The Sovereignty of the Holy Spirit
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 4 - The Holy Spirit and the House of God

Reading: Ezekiel 40:1-4; 43:10-12.

It is necessary for us to bow to the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit, and we are brought to a very practical application, for naturally, I think, our judgment would have decided upon a course other than the one which seems to be definitely the leading of the Lord. I have but one emphasis, and it is quite a distinct emphasis in my heart as to the Lord's leading for this meditation, and we must just trust Him that He will be proved right as we obey.

We were seeing in our previous meditation the correspondence between the prophecies of Ezekiel and the book of the Acts, commonly called the Acts of the apostles, more properly, the Acts of the Holy Spirit. What the Lord is stressing so emphatically and clearly at this point is the desire in His own heart to lead men and women into all His fulness in Christ, and that in order to do that, it is most necessary that His Holy Spirit, to whom is given that work, should have His perfectly sovereign place in our entire lives and in His church. That is, that the Holy Spirit should be allowed to do exactly and altogether as He likes in us and with us, without any question or objection on our part.

We saw how Ezekiel, as representing an instrument and vessel in relation to the full thoughts of God for His people, was utterly yielded to the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit, and what a large place the Holy Spirit has in his ministry throughout. And we saw how the first chapter of his prophecies has its spiritual and actual counterpart in the book of the Acts when the Holy Spirit came, and in His place of complete Lordship, took things into His own hands and brought an instrument under His power, with certain very distinct results.

The Holy Spirit's Pre-eminent Concern in this Dispensation

Now we are going to advance upon that, to see yet more of what is the result of the Holy Spirit having His complete, sovereign position, and here again in Ezekiel we have the illustration and foreshadowing of what came about in the book of the Acts. We have passed over much history to reach chapter 40, but it is here that our heart-exercise for the moment is found.

When the Lord has had His way cleared for Him in the judgment of sin and of all that which was frustrating His purpose in and through His people, and the Spirit is able to resume or take up again that great purpose of God, you notice that the first thing which comes into view is the house of God. In Ezekiel those judgments have been carried out and the way now is through death and resurrection - you remember chapter 37, the great movement of the Spirit in resurrection in the valley of dry bones - now the Spirit can go on to His positive ground. We may say that all that is negative in the sense that it is something to be dealt with, to be got rid of, to give the Spirit a clear way.

Having got His way, it is impressive, significant, and of vital importance for our recognition, that He brings the house of the Lord into view. And so with chapter 40 this house is revealed, a house which has never yet been literally built, and I am not going to stay to argue whether it ever will be literally built. But I do know this, that the house is in existence, and that the New Testament shows that house of Ezekiel in existence, and that it came into spiritual existence on the day of Pentecost.

Our point here for the moment is this, that the Holy Spirit in sovereignty is concerned not with so many individuals as individuals, but with that body of believers which is a house of God in the corporate sense. The Holy Spirit is pre-eminently concerned with that in this dispensation, and I think we may say for all time that has been in the Divine view and purpose, making this dispensation the most important dispensation of all. Not many of us have come to appreciate that, that is, to be thankful that we are alive in this age above all ages. Nevertheless, it is true that upon this age all the ends of the ages are come. That is, all ages past and future meet in this age. The ages past lead up to it and demand it for their justification, their vindication. All future ages take their character from this age, from what God is doing in this age, and the thing therefore, which lies right at the centre of all the ages as characterising the dispensation in which we live, is God the Holy Spirit coming down from heaven for one precise purpose, to be realised perhaps by many means, but one purpose only: that is the spiritual house of God. To be governed truly by the Holy Spirit, to come utterly under His sovereign government means that the thing which is uppermost in us is the thing which is uppermost with Him - the spiritual house of God.

The Measurements of the House of God

So Ezekiel was again laid hold of by the Spirit and in the visions of God brought into the land of Israel and set down by a very high mountain and then he saw the frame of a city and a man with a measuring reed, and that man took charge of him, led him in, led him round, led him through, led him out, took him up, set him down. And at every step the man was saying, "This is the measure of that, put it down! And this is the measure of that, put it down! I have brought you here for this purpose, you take very careful note! You have got to show this in all detail to the House of Israel, so watch carefully!" And so, every point, every angle without and within, up and down and around, the dimensions of the house, were given. Everything was marked out and set down as a precise, detailed, minute expression of God's thought.

A Holy Spirit governed life will not just be general, but will be concerned about God's thoughts in detail. You see, these measurements, whether they be small or great, are not just so many inches or feet of material, of ground, or of fabric, these measurements are spiritual qualities of Christ. You know that is true by turning to the part of the New Testament which has more than any other the house in view - the letter to the Ephesians, and in that letter, measurement is a very important thing. "The breadth and length and height and depth" (Eph. 3:18). "Till we all attain unto... the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13), so that you are not just dealing with numbers and technical details; you are dealing with the living Person, and what that living Person is in nature and character and meaning and implication. And the Holy Spirit's great object is to get the house which is conformed to the image of God's Son in every detail. It is a house and that house is not a thing; that house is a Divine Person in expression, in manifestation. That Living Person is no other than God's own Son.

That may not be very new to you, but it is one other very important emphasis in this matter of the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit. No Holy Spirit governed life will ever make light of that which relates to the house of God, the body of Christ, the habitation of God through the Spirit, but a Holy Spirit governed life will have great reverence and great concern for that house, and will have a great travail over it. Hear one who really did know something about the government of the Holy Spirit in his life: "I would have you know what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh" (Col. 2:1). What conflict! He said, "that I may present every man complete in Christ - unto that I have great travail, great conflict". That is a mark of a Holy Spirit governed life - a great concern and travail for the saints to come to completeness in Christ.

I do not want to stay to press that challenge. If it were pressed, it would raise big questions in some directions, but let us recognise the truth about this and ask the Lord to bear it home to our hearts in the way in which it needs to be borne home in our case. A Holy Spirit governed life is given a great concern that God's great end should be realised, which end relates to His house. That concern may begin with the unsaved, and it surely should begin there, or it surely should have its bearing in that direction, for the house can never be realised without the salvation of those who are to be the living stones. But if anyone allows their concern for the unsaved to go that far and to go no further, then somewhere the Holy Spirit's course has been interrupted. No, He is going right on, and He is not going to leave things there. And we must recognise that the work of the Spirit is not in parts, fragments, or watertight compartments, but it is one work right on to the end. To that work He may give the specific or particular passion in different ones, but it is one passion and one work, never to stop with the salvation of the unsaved. It is the house that the Spirit has in view.

The Spirit's Concern for the Details of the House

And then the Spirit has very great concern, that all the details of the house should be honoured and respected. We selected out of this rather extensive section just those bits which stress this matter of the detail. You may think that it is unnecessary repetition, but there is nothing in the Word of God like that. "Make known unto them the form of the house, and the fashion thereof, and the egresses thereof, and the entrances thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the laws thereof; and write it in their sight; that they may keep the whole form thereof, and all the ordinances thereof" (Ezek. 43:11). That is a tremendous emphasis upon detail. Everything in this matter is very sacred to the Lord, and it does just amount to this: you and I will never make progress spiritually unto all the intended Divine fulness of Christ unless we are very particular about the laws of the Lord's house, the laws of our related life, the laws of our spiritual fellowship. It will work out that way; it will work out just like this. There will be some arrest, some deadlock, some hold up, and we will not get on. We may pray, we may do everything, but we will not get on, and sooner or later we will have to come to recognise we are not getting on, not getting through, ours is not a way of progress and growth; we are very much where we were. We will come into great trouble of heart about this matter of spiritual growth and increase. Then in our distress we may cry to the Lord, and it will be disclosed that there was something about our relationship, perhaps with another or with other children of God which has to be dealt with, which is the cause of our arrest.

If you have got a critical disposition of the Lord's people, and you let that critical faculty about children of God have play, you can settle it for ever that you are not going to come to any spiritual measure. You are really frustrating the Holy Spirit. How can you grow? There may be plenty to criticise - that is not the point. There may be much that is wrong. Well, there was plenty at Corinth, but the attitude of the apostle towards what was at Corinth, which was much and very terrible, was the attitude of entreaty, of a mother over a wayward child, or as of a father with an aching heart for his children - loving entreaty. You have nothing in the Bible to compare with 1 Corinthians 13 as an expression of a heart that loved, and it is remarkable that that matchless unveiling of the nature and quality of love should be given to Corinthians who naturally were the most unlovable of all. The apostle did not wash his hands of them, did not go about the world criticising them, did not tell other people all the faults of Corinth. No, he sought to win, to woo, by love, by forbearance, patience, longsuffering, humility, broken-heartedness, and tears. That is how he dealt with the faults, and that is the Holy Spirit's way.

Oh, let us accept the rebuke. Let us open our hearts to the smiting, if necessary. The Lord lead us to have a very definite transaction with Him about this once for all, because the Holy Spirit's great object in bringing the house to glory is simply set back and frustrated when those in it give way to careless, damaging criticism of its members. I use that just as an illustration of what I mean.


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