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

Chapter 3 - The Testimony of Jesus

We have seen that on God's side the basic factor in His success is putting Christ into the constitution of things; but there is man's side, and on man's side there are two laws of God's success, they are faith and obedience.

Two Laws of Divine Success - Faith and Obedience

Now these two laws should be traced in the life and history of every instrument in relation to God's purpose. That is something with which to pause. Let our minds run over the means used by the Lord throughout the ages in the direction of His purpose and we shall see that from the beginning invariably these laws governed every instrumentality. On the other hand it should be noticed what the consequences have invariably been of the breakdown of these laws. We are not going to stay with that. It is mentioned and left for your fuller consideration, but it is tremendously important to recognise it. There are, therefore, two sides to God's success. His Own side, in getting His Son into man and into things; and there is man's side also; and man's side has to do with this dual law of faith and obedience. God can only get His Son into things as faith and obedience are granted Him. They open the way for the Lord, for His success. Where faith and obedience are reserved, God is rendered incapable of realising His end.

Now I want to take another wide sweep of the whole ground, coming right back to the beginning and tracing the course of things which seems to be apparent as back of the Word of God.

The Eternal Counsels of the Godhead

1. We might have as our foundation, the fact that there has been from the beginning a cosmic struggle for the mastery of this universe. I think few of us will doubt that; very few of us will fail to recognise that. But it is not only a fact stated, it is something which implies a good deal, and it is the implications of that fact which will largely govern our further consideration. We follow the apparent course of things and begin at a dateless period with the Godhead in the eternal counsels. It is mainly through the Apostle Paul that we are introduced to those eternal counsels of the Godhead. By the utterances which have come from him we are taken back into the times eternal before the world was, and are told certain things about God foreordaining, predestinating, foreknowing, and then doing certain things according to His foreknowledge, and these are what we term "the eternal counsels of the Godhead."

Christ Appointed Heir of all Things

2. Out of those eternal counsels of the Godhead, the one pre-eminent thing which issues is the appointment of God's Son Heir of all things. "God hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the ages" (Heb. 1:2). This refers to some definite act, some precise issue from the eternal counsels in the Godhead; the appointment of the Son as Heir of all things.

Lucifer Enters the Scene

3. We are introduced by the Word of God in the same period (at what point in that period we do not know, but at some point) to another whose name is Lucifer, the Anointed Cherub that covereth (Lucifer, as we know, simply means luminary), who was an angelic being. Three things seem to be quite clear about him.

(1) He occupied a very high position, but yet he was a servant.

(2) He seems to have had a specific and particular relationship to this world, a relationship which most probably existed before this present creation in a previous order of this world; and he is recognised as the prince of this world, and almost all the relationships which the Scriptures mention where he is concerned are with this world. His interests are all represented as focussed here, both by what the Scriptures tell us and by deduction from the main revelations of Scripture which probably we shall see more fully presently. We may be quite right in concluding that this world was the special sphere of his relationship from eternity, and of his office.

(3) Iniquity was, at a given point, found in him. That iniquity was firstly the iniquity of pride leading secondly, to jealousy or envy. His heart was lifted up with pride and he became dissatisfied with his position as a servant and essayed to occupy a higher position which had not been given to him, coveting that position - jealousy and envy; and thirdly, as the active outcome - rebellion.

Lucifer Cast Out

4. Lucifer is shown to have been cast out with the angels who had entered into rebellion with him, the angels "which kept not their first estate."

A Parenthesis on the Mortality of the Body

A question arises here, by way of parenthesis which may be a little speculative but is not altogether without reason; the question as to whether the bodies of Lucifer and his angels which were spiritual bodies, became mortal by their sin and perished, and both Satan and his angels became houseless. Satan and his angels are now disembodied spirits, and that their one craving is for a body. We have no record at all of them appearing in bodies of their own, but they are always seeking to take possession of bodies. Satan was unable to come in in his own body at the beginning, he had to assume the body of the serpent, and ever since that has been, so far as the Scriptures are concerned, his method of manifestation when he has really manifested himself. And this question as to whether the bodies of these angels (for angels have bodies) by reason of their sin became mortal arises. Mortality, of course, is death, and the history of this present creation is the history of sin resulting in mortality and death. We have very little indeed to go upon that would give us a ground of argument that Adam's body was an immortal body before the fall, or that a change took place physically at the fall, but if we argue inductively or deductively we know quite well that the mortality of the body is the result of sin, and that the redemption of the body is the final destruction of sin in the body. Therefore the destruction of death in the body, and the consummation of the redemptive work of Calvary is this mortal putting on immortality, this corruptible putting on incorruption.

Then, again, that is an inheritance. We inherit a spiritual body, an incorruptible body. We inherit it by our spirits first of all being born of incorruptible life, and the spirit becoming possessed of incorruptible life in new birth is the seed of an incorruptible body which it will inherit. That is not just going to be a mechanical procedure. It is going to be the reward of saints, that spiritual body, that incorruptible, resurrection body. It is the completing, the complement of their new birth, or shall I say of the Spirit of sonship (I am coming to that more fully presently, but it rises here in connection with Lucifer). As to these facts, that evil spirits have not bodies and that their craving is always to occupy a body, that angels have spiritual bodies and have been seen again and again of men, there is no question. Lucifer was an angel. His spirits were angels. They have lost their body. How did they lose it? Is it that of which things later, in the case of all lost ones, are a repetition? Well, we just put the question in there by way of parenthesis because it does arise, and it may help us presently.

Lucifer's World Destroyed

5. Then the world of Lucifer was involved and destroyed; how soon after his rebellion and being cast out we do not know. A previous creation existed; there is no doubt about that. This world in its present creative order has not been so for a hundred thousand years. There was a time when some of us used to be fearful for "Genesis," when we heard of skulls and skeletons being found which were more than six thousand years back, etc., etc.. But there was a previous creation. That creation suffered in a way which resulted in things being as we find them at the beginning of the book of Genesis. The previous world was involved and destroyed. It was the world of Lucifer if our deductions are right. God has done that more than once with this world. We have a phrase now on record as to this present world order: "the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished." Well, it is but a repetition.

A Question on the Third Creation

Now here another question arises, and I raise it simply for its interest; I am not basing anything dogmatic upon it. Is this new creation which eventually comes in with Christ through His resurrection, the third? Does the third day relate to the history of this world? We know the stamp of number three in everything; we saw it in all parts of the creation. I have always had some difficulty in understanding the real value of "the third day" as related to Christ's resurrection. How emphatic it is; how precise. "Today... tomorrow... and the third day I am perfected." Why this emphasis? What is the necessity? It is not just putting three on things; surely there is something back of it, because all things which are of God are not petty and small and local; they are universal and they are eternal. They relate to the whole range of things in principle; they are vast. And I just raise the question: Is this new creation which comes in with Christ in resurrection the third? And inasmuch as it comes in now with Christ in resurrection, it is the last. It is in the power of a life that is indestructible. You carry the principle of indestructible life through the very universe eventually through Christ. I just mention that because we are getting to the spiritual background of everything and it may be of help. There again it is but one fragment added to our progress toward the end that we have in view.

A New World

6. A new world. I am not now speaking of this new-creation-world in Christ through the cross; I am speaking of this world order from the beginning of Genesis. A new world, and three things in relation to it:

(1) Out of the eternal counsels, Christ is its Prince. Mark you, Lucifer is deposed from the princedom. In this new world Christ is appointed Heir of all things. He is its prince in the appointment of God. Now note, a difference has taken place. This Prince is not a member of the household as a servant, as was Lucifer, this Prince is the Son.

(2) Christ's identification with the creation before the fall. That was mentioned before, you remember, and I said that we should come on it again. We must remember that the Christ of the New Testament is the Jehovah of the Old Testament. And we said that before the fall God walked and talked with man on the earth, and that implied thought and intent. Now He identifies Himself with the world of which He is Prince and comes to it and walks and talks.

(3) The fall. He is separated from it by the fall, yet retains a link with it and a testimony in it. The link and the testimony from Abel onward is the Testimony of Jesus; it is Christ implied.

It is so patent that everywhere from Abel on through the whole Scriptures Christ is in evidence in that specific relationship. All the types whether they be personal or whether they be symbols, are types of Christ. They are here on this earth, they are virtually Christ here, and everything in relation to them has to do with His supremacy, His sovereignty, His Lordship. As we have pointed out, that when there is a right adjustment and relationship to those types of Christ in the Old Testament, and when they are given their right place in the life of God's people, the issue is absolute pre-eminence all the time. Lordship, Sovereignty, Dominion. The Tabernacle, the Ark of the Testimony: these are centres, which, when occupying their right place spiritually in the life of God's people, produce amongst those people the mighty powers of absolute victory and triumph all the time, and they are the testimony of Jesus. (What I have in view is to get you to the heart of the testimony of Jesus, to see what it is.) You see He is by the fall separated from His world, yet He retains His link with it along the line of sovereignty, dominion. Christ is everywhere in evidence through the Old Testament dispensation.

The Incarnation

7. The Incarnation. The Son comes in the flesh personally. Three things:

(1) Identification with, and at the same time separation from, the world. On the one side He identifies Himself with this world and with its race by His incarnation. Yet at the same time, on the other side. He is distinct from it. He is not of it, He is separate from it. United with it, yet separated from it. Identification and separation in the incarnation.

(2) Redemption. The redemption of the race and the potential redemption of the world, the cosmos, and the casting out of the prince of this world. Now we must retrace. Lucifer was cast out. The Son was made Prince. The cast-out Lucifer returns to the domain of God's appointed Prince and recovers a kingdom in this world morally. What was before geographical afterwards became moral. Now you get your order of Christ's redemption. Christ comes, redeems the world and casts out the prince of this world anew, but this time he is cast out morally. Satan is now set at nought on a moral ground, and the success of the Lord Jesus was because the prince of this world came to Him and had nothing in Him. It was a moral victory, a moral power which was his undoing. Well, there in the Cross: redemption was secured for the whole race - and more than that; for the whole creation potentially. That is in Christ's victory at Calvary, and Satan cast out. He is still here, but morally cast out. Thus we have identification and separation; redemption, and the casting out of the prince of this world.

(3) The malignity of Satan from the beginning of the life of Christ. He has recognised the Son, and he has recognised what the issue will be of the Son having come. Therefore, at His very birth he will stand at nothing in cruelty, downright wickedness, to destroy the Son. Having failed there, the Son being under a special protection from the Father, in the wilderness he will try other methods. His point of attack is: "If Thou be the Son...." You see that is the point. And he persisted along that line to the end, seeking to get in between Christ and the Father with a human reasoning and judgment which would make Him doubt His Sonship. God has said through an opened heaven: "This is my beloved Son." "This is a poor plight for a Son to be in; do you think it is true? Do you believe that if you were the Son of God...." You see? And the human side being stirred, provoked, worked upon to thrust itself between what was true of Him in His spirit in relation to the Father. It is our temptation all the time. The human side of our life is in suffering, in affliction, and by reason of the suffering is worked upon by the Enemy to bring about doubt as to whether after all, in the deepest reality of our being, we do belong to the Lord, we are joined to the Lord, that God is our Father. We understand it. It is an attempt through the channel of the human in its time of suffering, to question sonship. That malignity against the Son is seen from the beginning; set against His life and the coming through with His work; eventually working upon men to influence Him out of His work. God's charge against Israel was that they killed the Prince of Life. They cast the Prince of Life out of His Own world.

But that is only point seven, you cannot complete the circle without point eight; and eight is always the resurrection number.

Resurrection and Ascension

8. Resurrection and ascension. Five things:

(1) A Spiritual Prince enthroned. "God hath made Him a Prince and a Saviour." Now this is not just a physical, geographical thing; there is a sense in which without any of the work of Calvary at all the Godhead is absolute Sovereign in this universe though there be fifty thousand Lucifers. It is a moral thing through and through. The whole drama of Calvary is a moral drama; so that Christ's enthronement now is not the enthronement of God as God over His universe because He had been pulled out of His place as God of the universe. The enthronement of Christ is a spiritual and moral enthronement. It is literally until all His enemies shall be made the footstool of His feet, but He reigns now in virtue of a moral victory: "Wherefore God hath highly exalted him..." and that "wherefore" relates to the specific character of the work of His Cross, His death.

(2) From a spiritual Prince there begins a spiritual people. He the Firstborn from among the dead, then a spiritual people begotten in resurrection; a new creation in Christ. Not a physical or literal thing yet, but spiritual.

(3) The Day of Grace. Given, allowed for man to make a choice under the proclamation of the truth concerning Christ. What He has done, and where He is. During that Day of Grace there is a dual growth. On the one side a development with the false prince, the cast out prince; on the other side a development with the enthroned and true Prince.

(4) After the Day of Grace the effected universal separation. (We are not filling in all the stages and movements; we are taking the broad development.) The universal separation between these two things which have been growing, developing, is effected; then the Day of Judgment.

(5) The new heavens and the new earth; Christ universally Sovereign.

Now that is the cycle of things, but there are one or two things of which I want us to take special account as arising out of that. So far we have covered broad stretches; we want now to get specific values.

The Testimony of Jesus

The first is as to the Testimony of Jesus. What is "The Testimony of Jesus." Usually the testimony of Jesus has been considered to be that concerning His Godhead. That is, Who He is as a Member of the Godhead as differing from His being just a Man, a good Man, the best of men, the super-man. The Deity of Christ, the Godhead of Christ, that has been considered to be the pre-eminent factor and feature of the testimony of Jesus. I am not coming down from that, but I am going to say that that is not all. The Testimony of Jesus is that, but what that means. It is not only the Divine Sonship of Christ; it is that as Son He is Heir of all things, and God's universal Prince. It is not upon the Deity of Christ that the Devil rages. The Devil rages upon the truth that, being the Son He is Heir of all things. And it is not just that you can teach and preach Christ as God that provokes the Enemy, but it is the implication of that which stirs the satanic animus; that being the Son of God He is destined to the Princedom of this universe.

The testimony of Jesus is not "Jesus is God" alone; the testimony of Jesus is this: Jesus, being Son of God, is Lord. Now the apostolic message is that. It was the exaltation of the Son of God, not the fact of His Sonship only, but the exaltation of the Son of God to the right hand of the Majesty on high, with what that means; because that stands right over against the original position of Lucifer. That represents forever the doom of Lucifer. He recognises that if that becomes recognised and accepted, he has lost everything and if that acceptance grows apace his time is shortened; that every fresh one who accepts that shortens his time that much. He knows that it is only a matter of time. Does he? "What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? Art thou come hither to torment before the time?" They know the time factor. They know that their eternal torment in that specific sense is bound up with His Coming and His work. You reach out to lead men and women spiritually into the truth of the absolute sovereignty of the Lord Jesus and you are shortening the Devil's time, and you are provoking him. It is not a cold theology, or even a fundamentalism of the Deity of Christ that stirs the kingdom of darkness. It is, in the power of the Holy Ghost, Christ declared as Lord, Son of God but Lord, Heir of all things. And the testimony of Jesus is something more than the doctrine of the Deity of Christ. It is the Holy Ghost making the Lordship of Christ a reality.

Sonship in the Saints

The Testimony of Jesus has as much to do with His perfect humanity as it has with His deity.

Secondly, the nature of Christ's cosmos will be that of sonship in the saints. Now you get to the heart of things if you recognise that. You see we pointed out that when God moved after Lucifer's fall, in relation to His eternal counsels, it was not a member of the household whom He appointed in the second place, it was the Son over God's House, and it was on the principle of sonship that He was going to establish His order ultimately and eventually rid the universe of that evil thing that had come into it. It was by sonship. Now, if it is a spiritual and moral thing this redemption and this establishment of God's eternal intention, that is going to be a principle in God's cosmos eventually, sonship; not servants but sons. So that sonship means, carries with it inherently, inheritance and dominion. The letter to the Hebrews teaches that throughout; that sonship carries with it inseparably inheritance and dominion. The nature of Christ's cosmos is going to be sonship in the saints. It is "Christ in you." "...But ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." That is the spirit of sonship in us that is pointing on to the nature of Christ's universal dominion.

We are not to be servants in the House of God, we are to be sons. The House of God, beloved, is a very big thing. It is not the local assembly, nor all the local assemblies on this earth; they are of the House of God, but the House of God when it is fully manifested will be universal. There may be differences of position in the House of God, there may be degrees of glory and honour in the House of God, but it is going to be the House of God and the principle is going to be that the Spirit of sonship was introduced into everyone who came into it. Everyone born from above by the Spirit of God has the Spirit of sonship. They may be children for a time, they may, many of them, remain little more than children, but potentially the spirit of sonship is there, or the spirit of sonship is there with all the potentialities; the measure of inheritance will depend upon the measure of growth in sonship, but to get into the House does not require full growth in sonship. Sonship is implicit in the babe, and there is no membership of the family without the implicit sonship. So that the nature of Christ's cosmos, the redeemed cosmos will be that of sonship in the saints.

Sons of God in this World, and the Challenge

Thirdly, what sonship carried with it in Christ when He came into the world applies to every believer. That is, it means identification and separation. We are here related to this world in a very real and positive way for the Lord. At the same time there is a true separation from it. That is what Christ's sonship meant in incarnation, and that is true in our case. We are here for real purposes. It is not only for our training and discipline. That is a part of it. We are here in relation to the testimony of Jesus. If our lives are wholly ordered and governed by the Holy Spirit, and the Lord has His full way, He will put us down on this earth in some place, some sphere, with the intention that there, that place, shall represent the absolute Lordship of His Son because we are there. Our being there will raise hell to get us out because of the implication of our being there. The Enemy regards us as intruders and would force us out, but we are here in a very close identification with what is Christ's by right and what is Christ's potentially by His Cross. And yet there is another sense and realm in which we are absolutely separate from it. That is the nature of sonship. Sonship is eventually related to this earth for eternity as Christ's inheritance. It may have a larger sphere, or door of operations. It may not be earth bound and earth limited, but it is related to this earth and when the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our God and His Christ we shall have some relationship to this world.

We have got to take that position for the Lord here where He puts us, and see that we never move out of it other than by the Lord. We have got to be where the Lord puts us and go where the Lord takes us, because just there, for eternity something is represented, and we shall only defeat the Lord's ends in our lives if we begin to make our own programmes.

The Universality of Everything in Christ

Fourthly, we must, therefore, recognise the universal relation of all testimony and ministry in the Holy Spirit. There is nothing in the Holy Spirit which is merely local. And there is nothing in the Holy Spirit which is merely temporary. The Holy Spirit always works in relation to the universality of Christ, and He is doing so now. You may, and I may, be in a locality, but immediately we become insular, local, parochial, water-tight, we have cut ourselves off from the greater resources of the Holy Ghost. We have got to recognise that every place in which we may be, though it may be a small place, is never looked at by the Lord as something in itself. It is always regarded by Him as being but a point in the universal, and is always related to all the rest spiritually; all the rest is affected for good or ill by what goes on there.

The Testimony of the Lord Jesus is one testimony; His Lordship is one Lordship: and to stand in one place in His victory absolutely is in itself to be involved in the battle with all the powers of darkness, not with a local company of them. Do you get that? Not with a local company, a local assembly of evil spirits. No! They are all interested in that place and the Devil himself is interested in that place. It may be one tiny spot on the earth with only two persons, two saints there, and the whole system of darkness is interested in that. It is true! And the more clear and positive the Testimony of Jesus is in a place, the more universal that place becomes in its significance, in its accountability; the more it draws the attention of the Adversary. There may be focal points but they are the focal points of the universal, and we must recognise this, the universal relationship of all testimony and all ministry is the Holy Ghost. We must seek to break down every kind of artificial barrier that localises, and we must seek to recognise, and operate in line with the recognition of the fact, that from this point, this small out of the way point on this earth, the whole range of Christ's interests and of Satan's interests can be touched. You can touch the whole cosmos spiritually from any point. The Lord would work that out with His people I believe. It is one of the wonderful things.

When you get away from the old system of organising Christian work, which is usually departmentalising, a putting up of that which constitutes something in itself, technically constituted Christian work with various kinds of boundaries, human controls and so on - when you get, by the work of the Holy Spirit, lifted clean out of the whole system of human organisation into a realm where the Holy Spirit does the organising, the governing, the running of the whole thing and you are not trying to bring anything about at all, you are working in cooperation with the Spirit, not enterprises, but you are in the Testimony of Jesus in the Holy Ghost, you will find that that ministry steadily, quietly, extends of itself far beyond your local boundaries, and reaches out until it reaches the bounds of the earth and you may have a voice for the whole earth. The testimony of Jesus is universal; it cannot be local. It has a local application, but it can never remain local, because in this spiritual realm of His Lordship and of Satan's attempt to counter that, everything is universal. It is not only earthbound; it reaches to the encirclement of the earth unto principalities and powers. That is the range of this Testimony of Jesus. And the great need for so many of the Lord's people, the Lord's servants, at this time is to be delivered from all that which is so much less than universal. They are just in their own small local circle, their own little kingdom, and that is the beginning and the end of everything for them; and there is no recognition of the mighty impact upon the forces of evil in the universal Testimony of the Lord Jesus.

The Lord make us, in Christ by the Holy Ghost, universal factors. But it represents a good deal of breaking, smashing up of our ideas. It does represent a terrific stripping off of a system in which we have grown up, in which we have been trained; but when the Lord has done it, it is marvellous. You look back and say: "There was a time when that, and that, and that was everything to me; it was my system, my line of things, my very life. I did not see anything beyond it." But the Lord has done that great emancipating thing, and you laugh at your utter folly that ever such things should have been of any account at all. There is emancipation from what is so trivial and petty and earthly and man-made, all that sort of thing, out into the universal, and when you get out there, there are no limits to spiritual possibilities. But of course, you do meet things! You meet something else which you never met in the same way before. That is the position and it is there that the Testimony of Jesus counts.

May the Lord make it all profitable to us and lead us out.

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