by T. Austin-Sparks
READING: 2 Cor. 5:14-18; Romans 6:4.
The sum of everything in the new creation is in Christ, or, to put that in another way, it is outside of man himself. It is apart from man, and it always will be. Although Christ, the sum of the new creation, may be in us, that new creation will remain in Christ, and we are only in it by reason of our union with Him. He becomes the fulness of everything in us, but the practical outworking of that fulness will ever, and always, be purely and solely on a basis of faith.
If the thing could be said at any time to have its origin in us, then faith would be dismissed. If we had it in ourselves, if it were our constitution, faith would be dispensed with. That would result in a repetition of us. Man at the beginning, under the deluding, blinding, misleading activity of the Devil, sought to have things in himself rather than as solely in God, to be enjoyed by faith and obedience. He sought to have it in himself. Since that time unregenerate man has the idea that he has it in himself, that it is in him to be and to do.
The very heart of the deception, as of the Deceiver, is pride. Sometimes we use another word, which is not a scriptural word itself, but which has a little keener edge on it than pride. It is the word "conceit," which simply means having it in yourself, with the seat of it in you. That is pride. Satan sought to have it in himself, and then prompted man to seek to have it in himself. The delusion of man is that he thinks he has it in himself, and it takes a great deal of Divine activity to get that idea out of man's mind. The trouble, not merely with the unregenerate but with the Lord's people, is the getting rid of that thing which is so deeply seated and rooted in the being of man, the idea that he can make a contribution out of himself toward the realisation of his Divine destiny.
You and I are troubled with that original sin, the idea that somehow we can provide something out from ourselves which will contribute toward Divine ends. All our struggles, all our difficulties, all our discouragements, all our wretched morbidness, is consequent upon that; that we have not come fully and finally as a settled thing, beyond any more question, discussion or hope, to know that we cannot provide one iota out from ourselves toward God's end. We are all the time - perhaps not consciously or deliberately - living on that old basis. What is our wretched introspection? It is eyes turned in in the endeavour to find something worth while in ourselves, something that can help God. That is all it is. How many people are cursed with that thing! And that is only one aspect of the great trouble.
What we are saying is this, that in the new creation all things are out from God. To put that the other way is to say that, nothing is out from ourselves. All things are stored up and centred in Christ, and they always will be. You and I will never be able to be independent of Christ in any way whatsoever. That means that the thing will never be in us as in ourselves. We have it in Christ, and its practical outworking is only along the line of faith in the Lord Jesus. Man in himself, even as a child of God, will always be totally at a discount in the things of God. That is a tremendous lesson to learn. Let us repeat that. Man in himself, even as a child of God, even as one who has known the Lord for a lifetime, and has come into a very real wealthy knowledge and experience of the Lord, still in himself will be totally at a discount in the things of God. That is, he will know the more he goes on that his dependence is entirely and utterly upon another, upon a spring, a source, a fountain which is not in himself, not in his own constitution. Though it may be centred in his spirit as to location, it is not in his own being as a part of him. He will always be passing through new experiences in which he realises how utterly impossible it is for him to face up to the situation of himself and meet the demand.
That is quite elementary. It lies right at the beginning of things, though, blessed be God, it brings us face to face with the other side. That may perhaps sound discouraging, disappointing, but we ought to be getting to the place to which Paul came, when he came to rejoice in that fact. "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (2 Cor. 12:9). We have all things in Christ, and those "all things" in Christ become an inward spring for us to draw upon.
Before we pass from that, let us notice that this fact reveals to us what the continual difficulty will be. The difficulty which we shall be meeting all along the way will be ourselves. We shall find that the main obstacle, the main enemy to our fulness in Christ, to all that the new creation means, will be ourselves in some way. It will either be our self-occupation - which is but a form of trying to be something fine, something in ourselves which will bring satisfaction to God - or it will be our self-effort in service. It will be this natural life of ours cropping up in some direction or another, and as it crops up it will cut clean in between us and the "all things" which are of God, and we shall find that it is ourself which brings us up short, which creates the arrest. The Lord in effect, and in mighty effect, will be saying: "I cannot go on with you, you must get out of the way!"
Is not that the explanation of so many of our experiences in the Lord's dealings with us? They are with a view to getting our self-life out of the way. We loom so much upon our own horizon. We are so big in our own thoughts. Not necessarily in that wrong way in which we think a great deal of ourselves, though it may be that the thinking so badly of ourselves is another form of thinking of ourselves very largely. We may be so occupied with our terribly worthless self that Christ is blotted out altogether. Some people are never at an end of telling you how bad they are, how worthless they are, drawing out a tale of their woe about themselves, and that obscures Christ, and does not honour God. We should have settled that. We shall ever know it. We shall know it more and more, but there ought to be running parallel with that an appreciation of what He is which takes the sting out of that, which takes the power out of that which would break us, crush us, and make us so that God cannot be glorified in us.
The new creation is in Christ. It is not in you, and not in me, and never will be. All that it will mean in time, and in eternity will be through our spiritual union with Christ. All God's fulness is in Christ. We shall receive all that fulness, and enjoy it in a practical out-working. But this, while we are yet here in time, will ever be by faith's union. In eternity, where the reception of that fulness will be unhindered, the work of faith, though not its fruit, will have passed. But we shall never be absorbed in Christ in the sense that we become so many Christs. It will still be Himself as distinct Who is to be glorified. We shall never be glorifying ourselves, neither shall we be glorified by others as though we were Christ. Christ is not some great widespread essence, which is going to become the constitution of a great multitude, so that that multitude becomes a Christ in essence. It will ever be true that Christ remains apart in His Person, though manifested in His glory and in His excellence in the saints, and we shall still therefore be worshipping Him as objective and distinct in His own Person from ourselves.
Perhaps that hardly needs saying. But it is very important that we should recognise that forever God has bound up everything with His Son, and that nothing will ever be had or enjoyed apart from Christ, while for this present life that is only by faith in the Lord Jesus. The object of this present emphasis is to seek, as the Lord will enable, that there shall be an emancipation from ourselves; for that occupation, that consideration, is always taking from His glory. Let us ask the Lord to cut us really free from ourselves by an unveiling and presentation of His Son to us, as the sum total of all that ever God desires and wills.
The Active Feature of the New Creation - the Spirit of Life
You notice that is where Romans 8 opens up. In that chapter we are now represented as being in Christ, "they that are in Christ Jesus," and it is said that in Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life has made free from the law of sin and death. The active feature, then, of the new creation is the Spirit of life. Everything is bound up with that. The final issue of God's purpose in us is that we should be seated in that Spirit of life in Christ, imparted to us through faith. As to the nature which is going to be developed in us, the Christ nature: as to the Testimony which is going to be manifested through us. Everything is seated in that life, that Spirit of life. All the power and all the nature of Christ in glory as the fulness of God is there as the active, energetic principle of the new creation.
Let us illustrate that in a familiar way. The first two witnesses in the history of this present world were Abel and Enoch. There is a wonderful significance in those two names being brought together at the beginning of Hebrews 11.
Abel! Abel introduced the whole Testimony in its principle. Blood was brought into view through Abel, and the shedding of that blood, as we have come since to understand by the teaching of God's Word, speaks of a life which is an incorruptible life, which cannot be corrupted, which has no seed of corruption in it, and is therefore a life which is indestructible.
Abel offered a sacrifice through shedding of blood, and instantly God bore witness to his offering that he was righteous. How did Abel become aware of righteousness not his own? By reason of his spiritual faith union with a Blood in which there was no corruption. It was that Blood which we know to be the symbol of Divine life as it is in the Lord Jesus. It was that Blood, that life, which, being incorruptible, became the basis of his faith, and therefore through faith in that incorruptible Blood, he had witness borne that he was righteous.
The second aspect is manifested in Abel, in that he was therefore deathless through faith in that Blood. It was that very thing which the Devil discerned, namely, that here was the raising up in this first man of a testimony to something which cannot be corrupted, and cannot therefore be destroyed. Satan came out against Abel to try to contradict that testimony of the incorruptible and indestructible, and slew Abel; but the Word says that through his faith "he being dead yet speaketh." We know that he is gathered up in that large company of Hebrews 11: "These all died in faith, not having received the promises... God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect (complete)" (Hebrews 11:13,40). This means, quite clearly - if logic means anything - that they are coming into our fulness through their faith.
What is the fulness which God has provided for us in this dispensation? It is the fulness of Christ in the power of His resurrection as seated at God's right hand, and their faith brought them into that. Abel came in on the ground of the Blood, incorruptible, indestructible, and that is the basis of all Christ's fulness. It is the ground of the new creation in Christ Jesus.
Enoch! Immediately after that the writer of the letter to the Hebrews brings in Enoch. "Enoch was translated that he should not see death" (verse 5). There is that leap, that one bound from the beginning to the end of the Testimony. The Apostle Jude says: "...Enoch... the seventh from Adam." If you count up you will find that literally he was not the seventh from Adam. There may be one explanation of that way of putting things, inasmuch as the Hebrews counted inclusively, and not as we do. But there is a typical significance about that. "Seven" is the number of spiritual perfection, and undoubtedly Enoch is a type in the Old Testament, perhaps the type of perfect humanity. What happens to perfect humanity? It never goes to destruction and corruption! It goes to glory! It breaks the ordinary course of corrupted humanity by way of death and the grave, and so Enoch was translated that he should not see death. From the beginning of the Testimony, which is in the power of an incorruptible and indestructible life, you immediately leap to the end of that thing in Enoch, and see what the ultimate result of that incorruptible and indestructible life will be. It will be a complete and final triumph over death in all its forms in a rapture.
Alive Only Unto God
Everything is centred in that Spirit of life, that new creation life. If we look within ourselves to find more good, we are going to look in vain. We shall never find anything in ourselves but corruption. Is that really settled with us? On both sides, the people who have some opinion of themselves had better settle it once and for all that there is nothing in them but corruption, and also those who have settled it, and yet are so occupied with their old man as though it were something really worth being occupied with. Put it where the Lord Jesus has put it, in the grave, and do not walk round it, turning it over, if peradventure you might find something worth while. Fix and fasten your faith in God's Son, and leave yourself alone for ever. Only so will you find your emancipation. If Christ is in us, whatever we may be in ourselves, there is that which is incorruptible. Christ is incorruptible, and Christ is in us.
Now see God looking clean through us as in ourselves as though He never saw us, and seeing that deposit, His Son, and keeping His eye upon that. When we come to talk to Him about ourselves He says, I am not interested in that; I am interested in this! I am not concerned with that; this is what I am after! Come with Me, and let your eye be on this, and let us be occupied with this and its increase, and when you are brought into the fires remember always, it is not that I am against you, but in order that I may bring this out more fully, and that I may make more of My Son in you! When you get into difficulties, and are conscious of the fact of your own helplessness, it is only to make you know how much He can be to you! When again you are feeling utterly empty, and there is a big demand which you are quite unable to meet, then remember that faith takes hold of Him in His fulness, and you will be able to meet the demand! It is all Christ in every way. That is glorifying Him. God is set upon glorifying His Son in us. We must become centred in Christ, wholly and utterly.
Do not try to crucify the old man piecemeal. It cannot be done. Taking him a bit at a time, and trying thus to get rid of the flesh is not the way. The Lord has taken the old man in his entirety, and dealt with him as a whole. We focus upon some special weakness, some special fault in ourselves, and are wanting that dealt with, and are going round that, to be saved from that. We are going the wrong way to work. The Lord says, The whole of that old creation at once, and Christ will be to us according to the measure in which we have accepted that injunction. The fulness of Christ will depend upon our acceptance of the fulness of His death to the old creation.
The incorruptible life, the Spirit of life in Christ, is the secret, the law, the foundation of all sanctification, of all holiness, of all conformity to the image of Christ. That is why it says that we should walk in newness of life; that is an active going on in this new life, this Spirit of life. And as we go on, not in ourselves, not on ourselves, but on this life, we become conformed to the image of Christ, which is there in that Spirit of life.
Then there is a wonderful expression, a growing expression of how incorruptible that life is, because that life gains ascendency over corruption. Now we are touching something very precious. If only the Lord would just lay this in our hearts, that we might see it anew! We have said that what is incorruptible is indestructible. In other words, that in which there is no corruption can never know death, but must conquer death, must bring death into subjection.
Life for Spirit, Mind and Body
In every part of our being, spirit, mind and body, that incorruptible life can be energetic.
In our spirit it can be the mighty energy of God which lifts our spirits completely above all death conditions around. Would to God that His people believed that more, and took up their position upon that more definitely! Death is all around, and is a mighty working force in this universe. We may meet it at any moment. It may come to us, assail us, through numerous channels, by numerous means, and we know what it is to feel our spiritual life, our inner life with God, come under the hand of death, under the pall, the cloud, the damping suffocation of spiritual death.
Now this Spirit of life in Christ, Who is in us is there in order to lift us into a place above that working of death in our spirit, so that, while the death is not immediately destroyed in the sense that it is blotted out, it is destroyed in the New Testament meaning of the word, rendered ineffective, made void, so far as its domination is concerned. There is an ascendency over it, and it is made subject.
What is true in the matter of our spirit can be true also in the matter of our minds. The quickening power of His Spirit of life can renew our minds. The New Testament says so: "...the renewing of the mind..." The mind is something deeper than the brain, so that often when the brain may be at a discount, there can be such a quickening of intelligent apprehension of the Lord, that we are lifted above that death in the realm of the mind, and it is as though again the heavens were opened above us, and our minds have become energised anew in relation to the things of God. This operates wonderfully in times of weariness when the mind is heavy, and there is the consciousness of there being no mind at all. (I do not mean that we are out of our minds in the common acceptance of that word, but we have no mind for things.) The Spirit of life, laid hold of by faith, will lift us in a wonderful way above that which would require in the natural realm, and along natural lines perhaps, a prolonged rest; and then there will not be the same result even after that. Perhaps you need a renewed mind to go on, to keep on. Well, Christ as the new creation life in you can quicken your mind, renew your mind, so that there may be a newness of the mind, a testimony to this triumph of the incorruptible life over all that which is working of corruption and death in the mind.
Blessed be God, this also applies to the body. Paul has quite a lot to say on this matter, as you know. It is true that the Spirit of life in Christ can, and does, subject the corruption, even of our mortal bodies, to Himself. We do not mean that He gets rid of the mortality, that here and now the change takes place from the mortal to immortality, or from the corruptible to the incorruptible order. We mean with all our heart that the life, which is Christ's life in us, can lift us above the death working in our bodies. Would to God that we laid hold of that more! The Lord would be more glorified along that line. "That the life whereby Jesus conquered death should be manifested in this dying body." There is no question that the body is dying. It is corruptible, and therefore it is destructible. But there is something here deposited within this mortal temple which is Christ, incorruptible and indestructible, to take ascendency even over the death working in the mortal body. It is the new creation at work triumphantly over the old. This is our heritage in Christ.
You see that everything is governed by faith appropriating the values of the new creation. It is not a doctrine, not a theory. It is a Divine energy, a life, a power, which is Christ by the Holy Spirit ministered to us, and the proper course of the new creation in your case and in mine is, that rather than that there should be an increase of death, a breaking down, and a failing, as we get older, there ought to be an increase of life and ascendency. We are all conscious that we are getting older. We are all conscious that in the natural realm the human forces and abilities are abating, but we are not going to accept that as the governing law of our life. There should be an increase of this incorruptible nature of Christ as we get older, and therefore there ought to be a beautifying and sweetening of our lives the older we get. Though it be true that our natural powers of endurance are weakening, and the nervous system is being called upon to carry a weight too much for it, and we are ageing; yet if Christ is having His way in us, there ought to be in the midst of these very conditions a testimony to the new creation, which does not break down, and does not wane, but is ever fresh right on to the end.
Freshness, newness of life! That life never gets tired. That life never runs low. No marks or signs of exhaustion are in that life. There are no fading lives where that life is. There is no falling fruit there. That life is in you and in me in Christ. Then what should the testimony be? It should be a testimony to freshness, continual freshness, a testimony to newness, that the things which are the most well known, most familiar, are still livingly precious with us, and never lose their freshness, beauty and glory. God forbid that we should spiritually grow old, and contradict the real nature of the new creation. God forbid that natural conditions in body, and in mind, and in the world, should ever become the dominant things in us, but that to us the uppermost thing should ever be that there is a Spirit of life regnant, triumphant, ever fresh.
The Lord bury this word in our hearts very deeply, and keep us living on this ground.