in me". Whatever it is that I live here in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God. My life is in heaven; it is outside of all that is here.

(3) Oneness with Divine Means

Thirdly, faith brought Abraham into oneness with the Divine means. By what means does God reach His end in His people? What is God's means of achieving His purpose? It is by the Spirit of sonship through the Cross (Galatians 4:6-7,18; 3:14). There is much more in this letter about the Holy Spirit, but the central emphasis in respect of the Spirit in Galatians is that of the Spirit of sonship. The Spirit of God's Son is here pre-eminently as the Spirit of sonship in our hearts, and there is no hope of reaching God's end, or of even taking the first step in that direction, without the Spirit as the Spirit of sonship. First there must be the infant cry, "Father!" There must be that relationship brought about by the Spirit. Then the Spirit of sonship, once He is within us, must proceed fully to form Christ in us. Thus in this letter the Apostle says, "My little children, for whom I am again in travail till Christ be fully formed in you". Indeed, we might say that is the occasion of this letter, in that these Galatians were falling away from that life in the Spirit as sons which was to bring them to God's full end. The Apostle is in travail over this matter. It is not a case of my struggling toward God's end, but of the Spirit of God's Son in me energising toward God's end. Oh, that we had faith here. If you really have faith on this particular point, you will have the secret of a profound rest.

You know, we have our "off" times spiritually; "off" times in the prayer life when it seems impossible to pray, "off" times in many other ways spiritually. No matter how we struggle, we can make nothing of it. What are we going to do? Well, if my experience is of any value to you, as I believe I have discovered just a little of the secret of things, I have come to this position: Through the Spirit, Christ is in me, and everything is with Him, not with me. It is not what I can do, nor what I cannot do, nor how I am today; all is with Him. Today maybe I am not conscious of His indwelling, but on the contrary very unconscious of His indwelling, and very conscious of other things that are not Christ. Well, that is my state; but He is faithful, He is true; He has given me certain assurances about never leaving nor forsaking me, and about abiding through all the days unto the end, and He that hath commenced a good work will perfect it unto the day of Christ. He started this thing, I did not; He undertook this thing. Before ever I had a being - He had undertaken to carry through His perfect work in anyone who would trust Him. That was all undertaken for before ever I saw the light of day: so that I did not start this, it is not commenced with me. My one thing to do is to trust Him, trust Him, and if I cannot break through, say, Lord, I cannot pray just at the present, I must trust You to do all the praying.

No one who really has their heart set upon the Lord will take hold of a statement like that as a back-door way out of prayer. I am not trying to give you some excuse for giving up praying. I am saying there are "off" times, and I am not sure that the Lord does not allow us to have such times lest we should begin to build again upon works. He takes us right off that basis and throws us upon Himself, where there is no alternative but to trust Him. You are not surrendering your prayer life in taking that course at a time like that. If you could pray you would do so, but now in a time of real inability you are just trusting the Lord about it. I find I have these "off" times, but as I definitely trust the Lord, and say, "Lord, this is Your responsibility, and I know this will not last; that prayer life will come back, and I am trusting You in the meanwhile", it does come back, and in greater fullness and greater blessedness. Beloved, I have proved that again and again. It comes back. It is not merely that you get better and start again. You know quite well that you may be perfectly fit and yet be unable to pray. No one can make prayer. It is not a matter of health and strength to be able to pray. You may be a perfectly strong man or woman, but you cannot get through to heaven in prayer because you are that. Prayer has to do with an opened heaven, prayer is fellowship with the Lord; and that is His doing, not ours. He brings that. Trust Him. "I live; and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me"; He has the whole matter in hand. While my attitude is one of faith in Him, He will see that there is a prayer life, He will see there is a life in the Word. Positive faith in Him is the secret of everything in the will of God.

We will leave the rest for the time being. Faith brings into oneness with Divine purpose, with Divine method, with Divine means. The purpose is a heavenly seed in union with God's Son. The method is separation from the earth and nature, and union with heaven. The means is the Spirit of sonship through the Cross. All that is in Galatians 2:20. "I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live; and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me, and that life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me". And He will see me through!


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