by T. Austin-Sparks
"The new man, which is being renewed 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" (Col. 3:10,11 NASB).
This is the all-comprehending, all-embracing Christ. And here, once more at the end of the Apostle's earthly life and ministry, he brings before the Lord's people that great purpose, vision and intention of a corporate man: "after the Image of Him that created him." The man here, while of course being individual, is presented as corporate. He mentions the many aspects of the great schism that has been wrought in the whole universe by which the human race has been split up, broken up, and put into a state of conflict with itself. Then he says that vast work of disintegration, confusion, conflict, schism and frustration is destined to be entirely overcome and all that state removed in a corporate man, a corporate Christ. All the marks of this terrible thing, which started in heaven and split heaven in two and set up the rivalry in heaven, which registered even in heaven something of frustration, and that is the arresting of God's purpose. It came from heaven unto this earth, and destroyed the unity of the human race, and developed this terrible history in all directions and connections - this history of a fundamental schism in the very constitution of things and this terrible frustration.
Now the Apostle here says that vast thing is destined to be destroyed, and put aside and supplanted by a humanity in absolute harmony, agreement, unity, oneness and fellowship. And therefore, believers are called upon in the process of this renewing, this bringing back the process of renewing by the Holy Spirit, they are called upon themselves, on the one side to exclude all that Christ excludes, and to embrace all that Christ embraces. It is commonplace to say that for this reason, any semblance of genuine true spiritual unity, and any expression of real fellowship and oneness, is the enemy to all that satan has done. Therefore, fellowship becomes the battleground between heaven and hell. It is centered, as Paul teaches, in the Church. This is a marvelous statement, the depth and fulness of which we shall never compass, where but but! Over against all this other, Christ is All, and in all. The principle and law of power, of unification, of integration is just meeting on the ground of Christ, and refusing all other ground. And if people will not come onto the ground of Christ, then that limits our meeting, our fellowship. Not on any other ground at all, not what meets our eyes.
The Lord has done some very deep and drastic work in you and in me in relation to certain things. Those things become anathema to you as you find it very difficult to be tolerant in their presence. But let me say again, we have got to close our eyes to a whole vast realm of things as things, and not allow them to stand in the way of fellowship, if only there is the right ground. It may be a very small measure of ground in comparison with all the other. But if there is just that Christ, that is where our eyes are to be set and not upon the other things.
You will have to read a lot into what I am saying, but you will find, as I find, that if I am going to get anywhere with anybody at all in spiritual things, I have got to focus and determine to keep focused upon what measure of Christ there is there. Let these things excluded be a guide to a lot of other things. I don't suppose that you will ever be very much troubled or bothered by circumcision and uncircumcision. You may not even be very much bothered as a practical problem with Jew and Greek, as such. It is possible you will go through life and never even meet a Greek. And you might, the probability is less, but you might go many days without meeting a Jew. I mean in practical and literal matters, you may not be bothered about this and this scripture taken literally, "Where there is neither Jew nor Greek, circumcision nor uncircumcision," you may not find that that constitutes any problem for you, whether the others do or not, it need not come to us literally for any consideration, but what they represent.
If Paul were writing today, he would add a lot of other things to this sum. He would perhaps speak about Jew and Gentile, he might speak therefore about circumcision and uncircumcision, he might speak about Barbarians, and Scythians and the rest, but he would add a lot more. I am quite sure he would say, "Where there cannot be Baptist and Methodist and Brethren and all the rest of them." He might mention the whole lot. No, no, they just cannot be as such. It would rule out a lot of things, which man makes the basis of a relationship and a fellowship. He would tell you, "No, not one of those is the basis at all." The basis on which and on which alone we can meet, but must meet and determine to meet is, whether it be Baptist or Congregationalist or Methodist or Lutheran or any of the others, even whether it be Roman Catholic, the basis on which we can have fellowship, and must seek to have fellowship, is the measure of Christ. And you may find some in a Roman Catholic. Really, you may find something of Christ, oh indeed you will, in many cases; it may not be in the system, but in the person. And so you just have to say, "Where there cannot be this and that and that, for that is not the basis, but Christ." If I can find Christ, if Christ is there, I must search Him out, and I must make everything that can be made of any measure of Christ that is there and dismiss the other things, God said, shut your eyes to it.
I could give you some very practical examples of this. I am tempted to, but I think perhaps I had better not. But I think you see the point, Paul lists a lot of things, a whole lot of things, which divide men, which are the causes of the schism and of the frustration, because men will hold to this ground and that ground and another ground which is either other than or extra to Christ. We are saying, here in this man, created by Christ, this new man which is corporate, only Christ obtains, Christ only: that is the ground. Now friends, this is not just teaching, this is not just things being said again, it is a positive challenge to us, a positive challenge and a real battleground. And it is not always easy to close your eyes, definitely and deliberately close your eyes to the things, and only focus upon any modicum of Christ that there may be and make everything of that. It is not always easy, there is something to be done and only as we do that shall we find integration, shall we have fellowship, and will there be an expression of Christ.
It is this kind of manhood, which is so different. It is not a composite manhood, which is made up of this and that and a hundred other things, by certain titles, designations, denominationally or anything else. It is not a composite man, Paul is not saying, "Where Jew and Greek, circumcision and uncircumcision, and all these things are included." He is saying, "they are all excluded, they are not to be taken into account; but the inclusiveness, the comprehensiveness is Christ Himself, the kind of Man to Whom the Holy Spirit is seeking to conform us." And it will search us very deeply and very thoroughly, it really will.
Let us ask the Lord to very, very thoroughly deliver us from those elements which only bring frustration and death. If we have a critical disposition, an attitude toward everything and everyone; it is deadly, it is just deadly! It is so easy to get into the habit of finding at once the flaws, the weaknesses, but it is deadly, and it is frustrating. Let us ask the Lord to save us from such a disposition, to see where everything comes short and everything is different instead of taking a more positive line of making the most of what there is of the Lord. I say, this is a searching thing, and a very testing thing. And, after all, the measure of our true Christly manhood, Christly and heavenly humanity, will be the measure in which we do this: make all that is possible of Christ.
This desire and concern of the Lord to have a man after this kind is everywhere in the Scripture. And if you would notice how in a number of cases the phrase, "the man," is used in relation to something of God, illustrating very often, Christ. I will give you one or two examples of what I mean. Moses. Now it says, "Now the man Moses was meeker than all men on the earth... the meekest of men, the man Moses." And in that statement and that definition and explanation of Moses, you have such a clear and wonderful example of Christ on that particular line. "I am meek and lowly of heart" said the Lord Jesus, "meek and lowly of heart." Now the man Moses was meeker than all men on the earth. This is the manhood, you see, the manhood that God underlined. You can say what you like about Moses, and there are many things that you can say about him as a leader and a lawgiver and much more, but when God looks upon him, upon his manhood, He puts the circle around this: "Now the man Moses was meeker than all men on the earth." That is where God's eye is: on the characteristic of Christ - meekness - by which that terrible thing that disrupted this universe, the pride of Lucifer, is undercut in the meekness of a New Man. We don't often think that the mighty, terrible devil is undone by meekness, but there it is.
Take Isaac again as another example. There is that very simple statement that you read, and you overlook and don't mark, "Now the man Isaac was very great." The man Isaac was very great. What was Isaac doing when that was said? Isaac was reopening the wells that had been filled up by the Philistines. It says that Isaac was sowing and reaping. Isaac, as we know, is the type of resurrection. And the resurrection man is concerned with and occupied with the opening up of the wells of Life. He is not occupied with things that are becoming stuffed up and shut up and shut down; dead ends. The Philistines did that, he is countering this work which is robbing the people of the water of Life. He is sowing and reaping, he is on the line of fruitfulness, that is what the resurrection man does. Oh, how he foreshadows Christ in this in resurrection, opening up the wells of Life for the people of God, and producing fruitfulness. That is the way of life; that is the manhood.
Here is another case out of many we could mention: Mordecai. Mordecai in the Book of Esther. Before you are through with that wonderful story, you have it stated, "The man Mordecai waxed greater and greater." You recall the story don't you, I need not remind you of the Book of Esther, "the man Mordecai waxed greater and greater?" The man did, greatness in a man.
But what did Mordecai do? How did he come to that place and that measure of stature, "greater and greater?" How? First of all, he sat in the gate and watched, and found out the evil that was at work. You remember the two who plotted against the life of the king in order to assassinate him? An Mordecai watched, got the information about that and saved the king's life (6:2). Mordecai, it was, who kept his eye on Haman, the wicked Haman. He was watching him very closely in the gate, and his mischief, his evil, as Haman plotted for the destruction of all the Jews, the people of God. It was Mordecai who acquainted himself with all this and watched and worked against the evil which was plotting death; evil working out in death. Mordecai countered that by watchfulness and carefulness, in self-abasement, in a place of humiliation as he sat at the gate.
Now these are the things that characterise true manhood - set against all evil that works in the direction of death; to counter it, to destroy the enemy's plots and purposes to bring death amongst the people of God. It is a hazardous business; so much so that Haman got his eye on Mordecai to destroy him. But here is an interesting thing, and this is so close to what we are saying. Here's this interesting thing, it says that "Haman was afraid to destroy Mordecai." So, he plotted to destroy all the Jews in order to engulf Mordecai! If he can destroy the corporate man, he will destroy the Man Who is at the heart of things. By destroying the Lord's people, you see what a blow is struck at the Lord Himself. The corporate man involves The Man. But here is the point: "the man Mordecai waxed greater and greater," the man, that is the phrase, "the man," manhood is doing this. And so we could go on. It is all very interesting, but it is all so instructive. You come to The Man and look at Him, Hmeek, above all men, meeker than Moses. Yet in His meekness, He is active in two directions: for Life against death.
Now, you see, these are statements that can be taken objectively as belonging to something else, but let us bring them right home to ourselves. What is the effect of my Christian life? Is it, on the one hand, a studied, considered and determined registration against all those things that would produce spiritual death? And is it, like Isaac, something committed to bringing out the life which the enemy has tried to smother in the wells? This tests our real Christianity, and the effect of our spiritual manhood. Meekness, yes, but all working against the work of the Philistines, the enemy out to rob the Lord's people of the means of life, and working quietly, prayerfully, diligently against the works of the devil to engulf the Lord Jesus in a bad testimony amongst His own people.
The Book of Esther, you see, leaps into that one inclusive issue. The last chapter is a wonderful chapter: the Jews are delivered, the Feast of Purim set up forever, the enemy's work overthrown, and it says, "They had a good day." And they had a good day... the Lord's people over against the evil day that the enemy had plotted. But it was a kind of manhood that brought that about. You see through. Yes, the Lord needs His man, not only as in His Son: the Greater Mordecai, but in the people who are according to or after the manhood of the Greater Mordecai.
May I underline something that I have said: that the whole of the people of God embody the testimony of the One Man; and He stands, He stands as representing the Body. And what happens in His Body affects Him tremendously. Well, anything that speaks of death and disruption is set against the Lord Jesus, and we must take that to heart. And let us ask the Lord to put us on the line of Isaac. He is not made a great deal of in the Bible characters. Abraham, yes, Jacob, yes, and we will put Isaac in between, we will sandwich him somewhere, but we will not say very much about him; but Isaac, the man brought back from death, the man who is the embodiment of resurrection, and who proves it by undoing the works of the enemy and opening up the fountains of Life for the people of God, and providing bread for them. The Lord make us like that, really on positive lines. And, also like Mordecai, who are alive to the activities of the enemy, and who work against them for the sake of the Lord's people.
Now I want to close by bringing this where it ought to be brought: this great, this wonderful conclusion of the Apostle to the whole: "where Christ is All, and in all."
I wonder, dear friends, what you covet and pray for more than anything else. For my own part, my coveting, my praying is more than for anything else, a fresh and mighty captivation of the Lord Jesus, a captivation of Christ. Oh, it is quite true, and we know it, that He is our life, He is our Saviour, He is so much to us and we are right when we say that we could not live without Him. And yet, is there not some margin between that and what I am calling an absolute captivation with Christ? That He is a passion in our lives, that He is a dominating power in our lives. Language fails... that He has just so captured us, so utterly captured us, that not only is He our Life in the sense that we couldn't get on without Him, but that He is a passion for living. This man who wrote these words, just look at him in this way: somehow he had seen Christ at the beginning and through his long years he had seen more and more of Christ, until in prison - with all those terrible sufferings and afflictions and adversities and sorrows and disappointments that had come upon him through those years, his catalogue of adversities right at the end; Christ is more than everything. Christ is in the ascendant, it is "Christ will be All, and in all." Now I say, language fails , I cannot put into words what I mean, but oh, for the positiveness of this passion of Christ.
I do not know how many of you may have read F. W. H. Meyer's great poem, "St. Paul." It is very largely an imaginative thing as all poetry is, of course, but there is a fragment, a line or two, in that great poem, depicting the life of the Apostle. And he, in an imaginary way, finds Paul meeting a pagan woman in all her misery, possibly one of those temple women, like the woman in Philippi, the demon-possessed woman of the temple. And Meyers pictures such a woman in her misery, in her frustration, in her hopelessness, and all her sin and degradation, she is before him. When Meyer is telling of all this about her, he puts into Paul's mouth these words: "then I preached Christ. And brothers, if you saw it," he said, "never had my Master been so wonderful to me until I saw what He could do for a woman like that." How she leapt out of her misery, her wretchedness, her frustration, all the horrors of her life, into new hope. He said, "I saw my Master in a greater way than ever I had seen before."
Now I say, that may be poetic, imaginary, but there is an essence of truth in it. What Meyer is trying to say through that wonderful poem is: "Oh, the captivating power of Jesus Christ in the life of that man Paul, the mastery of Christ." You can feel what I cannot say, the desire that it should be like that with us... Christ! Christ! Seeking out Christ, making the most of Christ, increasing Christ, all Christ! "For me to live is Christ!"
You may think that that is true of you, but oh how we fail, how we fail. How little, after all, has Christ gripped us? And if this is true where "Christ is All, and in all" that is the End, that is how it is going to be; how vastly great Christ must be! If He is going to give character to the whole humanity composed of a vast multitude, which no man can number, ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands. Language is beggared to try and describe and if Christ has given character to that, to that in a universe of redeemed humanity, how great He must be: in character, in work, in power. How great He must be!
I leave it with you, but this is the kind of knowledge unto which we must be renewed! Such a seeing, a grasping, an apprehending and being mastered by the Greatness of the One to Whom, by the grace of God, we have been united, called into the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ. May it be more than a mental grasping of Christ; that we know He is Great, we believe He is great, we have experienced something of His Greatness. May our hearts, more than even our minds, be mastered by this Man Jesus Christ and we be His abject slaves in worship and adoration. He is so great!