by T. Austin-Sparks
It is very important to recognise a truth upon which Christ laid
considerable emphasis, that is, that in a sense He never intended to
be out of this world again after having once come into it as His
rightful heritage. He came to redeem it, to secure the judicial
right to sovereignty in it, and to initiate, continue, and complete
the restoration of it to His own dominion. This all to be done by
His own presence in it in one or other of the forms of His
manifestation. While He said much about going away, and returning to
the Father, He also made it very clear that "Lo, I am with you
alway, even unto the consummation of the age." Paul later said that
the central feature or reality of "The mystery hid from the ages, is
Christ in you the Hope of Glory."
The personal physical presence of Christ in the world was firstly to manifest the nature, method, means, laws, purpose, and power of His abiding presence beyond the days of His flesh; and secondly to make this possible and actual by the work of His Cross. He Who is born out from God shows what the necessity for and the nature of being "born of the Spirit" is if the will of God is to be done on the earth as it is done in the heavens. Then right at the commencement of His ministry He puts the cross in the figure of baptism. From that time all that He said and did was in the light and power of the cross. The teaching of Christ can never be effectual, and the works of Christ can never be continued unless the cross is the basis. To try and propagate "the teaching of Jesus" or to effect the work of Jesus without all that He meant by His cross being basic is to labour in vain and without the acceptance of the Father. It will be necessary to return to this connection again at a later stage, so far however to lead us to the point where we see that having in His personal physical presence established the basis and nature of His permanent work, He by the cross effected that which made possible the bringing of men unto the same plane or into the same realm; and then changed the separate and individual presence for the corporate and universal. Thus "the church which is His Body" was brought into being as the abiding instrument of His world-incarnation. This is the only kind of "church" which He recognises, even those who have been "joined to the Lord, one Spirit." The nature of this joining remains also for later consideration. The word or term "Body" is no mere metaphor. The members of His body stand in relation to Christ just as our physical bodies stand in relation to our own selves, the means of manifestation, expression, and transaction. This truth is very discriminating, and goes to the root of all matters of life and service. "Working for the Lord," "Praying to the Lord," etc., will be seen to have a deeper law which governs their effectiveness.
We cannot take up work for Christ - plan, scheme, devise, organise, or enter upon Christian enterprise and so command the Divine seal and blessing. We cannot pray as we incline, even though it be to the extent of passion and tears and so secure the Divine response. Failure to recognise this is bringing multitudes of people to despair because of no seal upon their ardent labours, and no answer to their prayers. In the unfolding of the laws of His own effective life the Master has put tremendous emphasis upon the fact that the words that He spoke, and the works that He did were, not of (out from) Himself, it was the Father both speaking the words and doing the works. A thorough study of the Gospel by John will convince that this was so. Said Christ "The Son can do nothing out from Himself, but whatsoever He seeth the Father doing" and this knowledge of the transactions of the Father both as to what, how, and when (all most important) was - as He made clear - because He abode IN the Father. So for all the future of His work He prayed that His disciples might abide in Him. Thus the law of effective and fruitful life, service, prayer, etc., is that there shall be such a oneness that we only do - but surely do - what He is doing. We must know in our spirit just what Christ is doing, how He is doing it, the means which He will use, and His time for it. Moreover, our prayers must be the prayers of the Lord Himself prayed in us and through us by the Holy Spirit. This is surely made very clear as the realm in which the church in apostolic times lived. This will demand a considerable sifting of all undertakings in the name of Jesus, and will require that nothing is done until the mind of the Lord has been made known. But this will secure a hundred percent effectiveness, and issues which will never perish. For the practical purposes of God in this age Christ is the One Body holding the Head, and the business of every member is to realise more and more fully the meaning of this incorporation and oneness of identity.
We are expressly told in the Word that we are to "put on the New Man," and that this "New Man" is Christ. This is but another form of expressing the truth of "In Christ," but it carries with it a whole revelation of practical provision.
Christ is our Redemption, "He is made unto us redemption," 1 Cor. 1:30; Rom. 3:24; Ephes. 1:7; Col. 1:14.
Christ is our Righteousness, 1 Cor. 1:30; Ephes. 4:24; Phil. 3:9.
Christ is our Sanctification, 1 Cor. 1:2,30.
Christ is our Faith, Matt. 11:22 ("Have the faith of God" Lit. trans.), Acts. 26:18; Gal. 2:20 (R.V.); Ephes. 1:15; Phil. 3:9; Col. 1:4.
Christ is our Peace, John 14:27; John 16:33; Ephes. 2:14.
This line can be followed on numerous characteristics, e.g., Love, Hope, Wisdom, Mind, Power and Might, Authority, Glory. We suggest a comparison of translations in the references, best of all the original. The point is that on all these matters under given conditions the natural outfit will break down and will have to be laid aside, but in Christ we have a new equipment at every point. For instance, our faith will not take the strain of the requirements of a deep experience of trial and adversity, but if we "live by the faith of the Son of God," the issue will be different. All tests will prove whether we are living by His faith which should have become ours, or whether there is a weakness in our union with Him. The same is true on all points. It is blessed to realise that "IN CHRIST" we have a whole new and saving endowment of virtues and graces. Thus it is that we "put off the old man, and put on the New Who is created in the image of God."