by T. Austin-Sparks
Chapter 6 - Fellowship with God
"The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what
He sees the Father doing ... For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all
things that himself doeth... I can of myself do nothing... because I seek not
mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me." John 5:19-20,30.
"When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He shall guide you into all the truth: for He shall not speak from Himself; but what things soever He shall hear, these shall He speak." John 16:13.
"The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death." Rom. 8:2.
"...He also called God his own Father, making Himself equal with God... For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He will." John 5:18,21.
May I, first of all, ask you to carefully read and note these passages of Scripture. You will see that there is a wonderful correspondence between the Father and the Son, and the Son and the Father. That correspondence finds its expression in the little phrase "even so".
What is remarkable in a peculiar way is the fact that the Lord Jesus puts the emphasis upon this: that He can do nothing of Himself. If we allow the full weight of that statement to come to our hearts, we shall see afresh what has occupied us at the beginning of our considerations, that the Lord Jesus voluntarily accepted a position of absolute dependence on His Father. He accepted a position of utter self-emptying. The springs of His resources were not in Him, but in His Father. "The Son can do nothing of Himself." In His own person there was no resource to do things. In effect He was saying: "The source of everything is in the Father. I have to draw everything from the Father. Without Him I can do absolutely nothing." That is something tremendous for the Son to say. It makes this secret fellowship and communion with the Father tremendously vital! But the very need of this complete fellowship with the Father was one of His secret resources.
Now, these are not only facts, but we also see a great difference between Him and other men. The natural man acts out from himself. The hallmark of the natural man is self-sufficiency. He always finds the springs of his resources in himself. We see that in Adam. At the beginning up to a certain point his resources were in God. He drew his instruction and wisdom from God. Everything was from God. By the way of obedience to God he was in fellowship with Him. But then came the moment when he began to act out from himself. By a subtle insinuation of the devil he began to reason out things for himself, until he became deceived by his own will, and mistrust against God crept into his mind. He took things out of God's hands into his own hands. He ceased to draw his resources from God and thought he could have them in himself. That is the attitude of the natural man in Adam up to this day.
The natural man acts according to his own natural wisdom. He seeks to reason out a situation, weighing up things for and against it, and proceeding according to what he thinks to be 'common sense'. He directs his conduct by his own natural wisdom and reason. For some people reason is the strongest part of themselves. The source of things for them is in their own reason, and only what they think and mean to understand has any value for them. All the rest does not count. With others feelings are the strongest factor. According to what they feel they act.
But notice, as the natural man develops in history, the end of this dispensation will produce a natural man (humanity in its fallen state) developed to the utmost. There will be dictators, supermen, acting from themselves. They will be a law to themselves, without consulting others. What they feel, desire and reason out must be done. That state of things will lead up to Antichrist. He will be a self-contained man and represent the sum total of all that is natural - reason, desire, will. He will not hold God in reverence, but will be bigger than God. In him the human race will be represented in its fully developed fallen nature, turning that whole race against God.
What is true of Antichrist is true, in part, of every member of the human race. The natural man moves out from himself, but the result is always death. If we project our own will, our own desires, our own reason into things, however alive they may appear, the result will be death. Only that which comes out from God is Life. In connection with this the meaning of the word of the Lord Jesus is of primary importance: "The Son can do nothing of Himself." If others believe they can, the Son cannot. Here is the tremendous difference between the Lord Jesus and ourselves. He can only move as from the Father. He can only go if the Father leads Him.
Now, the occasion of these words was the healing of the impotent man. The background of this incident gives much light about its inner meaning. Here is a man, impotent for years. He had tried for many years to get into the pool to find healing. But it was in vain. He was utterly helpless. He knew that his help depended on another man. How pathetic he is: "I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool!" His only hope was in another man. And having 'no man', one day Jesus comes this way and asks him to rise. The impotent man did not argue about this command and say: "I have tried it a thousand times, but I could not. I have no strength in myself to do it." He put his faith in Christ. What he could not do in himself he did in the strength of another - Christ. Forsaking his own self he put on Christ. And he found that his salvation was in that Other Man. So, trusting Him he rose up. Christ had become his strength. That is Life.
Now that incident throws much light upon the whole chapter. The Jews objected against this, because they were governed by outward laws. Their demand was the fulfilment of the letter, the result of which was rather death than Life. "For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life". The Jews would sooner leave the man in helplessness until his death, than have the work of Christ instead of the law. Christ was governed by an inward law which was the law of Life, and therefore brought Life. He said: "My Father works, and I work... for what things soever He doeth, these the Son also doeth in like manner." Here is a wonderful correspondence between the Father and the Son, an inward law, a union in life with God, out of which are flowing the works of God, and the manifestations of Life.
What was the law? The law of the Jews consisted in 'thou shalt' and 'thou shalt not'. However the Jewish law was against the healing on a Sabbath day, the Father was not against it. It was the will of the Father, and the Lord Jesus was, in a mysterious way, recognising that the Father was working, that the Father did it, therefore He did it. It was the law of an inward communication and fellowship with the Father which moved the Lord Jesus to take action. He was not governed by the natural mind, nor by the letter of the law; He did not try to reason out what might be the will of the Father. It was the law of the Spirit of life in Him which disclosed to Him the Father's will, which gave to Him that inward assurance of His acts and which resulted from an inward hearing and seeing. He could say concerning His Father: "The Father that sent me, He has borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form." There is a mystery in that relationship between the Father and the Son. The secret source of the power of the Son in that relationship is because it was a relationship of Life by the Spirit.
Now the same relationship holds good for us. In the letter to the Romans the apostle Paul says: "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death." Free from the law of sin. Free from the law of death. It is the freedom of a life in God through Christ.
May I ask you to just stop a moment. Have you really seen this? Has it become an inward reality to you? Do you really see that our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ is exactly on the same basis as His relationship was with His Father here on earth? It is the relationship of a life in the Spirit. Everything hangs upon that. It brings us into a new world. It marks the difference between an outward acceptance of Christian truths and its doctrine, and that which is Life revealed and wrought out by the Spirit. Our relationship with Christ is based upon the Spirit of Life working in us.
Now let us just say a few things as to the outworking of that relationship. It is a relationship by Life and its testimony is Life. Notice how true it was in the case of the Lord Jesus. It is significant how often He used the expression "My hour" in His life. It clearly shows us how much His whole life was governed by His Father. He was led in His actions and movements by God's timing. Sometimes it was only a matter of hours or minutes. But He knew no unfulfilled moments in His life. Yet He was never in a hurry. Everything in His life was timed in a wonderful way. Any time would not do for Him, neither all times. To try and accomplish things out of God's timing would mean death. When, at Cana, His mother came to persuade Him to meet the need which had arisen, He only took action when 'His hour' had come, perhaps only a few minutes later. Again when His disciples sent for Him to come to the help of Lazarus who was dangerously sick, or when His brethren asked Him whether He was going up to Jerusalem to the feast with them. He waited for the right time, for His Father's commandment. In all these cases we see the same restraint in Him. He was not following His own reasonings, but waited for the time the Father had appointed. It was the same with the words He spoke. Every word was from the Father and not from Himself. Timing, actions, words; everything was governed by the Father. "My Father works - and I work."
But how did He know the Father's will? It was not by the hearing of the natural ear, as if a voice had continually come to Him to direct Him. Christ knew the Father's will by the Spirit of Life within. It was the fellowship of the one life in Him which brought Him that inward knowledge of God's will and God's works. Divine Life is not just a gift, a deposit, something to be stored away in us. This Life is a working power in us. It is a divine direction given by the Spirit of Life within. God rules and commands by those means. He reveals His will to us by the Spirit of Life in us.
The Lord Jesus knew the Father's will by the quickening Spirit within. It is just as He said: "The hour cometh and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live." The Lord Jesus was not referring here to the physically dead, but to the spiritually dead; neither was He referring to an audible voice, but to the quickening Spirit within by which the voice of the Son of God is heard. "The words that I have spoken unto you are spirit and are life." It is the power of God working within. God speaks to our hearts. We have to learn to understand God's speaking in us right from the beginning at our new birth. There is a language of the Spirit, and we have to give heed to that quickening movement of the Spirit of Life in us. The voice of the Son of God is heard by the quickening Spirit within. It was so with the Lord. He had that quickening by the Spirit of God in Himself. What is true in His case has to be true for us. We have to be governed in the same way. "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God". Sonship is by reason of our relationship with Him. The assurance of that sonship comes by the Spirit bearing witness within our spirit, saying, "You are a child of God." It is the witness of Life in us. We know in our spirit that we are children of God. We know it in spite of our sinfulness, our faults, our shortcomings. We are governed by the Spirit of Life which is proceeding from Him.
Now, gathering up all we have said, we see that this relationship, this fellowship with Christ, is available for us on resurrection ground. Christ has brought us into this union with Him in His Life. This demands three definite steps which are of primary importance:
1. We definitely have to recognise that this relationship with the Lord has to be in the Spirit of Life, that this is a fact, that it is true. We have honestly and most definitely to recognise that this relationship is that "Christ in us" is a fact, and that everything has to be governed by the Spirit of Life.
2. There must be perfect obedience to the Spirit's law of Life in us. Obedience was the law of Christ's life. He was never influenced by men or circumstances. He did not allow men to dictate His course because they said, "Do this or that; others do it also." This was no reason for Him why He should do something. He never put His decisions before men, for He knew in His own heart what the Father wanted. He worked with God in all things, not according to outward appearances, or what He heard from others, but according to the Spirit of Life in Him. He lived in absolute dependence on the Father, and complete obedience to all His will.
3. A walk in the Spirit is essential. We must not live in the flesh. To live in the flesh means to do things out from ourselves, to do our own will. But to walk in the Spirit is to do all things as out from God, as governed by the Holy Spirit.
Finally, let us not forget that this Life in the Spirit is a progressive, growing one. We do not know it all at the beginning. We have to learn, and in learning we often make mistakes. But as we are faithful and obedient to the Lord we shall be led step by step, and learn how to walk in the Spirit. We have to learn by experience. But the more we get to know the Lord Jesus, the more we enter into the fact of a complete salvation of the fulness of glory in Him for us, the more that Life will grow in us, and we shall walk in the light, and therefore in the liberty of the sons of God.
That walk in the Spirit can be a very wonderful thing in the background of our lives, as we increasingly know the Spirit of Life in us - that secret relationship and fellowship with Christ in Life.
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