Filled Unto All the Fulness of God

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 2 - The Recognition of Our Heavenly Position in Resurrection

We have seen that the letters to the Ephesians and Colossians have the fulness of Christ and the inheritance of the saints clearly in view. In both letters a very definite and positive place is given to the fact that the reaching of the inheritance, and the coming to the fulness, is only upon the basis of that which corresponds to Jordan having been definitely recognised and accepted. That is, the Cross of the Lord Jesus on the side of the bringing to a judicial end of all that is of man himself, in the simple words that Christ's death was our death. Not only the removal of our sins, but the removal of ourselves as related to Adam in order that there might be another relationship brought about to the last Adam.

We have used the word "judicial", and that may confuse some, but it is very simply explained. There is all the difference between a judicial death and actual death. We are not, even when we have most thoroughly and utterly accepted our death union with the Lord Jesus by faith according to His own word and requirement, in a position to say that we, so far as the Adam life is concerned, are utterly dead and non-existent because there is still much of the old Adam associated with us. But that does not alter the fact that a judicial death has taken place. A judicial death is simply the fact that a sentence has been passed and in the eyes of the one who has passed the sentence, the death is taken for granted as though it had already happened. God has passed the sentence of death upon the whole race in Adam. That sentence was carried out in a Representative and that One Who represented the race voluntarily, the Lord Jesus, accepted the sentence voluntarily.

The sentence being carried out in the case of the Representative, means that all who were represented have died in the eyes of God. God says: "That is My position with regard to you; My Son voluntarily took your place as under the sentence of death." It could not be otherwise than voluntary, because He was not involved in our sin. He was not in any way by nature linked with our condition. He accepted our place as one who had sinned, yet in Whom there was no sin. God says: "In the moment in which I turned My face from Him on that Cross I closed forever the door to the Adam race. I abandoned the Adam race, so far as it ever had a chance of being accepted by Me or coming into My purpose." That was an eternal moment. If ever we should know what it is to have God forsake us for an instant of time, that instant would be like an eternity if we were fully conscious of it. If we knew that God had utterly and absolutely abandoned us, with all that it meant, that moment would be the moment of an eternity; that moment would be capable of changing our hair from the blackness of the raven to the whiteness of the snow. That is God's attitude to the Adam race, as far as His purpose is concerned. All that He has to say to the Adam race is: "You must be born again; there is no hope for you in your present birth."

That is the judicial death which has been carried out in relation to every one of us, and the point is that we have to recognise the fact in the warfare with the flesh as wholly corrupt, even at its best. We have to accept by faith the fact that the flesh can never come into the presence of God, and then that God has made a provision for our giving expression to that position spiritually. Romans and Colossians particularly speak of that. In Romans 6 it is: "We were buried with Him in baptism." In Colossians it is said that baptism was appointed by God as a means of openly declaring the fact that we forever have accepted God's attitude toward our Adam life. That makes possible everything else. The Jordan was Israel's national baptism into the death of Christ from the standpoint of the end of the life of nature. That is an essential and indispensable thing to coming to God's end, the fulness of Christ. There can be no hope or chance whatever for the fulness of Christ until there has been an acceptance of that position.

Even when that position has been taken, when we have made that declaration and been baptized as a testimony to that, the self-life has not gone; it will crop up, but something else has happened. We have definitely put that thing, in an act of faith, under the hand of God. We have said, in effect, "That whole realm and range of the self-life, of the life of nature, of the flesh, has been put under condemnation and judgment and death; now I count upon God to look after that." Then what happens? Whenever that thing comes up, you find it is smitten at once. You know quite well that if you are walking in the Spirit the uprising of any bit of Self meets with the impact of the Holy Spirit. And you have a wretched time until you have gone back to the Lord and said: "Lord, I have been allowing something to come up that You had judged." That is the way of progress and development. But you see the necessity for the judicial recognition, as giving God something to work upon.

In the wilderness there is not that work, but in the promised land there is. Achan was a survival of something and there is an instant reckoning with that by God. Everything is held up and a terrific crisis is precipitated by one thing. Before the Jordan the Lord witnessed against it, but this is a different situation. After Jordan you are in a new position: in the heavenlies. And here the thing cannot be tolerated for a moment. It is the position that makes the difference. There must be a judicial end to Self; that is, an acceptance quite definitely of the end of man's own life by nature, so that there may be a commencement, growth and continuation of God's life, with only God's life in the ascendant.

See how clear this is in the historical illustration. Joshua represents the energies of the Holy Spirit in relation to God's end; that is, the inheritance, the fulness of Christ. Do you remember where Joshua first came into view? It was at Rephidim, where the waters gushed from the rock - the type of the Holy Spirit becoming the basis of the life of the believer. In the wilderness you are getting patterns; in the land you are getting realities. The pattern is given in the wilderness. In the land there is a working out of the pattern. So that in the wilderness there is the type of the Holy Spirit being the indwelling life of the believer. That is God's thought made known. You do not get that as the living reality until you get over the Jordan; that is, in its full expression.

Joshua came in at that point; where the waters gushed from the rock. Joshua is one with the Holy Spirit, as the inner life and energy of the Lord's people. The two come together at Rephidim. But immediately that happens, Amalek comes out. And it is Joshua who is appointed to meet Amalek. Joshua - the energy of the Spirit - in connection with the water at Rephidim, called upon to meet the activities of the flesh. And through Joshua, Amalek - the activities and energies of the flesh - was overcome. It is the Spirit making war against the flesh and getting the mastery. That can never be, in its abiding reality and in its full expression, until that judicial thing has been accepted: that the flesh is under a ban. God's attitude towards Amalek was one of uncompromising antagonism. "Smite Amalek (that was God's attitude) and utterly destroy". The attitude of the Spirit towards the flesh is uncompromising. That has to be made very real when we come into the realm of spiritual, heavenly life. That is the normal course of experience when you come to the place where you have accepted the end of the self-life in the death of the Lord Jesus.

Having recognised the necessity for this judicial end to Self, the next thing that is essential as a basis upon which God will work to His end, is a resurrection life with the Lord. "We were buried... with Him through baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life"; "If you then be risen with Christ..." It is the completeness in every way of our separation and detachment from the world. You cannot fail to see that in the case of the Lord Jesus.

Relationships are entirely changed on resurrection ground. Mary would gladly have touched Him in the garden, would have embraced Him, but He said: "Touch me not..." In effect: "Things are changed; the holding of before is no longer. A different realm has been entered, a different relationship. Yes! still your Lord, still your Saviour, still your Friend, but a difference. I am not to be held as though I belonged to this earth; I am not to be taken hold of, as though this were My place." "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended unto the Father". The first thing in resurrection is the recognition of our heavenly relationship, not our earthly relationship. All that is heavenly now makes first claim and what is earthly, even in a religious way, has to be put back. (There is a good deal of earthly religiousness, and religious earthliness. There is a good deal in religion, that is earthly and of this world: earth bound and of man). Resurrection union cuts clean and clear of everything that belongs to this world, even though it may be religious. What is only of God has a testimony in this world; it has no other relationship. Its business here is merely to testify in the world, but to have no other kind of tie.

Resurrection represents the completeness of our separation from the world. "If then you be raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above..." In other words, to all that is here: "Touch me not; My Father has first claim." That is a most elementary thing, but it is true. It means that heaven has first and primary claim upon everything, because now all relationships are heavenly, all interests are heavenly.

That is a position essential to God's end. We know quite well, in the practical outworking of this truth, that in the degree in which any believer has a voluntary relationship to this world, or is held by anything of this world, that believer is stunted in his spiritual development. The world is an obstruction to the fulness of Christ. It is impossible to go on if there is a bit of the world holding. Putting that round the other way; it is just wonderful, amazing, and blessedly joyous to notice how those who really do go on with the Lord spontaneously drop the world. That is the effect of spiritual growth. Habits, in which there seemed to be no harm whatever at one time, now have an element of controversy about them. Things, which in earlier stages  even of the Christian life, never provoked any concern, now, because there is growth, raise the question in the heart and the very going on with the Lord solves all the problems.

You never have to say to one whose heart is wholly set upon God: "You must give up this and give up that." Leave such a one with the Lord, and you will find those things go. It is a very blessed thing to see a heart set upon the Lord. You need have no worries in that direction. All the anxiety lies in the realm where the heart is not wholly for the Lord. The apostle's two letters to the Thessalonians are full of joy. He thanked the Lord on every remembrance of them. He could not speak too highly of them or in terms too glowing, simply because they turned from the world unto God, "to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven", and he had no anxiety about them. When you turn to the Corinthians... there is a good deal of trouble. It is the wilderness situation again - a divided heart.

A resurrection basis gives God a chance that is right out to the Lord from the world. All that that means we have to learn. We shall come to things we never expected if we are going on with the Lord. Things on which we were so clearly settled as things being of God, and never for one moment expected to have a question about, become challenged. Not that they were not of God, but they were only of God up to a point, and now there is something more beyond them. And unless we go on to the something more, the good becomes the enemy of the best. And so, because of comparative values, we have to leave what is good for the better; and then later the better for the best. It can only come about as we are really going on with the Lord. But that requires, first of all, that we have made a clean cut and have said: "I am out on resurrection ground. I am out with the Lord utterly."

Another thing that is basic to the Lord's purpose is the necessity for an apprehension of the inclusiveness of Christ as to the church which is His Body. In those parts of the revelation given to us in the Word of God, such as the letters to the Ephesians and Colossians where the fulness of Christ is brought into view most definitely, the thing that is right before us is the church which is His Body. The ultimate thing, the great end, is the fulness of Christ but, unto that, the church His Body is brought into view. Does Ephesians bring in the vast dimensions of divine fulness in Christ? "Filled unto all the fulness of Christ"; "The fulness of Him that fills all in all". What is connected with that? "The church, which is His Body". The church is essential for the expression of the ultimate fulness of Christ. That means that unto the fulness of Christ we must have an apprehension of the inclusiveness of Christ in His church. That is the collective nature of the instrument, the vessel, which is to express the fulness of Christ. Over against that is the impossibility of an individual, or any number of individuals as such, ever expressing the fulness of Christ. The necessity is for a life of corporate relationship unto the fulness of Christ.

We must recognise this right at the outset as a law of the book of Joshua. What is that book working toward? It is the fulness of Christ; the whole inheritance. Is the inheritance going to be given to one, two or three? No! Is it going to be given to unrelated, detached fragments? No! The inheritance is going to come to all in fellowship, in relationship, and it can only come on that basis. That is laid down as a law, and that is the explanation of what took place in the case of Achan. When Achan sinned and took of the devoted thing, the whole nation was brought under arrest, and the Lord's uncovering of the thing was after this manner: "Israel has sinned". It is a terrific enforcing of a law. It is not: One man has sinned; let him be judged and put away! All Israel must come and be exercised about this matter. All Israel is involved; and therefore all Israel must judge it. All Israel was involved in the arrest, and all Israel was involved in the necessity for judging the sin.

This is God's way of illustrating what we have in the New Testament: "The body is one". There must be an apprehension of the corporate, the collective life of the church, the Body of Christ, before we can go on to fulness. We demand this fellowship for fulness; it is essential. Limitation is always brought about by separation. The defeat of God's end is always accomplished by breaking up the Lord's people into fragments. Schism is a real device of the devil to frustrate God's end concerning His Son, the Lord Jesus. He has pursued that course from the beginning. It is very impressive and very significant that when the fulness of Christ is brought into view in these letters, there is such a tremendous emphasis laid upon the relationships of the members of the Body one to another.

The Lord Jesus stands to suffer loss in the expression of His fulness when the saints are out of fellowship with one another; and we can strike the greatest blows at the adversary by a solid, determined stand, when on no ground save apostasy, will we be divided in spirit from our brethren. To fight for fellowship, to stand for fellowship, to refuse a break in fellowship, is the way of defeating some of the forms of Satanic activity. It is quite easy to take the other line. It is the most difficult thing to refuse spiritual division, because all the power of hell is out to bring that about. It is only as we see how much is bound up with fellowship, with relationship and the fulness of Christ, that we shall be able to move on toward that fulness, for the Lord counts upon it for His ends.

This is no organised one-ness. This is not the unity that is outward. This is not anything that can be brought about by agreements externally. This is not the uniting of the churches. This is not consenting to a common agreement of credal expression; this is the uniting of the Spirit. This works two ways. It is necessary for us to go on in the Spirit in order that we may have the fullest measure of fellowship. We do not mean that fellowship is impossible between the mature and the less mature. We must be very careful that we do not allow any larger measure of light (as we may conceive it)  to interfere with our fellowship with those whom we think have not so much light. There ought to be fellowship between children and adults spiritually, but any kind of refusal of light, of the revealed will of God, is bound sooner or later to limit fellowship, so that unto full fellowship there must be a walking according to the light given. The other way round operates, of course, that as we walk in the light we have fellowship one with another. Going on in the light means an increase of fellowship, and that makes the measure of Christ to increase.

 The Necessity for Spiritual Illumination

This comes up quite clearly both in Joshua and in Ephesians. "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you a spirit of wisdom, and revelation in the knowledge of Him; having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that you may know..." and then there is given a list of things to know. And you find that list moves out into the dimensions of the knowledge-surpassing love: "...that you may be filled unto all the fulness of God". Spiritual illumination leads on to being filled unto all the fulness.

Spiritual illumination, therefore, is a basic thing to God's end. We can never come to the fulness of Christ by the mere enquiry and investigation of our own brains into spiritual things. There must of necessity be the Holy Spirit giving revelation concerning Christ. The Testimony of Jesus has as its essential law: spiritual illumination and revelation - through the Word. The Testimony of Jesus can never be something static, something that you take up and say: "This is the Testimony of Jesus" and then put it into a formula. The Testimony of Jesus is something that has been revealed. The Testimony of Jesus is: "I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God." Stephen died for that Testimony. "At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them that journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice..." The inner meaning of that is not something apart from the Word, but something that comes by the Holy Ghost through the Word. That is more than the letter; it is life. It is something that makes you say: I have read the Scriptures on that for a long time, but I have really never seen that before.

The Holy Spirit's illumination concerning the church is a thing so difficult to explain to any who may not have experienced it. But to those who have seen it, it needs no explanation. It makes such a difference on all these matters. You will be able to preach Ephesians, Colossians, Romans; preach all about the church as the Body of Christ; you may read it all in books, and still there may be no real expression of it. Then one day it is as though the heavens opened and the thing broke upon your spirit, and you saw it; and all kinds of adjustments became necessary in life. You can say, "I saw that the church was no denominational or national thing; I believed in the oneness of all believers..." yes, you can say all that! And yet there is something more. That something can only come by revelation. You can have the other, and it will just take you so far. But get that something more, and it will take you a long way ahead. It brings you into the realm of the conflict and cost, but you are out in an altogether new realm. It is necessary to God's end.

It is one thing to say these things and point them out and emphasise them; you say: "How do you get it? We see what you mean, it is all quite clear, but we have not got it!" Well, if you really are of the undivided heart, if your heart is wholly set upon the Lord and you see as far as you can see  these things, and have very definite dealings with the Lord about it; it may not be in a day, it may be slowly, steadily, quietly you begin to move into a new realm of understanding. And you find that your point of view changes; your standard of values changes; your insight changes. It may take months, but at the end of the time you say: "I am changed! Something has happened to me. I can no longer accept what I used to accept!" It may be like that, or it may come in a flash. How it comes does not matter very much, the fact is the importance of this thing - spiritual illumination. The apostle prayed that these to whom he wrote might have it. Let us pray that we might have it, and that all the Lord's people might come into that.

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