God's Supreme Interest in Man

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 2 - The Pattern and the Purpose

"But now put ye also 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).

Putting On the New Man

Now we will go over the five points that compose that paragraph: first, the retrospect to the Creator and the created, "...created in Him after the image of Him that created him."  This is going back to the Creator and His creating.  Next, the pattern and the purpose of the creating.  Christ is the Pattern, the Purpose, "renewed after the image of Him."  Then, thirdly, the real nature and meaning of the crisis in the life of the believer, "ye have put off... and... put on."  Then the occupation and energy of the Holy Spirit, "being renewed after the image."  And finally, the exclusiveness and the inclusiveness of Christ, "there cannot be... but  Christ... All, in all."

We have dwelt for some time upon the first of those things mentioned: the man and his Creator, the Creator and the created.  We have spoken of the disintegration of the first man and the invasion of schism into human life resulting in the long history of human frustration.  That on the one side, and on the other, the intervention through incarnation of God in Christ to re-integrate and re-unify human life, to redeem man from that state of schism and frustration.  Leading us to the final emphasis, which is really the focal point of all our consideration and concern at this time: the dominant idea in all is God's supreme interest in man.  God is supremely (there is a sense in which we could say "exclusively") fully concerned with this that is called man;  human life, manhood according to His Son Jesus Christ. 

God is not concerned or interested or active in relation to mere things.  We are concerned with things, and we are tremendously affected by things.  What I mean is a lot of our time and energy is taken up with systems, and with societies, and with institutions, and with organizations, and with forms, even in our Christian life and worship: things - the outside.  God is not so concerned as we are with all that.  If we could just cut in there between these interests, we would be saved from so much.  We are almost harassed by the things of Christianity, meetings, and ministers, and forms of worship, how things are done, a thousand and one things which have been built up around Christianity.  I say we are concerned with and affected by the things of Christianity.  God is not: God goes right through all of this and looks inside of all this.  He does not look on the "outside" as we do.  He goes right in, and what He is interested in, concerned with, and seeking for, is man himself - man, a human life that satisfies His creative thought.  He is dealing with you and with me as people. 

As we have said, sometimes He seems to be so concentrated as to single us out as though we were the only individuals in His universe.  It seems as though the whole world is something that relates to us only.  Do you understand? He isolates us by our experiences and shuts us up and imprisons us into a spiritual history in order to deal with us.  Yes, God is supremely concerned with man, men if you like.  He is looking for men in order to make of men a man after the image of Him that created him, that is, Jesus Christ.  The only possible re-unification, re-integration of human life is Christ, is in Christ. And it will be - this is quite a simple statement and an obvious one, but one which we very much overlook - it will be just in the measure and degree in which Christ, the Man, the Heavenly Man, is in us that we shall be united with one another.  Only so. We can put it the other way: in the measure in which Christ is not there in our relationships will be the measure of our schism and the measure of our frustration.

Now let us go on to the second of these points in this paragraph: the Pattern and the Purpose. "Renewed after the image of Him that created him."  We have to focus our attention, our heart's attention, upon the Him Who is the Image unto which we are to be renewed.  So we find the Image introduced, inducted, presented, and He is officially from heaven and historically on earth, presented to us at His baptism, foreshadowing His Cross.  "This is My Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased."  That marks a point at which He assumes His official position as the Image unto which this renewing is to take place.  He is presented, inducted, and introduced into the world before heaven.  The heaven was opened, the Voice said before men and before hell, "Behold".

God made Him the focal point of this universe and all creation with this object: Here is the image introduced and presented, to which humanity is to be conformed, renewed or perish and pass out.  All-governing is the presentation of the Image.  After the presentation or the induction, there came immediately the testing.  It is spiritually important to recognize the sequence, the immediate sequence: presented, introduced, inducted, and then tested. 

You know that there ought to be no break in those chapters three and four in the Gospel by Luke.  Jesus baptized, coming up out of the water,  heaven opened, the Spirit descending, the Voice from heaven attesting.  "Then was Jesus led" of that Spirit which had come upon Him, into the wilderness, to be tempted or tried by the devil, the other central figure in creation.  After the identifying - "This is My Beloved Son" - the testing.  

The Testing

And I want you to note again the inclusiveness of this testing, this time of temptation.  It must have been in the mind of Christ something tremendously important to take account of.  The fact that it is recorded in all the synoptic Gospels, and referred to later in the New Testament, and the fact that Jesus, Who was reticent about speaking of His own inner history, He alone could have told about this experience, for no one else was with Him.  He was in the wilderness alone.  He alone knew about this, but at some subsequent time He must have told it, so that Matthew and Luke could record it to be placed on record. And divulging one of the deepest experiences of His earthly history in this way must surely mean that it held a very great significance in the whole meaning of the Incarnation. 

And that is the point I want you to notice and to take careful account of.  This stands in a position of very great significance in the whole meaning of the Incarnation of the Son of God.  It is so inclusive of everything; every subsequent temptation that came to the Lord Jesus, and this temptation was not the only one.  You remember, it says at the end of this, "then the devil leaveth Him for a season."  For a season!  It is as though the devil said, "I will be back again, it is not the end of this" and how true it was.  Every subsequent attack of the enemy would take on the very things that were included in this one temptation.  In different ways it would come, by different means, along different lines, in different garb, but the same thing again and again in principle. 

And just note them, how true that was.  We have here in Luke 4 a temptation in three forms; not three temptations, but a temptation in three different realms with three different aspects.  First of all, the body.  He "hungered."  The tempter came along the line of physical demand, physical need, and physical interests.  First through the body. And then, failing there, for this Body is already in principle made the whole sacrifice, in His body there was utter obedience, failing there, he came along the line of the soul. He took Him up to the pinnacle of the Temple and said, "Cast Yourself down, for it is written..." The devil can quote Scripture, "for it is written 'He shall give His angels charge concerning Thee....'" but the devil left out one very vital fragment of the statement in Psalm 91.  He did not complete it, he did not say, " all thy ways."  That would have been dangerous.  There are ways in which you cannot even rest upon Scripture, for there are ways in which even God will not protect you, if they are the ways of presumption.  If you are presuming upon God, you cannot claim the protection of His Word or His Hand.  It is not, "in all thy ways."  It is only as all thy ways are in God.  However, that by the way.

Here the point of the temptation was, "If you do this, cast yourself down, the world will acclaim you at once! 'This man has come down out of heaven, we saw Him, He actually lived a life in our midst, and has come down and from the great height, here He is.'  They will acclaim You.  The world will. The world will accept You.  The world will applaud You.  The world will be won!  One act and You win the world; the world, the world. You will gain what is called the world.  You will have the acceptance, the popularity of the world."

That is our soul.  My, isn't it testing?  Reverse that and see if you don't get the world's disapproval, its rejection, its persecution; you do not get a place and a standing in the favour of the world, in the favour of men. 

Sometimes that can be exceedingly testing.  Many a man has to put everything in the balances of loyalty to God on the one side, and whether he is going to get the favour of men and position and advancement and all that on the other side by some way that is a bit crooked, that is not straight, not right before God.  This matter of standing well with the world  sometimes becomes a very acute thing.  The god of this world makes it so: it is a real temptation in the realm of our souls, the soul that wants to stand well with men. The whole of our temptation to compromise is on this - to get an easier way in the world, to get the favours of the world.

Failed again there, the enemy swung round to another angle, took Him up into the great high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory thereof and said, "All this will I give You if You will worship me."  He had moved from the outer circle of the body into that inner place of the soul, and now he has gone right for the heart, the citadel, the spirit - worship.  The place of God only.  God only! Who is to be God?  Who is to occupy that inner sanctuary of man's being?  Well, I am not dwelling upon these three things in particular that I am showing you, but I am trying to show you the inclusiveness of this temptation where the whole man was involved: body, soul, and spirit.  He was tried there. 

You know we are tried, and the Lord allows us to be tried in all these realms.  Sometimes the physical is the realm, the basis, of very definite testing and trying.  It is the laying down of our physical life for God; as He, the Lord said on another occasion, "He that saveth his life shall lose it.  He that loseth it for My sake shall find it."   And that often becomes a physical issue, a real physical issue.  It has been that for many in recent days, and it becomes that for us; whether we will serve the interests of our bodies when spiritual interests are at stake or involved, or whether we will bring under the body and say, "Look here, you are not the master: you are the servant."  Well, it is a realm of real testing.  And, our souls are in the battle, I think it is much greater in the realm of our souls.  The whole matter of reputation and standing and favor and advancement in this world; "gaining the world," as the Lord put it, gaining the world, which means gaining its advantages and gaining its favor, its smile, its pleasure.  This is a temptation to young people especially, and to all Christians, but to young people particularly; whether they are going to compromise in order to really stand well with the world.  And then spirit, the most acute form of temptation, in our spirit. 

Now I have pointed it out.  We cannot deal at any length with these things, but what I am saying is that here in this temptation of the Lord Jesus, you had an inclusiveness of all temptation in the whole man - the spirit, soul, and body, or body, soul, and spirit; and in that comprehensive trial, the Image triumphed and is really confirmed as the Image.

Then we have the devil back again, and, oh, he is back through the closest of His disciples, the beloved Peter, when He was speaking of His coming death, Peter said: "This shall never come to Thee, Lord.  Save Thyself."  Here we are back on the body level again.  "Spare Yourself, do not put Yourself in the way of that."  It came to Him in His soul, "My soul, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death."  He poured out His soul.  And, finally, from the Cross, His spirit: "My God."  Tried to the last degree as to God, His Father, the Love of His Father, the Faithfulness of His Father.  The testing was pressed into the deepest and closest areas of His human life.  It was like that all the way through, but the point is that He triumphed!

But note, what is the heart, the core of it all?  Whether it is in the body, the trial; or in the soul, the testing; or in the spirit, the deepest ordeal... there is one thing in the heart of all, each and all - it is filial relationship with God.  The attesting, the presenting was: "My Son in Whom I am well pleased."  My Son.  "All right," says the devil, "that is the point, the focus point, the focal point upon which I will concentrate."  And what is the essence of true sonship?  It is the filial relationship to the Father, a relationship of love to the Father.  Are you ever tested through your body to doubt the love of God, through your situations and circumstances arising in the world and amongst people, or in your own spirit?  Oh yes, we know a little of this; something of this.  The concentrate force of all satanic power is its issue in whatever form.  You see, the Lord Jesus just went this way, but in His triumph it says, "He was made perfect.  Though He was a Son, He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.  He was made perfect through suffering." - through suffering.

And don't think of that word "suffering" in connection with Him as just being His physical sufferings on the Cross, His bodily sufferings.  That is where Rome focuses everything, on the Crucifix, the wounds, that side of things.  No, no, His sufferings were here, in the realm of not serving His own interests in not even one way at all - in body, soul, or spirit.  And what it cost Him!  What it cost Him so to do.  There were His sufferings, and He was made perfect through suffering.  And then, having been made perfect through suffering, He is installed in heaven, instated in heaven, as:

The Man that Satisfies God.

Stephen, in his last moments, and with his last breath almost said, "I see the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."  Here is the Son of Man installed as the Heavenly Pattern, the Heavenly Pattern to which the Holy Spirit will take up His work now, so soon after this.  The Pattern. There is a Greek word which is only used once in the New Testament, and it is used by the Lord Jesus Himself, "I have left you an example." This is the only time in the New Testament when that word "example" occurs.  And it is like all other Greek words, a pictorial word.  It has a picture behind it, and it is taken from the classroom, and the scholars.  And we know something about it, where the master sets a pattern to be copied, a writing, the "top line" we used to call it.  I don't know so much about things in the school now, but I remember well how I plodded on to imitate that top line in writing, and how much hung upon my success in imitating.  The Lord Jesus took this word, example or pattern, out of the classroom. The scholar, where the boy has been given a top line, has been given a pattern, an example to follow, copying the master's writing. 

You do know the Word says much about "Looking off unto Jesus," - "Beholding Him," but then that does not exhaust it, because I think there is always some weakness - I have found it so at any rate - about this example idea.  Thomas a Kempis and his "The Imitation of Christ" I never found wholly helpful. Ah, every day to imitate Jesus, but what an awful mess we make of this Top Line don't we?  But there was more in the Greek word than that.  The Master not only gave the Top Line Pattern, but He drew some grooves in the clay upon which the writing was being done, because at that time, the only means of writing in school cheap enough to provide sufficient was clay tablets; and so the master would draw grooves, lines.  Now that is very helpful isn't it, having some lines to work on so that you do not go crooked.  But if there are grooves, so that if you tend to go out of the straight, the groove holds you; that is an extra.  That is all in the word, and in the word here: "example."  It means that not only has He become the pattern to which we are to be conformed, but the Holy Spirit has given us, in our own heart, the grooves, that when we do go out of the straight, the groove pulls us back again, something that holds us to the straight. Do you understand?

This is a very simple illustration, but that is the word, the meaning of the word, "example."  That He has been installed and instated as the Pattern, and the Holy Spirit has come to keep us on the lines of the Pattern, to keep us from deviating.  "Kept by the Power of God."  If we go askew, we have something to pull us back again, to get us back onto the straight.

Now I must stop there, because that does introduce this activity and energy of the Holy Spirit in the matter of re-newing after the image of Him that created him.  We will hold that over, but let us again return to the point of all this, that is, the Lord has focused His attention upon us as human beings to recover the image of the one Perfect Man.  And it is in us as people that He is concerned.  He is concerned with us.  As we so often say, "It matters to Him about us, or about you," focusing His attention not upon getting a perfect system, a New Testament order, but people, just people. And we will never have any kind of heavenly or New Testament order until He gets the kind of people that He wants, and when He's got them, or is getting them, then everything else will follow and will have the right order.

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