by T. Austin-Sparks
Reading: Matt: 11:28-30; John 8:32,36; 14:27; 16:33; 20:19,21,26.
It does not require a very profound study of the earthly life of the Lord Jesus to discover that all the way through it was marked by a wonderful peace of spirit and restfulness of heart. There are some things strikingly absent from His life. Someone has said - I believe it was Dr. S. D. Gordon - that Jesus was never known to have run, or it is not recorded that Jesus ever ran. The point is that He was never in a state of emergency, never flurried, never hurried; never marked by fretfulness of spirit, anxiety, care; there was nothing the opposite of perfect tranquillity. This does not suggest that there was not a great deal to make for such a state; there was much to make it other than it was. He was in many storms, and many kinds of storms, but the storm was never in Him. There were many demands; pressing, clamant, continuous; by day and also by night. There was much labour. One day in the life of the Lord Jesus held within it enough to be spread over a far longer period of an ordinary person's life, and yet He was never perturbed, never distressed; He never lost His calm; He was Master of every situation. It was when the things which make for unrest were nearest at hand, and most closely pressing upon Him, that He spoke about rest, about peace. It was as He was moving into the final scenes of His life, knowing all that He was about to go through in His Cross; fully knowing the ordeal that was to lead up to the crucifixion; and knowing all that the Cross, with its suffering and death would mean, that He said to His disciples, "Let not your heart be troubled..." and again a second time: "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid".
All that lies on the face of things, and does not need proving. But we want to understand the nature of that peace, that rest, and that wonderful liberty of the Lord Jesus. It seems to me that there were several matters in respect of which Christ had rest which made Him different from all other men; for, as we have been saying in these meditations, it was the secret sources of His life which constituted the difference between Him and all others. He was unique amongst men, but there was a reason for it, and the reason was the background of His life, the background in which were the secret resources. Here in this matter also He was different, One by Himself, and it seems that this matter of rest, peace, tranquillity, ascendency, had to do most closely with two or three of the major matters of life.
Peace in the Face of Temptation
The first of these matters is that of sin. We know quite well that it is through personal sin that peace is lost, rest is destroyed; it is because of sin that fret, and worry, and harass, and care, and anxiety, and burdensomeness obtain, exist, hold the field. There was no sin in Him, but that fact does not carry us all the way toward the solution. It would be easy for us to say, Well, there being no sin in Him, He knew nothing whatever of all that fret which comes to us because of sin in us! He knew nothing of all that realm of conflict, battle, worrying, which we know because of what is in our natures! He would be so much apart from it as not to be able to have any living, practical, experimental sympathy with us if that were the whole truth. We are told that He is able to succour the tempted, on the ground that He Himself has been tempted in all points like as we, yet apart from sin. The other half of the truth about Him is that He was pressed to take courses which, because of their relatedness, would have been wrong. There was no sin in Him, but strong pressure was brought to bear in an endeavour to bring Him to do things which were wrong.
He was, for instance, capable of suffering, and because He was capable of suffering He was bound to be pressed to spare Himself, but to have done so, because of all that which was related, would have been wrong. Anyone who is capable of suffering is at least capable of having a suggestion made to him that he can find a way of avoiding it. And because of the reality of the suffering, the suggestion has point; it is not pointless, it finds a point of contact, it makes an appeal; and we must remember that temptation is never sin, an appeal to us to take a line which would be wrong is not sin. We might register the appeal of such a temptation, but not until we have consented to it have we sinned. That is, of course, very elementary, but it is on the way to understanding the situation.
It was not only in the matter of suffering that He registered temptation, but in many other ways. Temptation was presented to Him, He was tempted. Temptation is no temptation if it comes up against something which has no sensibility, no capability of knowing its meaning. If you talk to me in a language the alphabet of which I have never heard or known, I register nothing, the thing means nothing at all, there is nothing in me that can in any way respond to it; and in referring to His being tempted of the Devil, we should be talking nonsense if we said that all that sort of thing was so outside of His world that it had no meaning at all. We know the old problem that is met with - Can a sinless being be tempted? and I am not struggling to give the full and final answer to the merely speculative enquiry or question, but I am stating what I believe to be the facts of the case. He was capable of suffering, therefore He was capable of being pressed to take a line which would save Him from suffering, and that was temptation. That temptation which came to Him was not pointless, without a registration, but one that had to be positively resisted with a strength of will. The Devil would not assail with temptations if they did not come near me, if they simply rolled off without any meaning at all? No! The Lord Jesus had to take an attitude, deliberately, definitely, strongly at that time, and you find Him in His very manner almost vehement. There is no weakness about His meeting temptation.
The temptation being real, how was it that He went tranquilly on without succumbing; and without being fretted; without losing His rest, His peace? The answer is that He was in utter abandonment to the Father's will, so that the temptation itself was defeated by the sheerness of His loyalty. Those things are patent as we read of these specific temptations. It was His downright loyalty to His Father which was His defence. The utterness of His abandonment to the Father's will saved Him from any of those disturbances which come by letting in a question, or by responding in any way to a suggestion.
The secret of His peace was His union with His Father; a union perfect, complete. It was this that made Him to differ from all others. It was separateness from God which meant that they could not meet sin, within or without, put it back and overcome it, and go on their way triumphantly, tranquilly. His union with the Father meant that while He was tempted in all points like as we are, with Him there never came about a situation of sin which robbed Him of His peace, which destroyed His rest and brought Him into bondage. We will deal with the application of that later.
Peace in the Realm of His Own Being and Nature
We pass on to the second aspect of this peace. It is intimately connected with His own being and nature. The personality of Christ was a united one; His was a united soul, that is, His mind was not two, but one. There were no double reasonings with Him. There was no conflict between His own reason and God's reason. His was a united mind, one mind. His heart was one. There were no divided desires, no conflict with the Father's desires. His heart was one, was united. Marvellous things are possible when the heart is united. His will was one. One will with the Father's, not in identity but in fellowship. He will speak of "My will", and "Thy will" as two things, "Not my will but thine...", "I came not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me". Here are two wills, and yet those two wills are so blended that they become one in effect, in purpose, in object, in sympathy, and this oneness resulted in the uniting of His very being, His very person.
Now note again the nature of the temptations which came to Him. All the temptations which ever came to the Lord Jesus - and they were a great many more than those which He met in the wilderness at the beginning - were intended to make a breach between Himself and His Father. You can trace that in every case as the object, to get in between Him and His Father, to cause Him to act out of correspondence with His Father; to induce Him to move apart, independently, of Himself; to bring about a division to break this unity. That was the Devil's persistent effort, and if he could have made two where there was one he would have achieved with the Son of Man what he achieved with the first Adam. It was the oneness of His being, by reason of the utter union with the Father, which was at once the object of the enemy's attack and the ground of His own undisturbed peace.
The word "peace" in the Greek simply means unity, or concord. It does not mean a quiet state of things. That is perhaps a result, an effect, an issue; but it is not the meaning of the word. Peace is harmony, concord, unity. When He spoke of "My peace" He was not offering them merely a tranquil atmosphere, a quiescent condition, He was offering them a union with Himself similar to His union with the Father, which would mean that the conflict, the unrest, the discord would cease. Peace then is the tranquility of oneness: "That they may be one, even as we are one" (John 17:22), - oneness as in the Father and the Son. Rest for Him was the result of a united being; no strain, no inward controversy with God.
Maybe you say, Yes! that in His case was very well; it was so much easier for Him, seeing Who and what He was! But we come back and once more point out that there was another ground which is the common ground of all, His and ours. What was the ground of this oneness, this harmony, this accord? Was it merely His nature? Was it simply because He was thus constituted, and that is all there is to say about it? Oh, no, there was an active cause, an active principle. What was it? This tranquillity, this peace, this rest, resultant from harmony, unitedness, oneness in His being, was also resultant from faith in the Father, and faith in the Father's faithfulness. His sheet-anchor was the faithfulness of His Father.
That is common ground, not His alone. He may have had it in greater measure. He may have gone far ahead of us, but the principle of His life is the principle of our lives. He wrought this thing out for us, He went ahead of us traversing the same way in which we are following, and His was a life of faith in the Father, and His faith was in the faithfulness of His Father.
The fact that He suffered may raise a question. You may say, If anyone suffers, if one is capable of suffering, and if one does suffer, and the suffering is genuine and real, can suffering and peace go together? Yes, they can! He suffered so much that His countenance, His face, was marred more than any man's, His visage was marred more than the sons of men. You look upon that marred visage, that suffering, scarred face, and you see peace. Can that be true, that while there is a going through agonies there can be peace? It depends. He suffered according to the will of God, and that makes all the difference. There is suffering according to the will of God which means perfect peace, and perfect rest. To put that the other way round, perfect peace and perfect rest does not mean that we are of necessity going to be immune from suffering; that in order to have such peace suffering must be suspended, anguish must go. No! His case is not such a case. Suffering marked Him, but it never distracted Him so that He lost His peace - we refer here to the suffering of His life. There was a moment when He lost a sense of the Father's face, one moment. For a small moment He was forsaken. In that moment His soul was rent, and there was despair. But for the rest of His life, in which the meaning of that moment was not so implicit, His life, while He suffered, was never distracted.
So the second thing is that His peace was because of a united heart, mind, will; because of the oneness of His being and nature.
Peace in Relation to Legal Obligation
The third aspect is in regard to legal obligation. What a realm of disturbed rest and peace that is! It was, I think, concerning that realm that He spoke those wonderful words in Matthew 11, "Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls". What was the yoke with which His was contrasted? It is inferred in the passage: "They bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders..." (Matt: 23:4). It was the heavy load of the law, of legal obligation: "Thou shalt"! and "Thou shalt not"! and that split up into a thousand fragments. There is no peace in that, no rest there. It was one ceaseless, endless concern lest the law be broken at some point, and if it were broken in one point responsibility for the whole was imposed. Once the law was violated in one point responsibility for the breaking of the whole was incurred. Legal obligation, as they knew it then, and as the Judaisers ever imposed it upon men, became a grievous burden and a cause of lost rest. They had no rest. Some of them may have deceived themselves. They may have been living in a false realm like Saul of Tarsus, but he eventually unveils for us exactly what his state was, in Romans 7. I do not believe that that part of the letter is the description of a man in grace, a man in Christ. If so, well, what has grace done to bring about a state such as is expressed in the words, "Oh wretched man that I am"; this continuous groan under a burden which could not be borne. Where is the grace in that? But Paul is telling us the truth, and the truth which had been made manifest was brought home by the law itself. The law had said, "Thou shalt"! and he said, I found in myself another law which, when I would do that, I did it not. The law said, "Thou shalt not"! and I found that when I would obey that law there was something else in me which made me do the very thing which I said I would not do, and desired not to do; and so, torn and harassed, at last I cried, "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me"? There is no rest in that. It is the burden of legal obligation.
Now look again at the Lord Jesus. Go through His life with the legal burden in view, and you will never see it resting on Him. The Jews believed they were governed by the law, and so far as they understood the law they were; if you took the mere letter of the law, they were right, and according to them the Lord was the biggest Sabbath-breaker that they had met. How often did He do the things on the Sabbath which caused all the trouble. Why would He persist in doing these things on the Sabbath? He knew what the effect of such actions was. He had done this before, and there had been a terrific uproar; yet He does another thing like it, and yet another on the Sabbath. His disciples are walking with Him through the field on the Sabbath, and He does not say, Do not pick the grain and eat it today; you know what trouble it will create with the Jews, and that it is forbidden by the law! But they did it, and there was further trouble. And He goes tranquilly on. He is not in the least disturbed. He is seemingly breaking the law; actually He is absolutely immune from its burden of legal obligation. He is free and at rest, and has not a qualm of conscience. Blessed state to be in! If only we could be thus before God; openly and honestly, and transparently before God in truth; with a communion perfect and uninterrupted, and unbroken; with not a ripple upon the surface of our hearts, while we maintained the closest relationship with God. How do you explain it? What is the secret of it? Is He wrong? No one will say that. Did He break the Sabbath according to the law? Well, according to the letter of the law He did. But what was the nature of His breaking of the law?
The Nature and Purpose of the Law
That brings us to the heart of things. For what was the law given? Was it given arbitrarily; because God would impose so many restrictions upon men to satisfy some whim of His? We would not allow that. We do not attribute frivolity to God. The answer is that the law was given in order to secure the rights and place of God. God had primary rights and primary place, and everything had to acknowledge that, recognise that, and work in relation to that. God's rights and God's place could be set aside, and in the universe there existed a great rebellious intelligence set against God's rights and God's place. That great intelligence and power had secured a hold in man by man's consent and disobedience, so that man in his heart, in his nature, in his being, was joined with this great force, this power, this intelligence. God had to move to frustrate the success of man and Satan in their inward relationship for the putting of God out of His place and robbing Him of His rights. There were various ways in which the enemy could do that thing through man. The main way, which would include many things, would be idolatry. Now take the decalogue out of which all the other law arises: "Thou shalt have none other gods before me", then follows "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind (thy strength)". That is the foundation. "Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, nor the likeness of any form that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them..." That is the open, naked form of idolatry, which gives the Devil an entrance to supplant God, and rob Him of His rights of worship, of being the supreme Object of worship. Follow the decalogue, and you find other forms of idolatry. "Thou shalt not covet" this, that, and the other. "Covetousness which is idolatry" (Col: 3:5). How is it idolatry? It is putting something in the place of the Lord; wanting something for itself, for your own possession; a putting of the Lord on one side.
There are various other forms of idolatry, and there are other ways in which the Lord is set aside and His rights taken from Him. The decalogue touched on them. Lust! What is lust? It is that excessive desire which is unto the gratification of self, and if self in the fallen man is not opposed to God what is? It may be lust for recognition, reputation, personal enlargement, success, influence, power, a hundred or a thousand other things; but it is self; self-satisfaction, self-glory, self-realisation, self-fulness, giving rise to all the other unholy things like jealousy and pride. Self is very largely in view in the decalogue.
If you study it closely, you will see that all this is simply God having His rights taken away, and His place usurped, and the Devil getting in. The Devil gets in when there is self, the Devil gets in when there is covetousness, the Devil gets in along all lines of idolatry, and when he gets in, God's place is disturbed, God is ruled out. God will not occupy any heart, any life with the Devil.
All the "Thou shalt"! and "Thou shalt not"! had a hidden meaning. It was not simply: Thou shalt not because thou shalt not! And it was because of their ignorance of, or their setting aside of the secret meaning, the something hidden in the command, that an opportunity was given to the adversary of God, so far as God's place and rights were concerned.
Now when Christ comes He establishes all those meanings in His own Person. The explanation of His life can be seen in this two-fold thing, that He establishes and secures the position of God, and all the rights of God. Here is a Man, one Man in the universe, in Whom God's place is established beyond dispute; fully, finally God has His place, and all God's rights are secured and established in Him. That is the meaning of His fight, the meaning of His stand in the temptations. It was for God's rights. "It is written"! "It is written"! "It is written"! And these things written represent spiritual truths, spiritual laws, by which God's place and rights are secured. If the opposite of these things obtains then God is put out, and God is robbed, man takes what belongs to God, and Christ was having none of that in His Person. God was going to have all, so far as He was concerned. When Christ comes He secures God's place and God's rights completely.
Therefore, all mere forms of spiritual truths can be done away. The decalogue, or the law, the whole law, goes the same way as the whole typical system. All the types of the Old Testament, were only the law in object lessons; that is, the law put into material form. The oral law was: "Thou shalt" and "Thou shalt not". That was all summed up and expressed in a typical system, and so the tabernacle through and through was but an outward expression of spiritual principles, just as the law was. And when the Lord Jesus takes the place of the tabernacle, the priest, the sacrifice, the altar, and everything else, and in Himself fulfils and establishes all that which was signified by the type, He also takes up the law and fulfils all its spiritual principles. When He has done that the tabernacle goes, all the types go, and the outward law goes; there remains a spiritual reality.
Did the Lord Jesus, by anything which He did on the Sabbath day, ever put God out of His place and rob Him? It worked the other way; God was continually getting. The Lord Jesus was liberated from the lower by the higher, and we shall be liberated from the lower by a higher law. Do you believe that anyone in whom Christ reigns supreme will ever do anything that would rob God, and put Him out of His place? You will not need an oral law or a written law if the Spirit of Christ is dominant in you. That is why He said: "Moses said... but I say..." And when He put the "but" there He lifted things on to a much higher level. Moses said, If you do this thing you shall die! But I say unto you that, back of the doing, there is something more, there is a thinking, and if you think, you have virtually done, and are just as responsible! It is a question of the heart, not of the outward performance. Things have to go higher, and when you have the Spirit you are not in bondage to the mere outward form.
Resurrection-Union with Christ
You see how all this brings us to resurrection-union with Christ. We have been stressing that resurrection-union with Christ is the risen life of Christ in us; and that dominant, active. What is the risen life of Christ? It is what He is in living power, energising us. That will always be in the positive way, it will never be in the negative, Thou shalt not! It will always be that God is getting, along a positive line.
Legalism can be very barren, very unfruitful, very hard, very cold, very unprofitable; and people who are bound still by the law are very often found robbing God of a good deal that He might otherwise have. The question is not, What saith the law of Moses? What saith the law? The Lord is greater than the law, in the sense that He gets behind the law to its real spiritual meaning and value, and the meaning of the law is that God comes into His rights and is given His place.
The letter to the Hebrews has a great deal to say about rest: "There remaineth therefore a rest for the people of God" "As I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest" (Heb: 4:3,9). What is the context of all that? What is the meaning and message of the letter to the Hebrews? Is it not that Christ has come, and all the types have gone? He fulfils all the types. The letter to the Hebrews deals with tabernacle, priests, sacrifices, in the light that Christ has come and these types of Him have gone with the coming of the reality.
What was the type of this rest? Well, the land was the type of the rest, but Christ takes the place of the land. Just as He fulfils every other type so He fulfils that, the land type, the land of promise. The promise of the Father works out to the fulness of Christ, and it is a land full, flowing with milk and honey, and with every kind of wealth and resource in it to be appropriated. Christ is that. So Christ is the Rest of God.
All this, then, is available to us in risen life-union with Christ. Is it a matter of the sin question disturbing rest? Christ has dealt with the sin question. We have remission of sins in His Blood. We have deliverance by His Cross. Sin's penalty, sin's guilt, sin's power are met in Him. He has made Himself responsible for the sin question; initially, He has borne all the sins of the past, and all the sins of the future. We may stand into the good of that while we confess our sins. "If we walk in the light as he is in the light we have fellowship... and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us (goes on cleansing us)..." Walking in the light! "If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse from all unrighteousness". He has made Himself responsible for all future sins as well as past, while we remain in union, while we abide in Him, while we walk in the light, which means keeping short accounts with sin, never presuming upon His Blood. "Our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son...." There is no fellowship if the sin matter is not dealt with. "Made peace through the blood of his cross". Through His life we come into the good of Christ's victory in the realm of sin, sin assailing from without.
Is it the matter of the oneness of personality, of life? His Spirit is the Spirit of His oneness. The Holy Spirit's work in us is to bring us into a oneness of being, oneness of heart, oneness of mind, oneness of will with God, to get rid of the schism in us. The Spirit will woo, the Spirit will urge, the Spirit will strive. The flesh will be there, and it will war against the Spirit. In Galatians 5:17 where particular reference is made to the fact there is a grievous mis-translation. The translation runs thus: "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh". One word mis-translated there robs us of tremendous value. The original is: The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, but the Spirit lusteth against the flesh! That "but" saves the whole situation. Yes, the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, but the Spirit lusteth against the flesh. Do you see the value of that? That is all to bring about in us this oneness, this unity, this accord, this harmony with God. What is the work of the Spirit? We know, if we know anything about the simplest forms of the Holy Spirit's work in us, that it is to put His finger upon things which are not in harmony with God's will, and check us up where we are out of accord. And to be filled with the Spirit is to be wholly one with God.
Is it in the matter of legal obligation? Well, we are emancipated, set free, by the Son, by being brought on to a higher level than that of the law. Delivered by a higher law, saved unto rest, and peace, and liberty, because God has got His place and has His rights in Christ, and Christ is in us. There will never be any working to put God out of His place, or take from God, where Christ is Lord; therefore there will be no need for, "Thou shalt"! and "Thou shalt not"! The place where Christ is Lord is the place of liberty. As we have often said, when Christ is Lord, you can do as you like, you can do exactly as you like, go where you like, and say what you like. Ah, but when Christ is Lord you have a new set of likes! There is liberty. The question is not now, Shall I go here or there? not, Shall I do it on this particular day or does the law say, No? Am I bound by the law that it shall not be done today, the Sabbath day? The question is, Will the Lord come into something in this thing? Is the Lord going to get His place in this? That is the principle on which Christ acted. A man made whole on the Sabbath day! Was that to the glory of God? Certainly, it was to the glory of God. Give God His place, and there is life. That is the principle. Is the Lord going to gain or lose? We must get the witness from Him in our own hearts as to the issue of any situation. But if we are simply bound by legal observance we have missed the real law of the Spirit of life. It is a blessed thing to be made free by the Son, and the Lord is getting a great deal more then than when we are in the locked-up position of legalism.
May the Lord again show us the meaning of life as the governing law, and power, and energy of our being; the risen life of the Lord as the perfect law of liberty.