The Holy Spirit in Relation to The Glorified Christ and The Believer
by T. Austin-Sparks

Part 1


Readings: John 16:5-15; 7:38-39.

"He that believeth on Me as the scripture hath said, from within him shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake He of the Spirit which they that believe on Him were to receive: for the Spirit was not yet given because Jesus was not yet glorified.)"

Beloved of God, for some considerable time my heart has been growingly exercised concerning the Holy Spirit. I believe that the Lord has something that He wants to say to His people in this connection, and something that He wants to do in and through His people in this connection in some new way in this end-time. If one has not misread the leading of the Spirit, we are right in gathering at this time for the Lord to speak to us on this matter. I am quite sure that we, with a great many more of the Lord's people, are deeply conscious, and increasingly conscious, of the need for some fuller expression of the life, power, and work of the Holy Spirit in the Church; which of course means in ourselves as members of Christ. And while it is not my thought at this time, or the leading which I have, to seek to present a system of doctrine concerning the Person and work of the Holy Spirit, I do feel that the Lord has some things within that compass that He really does want us to take heed unto. We are not going, for instance, to discuss whether the Holy Spirit is a Person or not. I think we can all take that as settled. If it is not, well, let us get it settled outside, for that is not the matter which concerns the majority of us here, who have, I am sure, settled that matter long ago. There are other similar matters in relation to the Holy Spirit which we will take as settled and for granted, but there are some things which, while we may be well acquainted with them, we need to have renewed as a serious matter of quest and enquiry before the Lord.

There are, I think, in the main two or three directions in which this matter of the Holy Spirit concerns us spiritually in these days. There is, for instance, the matter of power. Power by the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit as a Spirit of power. That is a matter that concerns us, for the Lord's people are almost universally, at least very generally, conscious that the forces which are against His Testimony, His work, are well nigh too much for them, if not altogether beyond their ability to cope with. There is a sense of severe limitation, real weakness, inability to make much headway, a mighty withstanding and obstructing, a terrific pressure and adversity which raises the whole question of power. We are all in our hearts just crying to the Lord that we might know more of the power of God in our lives, and then in what ministry the Lord may give us beyond the ministry of the individual's life testimony, that is, in specific ministry that may be entrusted to us. That is one realm in which the whole matter of the Holy Spirit is a living one for us today. And then again, the question of truth; this is, I think, equally a living one at this time.

While we are up against that force of opposition, that power of evil, that mighty antagonism of the adversary, we are also up against widespread and growing error which is taking the subtle form of a counterfeit of the Holy Spirit. There is no doubt but that there are movements in the earth at this time which are a counterfeiting of the Holy Spirit even in the matter of regeneration or new birth or conversion; and in many other connections the Holy Spirit is being counterfeited; and the sad, grievous tragedy of it all is that multitudes of the Lord's own dear children are being carried away by these things. It is quite easy for us to say that we do not want teaching, we want life, we want power, we want work, we want activity, but, beloved, we need teaching. The matter of truth by the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Truth is a very, very vital, important matter for us today. We cannot speak about wanting power as something in itself; these two things must go together, truth and power, power and truth.

The Peril of Making Experience an End in Itself

Now the third thing, which of course embraces these two, is the question of experience, and here we are on perhaps the most dangerous ground of all, for so many of the Lord's dear children, in conscious disappointment and weakness and insufficiency, are just crying, praying, longing, for an experience, a new experience, a fresh experience, and are stretching themselves out for such. They relate their experience mentally to the Holy Spirit, they speak about the "baptism of the Holy Spirit" and such like terms are used, but it is an experience that they are after. Now that is right and it is wrong, and we want to be very clear as to the right and the wrong of an experience in relation to the Holy Spirit.

It is a most dangerous thing to go out for an experience as such, to have an experience as an object in view in itself. It opens the way for deception, for delusion and for the inrush of counterfeit. It draws out our soul-life, and brings us into a strained and almost occult state, making many of the Lord's dear children mediumistic, and they are carried away, therefore, by anything that the counterfeiter of the Holy Ghost likes to offer them, providing it is couched in biblical terms and presented in a semblance of evangelical doctrine. The danger there, beloved, is the supreme peril of the hour, a stretching out of the soul for an experience, as such. But oh, my heart in these days is terribly burdened concerning the Lord's people, that He would say something, if possible here, but that He would in any case raise up a ministry for the safeguarding of His people in these very perilous days, these days which are perilous in these particular respects.

There is going to be a terrible state of things before very long in the discovery of multitudes of dear children of God that they have been misled, they have been led off and that the thing that has carried them away is not the true, although it had all the marks of the true as far as they were able to see; but it was another, another and not the truth as the truth is in Jesus. As far as the Lord would enable us, we should seek to come into true light today by the Word of the Lord, and full understanding, that on our part we might be preserved, and that also we may be able to help in the preservation, and safeguarding of other children of God. Pray that the Lord may raise up that ministry and pray that even now, in this message if it be His will, there may be that which shall be for the saving of His own people in a day like this.

Now with regard to experience. Things, of course, must be experimental as differing from merely doctrinal, theoretical. There must be experience and there must be experience in relation to the Holy Spirit; but in what way is experience safe? Well, let us remind ourselves of the New Testament position about this matter, that while the Holy Spirit's manifestation, coming, presence, activity in the New Testament was ever an experience on the part of those concerned, it was not just an experience, it was not an experience just in itself, something that they felt, something that they heard, something that broke in upon their senses; the experience was always related to a Person and that Person was the glorified Lord Jesus, and the experience always brought Christ glorified personally into evidence, so that their immediate, spontaneous expression was the glorifying of Jesus in word, in testimony, in life, in manner, in every way. Christ glorified came into evidence at that moment, and they did not go about saying that they had had some kind of beautiful sensation, emotion, high-tensioned experience; they went immediately to speak about the Lord Jesus. That is the only realm in which the experience is a right quest. We must always relate the Holy Spirit in every form and fragment of His activity, to the Person of the Lord Jesus, for that is where the New Testament makes the link. And so we must cease to seek for an experience in itself. We must seek for an expression, a manifestation, a glorifying of the Lord Jesus by the Holy Spirit as our experience.

Beloved, if the Lord Jesus is glorified in our lives we have the Holy Spirit, for that is not possible otherwise. If He is the One who is before the consciousness of others as glorified, that is the testimony, coming right from our innermost being and registering itself upon others, you may take it for granted the question of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is alright, it is settled. But though we may have had all kinds of wonderful experiences, and people are impressed with us and something that has happened to us, and we are brought into evidence, and we are circling around ourselves and our own experience, and the Lord Jesus is not the registered fact upon other consciousnesses, but we occupy the field, there is some real question of our having become controlled, dominated, filled, baptized (whatever you like to call it) by the Holy Spirit. It must be related to Him. That is why we have read this passage as a key to whatever the Lord Jesus may have to say to us. "This spake He of the Spirit which they that believe on Him should receive: the Spirit was not yet because Jesus was not yet glorified." The Spirit could not begin His work until He had got that which was essential to His work. The Holy Spirit's ministry could never be commenced within a believer until He had got that which was essential to His ministry in full, which was Christ glorified. Which means that the ministry, the work of the Holy Spirit in and through the believer is based wholly and solely upon the glorification of the Lord Jesus.

Why did the Holy Spirit Come?

Now then, let us begin to sift this out and bring it down to a few quite clear, concise facts, realities. We begin by asking one very general question. Why did the Holy Spirit come? I think, as far as I know, the best answer to that question is: to take the place of the Lord Jesus here. That will embrace a great deal. "It is expedient for you that I go away, for if I go not away the Holy Spirit will not come." So that the Lord Jesus considered that the presence of the Holy Spirit here was more important than His personal human presence on the earth, that it at least meant what His presence meant in the flesh, but more. So that we might quite safely and truly say that the Holy Spirit came to take the place of the Lord Jesus here.

Let us ask another question which will bring us a step further toward our ultimate conclusion. Why did the Lord Jesus spend thirty years first, three and a half years second, and forty days third, here on earth? The answer of course is a simple one. In order that, firstly, He might be associated with humanity vitally and practically; that is the meaning of the thirty years beginning with the Incarnation. You have no need that we take up all that the scripture has to say about the Incarnation; one scripture is enough, I think for the moment. "Inasmuch as the children were partakers of flesh and blood, He also partook of the same that through death He might destroy him that had the power of (the hold) of death and deliver all those who all their lifetime were subject to bondage through fear of death." He also partook of the same. "Being made in the likeness of man and being found in fashion as a man," a second very strong scripture. And thirdly, "Though He was a son yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered." Many more scriptures bringing Him into a vital relationship with humanity could be cited, but I think we recognise that He should have been here, though silently and mainly in seclusion for thirty years before His manifestation to the world, is not without point, not without reason and not without the best of reasons. When you remember that in the Old Testament He appeared in the form of a man again and again and was seen and spoken with in a full-grown man's form - where He got that body you do not know, I do not know; where it went to you do not know, I do not know, but on many occasions He was seen as a man. The scriptures make it absolutely clear and certain that that One who appeared was God, but He then for specific purposes, at given times, just for a moment, took a man's fully-developed form and appeared to accomplish something, and then disappeared. We do not know any more about the means of His manifestation then, but here He chooses to come by the way of an infant's birth and abide for thirty years, and there is something different here from that, and it is because, now, as differing from then, He has become vitally linked with the race as He was not then, partaking of the same flesh and blood, yet without the stain of sin.

Well, the thirty years primarily, I think, represents His relationship to humanity, vitally; that is, livingly and practically, I mean in a practical way. He was a baby, and He was a boy, and He was a youth, and He was a young man and went through all that such go through, and you do not want to put a halo round His head and make of Him an extraordinary exception from all boys and youths and men, except that you will not find sin in Him; yet He had a boy's life, a youth's life, and young man's life. He is in a practical way related to humanity. The three-and-a-half years are the second phase and they bring in new factors, as to why He was here. Well, they bring into view the fact that He was here to reveal, to manifest the Father's mind, the Father's love and the Father's power. They were the years of the unveiling of God's mind, God's thought in and through Christ.

Beloved, everything that you will find subsequently in the New Testament in the book of Acts, in the Epistles or in the Revelation as truth, you will find its seed, its germ, in the gospels. That is an important thing to remember. Put that down, that you will not find in the subsequent writings of the New Testament what you cannot trace in germ in the teaching of the Lord Jesus. His three and a half years' teaching was the seed plot of all Divine revelation. That will give you enough study to the end of your days! It was the revelation, not that man apprehended it, grasped it, understood it, not even those nearest to Him understood; nevertheless it was the revelation of the Father's mind for man. How wonderful it is. We might spend many hours, many weeks with that alone, to see the aspects of that truth, the revelation of the Father's mind and the riches of that teaching. And ought we to make comparisons? Perhaps not, but one was going to say, the richest is John's record. And what has John, as differing from the others, to reveal about the Father's mind? It is this, the Father's coming down all the time to man. It is a wonderful revelation of how God takes the initiative toward man. The whole aspect of John's Gospel of the teaching and work of the Lord Jesus is God taking the initiative, God coming down. That is blessed, that is precious, follow that out in the rest of the New Testament. You know what we are trying to do, trying to pump up this vile stream of our humanity to reach God, when God is pouring down the stream of Divine life to reach us. We are struggling somehow to get up in all the vileness of our flesh, into touch with God, and it never succeeds. But the revelation of God's mind is that God has come down to us in all His holiness. That is "John". That is comforting surely, to our hearts. I merely touch it as signifying what I meant by revealing the mind of God in the three and a half years. And then, revealing the Father's love.

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