"Sovereign Head" - The Unveiling of Jesus Christ
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 4 - In History and in Grace

Now all too briefly we must look at this other side.

Grace

Paul saw this wonderful majestic side, the Lordship, Kingship, Headship, Sovereignty of Christ proceeding through history, triumphant all the time. But he saw that the Eternal Purpose out from the Eternal Counsels of God was also and only to be realised upon a principle and basis of GRACE. We come immediately now to the direct application of that principle without illustrating it at all through the ages and in the greater revelations, but come right down to what we ourselves are learning of this fact.

To begin with, you can never enter into the Eternal Purpose, and take your place as the "called according to His Purpose," except on a basis and principle of grace. Try and get in on anything else and see how far you get. That is, you try by struggling to be saved. Put it in that simple way. Many have worn themselves out to utter despair in trying to contribute something toward their own salvation; to get salvation, by something that they could do. The Lord has stood aside all the time until everyone has come to see that they have nothing in themselves whatever that can get them through. You start there. You struggle to come up to this and that. Have you ever said, "Well, I must be better before I can come to the Lord." "I have to make this adjustment and that adjustment before I can be a Christian." "There are certain things that I can see will have to be given up before I can give myself to the Lord." You know the common talk, and yet how mistaken all that! Some have even thought that they could pray themselves through into salvation, or shed enough tears to get through. It is not either tears of repentance, or prayers, but the Blood that avails for the soul, and the explanation of the earliest spiritual experiences of a penitent is found in this principle that it is not their penitence which is of avail, whatever form it may take, it is the grace of God and that alone. If, beloved, for one moment in all eternity any man, or any woman could lay their salvation to the account of their own strength of will, their own power to break with evil habits, their own persistence, it would entirely upset the whole system of grace, and throw into confusion the whole case for salvation, because there are multitudes who, in themselves, have not persistence, or strength of will, or determination at all, and therefore they must go to the wall, and it is a case of the survival of the fittest. That is not salvation. That is not the system of grace.

God takes the strong and the weak on the same footing, and He says right at the beginning that this Eternal Purpose can only be entered into on a basis and principle of grace, and from that moment onward it is all of grace. The sustenance of your spiritual life, beloved, is not upon the basis of your exhaustive study and apprehension of the Word of God as such. There are some people who have the most comprehensive and marvellous grip of the scriptures who are the leanest souls in creation when you come to real spiritual body. They are as thin as rakes, and yet they have a marvellous knowledge of the book. Now that does not mean - of course you will not misunderstand - that there is no place for the study of the Word of God, as I should be a denial of my own theory if I were saying that, because I do believe, as much as anybody does in plunging deeply into the Word, but you understand that is not the basis of my spiritual growth. It may be an instrument of grace. But what is the basis, the law of my spiritual sustenance and growth? It is the same law as my initial entering into, the Eternal Purpose. "I AM," all the way through. It is the "I AM, the Bread of Life." "I am come down from heaven for the Life of the world." It is grace all the time, by which Christ imparts Himself in some mystic way to my spiritual nourishing and upbuilding. It is the Lord Jesus being imparted to me.

Now you have come back to "THAT I MAY KNOW HIM." But how are you going to know Him? You are going to know Him on the principle of Life which is the free gift of God in Jesus Christ our Lord. The Life Bread given by Christ continuously imparted. Oh, how the enemy assails, how he afflicts and tortures on this matter of accusation and condemnation! It certainly is not a matter of passivity, or fatalism, it is a matter in spirit of strongly looking toward the Lord, and in spirit strongly drawing upon the Lord by faith. But, beloved, it is the Lord freely, in Christ, imparting Himself all the time. Hurl that back at the enemy every time he accuses you and robs you of your spiritual vitality by telling you that because you have done so and so, or failed to do so and so you are going to lose your salvation. One has met that continually from the enemy, and one has learned that this is the law: "If I have made a mistake, I deeply and terribly grieve - I would not consciously make a mistake that would injure You. I would rather die. Take me out rather than I should in any way fail You consciously or persistently. Now I take the precious Blood as over against my failure, believing Your grace to forgive." Thus you cut the ground from under the feet of the devil. He has no ground for accusation. You have got to believe in this whole thing as being a matter of grace, and it is not upon a matter of my faultlessness; it is His grace. It does not give me licence to go on as I like, to be careless, but it does call upon me to believe strongly in His grace. Grace that will flow as He knows my heart is right toward Him, and I would not wilfully or consciously blunder and fail, and every time there is any suggestion that I do so, I simply tell Him of my grief, and that I do believe in His grace to cover all my sins.

Then, not only in spiritual sustenance and growth, but in spiritual service it is all of grace. Here we learn many lessons and not least among them is that we cannot take anything for granted in ministry. Because the Lord used us on one occasion we cannot take it for granted that that will be repeated and proceed upon this assumption. It is not because of some position that we hold, or some programme to which we have been committed, or some expectation from us, or some preparation that we have made. We cannot programise the Holy Spirit, or commit God to our system.

Reputation, position, prestige, commitments, or any human ground whatsoever which is thought or assumed to be a reason why the Lord should come in and stand by is of no account to Him. He will shatter and shame and confound if we fail to recognise that it is all of grace. Oh, the perils to any spiritual ministry when the man is in view; when people take hold of the man and circle round him. That we are nothing and have nothing, and depend upon the Lord for every breath, every step, every word, every resource, is a fact which the Lord will take infinite pains to establish if a truly spiritual and Divine ministry is to be fulfilled.

Now, He stood upon that law Himself, and showed that as Representative Man, even in the service of God. He was truly dependent upon God for every word that He spoke. "The words that I speak I speak not out from Myself!" And if God ceased to be gracious, well, that was an end of divine ministry. He might go on as a popular leader, and have a great future as an eloquent preacher, but that would all be a horrible deception, and the real thing not there. "The works that I do I do not out from Myself." "I am truly dependent upon God being gracious to work through Me every work." There are people who seem to think that because you have a testimony you are an expert on certain lines of spiritual work, and they look to you as such experts, as if you had set up a spiritual surgery. But no such ministry can be taken for granted, every single case is by itself and rests upon a specific act of Divine Grace.

Now you see that law of grace as the principle which governs all spiritual experience. Why does the Lord empty us? Why does the Lord constantly pour us out, keep us at an end? Why is it that one of His chosen methods is to bring us to weakness, to emptiness, and to keep us there? Because it is all of grace, and grace was the principle that made Him empty Himself. "Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Who though He was rich, for our sakes became poor." Though He possessed all things He emptied Himself. That is the grace of the Lord Jesus. And He set the standard and initiated the law of all spiritual service, which is the emptying of ourselves that God might do the thing Himself, and do it through an instrument, and everybody would say, "now if you knew the truth about that man or that woman you would never for a moment suggest that it was out of themselves that they did it, you would know that it was the grace of God that was doing it." It is the explanation of His method with us in His spiritual works. Why He shatters, empties, gets us down to the end, and why He all the time gives us nothing beyond the present moment, so that we have to come again for the next time, and start all over afresh with Him as it were. Why He keeps us on short commons in ministry so that sometimes it is true we do not know how we are coming to this ministry, and we come to the conclusion that we have nothing whatever to give, and then, in His grace He rises up and brings something through. And the same thing has got to be done again before there can be any more ministry. Self-sufficiency, self-confidence is the antithesis of the law of grace. Grace then is the law.

Now the whole of the Eternal Purpose is not going to be realised because we see, because we have a wonderful comprehension of that Purpose. No. Thank God for the revelation, but to make that revelation real, and to bring through the Eternal Purpose - Oh, He can do it, and He will do it, in His sovereignty He will accomplish it. To be of any use in its realisation, we shall come in to that sovereign Purpose and abide in it only on a principle of grace. Just as the initiation and the continuation is by grace, so the consummation will be by grace. The problem of how it is going to be done arises in the natural world. The cry in the natural world is, "How can a man be born again?" There is no resource on the natural side for that, it is all of grace: and as to a man's continuation in spiritual life and strength - "How can this man give us His flesh to eat?" There is no explanation on the natural side at all, but the answer is, He does it by His grace. When we come to the consummation there is still a problem on the natural side - "How are the dead raised up?" There is no explanation and no resource on the natural side, but He will do it by His grace. "He will raise us up at the last day." The explanation is in grace. That is the two-fold law all the way through - Jesus Christ as Lord, in the Eternal Purpose of God realising that Purpose through "the things which are not," and that is grace.

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