The Anointing of the Holy Spirit
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 5 - The Anointing and the Body

Reading: Psalm 1:5; 2:6; 15:1; 23:6; 65:1-4; 84:1-4; 87:1-3.

I have selected those passages to give us a key as we continue from the point where we closed the last chapter on the assembly as the anointed vessel. I want to come again to this matter in general for a moment before we make some further practical applications of the truth.

We are thinking of the Church which is the Body of Christ, His Assembly, as the anointed vessel of the testimony of Jesus; which testimony we have explained and defined. We have seen that David was anointed with the thought in God's mind that he should bring that testimony typically to fullness and finality in the House of God. That which comes out with Solomon in the Temple in the greatness and fullness and glory is the issue of the anointing of David. Although David did not actually build the Temple, his life made it possible, his history with God was the basis of it. On the ground of his history with God, which Solomon did not have, he received the revelation. It was David who had the revelation of the temple, not Solomon; and moreover, David accumulated the wealth for the Temple. All that Solomon had to do was to carry out the revelation; and Solomon, being David's son, represents the issue of David's life in vocation, in work, in the purpose of God. Solomon and David are one in principle; they are two aspects of one thing.

David and the House of God

Now it is tremendously impressive and significant, therefore, to see what a large place the House of God has in the life of David. Take the book of the Psalms of David. You find that these Psalms are spontaneous impromptu outflowings from specific experiences. David is brought into a situation, passes through a spiritual experience with a very literal background; and out of that experience and from that very literal background there emerges a Psalm. If you have not worked your way through the Psalms of David with their background, as far as it is possible to trace it, you have missed one of the most precious things. The headings will very often give you the key. Take Psalm 34 and you find that David sang that Psalm as he emerged from a trap. He, as we know, fell into a state of doubt, he lost momentarily his assurance concerning the inevitable triumph of the anointing which was upon him. Much pressure, prolonged adversity and suffering had so reduced him as to bring into him a question as to whether he would really get through and survive; and he therefore in principle doubted the anointing. When we do that there is always a trap waiting, and Ahimelech (otherwise Achish, both the same person) was resorted to, and so David went down to Achish or Ahimelech, and the lords of the Philistines saw him and said: "Is not this David the king of the land? Did they not sing one to another of him in dances, saying: Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands?" and he was a marked man, and now whereas he had said "I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul," he saw that he might die by the hands of the Philistines, so he had not really got out of his difficulty. And then he feigned himself mad - a shameful phase of experience through which to pass for an anointed one; but he escaped. Ahimelech said to his lords: "Do I lack madmen, that ye have brought this fellow to play the madman in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?"

I do not know whether Achish saw through it and this was his way of finding an escape for David, but at any rate David escaped and what I like about it is that David did not put it down to his own artfulness, that he had by a trick got out of his difficulty, but he came out from Ahimelech's presence singing Psalm 34 and went straight to the cave of Adullam. It was born out of an experience, and he recognised that not his wit or cunning but the Lord's goodness had delivered him from that trap. There was something deeper than merely escaping from a natural embarrassment. There was a great spiritual deliverance from all the ignominy and shame into which an anointed one had been brought. It was evidently a heart revulsion and not merely a trick to get himself physically out of an awkward situation; a heart revulsion from this whole thing. I mention it by way of illustrating this general truth, that these Psalms were born out of fragments of spiritual history with a literal background. Now take the numerous references in the Psalms to the House of God in the light of what we have said and seen. You will find that these Psalms being born out of spiritual experiences, with their reference to the House of God mean that David's spiritual life was bound up with the House of God. This man is so largely linked in his inner being with the House of God. He sings of its glories, he expresses his longings, and he has as his highest ambition to dwell in the House of the Lord for ever. It is the House of the Lord that bounds the horizon of this man, and all his spiritual experiences are in relation to it. Then in the end, in type, the House of God is a realised thing as the spiritual expression of his life.

David and Christ

Now we have said that David was a type of Christ. Note David anointed, and the prominent and all-inclusive thing in his life is the House of God; anointed therefore in relation to the House of God. Now the Lord Jesus, the Anti-type. The object of the Lord Jesus, dominating His whole being, was the House of God. Use the other terms if you like, "My Church," or The Body of Christ, the spiritual Temple. The one great expression of His earthly life was: "The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up;" and again: "I will build my church." The object governing the life of the Lord Jesus was His Church, and He was anointed in relation to that; that comes out of His passion instantly. All the types of the Old Testament bear out the truth that what emerges from the passion of Christ is the Church. If Adam passes into that sleep and comes out of it with his bride, that is Christ and the Church. The Calvary death and the resurrection with a Church, His Body, "...even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself for it." And so you may follow all the types of the Old Testament. Whether it is Joseph and Asenath, or Isaac and Rebekah, or any of the numerous types of the Church; you will find that they all bear this out, that the object and concern, the dominating interest of the Lord Jesus is His Church, and to secure His Church He was anointed; it was in the power of the anointing that He secured His Church.

The Holy Spirit and the Church

The one tremendous issue of such a comprehensive conception is this, that the object of the Holy Spirit is the Church the Body of Christ. Not the Church as we know it on the earth, the organised system, but that spiritual body, that heavenly thing. The object of the Holy Spirit is that. Within that compass there may be many, many things; the salvation of souls, and pure evangelistic ministry, the building up of the saints by pastoral and teaching ministry; the number of things may be countless as to Holy Spirit activities, but remember the one all embracing object of the Holy Spirit is the Church. To be brought to fullness in Christ, that is basic to all else. That is not something which is introduced at an advanced point in spiritual life, although with many of the Lord's people that does not become apprehended, grasped until they have been the Lord's for a long time; but that is really at the beginning of everything from the standpoint of God. The anointing is given very often in advance of the spiritual history relative to the purpose of the anointing, but the anointing has that in view, the Holy Spirit has that in view. If the Holy Spirit is with us He is with us not for any personal or departmental purpose but He is with us with His own vision, His own object, and that is the Church the Body of Christ, and all His activities within us will be with that in view.

Oh that we could and did see the specific purpose of the Holy Spirit, the all-inclusive object of the anointing. When once we have seen that we are in the way of understanding almost everything that the Lord does. We are in the way of interpreting so much experience, and we are in the way of accepting so much more than we would accept without that apprehension of the full purpose of the Holy Spirit. To see what the Lord is after is a great help in moving with the Lord in His demands, His requirements. Now then, if that is true, if the Church, the Body, the Assembly is the all governing purpose of God, of Christ, of the Holy Spirit, then the Lord will give a tremendous place to the laws of life of the Body of Christ amongst His people who are truly going on with Him. Their whole history will be governed by that and the Lord will press that in principle upon them, and all their crises will be relative to that.

It is a tremendous help to see that a crisis to which the Lord brings us which is costly, which involves a good deal for the time being, perhaps of suffering, misunderstanding, difficulty, is not just some personal thing so far as we are concerned, and that the Lord is nailing us down to some peculiar line which applies to us and is our affair. No! That crisis with all its costliness and suffering is relative to the whole purpose of God, and our individual experience is relative to the absoluteness of God's purpose; that there is nothing which is merely an isolated experience, a personal thing. All God's eternal and universal purpose is bound up with our personal experience, and when we get our personal experience set in that universal and eternal background of God's purpose there is a motive large enough for us to pass through the crisis in a yielding way.

The Value of the Universal Background

I do feel, beloved (and let me say this especially to those who minister) that one of the most powerful and effectual ways of leading the Lord's people on in the truth to the acceptance of the truth whatever that truth may be, the acceptance of say the truth of Romans 6, identification with Christ in death, burial, resurrection, or any other aspect of the whole truth; one of the most powerful and effectual ways of leading people on in the truth is by giving them the universal and eternal background of that truth. If we take truth in fragments, in a detached way, and begin to hammer those isolated truths home upon people as something in themselves, we have not given them an adequate reason for accepting them, it has simply become some personal thing. But set truth in the light of the eternities, past and future, in the light of God's eternal purpose concerning His Son, and say: "Now that is why you should die, accept your death in Christ's death; that is why you should be prepared to let go your natural life, that is why you should embrace this light, because it is not merely a personal matter, but it relates in an organic way to all the people of God throughout all ages, from eternity to eternity." "It is a part of a tremendous whole; there is nothing in the purpose of God which is isolated to individuals, it is all relative." And if you can bring in the eternal background of every fragment of truth and every Word of God, you have given a sufficient motive and a sufficient dynamic for the acceptance of that.

To put it round the other way. You refuse light, you refuse truth, what does that mean? That it simply is you that suffer and you are perhaps prepared to accept the consequences? Oh, no, it does not stay there. Our refusing to go on with the Lord in any bit of light, truth, revelation, just sends us out - in that measure - of the whole fullness of Christ. And I ask you, what do you want in your relationship to the Lord? Would any one frankly say: "I do not want the fullness of Christ"? Now test it. Would you definitely stand by and say: "I do not want the fullness of Christ, that is not my desire or wish." I venture to think that you would honestly say: "I want the fullness of Christ." Beloved, you cannot have it as an individual. No individual can have the fullness of Christ. You can be filled with Christ in your measure, but it is going to take the whole Body of Christ to realise His fullness, and that is what the Body is for. We shall individually become a part of the fullness of Christ in relation to all saints, and the fullness of Christ will depend upon our fullness of relationship with the whole purpose of God in His work. You can have a little bit, much less than the Lord intended, by refusing truth, light.

The Whole Church Necessary to the Fullness of Christ

This leads me to these practical applications. The Body is necessary to any kind of fullness. The assembly, the Church is necessary to any kind of fullness. Not only afterward, but now. Do you want to know fullness now in this way, and that way, in experience spiritually, in service, in life? The Body is necessary to any kind of fullness. That is, that separateness or non application of Body principles means limitation. It means that we shall go just so far and there we stop. There is no end, no limit when we come into the revelation of the Body. While we remain separate units in the Lord we are limited. Of course, I have said: "when we come into the Body" and "while we remain separate units"; perhaps I ought to add "in spirit" because if we are in Christ we are in the Body, but it is the acceptance of the revelation, the truth, the following on that brings us into fullness. The body is necessary to life. Now the Body can be represented by two or three. As we have often said, it was never the Lord's way or intention that there should be individual servants of God alone. The Lord's law is the law of the Body even in the going out two by two, and if ever a servant of God in the New Testament became isolated in a wrong way, that servant of God got into difficulties before long, even though it was Paul. We find the going very stiff and very hard and baffling, but when Sylvanus and Timothy were come down Paul was caught up in spirit and testified, "I found not Titus," and so he lost an opportunity at Troas for which he had been longing. You see the Lord does not stand by a violation of His own principles if those principles are not very carefully watched over by the people who have intelligence about them. I do not mean the Lord has never succoured and helped an isolated servant of His. He does graciously, providentially, sovereignly, but that is not His highest, and He will seek to show that that is not His way.

The Strength of Fellowship

A Body principle is necessary to life. We know it in experience. We may be moving toward a state of spiritual death, utter weariness of mind and body, and then immediately ahead of us there is a gathering of the Lord's people, and nature says I am too tired to go to that meeting, and if nature prevails there is no gain but loss. For those who have learned the secrets of the Lord the attitude is taken, "Yes, but the flesh must not govern this, I shall find my life there." So a wearied and jaded and exhausted child of God faces what all around in the flesh argue is utter folly. They go because they know what will be the result, and they come away in life, the weariness and tiredness gone, giving place to a wonderful inflow of life which they have found in the fellowship of the Lord's people. That is true to experience. Some of us know very extraordinary experiences of being really ruled completely out on a physical basis, and we have not taken that as the criterion, we have lifted our heart to the Lord. The question is not am I fit, but what do You want? And while natural wisdom would have said "No never," sometimes the Lord has said: "Yes, I want you there," and there has been a getting up in faith and the result has been life, and not a return to the old condition. This principle has worked out. The Body is necessary to life.

Some of you will be thinking of those twos or threes who never are able to have a larger fellowship of the Lord's people. I have said that it is not the Lord's way to have one alone anywhere in His service because of the life principle bound up with the two or three. There is another thing to be said, that physical proximity is not necessarily the governing thing in this matter if it is not possible. The corporate Body is not a physical thing.

Where it is possible to have the fellowship of the saints the Lord holds our life to it, makes our life to be a part of it; where it is not possible the spiritual truth may still work, provided we stand on Body ground, provided we recognise the spiritual oneness of the Body and appropriate its values. You may be in some part of the world alone and may be grievously assailed in some way or other. It is possible for you to stand there in your place many miles distant from other saints, and say: "Lord, I appropriate by faith all the values of my fellowship with the saints" and there is value in that. It is an attesting of God's truth. What is the value that is in that? It is the value of which we are speaking. The Holy Spirit operates in relation to the Body and not in any detached way. He is the Spirit of the One Body. And for the Holy Spirit geographical proximity is not a controlling factor. The Holy Spirit can minister through the body to the scattered members. Now these things for some may seem strange, but they are working principles, and God would have all His people in the good of this truth. And, beloved, what a tremendous difference it would make in the work of the Lord and in the spiritual experience of all the Lord's people today if this truth were governing their hearts.

Fellowship and Life

The Body is necessary to life; the ministration of life to individual members from the other members is a law of the Spirit. That is the principle in the physical realm back of the calling of the elders and their anointing with oil in certain physical crises. It is not just a rite, an ordinance; it embodies this principle that elders are representative members of the House of God, they stand as the House of God, that is all. They are not ecclesiastics, or officials, but they represent the House of God and when they come it is bringing in the House of God. In effect it is bringing in the Body of Christ.

You cannot send over to all the globe to gather together all the members of the Body of Christ to pray for you, but the Body comes in through representative members and they anoint with oil, the symbol of the Spirit of the one Body, and they lay hands on the sick, and that is an act of identification, identifying this suffering one with the One Body and the One Spirit, and what happens? Well, life is ministered. That life may work out to the healing entirely of that sickness as we have known it to do. That life may work out not to the removing of the disease or sickness, but to such a quickening as to enable to endure or carry on, or rise up in spite of weakness, and do the Lord's work. The principle is not the principle of removing the state of mortality, but of quickening the mortal body with Divine life. The effect is different in different cases but the principle is one, life is ministered and you see it is corporate. The Body is there in representation and the Spirit is there as the Spirit of the One Body, and the Body in the anointing involves life. The Body is necessary to life. And the Lord jealously guards that as we saw in the case of Saul stricken on the Damascus road; Ananias and Sapphira touching the Body and meeting judgment; and as we have in 1 Corinthians 11:30: "For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep." "...not discerning the Lord's body." The Lord is jealous for His Body. Violate the principle of the Body or ignore it and you suffer, therefore the recognition and discerning of the Body is necessary to life, to fullness.

Fellowship and Safety

Then the Body is necessary to safety. If David found his life in the House of the Lord, as undoubtedly he did, David also found his safety in the House of the Lord: "help out of the sanctuary." "He shall hide me in his pavilion." His safety is in the house of the Lord and that is carried over spiritually into the Body of Christ, the Assembly, the House of God.

May I speak of this safety in one direction alone. Safety in the matter of deception. There is nothing, I think, which more swiftly opens the way to deception and error than ultra-individualism, separateness of spirit and action. I am going to say some things which, if you do not understand them do not worry, and please do not go away and use them against me because you have not understood them. But it is in this connection those things are said by Paul about women and their covering. They have been given a privileged place in the House of God, representing the principle of the Church's subjection to Christ as Head. Now the apostle is very careful and explicit about those things and he speaks of Eve being deceived and transgression coming in through Eve, not through Adam, deception coming in through Eve, and he links with that these other things, that if a woman forsake her covering, which is simply symbolised in her head attire, when she is in heavenly things, if she forsakes that, she forsakes her protection from deceiving spirits. For that reason we see (you will bear with me I am sure, you sisters, I am only trying to get at spiritual principles) that almost invariably when a woman has assumed the place of authority in spiritual matters it is not long before you have got an excess of some kind, or a twist, perhaps a false doctrine. Touch spiritual things out of place and out of order and you are exposed at once to deception. You see that the covering is symbolised in the natural material thing, but it contains a spiritual principle. What I am saying is this, our safety from deception is in the Body, and being saved from independence of life and separateness of action. Our safety is in the fellowship of saints. The Body is necessary for a right vision and functioning. It is necessary for life, necessary for safety.

We have illustrated this before by this physical Body of ours. If any of the organs of our bodies were separated from the rest of our body they would lose both their form and their functioning. It is by reason of their place in the Body and their relation to all the other organs that they keep both their form and fulfil their function. And the Body is necessary to keep us in order and to help us to function aright. If we get out of fellowship with the Body there will be abnormality of some kind. We shall become unbalanced, we shall not derive the benefit of the Holy Spirit's imparted revelation to others, and, oh, what we owe to that! The Lord does not reveal all His truth to one man, He spreads His revelation over all His saints, and even the most Godly, the most consecrated can learn something from someone else spiritually; and the Lord ordered it so, even among His prophets and even amongst His Apostles, so that Peter will say: "Even as our beloved brother Paul has said..." There are some things hard to be understood, nevertheless, Peter is acknowledging the revelation given to Paul. And Paul got his function through the Body as well as his instructions. "Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do." He got his instructions from the Body. And then at Antioch the Holy Ghost said: "Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them." Light and action, revelation and vocation are bound up with the Body. The Body is necessary for position and function.

Now a closing word. The Body is necessary for discipline. It is all very well for us to say we are perfectly willing to be subject to Christ. Everybody would say that. Listen: "I was sick and ye visited me, I was in prison and you came unto me" "Lord, when saw we thee sick or in prison and came unto thee?" "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me." That is the Body truth. Christ is sick in that member, Christ is linked with the sickness of that member.

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