by T. Austin-Sparks
"But now put ye away all these: anger, wrath, malice, railing, shameful speaking out of your mouth: lie not one to another; seeing that ye have put off the old man with his doings, and have put on the new man, which is being renewed unto knowledge after the image of Him That created him: where there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman: but Christ is All, and in all" (Colossians 3:8–11; NASB).
May I say, dear friends, as we approach the message that is in these words, my real and very strong concern is that we shall touch reality at this time, that we shall go beyond theory, beyond teaching as such, and meet the Lord at the point of deep reality, where His need in us is really met and our need in Him is met. We are in times when the buildup of Christian truth, teaching, and knowledge is immense; and the corresponding reality in life is by no means commensurate. There is a margin, a gap, between what is known and what is lived. And we want to get into that gap as the Lord may enable us, and close it up, or let Him close it up, so far as we are concerned at this time, that truth and life shall come close together, and indeed become one. And that is the object which is in my heart at this time - not to say so much more, however true it might be, but really to touch very vital issues. Now there may be a lot said, but I have one thought and object that is governing everything that will be said. All will be gathered around just one issue, which I trust will become increasingly clear as we go on.
Having said that, let us look at this fragment of the Word which we have just read in verses nine through eleven in the third chapter of the Letter to the Colossians. We will analyze it, break it up, and note the five very distinct points that are touched upon by the Apostle in these words.
First of all, there is a retrospect to the Creator and the created, "being renewed... after the Image of Him that created him." That is a throwback to creation and the Creator. Just note it, for we are going to take up each of these points separately. But number one is this retrospective touch upon the beginning of everything in the Creator and the created, "The image of Him that created..."
Secondly, the pattern and purpose of the Creator in the creation, "being renewed... after the image of Him that created him." The pattern, the image, the purpose, the renewal of that image.
Thirdly, the real nature and effect of the crisis in the life of Christians. Something has happened in the life of Christians, which marks the beginning of a process, a process indicated by these words, "being renewed," made anew, made over again. The crisis in the life of the believer when something happened: "ye put off... and ye put on." That's the nature and meaning and the effect of the great crisis in the life of the Christian.
Fourthly, the occupation and energy of the Holy Spirit Who is doing this renewing work, "being renewed." Well, we are not doing it, either for ourselves or for other people, and other people are not doing it for us. This is the occupation and the energy of the Creator's Spirit. He, Who brooded over the chaos and brought out of the chaos the Divine Order, is the same Spirit now occupied with His own energy in making anew, according to the image, renewing; the activity of the Holy Spirit.
And in the fifth place, the exclusiveness and the inclusiveness of Christ. That is the last statement, "where there cannot be." That's the right kind of exclusiveness, or exclusivism. A whole realm and system and order and nature is excluded: "There cannot be...." But, the inclusiveness is just Christ, "Christ is All, and in All." That's the analysis of these verses, very simple and to the point, but how very comprehensive and how very important and meaningful. Well, let us begin to take them up, one at a time.
The Creator And The Created
Firstly, then, man and His Creator. The Creator and the created. Perhaps it would be as well if we arranged several other passages alongside of this one, going back to the beginning of this same letter in chapter one and verse sixteen: "For in Him were all things, 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 consist... that in all things He might have the preeminence... through Him to reconcile all things unto Himself." The center and circumference of all things is Christ, the Creator of all things.
Then, familiar words in John's Gospel, in chapter one and verse three: "All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that hath been made."
John and Paul are one in perfect agreement on this matter of Who was the Originator of all things.
Then to the Letter to the Romans, chapter eleven. It is always good to have, it is right to have, an adequate scriptural basis for what we are saying. Chapter eleven and verse thirty-six: "For of Him, and through Him, and unto Him, are all things."
And one more in the First Letter to the Corinthians, chapter eight and verse six: "...There is One God, the Father, of Whom are all things, and we unto Him; and One Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom are all things, and we through Him." Well, that establishes this: what we have called the throwback to the Creator and the created.
Then, we have of course, in order to come to these words about renewing, or making anew, or starting again, a process of recovery, we have to contemplate that terrible disintegration of the man to whom these scriptures are referring. Yes, the disruption of human life, the disruption of every member of the human race. We need not argue, I think, from Scripture on this, because the argument is finished immediately when we consider ourselves, and mankind as we know mankind.
We are perhaps more aware today than ever of this disruption, this disintegration in human life, that there is a fundamental schism in man, and in mankind. And schism, wherever it is found, always means frustration. Frustration is the evidence of a schism, a divisiveness in human life and in human nature. And we see this of course right from the beginning of history as recorded in the Bible. All the way through, and coming out in our time in a consummate way, there is frustration in human life. Continuous frustration.
Every new step which is thought to be a step of progress, of advancement, of development, brings with it its own frustrations. No matter how far advanced, how fully developed, how phenomenal the enlargement of knowledge and of ability to do and to achieve; no matter how great, how large, how amazing, the frustration goes with it in the same measure until we reach the point in the world's development which we have reached in our own time when discovery, when invention, when the mastery of forces in this universe and bringing them into the service of man, are terrible and completely amazing. We would never never have believed it only a few years ago. There, right alongside of it is its own undoing and those who know most, are most terrified of what they have put their hands upon. The fearful possibilities and potentialities which they wish they'd never discovered, never known. Frustration runs hand in hand through history with every fresh development and movement. It is there in human life, it is in the creation, and it is in the universe as it now is. And God Himself has taken pains to bring this out for man's realisation.
For instance, the Law as we have it in the Old Testament, as we have it vested in the nation, chosen for this very purpose to be God's object lesson to all the nations, to all the world. The Law! The Apostle Paul puts his finger upon that whole system with its long history, its meticulous application, and he says, "The Law was given in order to show how impotent man is." If ever there was a thing employed by Almighty God to demonstrate and expose the weakness of man, it was the Law. That's the Law of Moses, as it is called, the Law of God.
The Apostle, this same apostle who has made such a terrible declaration as to the effect of the Law, that it has only brought to light man's weakness, impotence, helplessness. It hasn't done anything to save man, but rather to condemn him. That man writes a chapter, a whole chapter in these terms: "The good that I would do, and I would do it with all my heart, I do not. And the evil that I would not, with all my heart would not, I struggle and I strive and I labor and I groan not to do these things, the evil that I would not, that I do. Oh, wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me? How did ever I know that the thing that was right that it should be done? How ever did I discover that the thing was wrong that I should not do it? The Law made me know right and wrong and left me paralyzed, utterly incapable of rising to it, either to say: No! or to say Yes! Oh, wretched man!" Isn't that frustration? And isn't that history up to date? Well, that is the Law of Moses.
You and I, dear friends, are living in a time in the world when there is not a law of all the multiplications in laws which can cope with human nature. Oh, what a time of lawlessness, which is only another way of saying, man's utter inability to answer to the law. Or, shall we put it this way: the law's utter inability to cope with man. There is this schism in human nature, this dividedness in personality, in constitution that works out in utter frustration. That is a word today isn't it - frustration. My word, what a lot is covered by that word today.
Schism And Frustration In Every Realm
And how real it is in every realm; and yet, personal. As I have just cited in Romans seven, the "I" - "O wretched man that I am!" - "what I would do, I do not; what I would not do, that I do." It is all so personal, this division, this schism in me, in the personal realm. In society... I need not dwell upon each of these. Society:- what a disruptive thing human society is! What an unstable thing it is! What a restless thing it is! The competitiveness - there it is, it makes you heartily sick does it not, to see how in society no one can show something new or fresh without the other person eyeing it and going one better or trying to outdo the other. Oh, the many-sidedness of this conflict in the social order amongst people.
In the economical realm, we are not here to talk about economics, but let us put another word in the place of that - it means money doesn't it? The realm of money - surely the love of it is a root of all evil. It is the cause of conflict, of strife, of rivalries, of everything that speaks of, on the one side schism, divisiveness, and on the other: frustration. And never before have the people in the world had so much money, in this country alone. Never before in the history of this country have people had so much money! And never before has there been so much dissatisfaction and grasping for more! Day by day, our papers are just full of this grasping, this scheming to have money, and more money. What does it lead to? It does not lead to rest and peace and satisfaction. Not at all; more and still more! How divided human nature is. You would think if they had so much they would be content, and human nature would settle down and say, "I have got all this, let me be satisfied," but it just works the other way doesn't it? In the economical realm, in the political realm there's this schism at work and frustration. There's a lot we could say about frustration in politics but oh, we are not going to comment.
And as I have said before in the matter of science, no matter how far man goes, whether to the moon or to the planets, he has got some drive that will send him beyond, he will never, never come to rest. This is something in him that defeats him; he tries and when it has got so far, and so very far, still he is a restless being, driven on and on and never satisfied. So we could go on, frustration in the industrial world, and frustration in the national life and frustration in international relations, it is all so true isn't it? Why? Come back to where we started, why? Sometime, at some point for some reason, human nature became disrupted and disintegrated and schismatic. Divided in conflict, even in the individual. We all know the conflict in ourselves. It happened.
The Bible opens with a picture very different from that: everything is beautiful. God Almighty, Who is meticulous and perfect in His requirements and utter in His standards of satisfaction, the Infinite God being able to look at all this and say, "It is good, it is very good." My, it is something that the Lord can look upon one little bit and say, "It is very good." You and I would feel very happy if there was one little thing about us that the Lord could say, "That is very good." But looking on all things and saying, "It is good, it is very good," that is the opening picture of the Bible. Then something happened, disrupted the universe, shot through the universe: this schism and this resultant frustration.
And what is the ultimate frustration? The ultimate frustration is death. There is nothing that speaks more of frustration than death. It says defeat, it says imperfection, nothing finalized in this life. The final frustration is death. They are talking now about science arriving perhaps before long at the point where they will be able to destroy death where death will be defeated. Ah, to imagine such a thing, to say nothing of saying such a thing is to find everything in this universe saying "that's a lie for death has a date with every mortal being, and you will never defeat that one." It is defeating you all the way along. You may, by your science prolong life, add to your tenure, but that is not always a blessing, you know. A lot of people today, the Lord would take them and if by reason of a few more years well... that may not be true of all you very old people, but the prolonging of life is very often a doubtful blessing. I remember many years ago reading something on a sundial in Sterling castle that went like this:
"Our life is like a winter's day,
Some only breakfast,
Others to dinner stay and are full fed,
The oldest man but sups and goes to bed
Large is his debt who lingers out the day,
And he that goes soonest has the least effect."
Well that's not the Bible, not Scripture, I don't know who wrote it, it may be a morbid view of life but there's some truth in it. While it is possible to have a long life with the blessing of the Lord, length of days is no guarantee of happiness. But if they're going to destroy death, they think they can, it doesn't mean that they're going to be benefactors of humanity, it may be very much the other way, when men long to die all the more because of conditions. Well, be that as it may, the point is that the final consummate outworking of frustration is death.
And when we have said all this about this schism and frustration in every realm, to where do we trace it? To man himself. It is just man isn't it? It is this that has happened in man, this devastation in human nature and human life. Indeed, the image has gone. It has been lost. The purpose of the Creator in the creation itself has suffered frustration as we've seen in the light today, the divine Purpose in the beginning is under frustration. Well, there is the dark, the miserable side, but it is so true. And we have to note it before we can get on to the other side, our scriptures here while they touch on that, and my, don't they touch on it, they turn us to the other side: "Being renewed after the image of Him that created him," the re-integration, the re-unification in the Creator, in Christ. "Christ All, and in all."
You notice every schismatic element is touched upon here. Every schismatic element is touched upon in man's nature in verse eight. Then, at the end of the paragraph, all the racial divisions, Jew, Gentile, and so on. Every disintegrated element is excluded in Christ, the Unifier and the Unification of all, beginning in the individual and ultimately manifested in a whole race, beside which there will be no other race, because you cannot have something extra to all. If you come to all, then there is nothing more. There is nothing more than all. And how we underline that phrase in all these passages which we read, "all things." That is final, consummate; everything reunited.
This Son Of Man Is A Unity In Himself: There Is No Schism In This Person
Now, it is at that point that we begin the great positive revelation of the meaning of Christ. And we light upon the real significance of the Incarnation, the Son of God becoming man. "Made in the likeness of man." says Paul, Himself man. And the Lord's own favourite, chosen, cherished title for Himself: the "Son of Man." He loved that name. He constantly used it in preference to every other title. "Son of Man"! His Person, His Incarnation, the very object of His coming out of eternity into time, out of eternity into history, the very meaning, purpose, object, and explanation of Himself as having come from glory, is found in this word: man.
And that is not just a proper name, Son of Man, that is a purpose, a purposeful title. That is a meaning, that is an explanation, that is a definition: man, the Man Christ Jesus; and this Son of Man is a Unity in Himself. There is no schism in this Person, in this Humanity, He is One, not dual, but One. There is a Unity, an integration in Him.
Do you know, the Lord Jesus in all His life here never suffered from conscience? I don't mean He did not have a conscience. Conscience is a constituent of the full personality, but Jesus never for a split second suffered from conscience. If He had done that, He would not have been a Unity in His personality, in His nature, because conscience is always a divisive element isn't it? It suggests strife doesn't it? Conflict... two things. Paul says it either accuses or it excuses. Whichever it does, it speaks of something to be combated in the person concerned. Conscience... why prove conscience, argue about conscience; don't we not know all about conscience? It is this conscience that is accountable for ninety percent of our misery. Isn't that true? "Oh, my conscience, what a time it gives me." Jesus never suffered from conscience, not for a moment. There was no duality in His nature; it was single. One, a Unity; there was no fighting in His nature. No, you see, if there is perfect obedience, there is no place for conscience. Isn't that true? There is no place for conscience to trouble a perfectly obedient life. And He was able to say, as no other part of the human race could ever say, "I do always those things which are well pleasing unto Him." "I do always" - what a claim! What a statement! In a world like this, a Man in the human creation standing up before heaven and earth and hell and saying, "I do always those things which are well pleasing to Him." There is no schism in Him, because of perfect obedience.
And now do you begin to see perhaps a little more to your own heart's satisfaction, why the Apostle was always using one little phrase, and what he meant by it? And what it meant to him? How heart ravishing it was to him in its meaning, "in Christ." "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ." Here the conflict is gone. The conscience is redeemed. In this matter of condemnation - which carries with it more than anything else frustration - in Christ that is gone. There is no condemnation in Christ. And when Paul uses that phrase, it is always, "We are in Christ": "we," in Christ.
Are you a man, he says, in Christ? A man in Christ? A position in the realm of all that terrible contradiction and conflict, there is a respite, that we are put into - a position. In the righteousness of God through faith in Christ, we are in that position. Would that I could grasp it; would that we could all grasp that! It is reality because there was never a time when the saints of God were more assailed and harassed by accusation and condemnation than at this time. Frustration in the Christian life is very largely due to a failure to apprehend, to grasp, the real meaning of being in Christ, this One in Whom there is no conscience worrying. In this One, in Whom there is no schism, and that is the position that we are brought into "in Christ."
We will have more to say about that when we come to the crisis. But, oh! the infinite blessedness if only we could grasp it, of what it means to be placed "in Christ." We are all defeated here, and we have all failed here, everyone of us failing to grasp this initial, fundamental blessedness of being in Christ, of what it means to be placed in Christ, where so far as God and we are concerned, there is no controversy, and there is no conflict. God is not against us, and yet we believe so often that He is. And the devil tells us a thousand times every day that the Lord is not for us, that He is against us. Anything that he can use as a ground of argument to bring us under condemnation. The shadow again of that terrible havoc the enemy has brought about in human life. Oh, the infinite preciousness of our position in Christ before ever the work was taken up or perfected. Our position in Christ, a new Humanity, a different kind of Humanity, in Christ a Humanity that has been regenerated, in Christ a new Humanity has been introduced into this creation, the destiny of which is final conformity to His image, being renewed, made anew after the Image.
No wonder that with all that He had to meet and counter and suffer, He went tranquilly on His way. It was not until that day, that hour, that moment, when, being made sin for us and a curse for us, taking the place of this disruptive creation, then His soul was torn asunder; but not until then was He ever disturbed by any kind of controversy with His Father or His Father with Him. He had tranquility;
Dear friends, I am saying tremendous things to you, but after all, what does this mean? This is after all just the simple truth of a Christian's position by faith in Jesus Christ, where there is no more controversy between us and heaven, heaven and us, there is no condemnation in Christ. You were created by Him for a position and a state like that, and He has come back to redeem from all that contradicts that state, to redeem man.
We'll stop there, but what I want (and I said I had one object, one thought at this time, around which all this is being governed) I want to emphasize this: that it is man that God is after. It is man that God is after, not things, not systems, not orders, but man. He is after human life, He has come to get it, to redeem it, to make it again. It is our humanity upon which He has focused His attention. It is there that we should find so much help in the explanation of His dealings with us. What is it, what is He up to and after in His attention upon us? His attention to us, but what is He up to, and what is He after? Well, He is after a humanity, a man, a human life to be the expression of Himself, His own Image, "renewed after the image of Him." That is the explanation.
We ask a thousand questions of what the Lord is doing and why He is doing this and that and so many things with us; why He is taking this way. And, all the questions are answered in this one thing as I see it. He is after our manhood, after our human nature, He is after our humanity, He is after this creation, this purely and unique creation: human beings, to make them after His own Image. That is why He is dealing with us, sometimes it seems He is dealing with us as though we were the only individuals in the vast universe. It is all so real, and sometimes it is so terrible, so drastic. Sometimes it is as though He has singled us out from everybody else to deal with us. Here is the answer in Colossians three, nine to eleven: "being renewed, made anew, after the image of Him that created him."