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

Chapter 5 - Christ our Exodus

Hebrews 5:10: "Named of God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek."

Verse 10 ends with the mention of Melchizedek. The apostle goes on to say that there is a very great deal that he would like to say about Melchizedek. It is impressive to note that the story of Melchizedek only occupies seven verses in the Old Testament, and then there is one subsequent brief reference to him a thousand years afterward, and that is all you have about him in the Old Testament. Later he occupies a large place here, and the apostle says that he could occupy a very much larger one, if only he himself had an open way to say all that he would like to say. "Of whom we have many things to say, and hard of interpretation, seeing ye are become dull of hearing." The difficulty is not always in the messenger himself, but is sometimes found in the want of that clearness, that openness and livingness on the part of those ministered to; and that means that a good many things have to be held back. I trust that none of us will be in that state, that many difficult things should be held back because we are dull of hearing. "For when by reason of the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need again that some one teach you the rudiments of the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of solid food... Wherefore let us cease to speak of the first principles of Christ, and press on unto perfection; not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the teaching of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment." I think for our purpose that is all that we need read at the moment.

Now first of all let us go back to the main theme of the Conference, and remind ourselves of that with which we have been occupied so far. Briefly it is this: We have been seeing, as revealed in the Word of God throughout, and as proved true in history, that there is a deep rooted antagonism between this world and God, and between God and this world, as also between what is of God and this world. That, moreover, in the very nature of man now since the fall, there is that which is antagonistic to God and His things, and in God that which is antagonistic to that in man, and these two things to be incapable of reconciliation. This world therefore outside of Christ lies under God's judgment, and is spiritually a realm of death. For the present it is not God's method or intention to destroy this world, as He destroyed the former creation, and left it without form and void, and darkness covering the deep. For the present God's purpose and method is to take out of this world spiritually a people, in whose heart that basic antagonism has been destroyed, and in whose heart He has put something which is in fellowship with Himself, and is not antagonistic.

Through this present day of grace, this dispensation of the Gospel, God is in all the nations taking out that people, spiritually taking them out; separating them spiritually from this judged and doomed world. And so God has in every nation through His grace, in response to His Gospel, a people who are inwardly no longer at variance with Him, alienated from Him, in antagonism to Him, but in living fellowship with Him. That number is increasing, but a definite time limit is fixed for the accomplishment of that purpose, and the Day of Grace has its end clearly marked in the purpose of God. When that last hour of the dispensation is reached - and if we are not in the twelfth hour now, we are at the end of the eleventh, we are quite sure; and some of us think that we are very near the end of the twelfth - then that Day will close, and out from the nations God will take by resurrection all those who are asleep in Jesus, and by translation of those who remain alive at the time, He will take those who are in spiritual fellowship with Him. Then the world will be closed down to its fiery judgment, and the Lord will cause this order of things to be destroyed. Peter uses very strong language about that. He says the very elements will be on fire with fervent heat; all these things will be dissolved. Then God will make a new heaven and a new earth, as He has done before, and those who in this dispensation have come into that living fellowship, and have suffered with Him, will come back with Christ to reign.

The Way out of a Doomed World

Our point for now is the way out of this judged and condemned world, the world which is held unto judgment. We are in it by nature. No one here can dispute at least one thing that we have said, and that is the inward variance or antagonism of the human heart with God. You may try and put it in various ways. You may - some do - say it is not God with whom we are at variance, but the kind of Christians we have met who have turned us aside, and so on. But that to me is only an excuse; for the same attitude is taken toward anybody who is a Christian, without proof as to whether they are genuine or otherwise. The human heart is that, and there is distance from God inwardly, and I think it is very difficult to dispute it. We are aware of it. We know quite well that it represents a real work of God's grace to make it otherwise, so that we really do love God, and love all that belongs to God, and that becomes our very life, and our very interest.

Consider then the way out of our natural condition, and our way out of this doomed world, and realm of death. There is but one way out. The Lord Jesus came into this tomb of death. He entered into this state of things. He associated Himself with the race. And, although in Himself there was no sin, He voluntarily took upon Himself the sin of man, entered into the penalty of man's sin, received the judgment of God due to man upon Himself. We shall never know this side of heaven - but we shall know then and fill eternity with worship because we shall know - know and understand all the meaning of that judgment which fell upon the Lord Jesus in that death upon the Cross, which in character was so much more than that of a man being crucified and put to death for his deeds; when God turned from Him, and all hell was loosed upon Him; when in spirit and in soul, not alone in body, He was tormented, because He was there voluntarily accepting the full consequences of the world's sin under the judgment of God. He went down into that judgment and received the wages of sin which is death. His was not just a martyr's death; it was the wages of sin in the realm of His spirit that He knew. He who knew no sin was then made to be sin for us, made a curse for us. He tasted death for every man. Thus when He died He died as a sinner. He died as you and as me. He died as, and in the place of, every other man and woman in this creation, under the judgment of God. He died so in order that you and I might not die in that way.

What He experienced in His soul in that terrible death is what is reserved for every other man and woman in this creation who does not accept that death by faith as the means of their own salvation. When He died, and accepted the full penalty, all the judgment of God, all the result of human sin was exhausted upon Him; there was not another drop in His cup. He drank that cup of the wrath of God dry, and there is no more wrath of God for Him henceforth.

Then, that whole order of creation being brought to an end, God is perfectly free and clear in raising Him from the dead; and God raised Him from the dead with all that other past, and everything now new, without sin, without sin's bondage, without sin's penalty, judgment, without death. He lives for ever after the power of an endless, deathless life. The way out for Him was through death, by death, and then resurrection.

Christ our Exodus

Now Christ is offered in all the value of that to man. The Gospel is that Christ, who has exhausted the wrath of God, and has swallowed up sin in its full dimensions of guilt, responsibility, power, penalty, is offered to you, with all the good of that; that you, by accepting Him in what He has done as your Representative, may be delivered from sin, its power, its guilt, its penalty. You are called upon, and I am called upon, to say what we will do with Christ in that Representative character. If we believe; and if we accept, then God says, Give testimony to the fact that you do so. This is something which must be proclaimed, and proclaimed in a practical way. Here is a representation of a grave; here is that which symbolises the grave of the Lord Jesus. Declare that you accept His death as your death, His burial as your burial, His resurrection as your resurrection. Declare it before men, before angels, before demons; declare it. Your acceptance of that by faith is your only way out.

Do you want to know escape from a doomed world, and a doomed creation? Do you want to know how to get out of that realm where that judgment still holds good apart from Christ? Do you want deliverance, salvation, escape? The only way out is your faith acceptance of union with Christ in that death, when He died as you. Declare that when He died you died. He was buried, and put away from the sight of God. Will you accept that by faith? Then, that having been done, He was raised by God from the dead, no longer to be in or a part of that creation, but outside of it. And He was raised as the Firstfruits, and you, by faith, are to be part of the harvest to follow. Do you accept it? This is the only way out. There is no other way. You say, Yes, I accept it, I believe. Then the Word of God says: "Then they that believed were baptised." Why? Because baptism was their practical expression of faith. The Lord does not believe in mere theories. If you make a declaration of anything in relation to God, sooner or later you will find yourself in a position where you are compelled to prove it. If you are really walking with God, it does not matter what you say as to truth, you will be tested on that before very long. And here is the first step. You say, I believe that I was doomed as a sinner, locked up in a judged creation. Christ came into that. As I was helpless and hopeless and unable to get myself out, He came in and took all the state, and all the result of the state, of my fallen position upon Himself, and through His death found a way out. I believe that!

Practical Proof of Faith

Then the Lord says by His Word, prove it. Here is a means for you of proving it. Here is the symbol of a grave. Declare it in practice, in act. Strangely enough, if ever the Lord speaks to a heart about that matter, and it is not just the suggestion of someone else; I repeat, if the Lord touches the heart about that matter, and the heart does not respond, that life becomes strangely locked up again. Spiritual growth is at once arrested, the Lord has nothing more to say to that life, it does not grow beyond that point. It may be soon, or perhaps a long time afterward, but sooner or later, at any rate, that life begins to be terribly exercised. The question is, Why is it I am not growing? Why is it I am not enjoying the fulness of the Lord? And there is trouble in the heart, and then in the deep exercise before God, the Lord just puts His finger upon that. 'Do you remember that I spoke to you about so-and-so? Well, we have never been able to walk together since then. "How can two walk together except they be agreed?" From that day there has been no progress; be obedient in that and we will go on again.' Many lives are simply locked up like that for years, because of a reservation.

Now you see, coming to the passage we read what the apostle says here about what are called "the principles of the doctrine of Christ." The principles of Christ. Literally it is "the first principles about Christ." He is speaking to believers, as you notice, and he says, You ought to have gone on growing spiritually, but you are still back at the beginning, and needing someone to teach you the rudiments of the first principles of the oracles of God. Then he uses that phrase, "the first principles" again, and he says that those first principles are the foundation: "Not laying again the foundation...." Oh, do get this. This is not advanced truth. This is not something for advanced saints. This is said to be the first principles, the foundation. And it is said that they are babes, even when they have got these things. They ought to have advanced long past this. This is truth for the immature. It is a sad thing that we have to put such force into our emphasis, to say that today, even to believers. This is for infants.

The Threshold with Six Pillars

"The first principles of Christ." What are they? "Repentance from dead works"; that is one. "Faith toward God"; that is two. "The teaching of baptism"; that is three. "The laying-on of hands"; that is four. "The resurrection of the dead"; that is five. "Eternal judgment"; that is six. Six first foundation principles, concerning Christ. These are not Jewish ordinances, they are foundation principles about Christ. That can be proved without any difficulty. If the apostle had been speaking about Jewish ordinances first principles and foundations, he would have commenced: Not laying again a foundation of circumcision, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Passover. Those were the foundations of Jewish life.

Then these doctrines here are essentially Christian doctrines. The resurrection of the dead is not an Old Testament doctrine. Hints and references may be found, but there is not the doctrine, for you cannot have the teaching of the resurrection until Christ is resurrected. Resurrection is not merely the re-animation of a body, a corpse. Resurrection is unto life or unto condemnation. And you cannot have resurrection unto eternal life or unto eternal condemnation until Christ has come, because all the issue of resurrection hangs upon Christ's resurrection. We can never be judged in resurrection unto life eternal or unto judgment eternal, only on the ground of Christ's resurrection; because Christ's resurrection has provided the ground of our judgment, has determined for ever our position of faith or unbelief. If you read the rest of this sixth chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews, the thing is borne out by what is written as touching those "who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost," that it is impossible, if they should fall away "to renew them again unto repentance, seeing that they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh." Does not that put you on this side of Calvary? It is not Jewish ordinances. Christ was not crucified in this sense before Calvary. You see, you are brought right on to New Testament ground, post-Calvary ground, and you are told therefore that you are related to the first principles concerning Christ. It is not a case of Jewish ordinances at all.

Perhaps to you it is hardly necessary to emphasise that, but there are a great many people who say this is purely a Jewish thing, and these are Jewish ordinances that are being referred to. That is why I have stressed this. Amongst the six there is baptism - a foundation; the laying-on of hands - a foundation; a first principle concerning Christ. Is it not conclusive? The apostle says to these people: Now you have laid those foundations - he is taking it for granted that those foundations have been laid - but, he says, the trouble with you is that you have not gone on from your foundations; and here you are away back there, still where the foundations have been laid, have been settled; you are not moving on at all; you have somehow remained in a state of arrest. Now, he says, let them be once and for all settled and go on unto full growth.

The very gateway into the fulness of Christ is through these six pillars. These six pillars form the entrance into the fulness of Christ; they stand right there at the beginning. Repentance from dead works, faith toward God, baptism, laying-on of hands, resurrection of the dead, eternal judgment. That has all to be dealt with, settled, recognised right at the beginning, and then with that done, move on unto the fulness of Christ. There can be no fulness of Christ until that is settled, but having that settled, the way is open. If the Lord has shown any one of these things as a basic thing, and put His finger upon it, and there has been a holding back, a reservation, you may go on in time for years, but spiritually you have not advanced at all. And it may be after ten, twenty, thirty, forty years you come to the realisation that you have not got through the portal yet, and you say, I am not more than a babe as yet. It is a terrible thing to awake to the fact after all that loss of time. The Lord says, That is My door; and fulness lies that way. There is not one pillar more important than another. Some people seem to think that they can select out of the six what they agree with, and leave the rest.

Here you are face to face with what the Word of God calls "First principles concerning Christ." The only way in which Jewish ordinances come in here - and they do come in, there is no doubt about it; they are in the Letter to the Hebrews all the way through - the only thing is that here you have the Antitype. There had to be in the Old Testament period, that which typically represented faith toward God. The apostle says to the Corinthians that they were all baptised into Moses in the sea, and in the cloud, so that when they passed through the Red Sea that was a type of baptism; and he speaks of the flood as being also a like figure, "whereunto even baptism doth also now save us." In the antediluvian period as well as in the patriarchal you have the same thing. But it was typical there. You come by the Spirit into the meaning of it now, because all that was pointing to Christ, and now you have reached Christ, Who is the fulfilment of it all.

You can go back to the rest of your New Testament, and see everything else in the light of your foundations. You say, Is baptism for all in the will of God? Well, I say, it says here that it is one of the first principles concerning Christ. You say, Is the laying on of hands for all in the thought of God? I say, It is mentioned here as a first principle. I ask you, Is repentance to apply to all? And you say to me, Oh, no, of course some can get in without it! No, you would never say anything like that. And I will say, Is judgment for all outside of Christ, and you will not say, No! only for some. I ask you, Is the resurrection of the dead for all in the desire and will of God? Has He provided that for all? Will you exclude yourself or some from that? Surely not. You see the implication. Who are you, or who am I, to discriminate between what God calls "first principles" and say, That is for some, and not for others. It says nothing like that here. We must be honest with the Word of God in our dealings with truth, and while I grant you that there may be interpretations of these truths, and constructions put upon them which might justify certain reservations, nevertheless the thing itself in its purity is there as a thing for all the people of God. And we must be honest enough to discriminate between the false association with the doctrine, and the pure doctrine itself. I know the enemy has prejudiced the doctrine by what he has tacked on to it, and if we are able to discern the pure meaning of the doctrine, we must not set it aside as of secondary importance, when it says that it is a first principle. The Lord help us to be faithful.

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