by T. Austin-Sparks
So far we have been led in our theme by three simple Greek
prepositions, namely, -
(ek) = out from,
(en) = into, or in, and
(sun) = together.
These three fragments really summarise the truth and nature of corporate union with Christ, and lay down the essential laws and vital principles of all true and effective spiritual life and service. Some further consideration of this may be well before proceeding further. Christ took great care to repudiate any suggestion, and to remove any notion that anything which characterized His mission as "Son of Man" was of His own originating.
As to Himself He repeatedly affirmed "I came out from God" (John 7:29; 8:42; 17:8, etc.).
As to His apostleship (Heb. 3:1), "Whom God hath sent" (Apostello). (John 3:17,34; 5:30; 6:29,57; 7:29; 8:42; 10:30; 11:42; 17:3,8,18,21,23,25; 20:21).
As to His vision: "Whatsoever He seeth the Father doing, that doeth He" (John 5:19).
As to His works: "The works of my Father" (John 5:30,37; 9:3,4; 10:25,32,37; 14:10).
As to the words: "I speak not from (out of) myself" (John 8:28,38; 12:49; 14:10; 17:8,14).
As to the Kingdom: "My Kingdom is not of (out from) this world" (John 18:36).
And all inclusively: "Now they know that all things... are from Thee" (John 17:7).
The main principle which this all-embracing declaration establishes is that only that which proceeds out from God is recognised by God, fulfils the Divine purpose, reaches the Divine standard, and returns to God. This implies that there ARE other sources than God. Over against some of the foregoing statements regarding Divine origins the Master has placed such as -
1. "Ye are of (out from) your father the devil." "The works of (out from) your father ye do," etc. (John 8:41,44).
2. "Not of (out from) myself." This was said, of course, in His capacity of representing man as "made in the likeness of sinful flesh," not as "Son of God" on the side of Deity. It was ever the enemy's endeavour to get Him to act in the flesh, as man would act, in order to have ground upon which to wreck Him, but He refused to act on the principle of the flesh. Thus it is clear - and all the scriptures combine to show it - that the flesh is a source of things which have not acceptance with God, even though they operate through religious forms and "Christian" enterprises.
3. Further "the world" is spoken of constantly as producing much which God refuses and only hands over to judgment. See the occurrences of "of" (out from) as to the world in John 17, and look further in John's Epistles, with a general comparison with the teaching of Peter and Paul.
Thus we are brought to see that a special Divine significance attaches to "That which is of God."
Now what is true of Christ has to have a counterpart in all who are to be either owned of God or used to the fulfilment in any way of His eternal purpose.
They must be -
1. Born of (out from) God.
2. Sent of (out from) God.
3. Have a spiritual revelation and vision (out from) God.
4. Speak the words of (out from) God.
5. Do only the works of (out from) God.
6. Seek first the Kingdom of (out from) God.
7. Be sure that in their case "all things are of (out from) God".
This was the Apostolic basis. The Holy Spirit had come to make this both possible and actual. This accounts therefore for the effectiveness of their testimony and labours. They knew what it meant to be "baptised by the One Spirit into the One Body," of which Body Christ is Head, so that really the Sovereign Head but carries on His work through the members thus incorporated. They had no independent action, no self-laid plans, no schemes or enterprises or undertakings which are the product of their own thought, reasoning, devising, or enthusiasm, even though it be "for Christ," or for "the Kingdom," or in "His name". All has to come by revelation of the Spirit from the Head.
Now the second preposition shows how this was so in Christ's case and must be so with us.
For Christ "En" represented a spiritual position in which He abode.
This spiritual position is suggested in many such passages as the following: -
"The Son who is in the Bosom of the Father" (not "was in") (John 1:18).
"I am in the Father" (John 14:10).
"I live by the Father" (John 6:57).
It must, of course, be recognised that this relationship was the work of the Holy Spirit. From the time of the Spirit's lighting upon Him at the Jordan, all the movements were by the Spirit, even the cross was wrought out "Through the Eternal Spirit." He abode in God, and as a man, on the side of His humanity this was maintained by the Spirit. There were suggestions, temptations, opportunities, emotions, possibilities, methods, means, ideas, provocations, sentiments, and all the activities of intellect, soul, body, but it was His way to hold these in the Divine Spirit and not to act or proceed upon them as such. He would not commit himself to any of them or to any man only as He had the Spirit's witness that it proceeded from God. Thus He was saved the remorse, confusion, disappointment, shame, failure, and chaos, which always follow upon the uprising of the "natural (soulish, Gk.) man" into the spiritual world. Thus, having been anointed by the Spirit, He abode in God and refused to be drawn out.
This is everything in the matter of fulness of Life and effectiveness of service. The general ground of the "In Christ" has been presented, but we must emphasise this essential counterpart of Christ's life. As the Father, is the Head of the Son, so the Son is the Head of the Body, and as He abode in the Father so He declares that we must abide in Him. We must not be led to act upon anything from within our natural lives or from without as acting upon us until we have judged it in the Spirit. This applies especially to religious matters, for it is in this realm that we may make the greatest mistakes. The response of our natural emotions, or reasoning powers, or will to the impact of some suggestion may lead to much evil. The danger of much evangelistic work, spiritual teaching, and missionary propaganda is in its tendency to stir the emotions and offer spiritual prizes, instead of the imperative note of Christ and the apostles.
Many a decision has been made under these conditions which has not proved capable of taking the inevitable strain of testing, and it has proved to be something less than a real work of the Spirit.
Perhaps there was never a time when there was more of what is called "Christian service," when there was as much organisation, machinery, advertisement, expenditure of time, energy, and means in "Christian" enterprise; or when there were more people interested, but it is doubtful whether - speaking comparatively - there was as little real spiritual effectiveness. The root-question is, how much of all this proceeds directly by revelation and initiation from God by the Eternal Spirit? Of how much may it be truly said "The Holy Ghost said." "It seemed good unto the Holy Ghost." "It came by revelation of the Spirit"? Or on the other hand, how much of it is the product of human discussion, devising, impulse, enthusiasm, imaginativeness, philanthropy, interest in a good cause, etc.? The measure of the identification of the instrument with Christ in corporate union is the measure of the real work of God accomplished through it. There may be much which looks like success and impresses with a sense of real accomplishments, but when "the fire" has done its work it may be found that the real as against the apparent is very small. In the long run "the flesh profiteth NOTHING," though it may seem to get great results. It is not what is done FOR God, but what is done BY God that will last. Ours it is to see that we are utterly in Christ, and living in the Spirit, all the rest will be spontaneous. There can be no abiding until there has been a real incorporation, and this brings us to where we can proceed to show how this union is effected.