The Church's Position and Power in the Heavenlies
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 6 - A Heavenly Vocation

Reading: Ephesians 1:20; 2:6.

What we have especially in view is the heavenly position as a place of power over all the power of the enemy, that this position of the beginning of the Ephesians letter issues in the heavenly conflict which is at the close of the letter, so that it is the heavenly life, vocation, and warfare of the church, the Body of Christ.

Now, we said that when we reached that position by faith's apprehension, everything changes. And we have seen that all our spiritual consciousness changes, we have a new consciousness, another consciousness of being now up against spiritual forces rather than merely up against flesh and blood, with what that means of the merely earthly forces against the Lord. Heavenly forces, forces in the heavenlies are now our consciousness, and we see that the tactics of the enemy change when we come to this position of greater maturity. We leave behind those tactics of the enemy, or he drops those tactics of his which belong to the elementary phases of our Christian life, where he tries to get us altogether into his own power and realm by the ordinary lines of trial and temptation, offering us earthly pleasures and what not. These are no longer of any avail when we have progressed to the place of the heavenly position, and he changes his tactics. It is not merely now a matter of the human depravity state of things that trouble us, but things become very much more subtle and take on other forms. We covered that ground fairly extensively in the previous chapter; we will not go over it again.

There is another thing that comes in as a part of this change which takes place when we by faith reach our heavenly position, and that is the realisation that we are out of this world system. We are no longer in the world system or a part of it, and that means that we become aware that we cannot, and we dare not touch it, and this forms another part, another phase of the enemy's activity to in some way get a contact between us and some phase or point of this world system, spiritually.

When I speak of this world system I am not speaking about our necessary employments in the world. We have to go into the world and be in its order of things in the commercial life and other vocations; we are there in the world system industrially, professionally and so on, but that is not what I mean. I am speaking of spiritual alliances with this world system. And when the principles, the methods of this world are in any way adopted or taken over by the truly spiritual and have a place in their spiritual life or activity, an alliance has been made which is all to the good of the enemy and to the undoing of the believer and the church.

Now, if you have a Christian life which is on the first level of doing something for the Lord here in this world, you may adopt methods and means which, while they are not accepted by the Lord, do not very greatly interfere with that level of activity. You may adopt the advertising methods of the world for Christian work, the money appeal methods of the world for Christian work, and the entertainment methods. You may adopt many of those means and methods of the world system. You may not be altogether without apparent blessing and perhaps a little blessing on that level as far as things go there; the thing is not altogether barren, but as you move on with the Lord in spirit and climb higher, you discover that you have to leave those things behind and that the greater measure of real spiritual effectiveness and Divine blessing only comes as you do leave them behind. And when you have come to a really full apprehension of your heavenly position in Christ in union with Him in the throne, you have come to the place of utterness with regard to emancipation and separation from everything of this world system in spiritual activity and consideration. And your throne position and your throne power depends entirely upon your keeping clean from anything of this world system as being brought into your methods of work and your system of spiritual life. You have come into a new place, a new position, and that position is going to be the test of everything. It is going to test us; we are going to be tested by our new place.

Now let me say again that one of the enemy's tactics here is in some way to get the Lord's servant to make an alliance with earthly, worldly methods, with the world system in Christian activity in order to spoil the pre-eminent element in that service, which is not merely work for the Lord on the earth, getting something done here, but which is work for the Lord in the unseen.

I suppose most of us have come to recognise the difference between that, that there is a work in the seen which is a work of the Lord, but there is a far bigger work going on which is altogether in the unseen, the work which is among principalities and powers and world-rulers behind that which is seen and heard and handled. It is there that the main testimony of the Lord is at stake. It is there. And when you come to that ultimate realm of the testimony, then you have to be so utterly free from anything of this world system.

Let us put it this way again to make it more simple; the two things, of course, go together. The disciples on one occasion came up against a situation in which the enemy was involved which altogether defeated them. They could not deal with it. It was just a test of being not against flesh and blood, but principalities and powers. And when they asked the Lord why it was they could not cast him out, the Lord put His finger upon this, that there is a realm in which you have got to live to deal with a situation like this which is not the ordinary level of professional Christian ministry. You see, we can never in that realm come along on our professional lines and begin to deal with matters. I hope I do not misjudge the disciples, but I try to get into the heart of the situation. Where they broke down is this. They said in effect, "We are disciples of Jesus, we have been chosen and brought into company with Him and we are therefore His professional men to deal with things." It was purely on a professional basis of being ministers - if you like, clergymen or something like that - and they were acting as a class of men to do the Lord's work. To be a servant of the Lord, to be a Christian worker may be alright on certain levels of organising Christian activity, running Christian enterprises and seeing things done on that level, but you want something more than being a mere ordained minister to touch principalities and powers back of the situation. You must live in another realm for that, and come into the heavenlies for, "this kind goes not out but by prayer and fasting". You are out of the world system when you deal with that.

I am illustrating the principle that it is in the unseen that the main issues are fought out; behind the situation that the testimony mainly is at stake. It is not what we can do in running things for the Lord on the earth, organising Christian work and movements, but it is the impact of the throne of the Lord Jesus upon spiritual forces back of men and things that count most. That is the real testimony. We have said that many hundreds of times, but it is necessary for us to stress that. So that what the enemy is after is to destroy that ultimate, supreme, pre­-eminent factor which is the impact of the throne and he can do that if he can make a spiritual alliance between us and anything in this world system, and he will try to make that alliance by any means that he can. He will try by sheer pressure of circumstances. Today we are seeing a wholesale collapse along that line. We could put our fingers today upon just a whole lot of instances where that has been done. There are instruments in the way of, shall we call them "faith missions", raised up of God, who had a spiritual testimony and have been used of the Lord, but today financial straits, the world state of things, is pressing in so tremendously that the alternatives for them are either coming into a new spiritual position to get above that and recognise that God has every penny necessary for His own work and can provide for it, or dropping onto a lower level and making appeals and adopting worldly methods of getting resources. We are seeing today a collapse because of this terrific pressure that has been brought in: the enemy driving down the saints by this pressure, jeopardising and threatening the destruction of the whole work.

Last week I was sitting in a council a whole day and they said, "These methods are alright for New Testament times, but we are in a different time." I repudiate that with all my being. The Lord can look after His own work without us making any alliance whatever. If the enemy can do that, he has robbed of a testimony. I have come to the conclusion quite definitely, that I draw right out of the whole thing rather than drop down onto that old level of having to try and maintain God's work by worldly means. But notice the subtlety of the enemy over this thing: the bringing in of reason and sentimentalities as well as pressure, and sometimes taking hold of an unwary member and causing them to unconsciously involve you in something and you find you have been led into something which is not God's way; you have been drawn out. He is out to make some kind of spiritual alliance with his own world system by which he can destroy the testimony and bring out from that throne position of authority. One of the necessary methods of exercising, or getting into place to exercise throne authority over the enemy, is to walk round and see if there is an alliance with anything of the enemy. Where is there a contact that weakens any action of any kind spiritually, that gives the enemy his advantage? That has to be discovered, dragged out and cut off so that we stand in a clear spiritual position with the Lord in the heavenlies, free from contact with the system which gives the enemy an opening.

Policy and Diplomacy

We have come into a new position outside of this world system and there can be no mixture. There we dare not take into account such things as policy. What a subtle word that is, policy. What is policy? It is a terrible snare. We must not consider how many (Christian) people's favour we would retain if only we allowed certain considerations. That is not the question. The question is not, if only I take a certain line I shall retain the favour of a whole lot of Christian people and their good will. That is not what I have to decide upon, that is not the realm in which the position is to be met; that is policy. The realm in which my position is to be is: what does the Lord want, and if the Lord wants this I must run the risk of misunderstanding. I use that to illustrate what I mean by policy. It works in many other directions, but it is a subtle thing and you cannot entertain a thought of policy in this realm.

Diplomacy is very often, more often than not, compromise; and compromise is always weakness and the enemy has great delight in getting people compromised. Sit down and weigh these words and you find how true that is. No policy, no diplomacy, and there is another word: expediency. So often the Lord's people under pressure are driven to expediency, and expediency gets them off a powerful, clear ground. Beware of expediency. These are "creeping things". These are things that creep in and do a lot of mischief and get you out of your position.

These various means and methods are often adopted by the Lord's people to try and bring success to the Lord's work, or to save it from disaster. You may save a thing on the face of it, keep public favour and good will, but if you have lost your spiritual power, you have not gained anything - you have lost. You may maintain a thing, big before the eyes of men, that looks like success, but if you maintain it thus at the cost of its essential spiritual testimony among principalities and powers, the enemy is laughing at that thing as having lost its soul.

It is not a thing we have to seek to maintain, it is a spiritual power behind things that has got to be maintained.

Now we come into that realm in the heavenlies where we are out of this world system and we dare not touch it at any point, and where the enemy is out by hook or by crook to pull us out of our throne position and get us somewhere down where that power is lost. The Lord would speak to us, if we would listen to Him, and say in our hearts in that voice not always put into words, but into a touch, into a spiritual consciousness, "Be careful; watch there, there is a snare there". If only we would keep in that touch with the Lord and look after the prayer side of things in this warfare, then we could not be overtaken by the wiles of the devil, but be able to withstand and be saved from those compromising things which destroy our power because they pull us out of our position.

Now, this place with the Lord in the throne is the all-important thing. And it is the ultimate thing for which the cross of our Lord Jesus has been wrought out in its full content. The cross of Calvary is not just to save us from sin, but has in all its other aspects the one final objective of bringing us to the throne. And that is a common place among us, but we must realise that as the cross does save us from sin, the cross is the means of effecting every other bit until we get to the throne, and it is by the cross that we both come to and maintain our position in the throne. It means that the cross has got to operate continually against those things which would involve us.

The Cross

The cross is our way out to the heavenlies. Some years ago we illustrated this. It might help if I just use it. It is a simple thing, more for children. The far above realm of heavens; the lower heavenlies in which the enemy has his seat, principalities and powers and world-rulers of this darkness. They are not in the far above all heavens where the Lord Jesus is, they are in the lower heavens. This is the prince of the power of the air, within that is the kingdom of man. John says, "And we know we are out from God and we know the whole world, the whole cosmos lies in the evil one", and the force of the Greek there is very forcible, "and we all know..." And we well know that is the force of it, that the whole cosmos lies in the evil one.

There the kingdom of man, or men, is encircled by the kingdom of darkness, closed in; the prince of the power of the air has trained a spiritual curtain right round the cosmos, it is a shut-in world so far as the powers of darkness are concerned, we are familiar with his titles. And of course within the kingdom of men is the kingdom of man: spirit, soul and body. He is within the kingdom of men, and then as in the kingdom of men he is within, shut in the kingdom of darkness. How is he going to get out? Just like this. The Lord Jesus came into the kingdom of men, and into the kingdom of man, and within the kingdom of darkness. He became man: spirit, soul and body, and came right into the kingdom of man, this realm of darkness where Satan had his power. And the Lord never contradicted the enemy when he said in Luke 4 that the kingdoms of this world were given to him (Luke 4:6), and the Lord did not deny that and say, "they are not yours to give". His silence meant, maybe, "they are yours now, but I will have them before long though, wait a bit, I will get them without worshipping you". That is the effect of His silence. Well, He came right in, He went to the cross, and it was as though this kingdom of darkness closed on Him, indirectly through man, and directly as the forces of darkness, but the issue was this: that cross, right there at the centre of things, became an open way, right through the powers of darkness, right through to the heavenlies, and has remained the open way out.

The whole of those encircling were cleft through His cross, He stripped off principalities and powers and made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in His cross. By His cross He triumphed and cleft a way through, and that is the only way out of the kingdom of darkness, out of the authority of darkness, but it is the abiding way. But do not get a merely mental picture of that as a kind of literal, geographical way. Remember it is the application of a spiritual principle, that if you are going to escape from this spiritual encircling, this imprisonment in this world system, it is by the application of the cross to everything that belongs to that system and to those powers of darkness. And you come by faith's apprehension by the way of the cross: death, burial, resurrection, ascension and heavenly union to your place in Christ spiritually in the heavenlies, and you maintain your position there by continually applying the cross. "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh", against the world, "God forbid, that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ by which the world is crucified to me and I unto the world." And the cross as against the flesh and the world was also against the enemy himself. It has got to be applied. The cross is against the enemy and all that is included in the cross.

There is the blood of His cross which specifically deals with the question of sin and holiness.

The Blood

We must recognise that the matter of the blood is primarily concerned with the sin and holiness question, to deal with the ground of judgment and therefore the ground of death, which is sin, and to make way for life which has triumphed over death and over judgment. And therefore you see Revelation 12:11 is the blood as pre-eminently bringing victory over the accuser of our brethren who is cast down - they overcame because of the blood. Accusation on the ground of the sin question is dealt with in the power of the blood and things only function in Life when the question of holiness has been established by the dealing with the whole question of sin.

When you come to the letter to the Hebrews you have a most remarkable statement which is very comprehensive in Hebrews 9, just this summing up of all that has been said there, "So that we see that under the old dispensation almost all things were cleansed by the blood." And it goes back and says that Moses sprinkled both the book and the people and all the vessels of the sanctuary. So we see that almost all things were cleansed by blood, and "without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins" - everything in that system - and "if the patterns of things in the heavens needed to be cleansed by the earthly sacrifices how much more the things themselves with better sacrifices than these", the blood of the Lord Jesus, the Lamb without spot and without blemish. It is a tremendous thing that even heavenly things have to be established in the power of active Life. That is the central thought. This is not mere technicality.

Coming back again for a moment: the whole of that system of the tabernacle, and the priesthood, and the law only became effective as the living thing, active, as the blood dealt with that ground of death and judgment, and set it aside. The thing was put into motion as an action, vital reality, having virtue by reason of the blood having been sprinkled upon every bit of it. You can have the whole of the tabernacle with every detail, all the priests, the whole system there, perfect to a detail as a system, but the thing is absolutely worthless until that blood has been shed and sprinkled to put away all the ground of death. And the ground of death and judgment is put away by the blood and makes way, therefore, for the Life to come in, and everything is set in motion, throbs with Life, immediately the blood is sprinkled. Even the Word can be dead until it is made alive for us by the precious blood. This does not mean to say the Word of God has sin in it. NO, but there is a relationship between us and the Word of God and for that Word to become a living thing to us, the ground of unholiness in us has got to be dealt with by the blood. The two things go together.

The Word of God is not something out there, that has to be active in our lives, but it never becomes active in our lives until the Lord has made us alive to the Word, and the Word to us, but it is only done through the cross. All the ministry and all the functions of priesthood are made living, vital, active, in virtue of that sprinkled blood, because things only live in the Life of God and before God in so far as they are holy.

Holiness

Holiness is the synonym of the ground of Divine Life, and the blood deals with that holiness matter so that things live. We know quite well that if unholiness comes into the presence of God there is judgment end death, but holiness means Life before Him and Life from Him. That is the blood touching everything. But we are speaking of the cross not as something as separate from the blood, but as having a specific application; not now to sin as a principle, but to fallen man as the active principle of sin. The flesh is put away by the cross, man is put away. And beloved, holiness is not in our flesh. We are made holy, we have the gift of holiness, of sanctification, but it is not in our flesh, not in our natural man.

Even after we are the Lord's, sanctified in Christ Jesus, there still may be unholiness in our minds, in our flesh, but there is holiness in us, there is that of God in us which is holy. In our renewed spirit there is that which is of God which is incorruptible, which is not in us by nature as natural men and women. It is there in the renewed man and it is there that God is dealing with us, and all His dealings with us are there primarily, and thus it is there that we have Life. The Life does not begin in this natural man at all.

The Spiritual and the Natural Man

The Life of God does not have its source in our body, or in our natural mind, or our soul life; the Life of God is in our renewed spirits because it is there the work of regeneration has been done in so far as this natural man overlaps the spiritual man. And there is an alliance made between the two, and the evil communications are set up, then the good manners are corrupted and death sets in. And these evil communications which corrupt good manners have to be broken in our natural life. We have got to be separated from ourselves, stand back miles from ourselves in spirit, and in this inner man we have to say to our other man which is always with us, "Yes, but I am having nothing to do with you. You want me to do this, but I have a leading from the Lord that I have not to do it". There is a conflict between my natural man and I have to say "No", and that is denying ourselves just as Peter denied his Lord and said "I do not know Him, I have nothing to do with Him, no relationship with Him" - so we have to say to our outer man the same.

In so far as we allow the natural man to influence the spiritual man - death ensues. It is so in experience. If our spiritual conduct is dictated by our natural desires it is not long before we are in a mess; or by our natural reason - we know the experience even if we have not been able to define it. But that is the truth. So that the cross has to be applied, while the blood has to be taken in its virtue to deal with the sin question, the cross has to be taken to deal with the instrument of sin; the flesh has to be cut off, put aside. Man by nature is set aside by the cross, man's sinful nature is dealt with by the blood. That is the way through by the application of the cross in every realm: spirit, soul and body, to the world, the kingdom of men, and then to the encompassing kingdom of darkness. By the application of the cross, our standing in the cross, we have a way out and a way up to our heavenly union with the Lord Jesus in the place of power and authority. But it is not enough to have got there, we have to stand there, and we can only maintain our position by keeping the cross applied to everything that comes up: our natural man realm, the world realm system spiritually, and the suggestions of the enemy and all his activities of which we spoke last night. The application of the cross to these maintains us in our heavenly position so that we triumph by the cross in that very practical way.

May I remind you that the position in the heavenlies in our throne fellowship with the Lord is one of active co-operation with the Lord in His purposes. He is there sharing His Father's throne at present. The present phase of things is that. He is not on His own throne, He is on the Father's throne with the Father; the time is coming when He will sit on His own throne. "I have overcome and sit with My Father in His throne", that is now. "When you overcome and that overcoming has been complete, I shall sit on My throne and you will sit with Me in My throne". He does NOT say, "To him that overcomes will I give to sit with Me in My Father's throne". No, He is sitting in the Father's throne waiting till His enemies are made the footstool of His feet. "Now we see not all things subject unto Him but we see Jesus crowned with glory". A time is coming when He will have His own throne. When? When the church with Him has overcome, but that "when" carries with it this: that the Lord Jesus coming to His own throne will be by the church's present co-operation with Him in subduing His enemies. What is true of the Lord Jesus has got to be true of the church so that they are one in this position of absolute authority. And the present course of things is this, that the completing of the work of Calvary demands the church's coming into the position in which Christ is, before Christ can have His throne. And so it is a co-operative work with the Lord Jesus now, to bring about the completion of the work of His cross over the enemy. Get this, it is tremendously important.

Illustrating it from the Old Testament, as we can in part, we remember the instance of Israel's battle with Amalek and Moses going up into the mountain, taking the exalted place, the heavenly place, and with rod in hand, the symbol of authority, he lifted his rod of authority in the heavenlies. And while that rod was held aloft the battle went in favour of the Lord and His people, but it was soon found that Moses could not maintain that position alone - that alone he was, so to speak, in only partial strength for seeing this thing right through, so that Aaron and Hur went up to him and held up his hands. Two of them; do not forget that two is the number of adequate testimony. And they put two great stones there, and stones or pillars are always the symbol of a testimony, and two is the number of adequate testimony. Now, Aaron and Hur held up the hands which held the rod and there was an adequate testimony which maintained authority; and the battle went right through to a successful issue. Carry that into the spiritual realm, and something like that is the position we are speaking of.

One is hesitant to carry the illustration in every detail, but I believe in principle it is quite sound. I mean, to speak of the Lord Jesus as being in weakness in the heavenlies might be wrongly looked at in a way, but there is this sense in which He is: He depends upon the church, upon the company coming up into the heavenlies spiritually and co-operating with Him in this conflict. And in so far as they fail Him, He is in partial weakness, so to speak, because that is the sovereign will of God. He is making intercession there, but His intercessions do not dispense with our intercession. Ephesians 6 is "with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit at all seasons for all saints". Now that supplication and prayer of the heavenly position of believers is taken up by the Lord Himself before the Father. His intercession is co-operative with ours, and ours with His, and His intercession does not make it unnecessary for us to pray. We cannot say, "You are doing all the praying so I need not do it." We would soon get into a place of defeat.

It is a blessed thing to see that there is another side to it, and say, "My praying at best comes short and I need You to fill it up and I am grateful that You are praying." The fact that other saints pray for us does not excuse us from praying for ourselves - the two things are one. His work up there demands our co-operation. We have to hold up the hands of our Lord. We have to come right under the rod of authority, to hold it up with the Lord. The Lord is working, but we are workers together with Him, and this rod of authority is made effective not only because the Lord Jesus is in the heavens, but because we come up there and co-operate with Him. And the enemy below realises the fact of that.

And things are governed from the heavenlies for the Lord's children. It is so easy to say that, and it is so familiar, but the cry in our hearts is that the Lord will get some of us to that place where the battle is swayed in the Lord's favour by this prayer co-operation in the Lord's Name - where others down in the fight are carried through in victory because there are those in the heavenlies ruling with Christ, ruling that situation.

That is what we mean by a heavenly vocation: changing the face of things from the heavenlies. That can be done now. That is all I feel I should say for the moment. May the Lord make it Life to our hearts.


[ Previous Chapter ] [ Contents ] [ Next Chapter ]



  • Alphabetical
  • Chronological
  • Topical
  • Alphabetical
  • Chronological
  • Topical
  • Alphabetical
  • Chronological
  • Alphabetical
  • Chronological