Called into the Fellowship of His Son

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 1 - The Person of the Call and the Fellowship

[Lord], we cannot do without Thee. There is nothing that we can do without Thee. We are wholly dependent on Thee, Lord, and we acknowledge it, and we are very conscious of it. If there is to be anything of eternal value in this time, it must be Thyself Who is doing it. We therefore lift our hearts to Thee in humble, earnest dependence and we say to Thee, 'Lord, You speak and give us to hear Thee, deeper than the voice that Thou dost use as Thine instrument', for Thy Name's sake, amen.

[Unfortunately, on the audio message that we have on the website, the following portion between the asterisks is missing.]


Before we come to the actual message which I feel the Lord has given, there are one or two preliminary things that I would like to say. I think you will agree with me, if you know anything about conditions today inside Christianity and outside it, the greatest need of our time is a reappraisal of Christianity, a new apprehension of what we come into when we come to Christ. There has been much lost, very much lost, of the true nature and essence of Christianity, and there has been much distortion, resulting in confusion. I repeat: the need of our time is a re-presentation and understanding of what it is we have come into when we come into Christ.

This is an age of cheapness. Get it as cheaply and as quickly as you can, with just as little cost and tiresomeness. "Get it quickly, get it easily." That thought governs the whole world system. Everything is now aligned to getting it done easily and getting it done quickly. It is that way in your kitchen, your scurrying-, your household affairs, and in every other realm. What is true in the secular has now become very largely true in the spiritual. The standards have been terribly lowered. Bigness has substituted greatness. Greatness, the true meaning of the word, is no longer considered. Oh, how we hear, "Big, oh yes, the bigger, then assuredly that is the most successful!" but this is absolutely contrary to the Bible, to all gospel. It is like that.

Ease and easiness, lightness, glamorousness, excitement, emotion: this is the order of our day. This hurrying that we are speaking of comes so largely into Christianity and the result is that we have quite a poor type of Christian.

Now, you may despise the Puritans, but the devil, someone has said, has made great capital out of using that word, "puritan," by way of discrediting something that was very vital and deep, strong and foundational, for the foundations were well laid in those days. Perhaps it is a good sign that today such people as the Moody Press are reproducing the writings of the Puritans. A very good sign! There is a bringing back of that substantial teaching of past generations. Reproducing, that is a good sign, perhaps indicating a direction at least.

I am very glad that there is a manifest outreach, especially on the part of young people, for reality. They are tired and sick of unreality. That is a very good thing indeed if only they find reality and do not go in for the substitutes that are today being retailed so lavishly, the substitutes which seem to be real and are an illusion.

Well, you have, therefore, today a superficial kind of Christianity: it is shallow. There is very little stamina about it. As soon as things become difficult, contrary, and seem not to be what was expected, people begin to back off. Their expectation was a false one. Things are not what they expected and are getting rather hot and rather tiresome and rather exacting; and then, as the Scripture says, "in the last time many shall fall away." The stamina is not there; there is no power of endurance. The public looks very good and very pleasant where, for a little while, it is address that seems to attract, but it easily wears out. It does not last. That is a condition of our time: a lot of noise and a lot of show.

There is a fear of seriousness and a fear of death. The slogan today is "Are you happy?" Even amongst Christians, the question is one of "Are you happy?" Well, perhaps there are two ways of thinking about that; but let me say at once, and I have young Christians very much in mind as I am speaking, that if you are going on with the Lord, you are going to have some unhappy days. Is that too bad to say right at the beginning of a conference?

I was at a conference once, and a large number of Christian ministers were there. We had a week on the Cross, and it was a devastating week. In the end, an appeal was made for testimonies as to what the week had meant to these men, and one very excitable man got up. Everything for him was wonderful, marvelous, terrific. It was tremendous! He sat down. Presently, a man got up onto the platform, and he said, "Wonderful? Happy? Why, I have just been shattered, smashed to pieces! My whole life has been taken down to be made all over again." That man counted for God after that. You understand what I mean?

So, while we are going to be joyful in the Lord, sometimes there is a large gap between being happy and joyful. "Happy" depends upon "hap": "Joy" goes on whatever "happens." Well, this is something that I must say at the beginning: there is a need of a recovery or reappraisal of the true nature of that into which we have come when we have come into Christ.


And [we] take a brief statement in the Scripture as the basis of these considerations in these mornings, God willing. You will find it in the first letter to the Corinthians (and I haven't got Corinthianitis!) the first letter to the Corinthians and chapter 1 at verse 9: "God is faithful through whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord." Called, into the fellowship of God's Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Called, (underline the word), called - fellowship - with God's Son - Jesus - Christ - Lord.

And the line which we may follow this week is:

The Person of the Fellowship - Son of God, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

The People of the Fellowship - ye were called.

The Purpose of the Fellowship.

The Process of the Fellowship.

The Prospect of the Fellowship.

And, The Peril of the Fellowship.

That alliteration may help you, all under the letter 'p'. This morning then, we begin with the Person of the Fellowship - His Son, Jesus, Christ, Lord. A new appraisal and apprehension of the Person is basic to everything else. Until we have an adequate apprehension of Christ, we have not got a sound and sure foundation for our Christian life. Everything begins with and flows from our understanding of Jesus Christ.

What do we know about Jesus Christ? Well, let us look at Him from several different angles, in several different connections and if you have your Bibles, you will follow.

First of all:

His Eternity.

The eternal Sonship, the eternal Anointing (which the word, "Christ" means), the eternal Lordship of Jesus Christ, the eternity of this One into Whom we have come if we have rightly come into Christianity.

There are two beginnings in the Bible. The Bible begins with one: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth," but there's a beginning before the beginning of creation. In John's gospel, chapter 1, verse 1, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." It follows the other: "All things were created by Him," a beginning before the beginning of this creation. This Jesus, Christ, was away back there before time, before all things. Look at this matchless, I mean, matchless statement in the letter to the Colossians. You will look at it, you've read it often perhaps, but you can never read this without taking a deep breath or even holding your breath. The Colossian letter, chapter 1, at verse 15:

"Who is the image of the invisible God, the Firstborn of all creation; for in Him were all things created, in the heavens, and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things have been created through Him, and unto Him: and He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is the Head of the body, the church: Who is the beginning, the Firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the pre-eminence. For it was the good pleasure of the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell...".

One little word there encompasses everything, and you can't get outside of it: "all". All - put a ring round it every time: all, all, all things. You can't add to that, it comprehends the universe and all that is in the universe, and He: over all and through all and all things unto Him.

John 17, that great prayer, begins as the Lord is lifting up His eyes to heaven and says, "Father, glorify Thou Me with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was." "The glory that I had with Thee before the world was!" And then Paul opens a window and just gives us a glimpse in that letter to the Philippians, he said, "...Who, existing in the form of God...". A long way back before anything else was this One to Whom we have come, into Whom we have come, and in the terms of fellowship: "called into the fellowship" of this One. Later, we shall bring that down to our own selves and how we are related to that; but for the moment, our object right at the beginning is to see how great this One is Whom we call "Lord," "Jesus," "Christ," and believe to be God's Son - vaster than the ages, greater than time, the Master of all things in the universe, the Creator of all - the One active in creation, and yet the One to Whom all the creation belongs.

Now, you may not think, in the light of many happenings and much history and the world conditions, that that is difficult to understand. All I have to say to you is that if you have come into true Christianity and a true relationship with this One, Jesus Christ, you've come to the Bible. You've come to the Bible and you've got to take the Bible and take it as it stands. And what I have given to you is a fragment of the Bible, but it's the Bible.

I really don't understand, there's something wrong with me, I think, I don't understand how people, anybody or any system, can claim to be Christian, claim to be Christian and not believe the Bible! Where did they get it from if they didn't get it from the Bible? Where did it come from? What do they know at all about anything in this realm of Christianity apart from the Bible? Really, their attitude simply means that they've got the Bible, and they've taken a name, which is the name in the Bible, the dominating name, and they don't believe it! They don't accept it.

Now, young people, you take it from me, you take it from me: an old man. And don't take it as from an old man, but as from one who was your age once and who began the Christian life at your age and has gone on and on all these... centuries? What I mean is, I have had plenty of time, plenty of time and opportunity and occasion for testing the Bible. I took dogmatic theology under a prince of modernists. If you understand what that means for a young man, you know I've had opportunity to test the Bible.

Well, I wouldn't be here today if I had not taken the Bible and come to know at least something of the truth of it. The truth of it! I've gone through all the problems, theological problems, doctrinal problems, through all the controversies, I know it all (or I think I do, a lot of it!) and I've come to prove that it's a safe thing to believe what this says and to act accordingly. [You will find God behind] that in marvelous ways.

Well, I could say a lot more about that, but, you see, you begin here. The Bible says these things, these are the things it says about this One, Jesus Christ our Lord. The Bible says that. You can say, "Well, it doesn't mean that". All right, do as you like about that; you'll have to come back - sooner or later, God grant it sooner - to believe, to know that these things are true: that in spite of everything, He is this One before all time, the Creator of all things, the eternal Son of God. And so I could quote so much more Scripture in this very connection, as you know.

You make such a lot of Christmas, don't you? Make a lot of Christmas, well, Christianity does make a lot of Christmas; but, after all, what is Christmas? Christmas is only, after all, a fragment, a mighty fragment within this compass of the eternal Son of God. He did not begin at Bethlehem! Not a bit of it. [There are some people who think that Jesus began His existence at Bethlehem. That was an incident in the course of the ages;] a mighty, significant, and necessary incident. We all know what for; but, it's true, you don't begin with Him at Bethlehem. We'll come to that later on and what it really does mean for us, but remember, long, long, long before there was ever such a place or name as Bethlehem, He was there. He was there! No, He did not begin then.

Well, let's go on. That is His eternity. Then we come in that eternity to:

His Divine Appointment.

The fragment which introduces us to this and with which many, many other statements have to be linked, the statement is in the letter to the Hebrews, chapter 1, right at the beginning. "God has at the end of all former times, all former methods, all former economies, all former ways of speaking and working, in the end of all those times, He has spoken to us in His Son." We are back at our Corinthian text - "called into the fellowship of His Son."

He has spoken at last, fully and finally, in His Son, "Whom He appointed Heir of all things." When that was, we don't know. It's a statement again, way back somewhere, undated, there was this appointment made, this designation decided upon. He, the Son of the Father, was made "Heir of all things," and it goes on: "...through Whom He made the ages," and a great and marvelous, sevenfold description of Him that you can read, but He was appointed Heir of all things, the rightful Heir, the destined Lord of the universe. The Heir, God's Heir!

The title to "all things" is His by Divine determination and decree from all eternity. He is to possess, to have all things. He knew it Himself. He knew it Himself: the mystery, the mystery of His knowledge when He was here was almost unimaginable. But He wrote it, He said it, "The Kingdom of heaven is like unto a man who planted a vineyard. He let it out to husbandmen and went into a far country. At the time of the fruit, he sent his servant to claim his rights, to possess what was his and they cast him out, and he sent another (these are the prophets). He sent another, they ill-treated him and cast him out. And so he went on until he had no more prophets or servants of that kind to send. He said, 'I will send my son... they will reverence him.' And when they saw the son coming, they said, 'This is the heir.'"

The knowledge of Jesus about Himself is that He was the eternally designated Heir of all things sent by God to claim God's rights, to which we shall refer again. "This is the Heir": Jesus' consciousness and knowledge. And John, you know, says, "He came unto His own things as heir, and the people who were His own received Him not." In the parable, they cast him out. "Let us kill him," they said. "Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours." Oh, the profundity of that parable, embracing all time and eternity - the Heir, appointed and destined for all things.

"Called into the fellowship of His Son" we may see as we go on that that fellowship also means fellowship with being cast out and being slain, simply because you are related to the One Who is the Heir. And there's another who says, "Not if I can prevent it." Relationship with this One, fellowship with this One, involves in His Own rejection if you are in right relationship.

I do not give very much for the type of Christian who doesn't suffer for his or her Christianity. Well, I don't want to discourage you; make no mistake about it, this word fellowship covers a lot of ground and a lot of things. His appointment, in eternity past, the right as Heir of all things - the ground of dispute, of course, through the ages, but we are not at the end of the story yet.

Then the next thing: His significance to the universe.

His Significance to the Universe

Shall we have a look at one or two passages in this connection? We will go to the well-worn Ephesian letter, chapter 1, at verse 9; Ephesians 1:9: "Having made known, (this is God who has done it) having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure (we are to weigh every fragment) having made known to us the mystery of His will, the hidden secret of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Him, (that is, in Christ,) until a dispensation of the fulness of the time, to sum up all things in Christ - to sum up all things in Christ - the things in the heavens and the things upon the earth, in Him, I say, in Whom also we were made a heritage, joint-heirs, having been foreordained according to the purpose of Him Who worketh all things after the counsel of His will: to the end that we should be unto the praise of His glory. "

The significance of Christ in the universe: that all things are to be summed up or re-gathered into Him eventually. The mystery, this hidden secret of His will, and He is working all things after the counsel of that will, to at last re-gather all things into this One. We go back to that passage we read earlier in the Colossian letter.

I hope I am not tiring you with my slowness. That's a part of old age; but, nevertheless, we are not in a hurry to cover a lot of superficial ground. Let's get right inside. My brother Foster will make all repairs for my slowness this evening, and I hope you will have had a good rest before then, because you've got to do some mental sprinting.

Now, Colossians, chapter 1 again, at verse 17: "And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist." And the margin is right: hold together. "In Him all things hold together." I quite understand that many of you young people don't understand that, but it's a statement of Scripture; and if you want just some idea of the truth of it, I will take you to Calvary and at the hour when the sun should have been at its strongest, its most powerful, and brilliant, and scorching, there was darkness over the face of the earth till the ninth hour. What has happened? And then it says: "And there was a great earthquake." There was a great earthquake; the earth shook, was rent. What has happened? The One Who holds all things together has been slain; the rightful Heir of all things has been put out of His heritage.

All right; put Him out, and you'll go to pieces. That's what happens. Put Him out, and sooner or later you will disintegrate because, as many of us know, the very integration of our life is our union with Jesus Christ. He brought us together, we poor, broken, scattered creatures. Oh, how sorry we are, all the youth of today - scattered, disillusioned, disappointed, dissatisfied - no cohesion, no unity in their lives. Yes, "scattered" is the word. He is the One Who integrates, in Whom all things hold together, and here the story of the Cross has been written in terms of His holding all things together.

The sun says, "I have no more purpose for shining." The earth says, "There is no purpose in my holding together." No wonder the centurion (and you know, I like all the centurions in the New Testament, there's not an unpleasant fellow among them; they're all good, every one, they were likeable men) and the centurion said, "Truly, this was the Son of God." I don't think that was just a mental conclusion from observation. It was something deeper than that. However, here it is: "In Him all things hold together," and we are moving, we are moving rapidly toward the disintegration of this creation and race.

Last week there was a celebration in London, you had it in Los Angeles too, the twenty fifth anniversary of the United Nations. The speech was made, by the erstwhile Premier of Canada, and he surveyed the 25 years of the United Nations. And you know, as I do sometimes look at something worth looking at on the television and shut off with the rest of it, I watched this man's face, and I listened to every word. And it was more like a funeral service, not a happy celebration. It was a terrible, terrible thing! He said, he said amongst many other things, about the failure of the United Nations, how it had failed in almost all directions, and was even excluded today from national decisions and considerations. The present situation is because it's a failure and he said, "We are quickly moving toward the time when someone will perhaps inadvertently or deliberately press the button and bring about the end of this humanity". Well, this is a man who knows.

Moving on, that will be the verdict upon this world of Christ's rejection. There is no other destiny. It's written large in history. Men are blind; terribly blind, they don't read history! History, all the way along shouts, not only says, but shouts: "Reject God! Reject His Son!" And: "your house is left unto you desolate." Desolation.

His significance in this universe is that it will only hold together as He has His place. And that is true of our life, individually. If we, in our own spiritual life, even for a little while let go of the Lord, go our own way, leave Him out... have you ever done that? I have! And what has happened? It wasn't long before I was very glad to get back again, to recover that ground. Everything went to pieces; there was nothing in the future; nothing to live for! And we know it, we believers know it and we say it: there is no reason why we should stay on this earth, alive at all, but for our Lord. Isn't that true? It is true! We'd be better to quit altogether! I don't mean just quit the Lord; quit life! Many have done that when they felt they'd lost God.

Well, His significance in this universe is integration. In Him all things hold together, and I mustn't stay longer with each of these. Let's go on. Next: His position.

His Position

Well, we have read it, and I'll just remind you of one fragment about this, and God raised Him to "exceeding greatness," the "exceeding greatness" of God's power, the power of God, which was in excess of all other powers: death and hell, the grave and sin, and the devil, exceeding all other powers. "The exceeding greatness of His power, which He exercised in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, (and not left Him on the earth even risen), but set Him at His own right hand... "far above all principality, power, rule and authority." You know that is a statement which recurs in the New Testament, the place that God has given Him, has given Him: "the name which is above every name."

"Called into the fellowship of... Jesus Christ our Lord." Every word is full and rich and pregnant with eternal meaning. His position - do you believe that? It's stated, it's stated. The devil will often come and suggest to you, "If that is true, why? Why? Why?" He's whispered that into my ear this last week more than once.

We never had such a battle to get anywhere as to get here! We had made our arrangements, booked our passage, and then there was a strike on that line. We had to be switched to another line. Alright. My wife was taken ill, unable to leave, laid low for two or three days. We came back to this changed line, expecting to come away to the airport at nine o'clock in the morning. We go onto that plane, "We are very sorry, that plane has engine trouble, and we cannot tell when it will leave." Waiting, waiting. "No, we'd better put you over onto another line." And they did it, onto a jumbo, a jumbo jet. Always having trouble... (not surprised). After waiting a bit longer, "The jumbo jet has broken down...".

And so we were there at the airport from nine o'clock in the morning until twenty minutes past five in the afternoon. A long, long day of weariness and not knowing what's going to happen next. At last we got on the jumbo, and it went out and had to wait for its turn to leave. We came away and arrived in New York seven and a half hours late: "Oh, the system for getting the baggage out of the plane has broken down, it may be an hour before you get your baggage to go through customs." Alright, and a few more formalities like that, standing in a queue, and we got to bed at twenty minutes to four in the morning. We had to leave again next morning, Saturday morning early, not without some difficulties.

We got to Louisville, had our arrangement to come on here on Monday morning. My wife was laid low again. Could I leave her? Could I come? Should I not take her back to London straight away? She's not here, is she? What a battle! Now, all this frustration, complication, seeming confusion, and that little demon, oh yes, [he's got all that]: "Is He Lord? Is He Lord? Are these the signs of His Lordship? Is He in control of everything?" You know, when you are up against it, the devil is no myth! He is watching to take advantage.

Well, here we are, we are here. Was it because Jesus Christ was to be magnified? Well, that's what we've read today, that, "We should be to the praise of His glory." Well, His position, it's stated in the Word, and we always have to say to ourselves, "The end is not yet, and the end will be with Him, and not with the other one."

Finally, then, called into the fellowship of this One, His Son, and all that the Word says about Him as Son: destined Lord, destined comprehension of all things, appointed the very continuity and consistency and integration of all things; and to at last sum up in Himself, or having Himself summed up, gathered together, reunited this broken universe, comprehended by Him, God's Son, who is? Jesus. The name of His humiliation. Christ? And you know, that's only the other word for Messiah - the Messiah - the ever hoped for, looked for, longed for One Who was to restore the kingdom, but not an earthly one. "My kingdom is not of this world" - the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the Anointed One, our Lord. Our Lord.

You know, dear friends, it doesn't matter how long you live and how much you may have ministered, meditated, or prayed, or experienced, you'll always be defeated when you try to set forth the Lord Jesus in any measure of fullness. We start on an impossible task, don't we? I have this morning just ventured into the impossible, to tell of His greatness.

What I do want, if you can't grasp the statements, if all that's been said are difficult for you and too much, my one hope is that an impression will be made. I want you to go away, I want you young people (perhaps many of you have recently come to the Lord Jesus), I want you to go away saying, "I never, never knew how great it was to come to Him! What a great thing it is to be 'called into the fellowship' of God's Son. How great is He!" An impression - the Lord make the impression, oh may it come upon us with awesome wonder.

We have not come into some very small, light, frivolous thing. However we may joyfully sing our choruses and so on, but remember, this is no cheap thing. This is no small thing. This is no easy thing. This is a thing which embraces the universe, and we are called into that fellowship.

[Lord, Thou knowest how helpless and hopeless we feel even approaching this great matter. Lord, we do ask Thee to take up where we have failed, carry on where we leave off. Do leave an impression. When we who know Thee somewhat, perhaps think we know Thee, yet come to realize far, far greater than ever we have thought, and at the end of a long, full life, we may yet be saying, '...that I might know Him.' Give us a sense then of the infinite greatness into which we have come by Thy call. We ask this, this pardon for all our weakness and failure, in the Name of the Lord Jesus, amen."]

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