The Goings of God
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 4 - The Ways of God (continued)

The Lord Jesus is in the goings of God. Those goings of God are to issue in the glorifying of humanity. That course of the Divine goings is based upon the indwelling Divine nature, and the process is the development of that Divine nature over against everything that is contrary to it, and the Lord is fighting that battle through to the end. Suggestions, entreaties, appeals, arguments, sufferings, sorrows, treacheries - everything that you can think of to try and turn Him out of that way of the goings of God, and at last He reaches the peak, the Mount of Transfiguration. And the Voice which said at the begin­ning of that way, "My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3:17), at the end of that way says, "This is My beloved Son", still undeviating, unfaltering, still "I am well-pleased", and He glorifies Him there as represent­ative. And then He comes down to bring you and me into that. That leads to the next point in the ways of God, but the incarnation is just for that, to relate Himself to man, to take man's course through the grace of God and by the Divine nature to be conformed, perfected in some mysterious way in His case, perfected into the Divine likeness in order to be crowned with the Divine glory. That is our history and He worked out our history in His own Person.

Surely this is the heart of the incarnation and the very explanation of those words, "He became flesh and tabernacled among us" (John 1:14), and when He did, so far from being an isolated incident in the Bethlehem stable, it was the thing most exposed to the whole universe and all the universe was interested and taking knowledge. Angels in a mighty host took account of it, heaven looked on and joined in. Man, wise and unlearned, rich and poor, gathered round in wonder, interested in this, related in a representative way to this. Hell was interested, hell rose up through Herod as it has never risen up against anything that pointed towards this One, whether it be a Moses or any other. The seed royal was ever the object of Satan's hatred, and here He is, and so hell converges for His destruction. I say, He is the centre of the universe in the incarnation. You may follow right through and it is just like that. Heaven is constantly ministering, coming into the situation. Hell is constantly rising up; all men are gathering round, all nature joins in, the sun hides its face and a mighty earthquake takes place. This is no ordinary One; this relates to the whole purpose of God in man. That is all we can say at present about the incarnation.

It reaches right back to the eternal counsels of God in creation; why God created man. You see that incarnation glorified on the Mount of Trans­figuration. That explains why God created any man. That is the explanation of the creation. It reaches right back there and it reaches right on to the end. It explains the New Testament between the book of the Acts and the book of the Revelation. It explains all that is being said there about our spiritual nature and our spiritual course of conformity to the image of God's Son - our going on to full-growth and our sanctification. And then it explains the book of the Revelation. If you take this very thought into the book of the Revelation, it will be the key to that book. Here He is, this One, now risen and triumphant in His heavenly glory, presented in the first chapter with all His excellencies and then He arraigns the churches before Him and says, in effect, "I am not a bit concerned about how much work you are doing for Me, about your standards of right and wrong, about this and that and the other thing which seem to concern you so much. I am concerned about how you stand in the light of God's true purpose - 'conformity to the image of His Son' - that which is to be glorified as the outworking and consummation of an indwelling Divine nature."

So He begins with Ephesus. "Thou hast left thy first love". "God is love". Pursue it right through. You touch on very horrible things of which God says, "which thing I hate". There are various degrees and measures and standards, but the one thing is this One presented as the full fruit of God's work and how do you stand in the light of that? The churches have got to measure up to Christ, not to creeds, not to standards of good and bad, but Christ, and Christ glorified. Have you gone on? Is the Divine nature working in you? Are you being continually conformed to the Divine image? That is the challenge.

When He has dealt with the churches, He moves out to deal with the nations and it is all on the basis of the Divine goal and object. And the end in the symbolic form, this corporate man in Christ, is presented as the City. "And he... showed me the holy city Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God: her light was like unto a stone most precious, as it were a jasper stone, clear as crystal" (Rev 21:10-11). You have your man glorified in a collective way, and I am very impressed as we come to the end there with the way in which two words are used. It says, "And I heard a great voice out of the throne saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He shall dwell with them"; a little further on it says, "And I saw no temple therein". At a first glance I wondered, what is this? Is this a contradiction? Then I looked closely and I saw the difference of words in the original. Tabernacle, the general place of God's dwelling; the temple, the inner sanctuary, and the Lamb is the sanctuary and He is in the midst of the tabernacle. The Lamb is the sanctuary and the church is the tabernacle. The New Jerusalem has come down and the voice says, ''Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men"; the church as the general dwelling place and the Lamb as the inner sanctuary. God has reached His end, it is all glory. A glori­fied church with the glory of God. To put that in the other terms, humanity perfected into Christ, God's end realised. And you know with the change of the symbolism, it is presented to Him as a bride, a wife, a glorious church not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing (Eph. 5:27). Well, that can stand to embody the two points of the incarnation and redemption.

Redemption

If we were to go on further with this third way of God's movements and of His goings - redemption - we would simply say this: when you come to look closely at the whole matter of redemption, it is gathered up into a fragment - "redeemed us to God" (Rev. 5:9 AV). Redemption is so often preached as something unto man, for man, that is very good for us; but when you come to look at it from the standpoint of eternal counsel, God's goings unto His own end, for His own glory, you have to look at it from another standpoint, from heaven's standpoint, and see that redemption is unto God. "The redemption of the purchased possession" (Eph. 1:14). It is unto God, and if you look, you will see that that principle is very closely adhered to by the Holy Spirit throughout; even in the smallest details, things do not err. In a parable like the prodigal, the Lord Jesus does not err in doctrine when He tells a simple story. When He makes that prodigal begin to talk about what he has done, He makes him say, "Father, I have sinned against heaven" (Luke 15:21). In the gospel as it is preached today the emphasis is upon the idea that you have sinned against yourself, come to the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved from the results of your own sin; it is personal. But Christ says it is against heaven, it cuts across God's purpose concerning His Son, it damages the inheritance, it is against heaven. And you follow it to its source, its root, and you find it is that sinister hand always against the throne, the hand of an evil one against heaven, "This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and take his inheritance" (Matt. 21:38). You see what lies behind - there is a hand against the throne, the inheritance of the Son. Therefore "I have sinned against heaven" and redemption is unto God.

It commences with man where the necessity first commenced; man is to be redeemed. It ends with the whole creation. That is the substance of the latter half of Romans 8. You have been dealing with the redemption of man up to then; now the creation itself is to be delivered from the bondage of corruption, but when shall that be? When the manifestation of the sons of God takes place. The redeemed ones in glory, the securing of that whole glorified manhood in Christ is the signal for the redemption of the whole creation from its corruption unto God to be the inheritance of His Son.

We must point out that redemption is always by blood. Why? Because the blood is the nature and the life. His blood is incorruptible Blood, there­fore it is the symbol of an incorruptible, age-abiding Life, and redemption is that - unto God, back to the nature of God, back to the life of God - and then capable of being glorified, and it will be a glorious creation. Everything will be glorious. After all, the whole universe is a moral issue. Satan is a moral issue. That is, you have got to deal with the moral or the immoral elements in this universe and they were dealt with in the Cross, and having the very basis of his strength taken from him, the prince of this world is cast out and has nothing.

Incorporation

There remains a little word to be said on the fourth of God's ways: His way in incorporation. Remember that the goal of all the Divine goings is to sum up all things in Christ, that eventually all the universe shall be centred in Him, take its character from Him and be His God-given inheritance, a glorified inheritance, a universe filled with Divine glory towards which God is moving in many ways, by many means, but surely, steadily, moving. His purpose is fixed and unalterable and getting to the point of the redemption of man there immediately arises this matter of incorporation into the Man, the risen, ascended and glorified Man.

When we speak about incorporation, it is as well just to pause and think what we mean. It is just making a part of the Body corporate, constituting anew a part of something already existing. When in business we speak of incorporating one thing into another it means that the one thing becomes lost in the other and loses its own separate identity and character and all that belonged to it as something of itself. It is swallowed up and becomes part of something else, and that is incorporating. Here Christ is that into which we, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, become incorporated. We lose our own life in His, we lose our own separateness in Him, we lose everything that constitutes us as something in ourselves in all that He is. That is what incorporation means, and in this case it is not just an external business transaction; it is an inward organic thing. It is even something more than grafting. A great deal has been done in the surgical world about grafting, but even then I do not think the simile is good enough for this, for here there is a planting right into the springs of Christ and a growing up into Him in all things as out from the very root, not putting on something from the outside at all. A lot of people think that to become a Christian you join something, you become a part of something, but that is not it at all. Incorporation is something very much more inward and organic than that. You are planted right into Christ and in Him as the very root you grow out of Christ and grow up in Christ. So that incorporation is just to make us a part of one Body, the Body corporate.

Now, from what does incarnation take its necessity and its occasion? The occasion for incorporation into Christ is because we are not the direct seed of an unfallen Adam. If Adam had not fallen but had gone on in development, perhaps unto the point of glorification, and we had been the seed of that Adam, the whole point of incorporation would not arise. But we are not. We are the seed of a fallen Adam and we have therefore got to be incorporated into One who is altogether Another. We have to be put into Another. The last Adam, Christ, is so altogether other than the first Adam, the two cannot live together. Any attempt to make them live together is an existence of misery and contention, and we know that in our own very being. Since Christ has come, there is warfare wherever the old Adam gets up. It is a miserable existence until he has really been brought well under. These two are never intended to live together in one body, and so we are led to the very well-known truth that Christ, being Another so completely and utterly, must bring us from the one to Himself. We have got to be delivered out of the one and there is no deliverance out of Adam number one, only by death. You just cannot do this thing from the outside. There is no process known to God or man now by which we can be made according to Christ except by beginning all over again; a new creation in Christ Jesus.

Thus it is necessary for us to be taken from one kindred and race and everything that belongs thereto, and made a corporate part of an altogether other and different race of which Christ is the first and the last Adam. But the first of another creation and race, this can only be done by dying and being brought to an altogether new beginning by a Life which was never possessed before, a different Life. That takes us back to the incarnation and the inher­itance and the Divine nature.

So it comes about, as we know so well from the classic passage on this matter, Romans 6, that incorporation into Christ is first by recognising that His death was our death. Yes, our sins, but also the body of sin. We died, we were planted in the likeness of His death, together with Him, that "like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:4), raised together with Him by the operation of God.

I am not intending to speak about identification with Christ in death, burial and resurrection as a subject now, but just to point out that this is one of God's ways in which He is going towards His end. It is a part of God's goings and you will never reach that glorious end and become a part of that glorious Body until you know very truly the meaning of union with Christ in death, and the application of that continuously as a law and a principle, but on the other hand knowing union with Christ in resurrection, for God help the man or woman who seeks to know union with Christ in resurrection by constantly trying to crucify themselves. It is the wrong way round. You will only put to death the doings of the flesh as you know the power of His resurrection. You have no vantage ground whatever over Adam until you are on resurrection ground in Christ. So the apostle does not leave us half-way in this matter. When he says, "Reckon ye... yourselves to be dead unto sin", he also says "but alive unto God" (Rom. 6:11), and if you are constantly trying to work out that reckoning of yourself dead without the vantage ground of reckoning yourself alive unto God in Christ, you will be a very miserable person indeed.

Incorporation into Christ does, then, bring us to a position of power and of advantage over the enemy within.

That is all I am going to say just now on the matter of incorporation. This is a fixed way in the eternal goings of God. There is no getting on, no going on with the Lord, no going on of the Lord with us, only as we come to that point of incorporation into Him and being taken down figuratively and representatively by Him, as in Him, into a death which He died once for all, and then being raised in Him to a Life which is once for all, that is, for ever. There is no way towards God's end, only that way.


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