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

Chapter 5 - The Heavenly Origin

Jesus - the "I Am" in Incarnation

The key word to these studies is the great utterance of the Apostle Paul: "That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable to His death," (Philippians 3:10), a quest which commenced in the startling revelation to him on his way to persecute unto the death the Lord Jesus in the form of the members of His Body in Damascus, and that Lord, uniting Himself with those members in their suffering said, "I am Jesus Whom thou persecutest."

We have been coming to see through - what shall I say - the eyes of the apostle, by the same Spirit Who has opened his eyes, how far-reaching that was, that the Jesus of the New Testament is the "I AM" not only of the Old Testament but of eternity. The Incarnation has two aspects, one which relates to the fallen creation, the disordered and disrupted system through what is all too inadequately termed and understood as the "Fall." The Incarnation comes in there on the one side, and God Incarnate in Christ becomes Representative of that system in death to abolish that system entirely and wipe it out of existence.

We shall not go over that ground now, but we shall begin on the other side. The other aspect of the Incarnation is that it was retrospective to the pre-Fall purpose. It went back before times eternal and took up the thought and intent and design in the mind and the will of God in eternity, and continued out from eternity the realisation of that design, so that in the Incarnation Jesus becomes the Representative in Life, but that Eternal Life, the Ageless Life of that original race which transcends the Fall in the power of a Life which does not know death, which would have been ultimately but for the fall, and thus He becomes the Representative Man of that conception and idea and thought of God when He projected His design, His plan, His intention, into the universe.

Now we have to see what the nature of that man is and what are the laws of that Life; and here, of course, we become very practical, and we come right home to what we call our everyday life. Why did Paul say with regard to his knowledge of Christ that he would not know Christ after the flesh, but that he would know Him after the Spirit? It was because on the one hand we have to look to the Resurrection Life, the Man on the Resurrection plane to see what was in the mind of God when He said, "Let us make man in our own image." The man that you meet in the ordinary walk of life is not that man, and Adam before the Fall had not attained unto the full measure of the stature of the man that God intended when He commenced - through Christ - that creative work (Heb. 1:2). The type, the kind that God intended is the Man Whom you see on the mountain peak transfigured there, an anticipation of what was to be and what is to be, the Representative of that race; glorified humanity, humanity clothed with the glory of God. That is the presentation. That is realised only on Resurrection ground and by Resurrection Life, but it is a very blessed thing that the Lord has broken through in that one glorious manifestation.

He broke through again for Paul. It seems perhaps that Stephen caught a glimpse of Him, but there He stands, and there is a peculiar significance attached to the time of the transfiguration, and that peculiar significance is to give tremendous emphasis to the necessity of the Cross, for Moses and Elijah were found speaking to Him of the exodus which He was about to accomplish, and the exodus was out from a system into another by the Cross; it was the way through. That is why, for one reason, he refuses to know Jesus any longer according to the flesh. The other reason, of course, is very patent, that to know Jesus as He is to be known unto that tremendous realisation and consummation, you can and must only know Him in the Spirit: you have got to be there with spiritual senses and perception and discernment and capacities for receiving revelation before you can know Jesus in this marvellous sense. Beloved, the point of such tremendous importance is this, that there are a very very few who really KNOW Jesus.

Lest anyone should misunderstand the implications of what we are saying it may be as well to strongly emphasise that we are not touching that uniqueness and exclusiveness of the Lord Jesus in the very Godhead. We are not called to that, neither can we ever share that. Dedication is not our goal. Glorified humanity is not deified humanity - that is the doctrine of antichrist. May we be saved from a suspicion of such teaching. In His Divine Person, the Lord Jesus stands for ever apart from us. It is only in His representative capacity as Son of Man that we are joined with Him.

Now this next thing, that Paul came to see in the Spirit was that the laws of the earthly life of Jesus the Christ were the laws by which and upon which alone the heavenly Man was to be attained unto. That is coming back, of course, to that great word of Eternal Purpose that when He, the Son, was chosen of the Father before the world was, "we were chosen in Him" and "fore-ordained (or predestinated) to be conformed to the image of that Son." Now in order to arrive at that conformity you have got to know the laws and principles of that Son's life upon which we alone can arrive at that; and oh, how wonderfully does the Spirit corroborate Himself in all those who are led by Him.

One of the very strong elements, the living elements in a meditation of this kind is that if we know anything about the Holy Spirit's dealings with us inwardly we are simply corroborating the experience of the apostle, and the apostle is interpreting for us our own experience, and the life and the law of the Spirit is one in all those who are the sons of God, "having received the Spirit of His Son whereby they cry, Abba, Father"; and it is these laws and principles of the Life of the Son of Man which Paul saw to be the principles and the laws by which there was going to be an arriving at the full measure of the stature of that man in Christ. How shall it be that we are conformed as sons to the image of His Son for which we were predestinated by grace. Well the answer comes out of the very life of the Lord Jesus Himself when here on earth. Here He is living a life according to certain laws governed by certain principles and therefore arriving at a certain standard. And what a standard! What a standard of triumph! What a standard of effectiveness! What a standard of beauty! How is that to be realised by us? Oh beloved, you may try and imitate Jesus as much as you can, you will never get there. The imitation of Christ is a heart-breaking thing, and it is a very, very poor kind of apprehension of the Christ ideal to try by human resource, however exhaustive, to bring about the standard of the divine conception of Life. There is no impact in it; it does not reach out to anything like the dimensions of the Eternal Purpose of God. It is not universal in its significance. It is not fraught with the terrific impact of Almighty God to shatter and nullify the forces of evil in the universe. It is a mere empty imitation.

Now how is it to be? Oh, you see it is to be on the resurrection principle. He must die, and He must be raised again by the operation of the exceeding greatness of the power of God, and then transmute those principles into a corporate being called "His Body" of "many members," even that Body of those who have been brought into resurrection union with Him. There, and there alone, can you live, or hope ever to live according to the Divine Idea from before the foundation of the world. Now Paul has one word which explains all that. "The mystery which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." He is going to do it all over again. How? By ceasing to have an individual personal isolated existence and, like a corn of wheat falling into the ground and dying, He has risen, not an isolated corn, but one corporate whole of many members living out the same principle that He lived Himself. "Christ in you the hope of glory," and there is no hope only according to that law, but there is the hope. There you have the hope of justification which gives you standing in the presence of God. There you have the hope by identification which gives you acceptance with God. There you have the hope of resurrection which means sonship of God. There you have the hope of union which is power, sharing His power. There you have the hope which is by sanctification, which is the hope of glory. You notice that five-fold hope. (1) The hope of justification - standing, (2) The hope of identification - acceptance, (3) The hope of resurrection - sonship, (4) The hope of union - power, (5) The hope of sanctification - glory.

(Here again we must break in to say emphatically that this last statement does not relate to our Lord's bodily physical resurrection. That remains a thing by itself, and we believe in it absolutely. The Lord Jesus rose from the dead in His personal physical body, and so He remains!)

Now, then, that being the all-inclusive principle and basis of our attaining unto a conformity to this Representative Heavenly Man, this Arche-Typal Man, let us see some of those laws of life by which there is to be an attainment to the heavenly life of the Son of Man, and the first is that law of an essential heavenly ORIGIN.

The Heavenly Origin

Paul does make this so very clear and with such strong emphasis because he, more than we, has realised the significance of this. "The first man was of the earth, earthly: the second Man is the Lord out of heaven," and we are no longer out of the first man, we are now in and of the second Man, and all the way through he is saying that again and again, trying to remind the Lord's people that they have no relationship whatever to the earth and to the earthlies. Their relation to the earth will be manifest later on, when they govern it, but at present, the death of the Lord Jesus has cut them right off from their earthly origin and earthly ancestry, and all their earthly connection, and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus has brought to light the fact that God's Eternal conception of His Man is that his origin should be heavenly, and you do not now date back to Adam, you date back to the Son before Adam was created. In your essential being, in the central reality of what you are in Christ you have ceased to be a child of Adam and of the earth, earthy. There is a part of us we know that will go there, but that is not the essential part. We have received the seed corn of a heavenly body; when that shall be "earth to earth and ashes to ashes" this other contradicts and works against that, not of the earth, earthy; not ashes to ashes, but glory to eternal glory.

That one first law of the Life of the Heavenly Man is enough to keep us for a long time, to see how all that works out, because, as we said at the beginning the Holy Spirit operates in all the sons in the Son in the same way, and we shall find our heavenly origin by the Holy Spirit is being forced home upon our spiritual consciousness more and more, and that the demands of that origin will be laid upon us to cut every link with the earthlies, and we shall find that we are being almost imperceptibly and unconsciously at times swung out from the earthlies. In the matter of relationships, the law of the Heavenly Life is that we find that the earthly relationships take a second place to spiritual fellowships! So we come to the state, and it sounds brutal even to our earthly relationships which have not come into the realm of the Spirit - "Who is my mother, who are my brethren?" That is, we have come into another set of relationships which has transcended those, and we find that the law of the Heavenly Life has demonstrated itself by the unity of the members of the Body of Christ.

Now I want you to notice, my dear young friends in the faith especially, that one of the marks of the truth of your heavenly relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ is your love of the fellowship of the Lord's people; that you want the fellowship of the Lord's people more than you want anybody's fellowship. That is very simple you may say, but it is very important. To some who profess to be the Lord's children the company of the Lord's people is boredom, and they are glad to get away - they have not come to their own company, there is a reversion to type. In the spiritual realm the Lord's children gravitate towards the Lord's children always, if they are truly the Lord's children. That is a simple law, but here is the law in the Master's Life, "Who is my mother?" "And who are my brethren?" "These are my mother and my brethren that do the will of my father," and it is that principle that is at the heart of these seemingly very harsh sayings of His. "Except a man hate father and mother, sister and brother for my sake." It is a thing which demonstrates as a working principle almost imperceptibly that those who are of blood kinship on the earth (but who are still of the world) are very often the most distant from us, and the most difficult to get on with, and we are glad when their visit to us comes to an end and they go home. On the other hand, when we meet with the Lord's people, though we may never have met them on earth before, we enter into something we have in common. This thing springs up in the most unexpected ways and places, and it comes out if only you leave it as a matter of Life. Immediately you get into the mental realm you find you have differences, but leave it as a matter of Life, and it is a reality. Keep the human element out, that is, the fallen human element, and the thing is beautiful, it is Life. That is one of the things we have to learn.

If we all abide in the Spirit the fellowship would be unbroken. It is when we get into that other realm from which we have really been severed in the resurrection that all the things come in to destroy, or interfere with the fundamental unity. It is not our business to create a unity, it is our business to keep it. He has created it. Now you see that one of the involved principles of Christ as Head of the Body is unity of Life. It is there you have to find it, and you find that the origin of that thing is heavenly, and it is always making you to gravitate toward your spring, toward heavenly things; that you are losing all the time appetite in the things earthly, and you are becoming more and more conscious of the "stranger" spirit; that we are pilgrims and strangers in a very intense way. Our at-homeness is somewhere else, and that for us for the time being is a spiritual somewhere else, and not a geographical somewhere else. We are there, we are not going there. We are there in the heavenlies in Christ. Violate that law, and you at once interrupt the progress of conformity to His image. Touch the things of earth voluntarily, choose the things of earth voluntarily, and you arrest your own progress to His image. That is, you put a check upon the eternal intention of God concerning your own life, and the enemy's scheme is all the time to try and divert you from the way of the upward calling in Christ and to get you on to things which, clothed in the most orthodox phraseology, gripped in the vision of ultra-spirituality, are nevertheless side-tracks, bypaths and not in the direct route, and they are calculated to get you out into a realm of mental spirituality which arrests your conformity to the likeness of His Son.

Well now, we see that that is the first law, the law of a heavenly origin. Now the Son of Man has declared, "I came out from God," "I am come down from heaven." Jesus, the I AM down from heaven, out from God. The Representative and the Inclusive One of all those who are chosen in Him before the foundation of the world and predestinated to be conformed to His image, out from God, down from heaven. You remember that picturesque little Psalm 87, the viewing as it were of the pageant of the nations, and the boasts and vaunts of those who were born in Tyre and Babylon, etc., saying, "I was born there! Look at great and glorious Babylon, I was born there! Look at Tyre, and all her stately majesty, I was born there!" But the Psalmist snaps his fingers at that and says, "But what of Zion? The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God, and in that day it shall be said, This one and that one was born there." And the Psalm closes, "All my well springs are in thee." That is the place from which I derive my life. Babylon, Tyre, Ethiopia! My word, not to be compared with Zion, and I was born there! My well-springs are there!

Now I wonder if this comes not only as a testimony, but as a test. Do you know truly that your relationship to the earth has ceased and your relationship to the heaven has commenced. All your life is there and derived from there, and all your interests are there. Is it true of you that all your heart is drawn above, and that you need not to be exhorted to seek those things which are above, for you know that your treasure is there, and where your treasure is there your heart is?

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