The Sanctuary of God
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 6 - The Corporate Expression of God's House

The work of the Cross is the basis of God's house. The House of God comes in essentially on the basis that all that is of man is set aside.

Divinely Appointed Headship

Col. 2:19; Heb. 3:6. The first thing is Christ's headship over the Body, over the House. It carries with it universal government, that all the ministries of all the members, their activities, functionings, are all gathered up into the headship of the Lord Jesus. They are all brought together with one another in the Head, so that their relatedness with one another is governed by the headship of the Lord Jesus. We cannot have a right relationship with the Lord and a wrong relationship with another member of the Lord. The headship of Christ is that out of which all else comes and toward which all else moves.

The Sphere of the Full Expression of Headship

In the New Testament as well as in the Old Testament there is a great deal about the function called eldership in the House of God.

When the Lord called to Moses, He told him to bring Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of the children of Israel up into the mount. They were not the judges of Exodus 18, but were heads of tribes and families through whom Moses always communicated with the main body of the people.

The elders were called to the door of the tent of meeting, and Divine communication was through Moses, as the head, to the elders, and then through them to the whole body.

The thought is carried over into the New Testament, and what was typical is now spiritually real and active.

Elders are representative members of the corporate life of God's people, and are not official as such. When the elders move it is the Church moving, and they have to be in such vital relationship to the corporate company in the Holy Ghost that they carry the Church with them and the Church is found moving by them intelligently. The Lord has laid it down that the Church has to be heard. It is the sphere and vehicle of the utterance of the Head. When it comes to specific action it is the elders who are the particular instrument of expressing the judgment of the Head on behalf of the Church. They cannot act independently; they must represent and carry the Church with them, and the Church on the other hand must, by the Holy Spirit, be in intelligence in life that it may corroborate and work with its representative members.

The headship of the Lord Jesus in a spiritual way comes down through elders, and the Church comes into the headship of the Lord Jesus by the Holy Spirit, when it is a matter of specific function, through the elders. The headship of Christ is expressed, not only over the Church, but in and through the Church. The Church, therefore, is the sphere in which Christ's headship operates as differing from individual, separate units. The headship of Christ embraces all the individuals, but when the Divine order is established the individual will be governed in the Church and not apart from it. The individual line is not capable of reaching God's full end, and if there is a refusal to recognise that, then what is individual begins to fade out, or perhaps come into confusion. We must recognise the sovereignty of God from time to time in doing things with an individual, but it is not His full thought.

Deborah was sovereignly laid hold of because God's fuller thought was not capable of realisation at the time. But God only carries that sovereignty so far, and if He is going to reach through to all that He has in view the individual has to find a place in the corporate: otherwise there are all sorts of perils.

Laying on of Hands

Hebrews 6. This is the basic passage. It is always important to recognise that this is a continuation of chapter 5 and to read from verse 11 of chapter 5 and then on in to chapter 6: "Wherefore let us cease to speak of the first principles of Christ..." Christ has entered into that House over which He is also Son. Here are principles which govern the House of God, and they are said to be six, and it is not for any man to say that any one of them can be dropped out. Amongst the six is the laying on of hands. Acts 6:6; 8:17-18; 9:17; 19:6; 1 Tim. 4:14; 5:22; 2 Tim. 1:6.

Here we have the fact that laying on of hands was an apostolic procedure. What was in the old dispensation implied is now revealed. The peculiar feature of this dispensation is that the whole body of believers, not just special persons, comes under the anointing in this way by the laying on of hands. In the Old Testament hands were laid on special persons who were to occupy certain positions. In this dispensation all members of Christ are regarded as occupying those positions by the same means. All the Lord's people are kings and priests, and the procedure of the laying on of hands in the New Testament means that the whole body of believers comes under the anointing to occupy a certain position before the Lord as represented by the kings and priests of the Old Testament. So it seems that the laying on of hands in the case of those who were baptized was a recognised thing in the Apostolic Church.

There is no command that it shall be done, and that fact has stumbled many people. It is not commanded; it is taken for granted. When we see that it was done and what the result of it was in manifestation we have to come to the conclusion that this stands to speak of related life. Now these who have come to the Lord, and have been baptized into Christ, are members - with all other members - of Christ. The very act itself of hands, is an act of identification. It has in view relatedness, oneness. The giving of the hand, the lifting up of the hands is of acknowledgment, recognition.

Ananias said, "Brother Saul". The family is here. Under Christ's headship into which these believers had come there is one anointing from the Head for all His members, and so the anointing was expressed in relation to the act of identification, not of individuals as individuals, but as members of a Body. The Holy Spirit took account of that in laying the foundations for the dispensation in a very conspicuous way.

At times, as the result of that laying on of hands and anointing of the Spirit they spake with tongues, though not invariably, and that meant simply that the Spirit testified to this being something not of this creation but of a universal character which has transcended all the work of Babel. It testifies to the undoing of the dividing work of the Devil at Babel; that is, the Church becomes the embodiment of the great principle that Babel is cast down. The Church of God always stands over against Babel and Babylon, and the works represented in Babylon are destroyed in the House of God. Tongues were for a sign. It is interesting and significant that where there is the counterfeit of the Spirit in tongues, there is a contradiction of the meaning and Babel conditions come in; not glory, but shame.

Divine Order in the House

Order in the House of God is the thing about which we are speaking. Order is a most important thing in relation to protection and covering; that is, the safety of the individual members of Christ is bound up with their relatedness to one another in a corporate life. The assembly is essential to the safety of the individual in a spiritual way.

1 Cor. 11:9. Ephes. 5:22-24. 1 Cor. 11:10,12.

At Corinth there were disorders, and the Apostle was seeking to correct those disorders and to have the Lord's order established. We have to look at everything in the House of God from the standpoint of Divine order, not just the matter of the place of individuals. If there is disorder the enemy is going to have an advantage, to do mischief and to do us harm, and we shall be smitten.

There is an order in heaven, and the Church here is expressive of that order. Exodus 23:20: "Behold, I send an angel before thee, to keep thee by the way... take ye heed of him... provoke him not: for he will not pardon your transgression..." This angel represents government from heaven and he has to be recognised, otherwise there is an upsetting of heavenly order and you become exposed and suffer.

Daniel 4:13,17,23: "...the decree of the watchers..." Then there is that peculiar clause in Paul's writings: "...because of the angels..." Covering is related to heavenly order for protection. Headship is that. It seems that God has given a custodianship to heavenly bodies, the watchers, and they are watching to see the heavenly order preserved, and when heavenly authority is set aside and violated it is as though the covering were removed from the head and a smiting results.

This is brought into the assembly, and down to relationships, the man the head of the woman, as Christ is the Head of the Church. It means there is a heavenly order here, expressed in these relationships, and if that order is upset there is exposure, the head is uncovered. The head covering of a woman is a sign that she has protection, but if she sets aside that Divine order and assumes the place which God has not given, she exposes herself to deception and to mischief. That does not apply only to man and woman, woman and man, but follows right through. If God has set in the Church in man-form an oversight and there is a refusal to acknowledge it, it is like the Church taking off its cover, and where that happens the individual or the company is bound to be smitten. I believe that is the principle behind Dathan and Abiram and their company.

An assembly governed by the Holy Spirit is of immense value to the Lord in every way, and of immense value to the individual members; for the Church can come alongside them.

This carries with it the necessity for our being in subjection in the House of God, every one of us. Subjection to the Lord is subjection in the place where the headship primarily operates, and it is subjection in the House.

Col. 2:19: Order is the basis of spiritual increase. This order, leading to growth, means intelligence in the presence of spurious movements and doctrines. (Ephes. 4:12-14).

Finally, order is a military idea, so the book of Numbers would teach. Until the Lord's people are ordered there is no hope of the enemy being cast out.

The primary thing, then, is the headship of Christ; then the government of the Holy Spirit in the Church, in the saints; then the holding fast the Head. All this upon the basis of the Cross, that the personal and the self and all that is of nature has been brought under the Cross and set aside.

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