The Spiritual Background of the Word of God
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 1 - The Nature, Purpose and Destiny of Man

We are going to be occupied with THE SPIRITUAL BACKGROUND OF THE WORD OF GOD. We will start at the beginning, having the Word open at the first chapter.

The first observation which we make is that this world is represented as within a greater sphere. That is a broad statement, but it is the commencing point of any comprehensive and adequate grasp of the whole purpose of God. This world is represented as within a greater sphere; and I think that is quite obvious in reading the first chapter of Genesis.

And then the heavenly bodies are said to have been created with a relationship to this world.

Then we take a leap forward. The encircling realm of this world is said to be occupied by spiritual intelligences. We must draw a line somewhere between the immediate encompassing of this world, and that place to which Satan mysteriously enough has access to the very presence of God. There are, undoubtedly, two realms. One is toward this earth; and one is toward God Himself, in His Own Presence wherever that is. The encircling realm of this world is said to be occupied by spiritual intelligences. The Scriptures in that connection are: "Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness...." Then Satan as: "...the prince of the power of the air," and such like passages.

The Godhead in Action

The next thing is that the creation of this universe is said to have been the work of the Divine Trinity in a certain order of operation. I do not mean creation in a certain order of operation, but the Divine Trinity in a certain order of operation.

First of all, what is the Divine order? Let us make a general statement so far as the Godhead was concerned in the creation. From the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit. Now, can you substantiate that with the Word? These are not unimportant things; they relate to the whole of the spiritual background of things right to the end. If you lay your foundations here, then you will understand later that those things hold good and apply. Perhaps if I just suggest to you the thing that is in my mind you will more fully work it out afterward. I have suggested to you, that passage concerning the Spirit of God brooding, that there is a state of death and ruin from which the Lord has not finally departed, over which He is still hovering with the intention maintained in His mind that there should be out of that, something for His absolute satisfaction. That carries you right on to that central thing in which God does, ultimately and finally without any chance of the thing breaking down again, accomplish His purpose.

When you see the Lord Jesus dying on the cross, you have on the human side and on the side of the old creation another scene such as you have in the beginning of the book of Genesis. Darkness - and even nature witnesses thereto - over the face of the earth until the ninth hour; darkness, ruin, judgment, death, over that old order of things; it is nothing but void; but the Spirit of God is brooding; "...the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead"; the Spirit of God brings back our Lord Jesus from the dead, and in bringing Him back He becomes the Firstborn from among the dead, and the new order is brought in. The Father; in the Son, by the Spirit. That indicates what I mean by the spiritual background of things, and it is important that we see, not only the order, but where each one comes in in the Divine intention. God is the instigator, the originator; the Son is the sphere of His work; the Spirit is the Agent for realising it; and even the Lord Jesus does nothing apart from the Holy Ghost. He is the Spirit of Jesus, and in Him there is nothing without the Holy Ghost. In His birth it is the Holy Ghost; in the first step of public ministry in relation to the purpose for which He has come, it is the Holy Ghost; all the way through it is the Holy Ghost. To the Cross: "...who through the eternal Spirit offered himself..."; and then in the resurrection it is the Holy Spirit; and He receives the Holy Spirit in ascension and exaltation for His Church; and it is everything still by the Spirit even in the Church. So that the Holy Spirit is seen - from this standpoint deductively as well as from the Word emphatically - to be the executive instrument in all the purpose of God; and the Divine order is just that. Everything originates with the Father; it is in the Son; and it is by the Spirit.

Now there are some very comprehensive, although familiar things bound up with that, they are these.

Christ - The Inclusive Sphere of all Divine Activities

God has a great purpose. That purpose is answered inclusively and exclusively in Christ, and nothing of the Divine purpose is possible outside of Christ; and the formula "In Christ" represents the A and the Z, the beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega of the Divine intention and purpose. Then within the sphere of Christ, and only within the sphere of Christ, does the Holy Spirit operate in relation to the Divine purpose; that is, so far as having a place in that purpose is concerned. The Spirit of God moves universally in relation to the purpose, but when it is a matter of participating or having a place in the purpose of God, you have got to find your place in Christ. And you will find that everything upon which the Holy Spirit alights to make it fulfil the Divine purpose and give it life, is something relative to Christ, and it represents a new discovery, or a new movement in Christ. We were speaking about Ezekiel's great vision of the temple, and you will remember that we said that that vision of the temple was spiritually an unveiling of Jesus Christ; and Ezekiel, under the control, government, direction of the Spirit of God representatively, is taken into the confines of that temple; he is taken in, through, round, and he is shown every detail of that temple and given the exact dimensions of it. All the chambers, their arrangement, their number, order, position; everything; and an exact figure is put upon everything, every bit within and without; and all that becomes the place in which the Priests and the Levites are to fulfil their ministry in the eternal purpose of God.

Everything is measured for us in Christ, and we have got to find our measure. Some people are too big to be of any use in the House of God; they have to have their measure reduced. Some people are too small and they have to have their measure increased; but they have got to find their measure in Christ, to occupy their place, and fulfil their ministry. The whole thing is presented by God. That which is presented is Christ. And the Holy Spirit brings in and gives the measure of Christ for every one, and the place in Christ for every one; and that is the sphere of the purpose of God, the vocation of His people. It is a simple illustration, but it is important for us to recognise that everything is bound up with Christ, of the purpose of God, and the Holy Spirit's work is to show us the things of Christ.

The Nature, Purpose and Destiny of Man

Now we go on. Certain things are said about man, as to the nature, the purpose, and the destiny of his being. Can you say how, and why this is so, respectively?

Firstly, how? In the image of God; for the glory of God; in the image of God's Son.

What is the nature of man's being? "In the image of God." The purpose of his being? For the glory of God. As to the destiny of His being? "...conformed to the image of God's Son."

1. The Nature of Man.

The image of God! What is the image of God? To what does that fundamentally refer? Trinity!

Tripartite; but it is important for us to get more than a general statement; it is important for us to see the greater fulness of that. We can see, of course, it is so well known, that man is tripartite. He is spirit, soul, and body; but we have been dealing with the order of the Godhead in creation, and there is a close relationship here.

Take the Godhead. The Father is the Source; the Son is the Channel; the Spirit is that which comes from the Source and flows through the Channel. Now if you take that as an illustration and carry that threefold, tripartite, element into man you have got a better truth about the nature of man's being. There is a spring and there is a channel, and there is something that flows through in every part of man's being. This principle of the Divine image, the Godhead, is written upon everything that God has created; specifically, upon man, and man rises to a level of this image, of course, much higher than anything else. Take nature; take the creation, and see the principle upon which God has generally constituted it. It is that threefoldness. What have you in the matter of the constituents of the universe? Well, you have matter, you have energy, you have space. You cannot get outside of those; they encompass everything. Everything is bound up within those three. What is space? Space is height, length, breadth, not depth; only three. The depth is the height of a thing always; that is a dimension that does not come in. You cannot get away from that at all. When you are dealing with space you have got to reckon on one of those three things.

Time; what is time? Past, present, future. You cannot get outside of that. It does not matter where you look in this universe you are bound by three.

If you look into your own being not only to spirit, soul and body, but more closely, you will find the law of three everywhere. You go to the eye and you find your eye is composed of three distinct parts; go to your ear and you find that your ear is composed of three distinct parts; go to your body and you find tissue, blood, and nerve.

Take all the chemical elements as you find them and you have the law of three. And then you will find that you come back to this; a spring, a channel, and something that flows through. The principle of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. You have a body; you have a nervous system; and you have life. They are all there. So that this creation is an expression to the last detail, the most minute point, of the threefoldness of God, of the Trinity, of the Godhead. That is the image.

2. The Object of Man.

Now you go to the next thing; the object of His creation. First, as to the nature of his being; then as to the object of his being. We have said, for the glory of God. Put that into one word - Representation. For His glory; representation! Carry that right forward and you will find that the end is this, that eventually the race fulfils its original thought of God in this way: that God is expressed in the universality of His Son Who is eventually, as it were, distributed in the race, that every part of the race partakes vitally of Christ, is corporately one with Christ; not only spiritually, as now, but then literally. There is something more in the corporate than only the spiritual; later the race will be a corporate expression of God's thought in Christ. In effect, while Christ will remain personal and individual, it will be a universal Christ by the Spirit. The work of the Spirit of God. The Trinity is not going to dissolve, break up in the coming eternity. The original creative thought of God is going to be realised to the full in the ages to come. God is really going as a Trinity to be represented in the race; an origin, a sphere, and a life, a power. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are going to be represented by a race. That is the background of the Word of God. If you have never thought of it like that, if you go back to the Word of God with that comprehensive thought, you will find that the Word of God lives anew. I am not talking about the Deification of humanity, that the race is going to be Deified and absorbed in the Godhead; I am talking about God's thought for man and its ultimate realisation that it shall represent Him and express His image and that will be Christ manifested in every part of that race, in all that universe He fills all things; He is all and in all.

Why then do we find this trinity in everything in the universe and particularly in man? It is an expression of God's thought along the line of representation; but you cannot take the fallen race now as wholly representing God; neither can you take a redeemed life, a sanctified believer as wholly approximating to God's original thought. There has yet to be a spiritual body before that full thought is realised. It will be a body; a real body. It is necessary to the original thought of God to have a body; it is a part of the trinity; it has got to be maintained. The fall of angels at the beginning with Satan is the fall out of God's thought. Angels have spiritual bodies. They appeared to men from time to time; if the veil were taken away we should see them. What Satan and his angels lost was their spiritual body; they are disembodied, and their one eternal craving is to inhabit something. You never find an occasion when Satan appears in his own body, nor a demon, but they always appropriate some other, and their longing is to inhabit something. They were disinherited of a body. They have lost God's thought eternally; God's thought for a representation of His mind. We come into our spiritual body and we have come to the last part of God's thought for the race; that is, the purpose is consummated. Representation is a very comprehensive term. It takes you right back and right on and shows you what the Lord is doing now in the saints and in the Church.

3. The Destiny of Man.

The third thing; as to the destiny of his being. That has been said to be, according to the Word, conformity to the image of His Son. You see how closely that is related to what we have just said. What is the difference between the image of God in the first case and the image of His Son in the last case?

The Godhead is trinity.

The image of God's Son is purely moral. The other - so far as we are concerned - is constitutional in the sense of creation. But now, conformity; being made like God's Son, is a moral thing. The consummation is moral. And that work of conformity, of course, is a going back over the whole ground of moral ruin and recovering God's thought in a moral universe. So that simply, the difference between the image of God and the image of God's Son, is the difference between the constitution of things inwardly, morally and spiritually. One way by which that is brought about is the putting of the man in order. Instead of his soul having predominance, his spirit does. The Word of God all the way through shows that it is the moral excellencies of the glory of the Lord Jesus that have got to be appreciated, and by faith appropriated, and inwrought by the Holy Ghost. We are working in this threefold sphere all the time.

Now it is said that God came and walked and talked on earth before man fell. This implies a thought and intent of God. It implies the thought of fellowship; identification with what He had created.

The next phase is that of a usurping of God's place in the life of man on this earth, resulting in God withdrawing from the earth in general, as an accursed thing, and confining Himself to that in which the curse has been virtually or actually judged and removed. You see that thought is a fresh door through which we enter another large realm of Scriptural truth - the usurping of God's place in the life of man on this earth (we need not discuss that, it is clear enough), resulting in God withdrawing from the earth in general as an accursed thing (that also we can assent to). That carries with it in itself a very great deal and has a line of its own. The fact that man ignores that truth, as in the case of Cain, seeking to bring to God the best products of this earth, over-looking the fact that the earth at its best was an accursed thing, and believing that he would find acceptance with God on the ground of the world's best, and finding the door closed.

That is a history which runs right through to our own time. The whole philosophy of humanitarianism is constructed upon that, and is the Devil's lie, and the Devil's negation of Calvary. Then God is seen confining Himself to that in which the curse has been virtually or actually judged and removed. Virtually or actually. Do you get the significance of that? Virtually applies to typology. The thing has been virtually done by the type; actually, later, in the work of the cross of the Lord Jesus. There you get your line running right through. Where is the Name of the Lord? Where can you have fellowship with the Lord? Where can you find the Lord? Where is the Lord at work? Where does the Lord pursue His purpose? Just there where the curse has been virtually or actually judged and removed. So you find an altar represents that place every time. In the passage which we have considered in the conference (Exodus 20), where the Lord speaks about the building of an altar, He says: "An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me and if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it." And immediately: "in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee."

Where is the Lord? At the altar that is according to His Own mind, not man's man-made altar; the altar which embodies the thought of God which no tool of man's intellect can carve out. It is the deep mystery of God's thought in the Cross of Christ. Where that is is the place where God is, and to that He confines Himself. Therein is the great importance of recognising that fellowship with God is only, but is always upon the ground of the Cross. The Table of the Lord is the central thing in spiritual fellowship, in assembly life. Wheresoever two or three are gathered, the Lord is, but they are there on the ground of the Cross. The thing that brings the Lord in is that there is a standing upon the ground of Calvary. Abel got through that way, and all who have ever got through have only got through on that ground. God comes in on that ground. Hence, to keep God out of the world, and to maintain his usurping place, the Cross in its true spiritual meaning must be countered, nullified.

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