Partnership With Christ

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 4 - The Attainment of the Goal

Reading: Heb. 2:5-11.

Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, even Jesus... for we are become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our confidence firm unto the end. (Heb. 3:1,14).

Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. (Heb. 4:1).

In our study of the correspondence between the book of Joshua and the letter to the Hebrews we now come to deal with the process, including the principles, of the attainment of the goal, the realisation of the object.

The Supreme Issue

The first thing with which we shall deal is the issue of supremacy or dominion. In the second chapter of the letter to the Hebrews, from verse five onward, that is set forth very clearly as the primary issue. In the very creation of man dominion was the object in view: "Thou madest him to have dominion".

The letter to the Hebrews brings that matter before us in several ways; first of all by a negative statement: "Not unto angels did he subject the world to come, whereof we speak..." That is a way of approach. A negative statement so definite surely carries with it the implication of a positive. If we said anything like that to one another we should wait for the completion of the statement. If I said to you: I did not give to So-and-so such-and-such a thing, you would wait for me to say to whom I did give it. It is but half a statement. It is a negative which waits for a positive; it leads on to a positive. "Not unto angels did he subject the world to come..." That introduction of the subject of dominion, that negative statement, requires something more positive. That which is in view, not having been entrusted in a certain direction, must have been entrusted in some other direction. So we move from the negative statement with the implication of the positive to a quotation from Psalm 8, which is the positive statement: "But one hath somewhere testified, saying, What is man that thou makest mention of him, or the son of man that thou puttest him in charge" (Notice the strong contrast between-"not unto angels did he subject the world to come" and "thou makest mention of him"-referring to man in this connection).

That is one of those very illuminating quotations which the Apostle uses in the course of his writings. If you read Psalm 8 by itself you would not arrive at a future fulfilment of that word at all, you would merely be carried back to the creation and read it simply in the light of the beginning. But here the Apostle takes hold of that quotation from the Psalm and gives it a very much wider meaning, and while it retains the backward aspect, in his use of it there is also a future aspect. Thus the passage is shown to include the thought of all that with which we are at this time concerned, and to which we shall come in a moment.

The next point is in connection with his way of interpreting the Psalm. The quotation from the Psalm is continued-"and didst set him over the works of thy hands: thou didst put all things in subjection under his feet". This is followed by a confession: "But now we see not yet all things subjected to him". It sounds like a contradiction. Surely it does not mean that though things are in subjection, we do not see them to be so. It surely has another meaning. The writer of the letter goes on to say: "But we behold him... even Jesus... because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour...". That brings before us:

Firstly, a dominion vested in man potentially. There is a dominion bound up with man in his creation; it is potential, not actual.

Secondly, a dominion missed, not realised by man.

Thirdly, that dominion falling into the hands of another, the enemy of God and of man.

Fourthly, that dominion wrested from the enemy, by Man for man. The Lord Jesus tasted death in the behalf of every man, and is now crowned with glory and honour.

Fifthly, man called to enter into his dominion recovered in Christ.

That is the drama gathered up in the quotation, and in the Apostle's interpretation of it.

Let us look at that more fully. We have before us (1) A purpose of dominion-"Thou madest him to have dominion". (2) That dominion passing into the hands of the enemy; forfeited by man. (3) That dominion recovered in a Man, the Son of Man. (4) That dominion secured in heaven for man in Christ exalted. (6) That which is represented by this word, "What is man... or the son of man?" Here the Son of Man and man are seen to be partners in this dominion. Is not that the whole message of this letter? It refers to partnership with Christ in dominion: "...for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren"; "Wherefore, holy brethren, partners of a heavenly calling"; "We are made partners with Christ if we hold fast..." Man and the Son of Man are thus presented as being joined in dominion.

The Practical Nature of Dominion

Dominion, forfeited by Adam, regained by Christ, has to be entered into in a practical way by the believer, and that is the matter that is to engage our thoughts. The book of Joshua illustrates this great cosmic conflict. It is a simple, clear, and yet very real illustration of the great cosmic conflict, the issue of which is to be the fulness of Christ in kingly glory. It is wonderful how God has packed the whole course of the ages in miniature into fragments of history. Within the compass of that comparatively small book there is the whole story of this universal conquest, this overthrow of all principalities, and powers, and world rulers of this darkness, and the hosts of wicked spirits. It can be seen how it is done; on what ground it is done; what the issue of it all is; what God's desire is in it. All is packed into that book and for all to read; but, oh, to enter into the real, spiritual meaning.

The letter to the Ephesians sets forth the spiritual nature of this great cosmic conflict; and there are three aspects or constituents. (1) Christ in sovereign headship, (2) the Church in spiritual fellowship, (3) The cosmic forces of evil-principalities and powers, etc. That is the spiritual reality of which the book of Joshua is the illustration. The letter to the Hebrews combines both.

The question that is now before us is the matter of our entering in a practical way into the dominion of this universe through union with the enthroned Christ, in a present, progressive way. That explains everything. It explains why, when people are converted, heaven's fulness does not immediately arrive. It explains why our very coming to the Lord in the first step of faith is the initiation into lifelong conflict. We have been made again. The creation has been commenced anew, and it can be as truly said, and even more truly in this case, concerning the creation: "Thou madest him to have dominion". We talk about being a new creation in Christ Jesus. Change the phrase to conform to Psalm 8 and say we have been made again. Then ask, Why was I created? It is not natural creation now, because that is seen as past, as something that is closed. I am now a new creation, I have been made again! God has made man again in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. He has brought a new man into being, a new creation, with exactly the same object as when He made Adam, "to have dominion". Why has the Lord made us again? Why another creation? Why a creation in Christ, and not in Adam now? The answer is, to have dominion. As it was with Adam, that hardly had he realised his being but the adversary assailed with the object of robbing him of the dominion and frustrating its full realisation, so it is with us: no sooner are we made again in Christ Jesus and realise that we are born anew from above than we also realise that the adversary is assailing. He does not cease to assail, but the further we go the more bitter become his assaults. All this antagonism is in respect of dominion.

When we first came to the Lord, what did we expect? What are we still expecting? Are we surprised, bewildered, because the unexpected has happened? Let us settle it once and for all that the Divine purpose embodied in the phrase "Thou madest him to have dominion", will call forth the most bitter, relentless, manifold effort of the enemy to frustrate that dominion. Every movement toward the throne is challenged by the accuser, the devourer, the serpent, the adversary, the devil.

Though I do not suppose that is a great deal of new information to you, it is one thing to be apprised of the fact, and quite another thing to know how to have the dominion, to maintain and press it to its full realisation in Christ. Our particular consideration at this time will be concerning that.

Preparation Necessary Unto Effectual Conflict

There is a preparation necessary unto conflict with the opposing forces if it is to be effectual and result in dominion. That preparation has two sides or two phases, as typically set forth in the book of Joshua.

1. The Values of Wilderness Education

The first of these is the bringing over into the land of the values of a wilderness education. Most of the Lord's people go through a wilderness experience, though I am quite sure that it is no more according to Divine plan and programme than was Israel's forty years in the wilderness. I do not believe that God intended that Israel should have forty years in the wilderness. If He had been able to have His way He would have brought them very quickly through the wilderness, but it became a necessity from their side. The same holds good in our case. The duration of that period of discipline depends entirely upon how quick we are to learn the lessons. There are very few people who leap with one bound from Egypt into Canaan. Certain lessons have to be learned in order to establish a foundation for effectual warfare against the forces of darkness, and the two things which were carried over from the wilderness by the generation that went into the land were these:

(a) The Exposure of the Futility of the Flesh

There had to be an exposure of the futility of the flesh in regard to Divine things. That is patent from a superficial reflection upon Israel's life in the wilderness. What an exposure it was of themselves and of their utter inability in themselves to go on with God, to achieve or attain to anything. If they represent man by nature trying to serve God and reach God's end, then the verdict is very clear and very conclusive; it is failure. That is a lesson to remember, that if we are successfully to attack the enemy, if we would war a mighty warfare with the principalities and powers, we must leave the ground of nature; we must recognise we have no resource of any value in the flesh. The weapons of our warfare are not, and cannot be, carnal.

(b) The Need and Availability of Heavenly Resources

The counterpart of that fact is the need and availability of heavenly resources, even where nature is helpless and hopeless. That is as clearly a lesson of the wilderness as was the other.

Those are two mighty things to carry over into the land. They are tremendous things when once established. When you and I are thoroughly settled on those two things we have something by way of preparation with which to carry on our warfare. In the first place we need to be settled upon the fact that "In me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing"; that there is nothing whatever in us by nature, by natural training and equipment and achievement, or by any other means, that is adequate for this conflict with principalities and powers. They have wisdom far beyond the wisdom of the wisest man; they have power far beyond the power of the strongest man; they have resources altogether surpassing the fullest resources of man in himself. To get that settled in an experiential way is an essential for meeting the enemy. But, on the other hand, we must be equally established in the assurance that not only do we need heavenly resources but they are available to us for this very conflict. It is a tremendous thing to know something of our resources in Christ as a foundation for assured victory.

That is the first stage of education for spiritual warfare unto dominion. Most people find that they go through a wilderness experience, in order to learn those two things.

What has the Lord been trying to teach us these years by all these experiences? On the one hand He is saying with constant emphasis that in this spiritual realm we are up against forces so formidable that we in ourselves, with our own natural ability, cannot stand against them. We should probably be prepared to admit that at once, without any education, and say, I agree to that! But our mental assent to the fact does not carry us far enough. The truth must be wrought in us. We have to be brought there because, although we may have these strong convictions as to truth and doctrine, and be perfectly right and sound, somehow or other we contradict our doctrine again and again. We say we are good for nothing, that there is nothing in us that can achieve Divine purposes, but at the same time we try. Yet we believe with all our might that we can do nothing. That is perfectly true to life. Somehow or other the very people who say these things most strongly are the people who in themselves appear to be most competent.

The Lord has to lay this foundation to secure certain triumph in the battle. Thus it is the people who have had their nothingness made known to them most deeply in a practical way who become the people most gloriously triumphant in the battle. After all, it is "the things which are not" which come out victoriously in the conflict. It is wonderful how the weak things, the foolish, the despised, the things which are not, are the very things with which God is bringing to naught the things which are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.

Then follows

2. Occupation of the New Ground of a Heavenly Life,

that is being over Jordan, on heavenly ground. Having learned those lessons, having come in a very real way to recognise those two things-the futility of the flesh, and the resources available in Christ-then we are able to occupy the new ground of a heavenly life. On this side of Jordan there is the crystallising of the ground of fitness for warfare. You will find if you turn to the book of Joshua that these people did not immediately launch into the battle. You may say: Surely they are ready now! They have learned the lessons of the wilderness; they have carried over great values from the wilderness training and history; they are over Jordan, and surely they are ready for the battle! But it is not so. The Holy Spirit is governing things here, and there is a wisdom back of a further delay before actual conflict is entered into. The ground of fitness for conquest was crystallised over Jordan, and you have there a series of things.

(a) Gilgal and Circumcision

What does this say? Gilgal with its circumcising is a re-affirming, right in the face of the enemy and the conflict, that there must be no confidence in the flesh. As Paul puts it in the letter to the Colossians, it is "the putting away of the whole body of the flesh". But I think it speaks of the positive side more than the negative. The negative side has surely been set forth in the death in Jordan, where, being buried with Him in baptism, we have put away the body of the flesh. But circumcision at Gilgal has the positive side; resurrection-deliverance from the flesh. There is a negative and a positive side to the matter of dealing with the flesh. The one is its condemnation and cutting off in judgement.   That is one side of the Cross, death-union with Christ, and is represented by Jordan. But now there is the other side, the fact that, risen with Christ, we are delivered from the bondage of the flesh which would cripple us in the warfare. It is the resurrection-deliverance of circumcision, and Gilgal speaks of liberation from the crippling, hindering, frustrating power of the flesh, a liberation which is ours in resurrection-union with Christ.

That is preparation for warfare, and is essential. If you and I do not know what it is to be delivered from all that domination of the flesh, what it is to be free from this harassment by, and constant occupation with the flesh, we are no good for battle. One who is always occupied with his own wretched, miserable self, which is supposed to have been put under judgment of the Cross of Christ; who is still in his mind dominated, obsessed, and going round and round himself all the time, occupied with his old dead carcass, is no good for the fight. The enemy will soon get the advantage over him. He must come to Gilgal and realise that there is a deliverance from the obsession of the old man, in order that he might be effective against the enemy. That is preparation for conflict-a very necessary thing. We sometimes sing:

"O to be saved from myself, dear Lord,
O to be lost in Thee,
O that it may be no more I,
But Christ that lives in me."

That is the positive side of Gilgal, deliverance from self into Christ. He who is delivered into Christ, for whom it is "no longer I" in that obsessing, wearying, harassing way, but for whom Christ triumphant is the object of hope, of confidence and assurance, he it is that can launch out against the enemy without fear, with assurance of victory. Such a ground of assurance is necessary.

(b) The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread

Then you notice after Gilgal and the circumcision they kept the passover and the feast of unleavened bread. Why must this be before the battle? Why is this needed as a part of preparation for the warfare? Again it is establishment in the completeness of the work of Christ in His Cross. This keeping of the passover, the completeness of redemption in the Cross, what we call the finished work of Christ, is the being established before entering upon the fight, the being doubly sure of the ground. It is very necessary, even for believers over Jordan, to have accepted that objective side of the Cross that is represented there at Jordan in the stones gathered out. It is very necessary for believers to be established in their hearts in the completeness of the work of the Lord Jesus before they can enter into the conflict.

You and I must have a perfect assurance about the absoluteness of Christ's atoning work for us. If you and I have any questions, any doubts whatsoever lurking in our hearts and in our minds as to the perfection of the work of salvation in regard to our sin, we are disqualified from the battle. We shall never, never stand up against the enemy if the sin question for us is not a settled matter so far as atonement is concerned. If we ever go back in our minds; if we accept the slightest suggestion that our sins have not been fully and finally dealt with in the Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, then we dare not go forward against the enemy. That is why the enemy takes the fighting force out of so many by keeping them occupied still with the sin question. For this reason they kept the passover.

They also kept the feast of unleavened bread. That is the other side. If we have any doubt whatever that Christ, in the perfection of His humanity and the sinlessness of His nature, has satisfied God for us, the enemy has the ground that he wants for defeating us when we launch into the battle. We have to be settled about this matter of Christ's sinlessness availing for the believer before God. The feast of unleavened bread and the passover mean much more than this, but I am simply touching a vital point in their significance.

(c) Eating of the Old Corn of the Land - Christ in Resurrection

"And they did eat of the old corn of the land... And the manna ceased..." These things are in the right order. First, we must get rid of the curse of ourselves and be established in the completeness of Christ's atoning and redemptive work before God, and when that has been done we are ready to feed upon Christ in heaven. "The manna ceased"-that is the wilderness side of things. Now it is the old corn of the land; Christ in resurrection. How necessary it is to feed upon the old corn of the land in preparation for the battle.

I wonder if you are able to follow all this symbolism. If we bring it all into terms of that which ought to be our experience, and which is the experience of some, it simply means this, that the Lord has taken us through experiences in which, on the one hand, He has made it very necessary, and on the other hand, He has made it very forcibly true, that by His Cross we can be delivered from ourselves; He has settled for us the sin question by His offering of Himself without spot unto God, and He has settled for us the righteousness question. It means further that He has taught us something of what living on Himself in heaven means.

It is a wonderful thing to know the secret heavenly resources in Christ for the believer on earth. Every resource He had in the Father that made His life here one of victory is available to us in the same way in Himself. Do you know anything about that blessed truth? These are glorious realities, that here we can live out from a risen and ascended Christ, drawing upon His life. We have to learn to do that, and unless we do we are no good for the battle. This is preparation for the warfare. We cannot really launch out in a direct way against the powers of darkness unless these things are true of us. The people who do will soon be broken. So the Lord takes pains to give us this education in this practical preparation for warfare.

Let us go over it again in a simple way. There must be deliverance from the obsession of the old man; self, self occupation, the problem of ourselves, the interminable endeavour to solve the problem of ourselves. Do you know how the Lord solved that problem? He took us into a grave; to bury it is the only way to dis-entangle it. You may take it that we are an unsolvable problem in ourselves, and the only way of dealing with the problem of ourselves is to die. That is the conclusion men very often come to in a literal way. They find themselves in such ruin that they cannot find any way out for themselves, and they seek to end things that way. Death is the only solution, the only way out. But the Lord has a better way than that: through death to be delivered from ourselves into Christ. Thank God for the fulness and the finality of His handling of our sin question. When the Lord buries a thing it is beyond finding. When the Lord says that He has put our sins behind His back and blotted them out as a thick cloud, they will take a long time to find. Many people are still trying to find them. The Lord says: Do not touch them; I have put them away! Oh, to come into the rest of that! You will be able to fight when you come there. As to any righteousness that God requires in us, He provided it in His Son, in the sinlessness of that One typified in the unleavened bread. Let us be settled regarding that. It is a factor for victory.

It is when we come to that settled place that we know how to live here as out from Christ in heaven. Of course we shall never live out from Christ in heaven, upon our heavenly resources in Him, His heavenly life, if all the time we are looking around in this old thing. I need life. I have not that life in myself, but it is in Christ for me every day. I have only to live one day at a time, but each day I can live on the life which is out from Christ. There is life for today from above. There is strength for today. There is wisdom for today. There is resource which will result in my getting through today without being submerged and swamped. It means much more than that, of course. Sometimes the situations are very acute. We are conscious not only of being weak, but are in despair; we are conscious of the thing pressing upon us in such a way that we realise our utter helplessness. The Lord teaches us wonderful things in such times, and it is true that there we may know the wonders of the Lord. It is a wonderful thing to be really able to say out of your own heart, without any fear of anything or anyone giving the lie to what you say: I know what it is to live by the risen life of the Lord Jesus, to be delivered again and again by that risen life from death and the powers of death. It is a great thing to be in that position.

Now that is all ground for warfare, and given that ground we can come to Jericho, and go on from Jericho, right on victoriously.

Now let us gather that all up in one direct word of application, especially to those who may be led of the Lord into places where in a special way they stand to represent the Lord and His testimony and His interests against the forces of evil which have so much at their command. I am thinking of the younger brethren and sisters who may perhaps be going abroad into other lands, where the Devil has so much in his hands. Very acute will the issue become as to who is to have the dominion-Christ as represented by you there, or the Devil. And then the forces of evil will concentrate with one determination to quench, break, destroy your testimony there, and to clear you out or to leave you in ruin, their desire being to gloat over the downfall of the Lord Jesus in that place, the dishonouring of His Name. It will be like that, and you need something more than simply to take the Gospel to the heathen. I do not say that lightly, but you need something more. You will find that you will not be there very long before you need to know a position of dominion over the powers of darkness back of the heathen, and sometimes in the heathen, and in everything that circles around and presses upon you nakedly from the forces of darkness, of death, of iniquity; terrific powers. They are all intended to crush you, press you right out, and make your going on impossible. You will need to know something of dominion over the powers of darkness. And for that knowledge you need something more than a Bible course; you need a deep, deep training in the school of God, where you have been poured out in all your own natural resource and brought to an end, in order that you might discover your resources in God; where you have, in a very deep and terrific way, been brought to the place where if Christ has not settled the sin question, then the situation is hopeless; if Christ has not settled the righteousness question, then it is no use going on; if Christ has not settled the self question, then there is no prospect. You will need to be brought to the place where you know with certainty that those things are settled, and you know something of living upon Christ in heaven. That kind of training is not obtained in a day or a week or a month. There is something more required than merely to know the terms of the Gospel, to announce them to lost souls. You must know how to meet all that lies behind those lost souls, for your wrestling will be "...not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers..."

Our present need is greater than ever it was, the need to know the secrets of dominion, of taking the kingdom; the need of knowing how we may, in Christ, wrest dominion from the enemy. That is the deepest thing that you and I have to know, and I feel that it is perhaps the most vital word of all that we have said at this time, a word more needed than anything else. I urge upon you to recognise that again; recognise what the enemy has been trying to do; the meaning from his point of view of what you have been going through; and then recognise to what God has been trying to bring you, and that every fresh position of well-nigh despair has as its way out a fresh standing up on your feet in the name of the Lord against the forces which are seeking to press you out. You will need to come to such a stand. I can speak from a fair experience in this matter, and have known again and again what it is to be brought to the place where it seemed that another step was totally impossible by reason of the sheer, deadly, devilish pressing of the enemy to a standstill, and the consciousness of facing the most serious situations. It is made perfectly clear that the only way out and through, if you are not going under is to stand up in the name of the Lord and directly meet the enemy behind all this; to stop thinking in terms of adverse circumstances; to cease all that mental going round the thing, and recognise that the Devil is behind it all, and it is he who is seeking to crush you out, and your only way is to stand up to him in the name of the Lord. Perhaps you have been that way, but if not I assure you it is true. Sometimes we prolong the agony because we do not remember how it has been before, but then the Lord brings it to us suddenly, and He says: You will have to get on your feet, and stand up to the enemy, and in My name resist and definitely command the Devil off the ground. I have many, many times found that attitude to be the breaking of the whole situation, and the way through and on instead of under.

Remember that it is not mere circumstances, not mere flesh and blood that are against you. There is something more, and it is unto this dominion that we are called in partnership with Christ. The saints have to enter into it in a practical way. It is not theory; it is a practical thing. Oh, for the grace to recognise the issues. We must either quit the battle, or go on. That is becoming more and more definitely the issue without any other alternatives. It is either under, or it is over; and the issue will be successfully decided not by our calling upon the Lord to deliver and help us, but by our standing up on both feet and in the name of the Lord resisting the Devil.

If you do not understand that do not worry about it. Let it lodge in your heart, and the Lord will call it up in a time of need. Some of us know quite well what it means. The Lord lead us into His full dominion.

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