The Rule of the Heavens

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 3 - Universality of the Heavens

The end which God has in view is the universal sovereignty of the Lord Jesus, but not only as a Person but as representing a heavenly system. The Lord Jesus has been manifested not only as a Person. He has been revealed as a Person, but not only so but also as a heavenly system. If the tabernacle of old was in its entirety a representation of the Lord Jesus then it is a comprehensive system. If the temple of old was a typical representation of the Lord Jesus, and if you see Him in everything to do with the temple, then the temple was a system. And so these figures point to a system represented by the Lord Jesus, and it is going to be that system which universally prevails when God has reconstructed all things according to Christ, and we must recognise that that is what God is doing.

"According to Christ" is the standard. It is the measurement, it is the character of everything that is in the mind of God. God's new creation, then, is that which is constructed wholly according to Christ. So it is a system bound up in a Person and is to be entered into by all who are Christ's so that eventually the "Body" will reveal Christ as a spiritual system in the whole universe.

If the Lord Jesus has then become representative of God's heavenly system, we have to see everything in Christ as universal in its principle and law to be established by God, and we have got to come into the fulness of Christ. To do this is not just to enter into a kind of circle of fulness. It is that we have to come into the fulness of every detail as God sees it in the Lord Jesus. He wants to bring us into the fulness of the heavenly meaning of every detail of the Lord Jesus.

The Universality of the New Birth

We have spoken about the birth of the Lord Jesus and its universality. We saw that it was not just an event called the "Incarnation." It was that, but it was not just that. When we are born of the Spirit, when we in a spiritual sense come down from above because we have been born from above (although there is a great difference between our new birth and the birth of the Lord Jesus), it is the result of the Holy Spirit, and the new birth makes us heavenly in our origin and in our nativity. When we by the same Holy Spirit are born of the Spirit, we immediately partake of the universality of the Lord Jesus Himself.

Our sonship is a universal thing and when the sons of God are manifested it will be unto the whole creation. The creation cannot get there until God has got His purpose, and that is the manifestation of the sons of God. The whole creation is bound up with it. It is a tremendous thing - this new birth. It is being made far too common. If we only saw the range of this thing, heaven is in it, and hell is touched by it, for it will eventually be the Church, the Body of Christ, by which Satan will be deposed from the heavens.

When there is a genuine new birth, when really the Spirit of sonship comes in, that is the beginning of a history of terrific conflict between heaven and hell in that spirit. The unborn ones cannot know that conflict. Those in the flesh do not believe in a personal devil, but that is its own indictment and carries with it a very great significance. The object of hell is to destroy what is begotten of God, for, when spiritual maturity comes in hell has lost its power. So in the early days the enemy would seek to destroy that which is of God.

There is a Satanic consciousness back of this world system, and it recognises that if what is of God comes in and gets the upper hand, that system is going out. And the natural man in the religious world hates what is of the Spirit of God. You bring purely spiritual, heavenly things into the religious world as it is today, with all its assumed reverence, with all its outward forms, and you set up a conflict at once. The natural man who has come in there is sporting himself in the limelight, where he is in evidence, and the natural man will not have a purely spiritual thing, he will fight it. That is what happened in the life of the Lord Jesus. It was the religious world that withstood Him most. There is all the difference of two worlds between religion and true spirituality.

How important is the recognition of the range and content and fulness of all this. We have got to come into the fulness of every detail of the Lord Jesus and the meaning of the new birth. It is not enough to say, "I am born again." The Lord wants to bring us to see what the new birth is; its essence, its reality. I am quite sure that most of the trouble, the weakness, the defeat of Christianity is to be explained along the line of Christians not having recognised the meaning of Christianity.

It would be impossible for anyone to have an adequate conception of the new birth and continue one bit in the world. The "worldly Christian" is a contradiction in terms. It is a difference of being of the earth and being of the heavens. You could not possibly have any voluntary, happy oneness of spirit with any thing that is in this world system whatever and have any real conception of the new birth experimentally. And yet, see what you have today - Christians who do not see any contradiction in being saved and in having half their life in the world, taken up with the things of the world. It is a contradiction in the very essence of the new being, and until you get some conception of the new birth you will not get that which is wholly according to God. The enemy has through this world system still got a hold over what is supposed to represent God and makes it a denial, and he is holding this up and saying, "That is what is supposed to be of the Lord."

But it only wants the eyes to be opened to see the nature of the new birth. It has in it the power of heaven to shatter this whole world system. The new birth has the power to destroy it, and it will be destroyed in the manifestation of the sons of God because it will be Christ manifested in His church. So you see what we need is that the Lord shall open our eyes to these fundamental, foundational things such as the new birth.

I do not want to be critical, but I am consumed with this zeal that the Lord shall have that which is according to His mind. There has come about a thing which is an exceedingly perilous thing, and that is the mass movement of "decisions for Christ" by organised methods. When you preach the gospel in a popular style and bring in illustrations, stories and accounts, you bring in that which is calculated to stir the emotions, and then you ask for some kind of action, and you sweep a multitude in like that, and they, from that time, call themselves saved people, and half an hour after they know no more of the real nature of the new birth than they did before. They can go on and never know the nature of the new birth and yet they say that there was a time when they became a Christian. I do not say that some of them are not born again, but on the whole it is a dangerous line because you are getting people to take the name of Christ who do not know what the new birth is. They have been persuaded into doing it, and we must understand that the new birth is not the birth of the soul at all. It is the birth of the spirit. It is a matter of rebirth from above which is God's act. The most that man can do is to take an attitude.

The only step we can take is to face one way or the other. The expression of our willingness is to face that way, but the whole thing is in God's hands. It is not for anyone of us to say when we will take any step in relation to God. If God puts now at our disposal saving faith, or anything else by which to appropriate anything which is in Christ, we postpone that with eternal risks. We have got to face up with what God puts there at the time He puts it there, and we have no assurance that we will be able to take that step at any other time. It is the work of the Holy Spirit alone, and we must put to people very, very clearly the real meaning of the new birth, and it is vast in its nature. It is a great thing to be saved.

The Universality of Christ's Baptism

We pass from Bethlehem to Jordan, the next outstanding thing in the life of the Lord Jesus, and see the universal implicates and content of His baptism. You first of all have John the Baptist. He has had an archangel in relation to his birth. The Holy Spirit was involved, for he was to be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his birth. John the Baptist officially represented and gathered up in himself all the prophets of the Old Testament. "There hath not arisen a greater prophet than John." The Lord Jesus said "It becometh us to fulfil all righteousness," and then John the Baptist introduced the Lord Jesus, "Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of tho world." "The Lamb of God," "Behold the Lamb of God." Millions and millions of lambs had been sacrificed but not one of all those was ever accepted of itself by God - only in the light of One Lamb. He gathered all the lambs ever slain into His own Person. The backward sweep is tremendous.

It is at Jordan. "God's Lamb which beareth away the sin of the world." It is the universal sin brought upon Him. Then, with all that resting upon Him, with these final words with which he met the reticence of John, "It thus becometh us to fulfil all righteousness," "all the sin of the world," "all righteousness" bound up in His act. What a tremendous thing this baptism was. It fulfilled all the law and the prophets. It dealt with the sin of the whole world. It settled forever the question of all righteousness. What a baptism! Was there ever a baptism like that ? Yes, yours, if entering into the meaning of that one, if it was a true one. Not your bearing away the sin of the world, but entering into the good of His baptism. With those words He went down into Jordan and was raised. Death, universal, has been expressed, universal judgment received, resurrection life, the universal law of the new creation by resurrection. All that involved, not only the past, but all that is to be.

Then heaven opened. The heavens came in again, and then hell broke in, for the temptation was a part of the baptism. It was not a thing in itself. "Then was Jesus led of the Spirit into the wilderness." This baptism has touched all the past and all the future. How was all righteousness fulfilled typically in the baptism of the Lord Jesus? It is simply this - that God has as His irreducible minimum sinless perfection and God has never accepted anything that is not sinlessly perfect. Can you find it in this old creation? How then is it to be fulfilled? The old creation must perish under judgment and there must be a new creation which is created of God. And so in Jordan He passed out typically and rose again. There was no sin in Him, but universal sin was laid upon Him. The whole question of righteousness has been settled in the death and burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Paul has been used by God to interpret baptism as this (Romans 6; Col. 2:12), the putting away of the whole body of the flesh. It is not a theory of sinless perfection for us now, but there is that for us which is sinlessly perfect, but that is not us in ourselves. We still carry about a very sinful nature to which we have to reckon ourselves dead. There has something come in from above which makes it possible for us to repudiate that and live as though we were dead to it.

I ask you, is that what baptism has meant to you? It is not good enough that you should take this matter on simply because it is a command in the Word, or that the Lord Jesus did it and you simply think you ought to do it. The only adequate basis is that we see the heavenly meaning. If the thing has been entered into just as a form, or because it is a command, it has not meant very much, but when it has been entered into with any spiritual understanding there has been a breaking out of the devil to oppose it. It is not a form or ordinance, but a mighty testimony that brings in the vast realm of spiritual powers.

In like manner we follow through to the Transfiguration, to the Cross, into the prayer life of the Lord Jesus, His resurrection, Pentecost, and His coming again, and we see that in all there is universality. It is not something that happens but something back of which there is a depth of heavenly meaning to be opened up by the Holy Spirit.

Maturity by Spiritual Apprehension a Secret of Power

When we get our eyes open to it, we have got the wealth of Christ, and that is what I believe the enemy hates - spiritual maturity. If he can stop your going on and prevent your taking the next step that God has presented to you, he has curtailed all the heavenly intention of God in you and through you. He has an idea of what is involved in every act of obedience of God's children. He would keep you back from making the decision for the Lord and accepting the operation of His Spirit. He will say, "Do not take that step now." He would cause you to confer with man and so confuse you and stop your going on with the Lord. Every act of obedience to the Lord leads on to universality.

So the urge is to go on. Look at such a man as Paul. He let all things go and counted all his earlier gains as mere rubbish, and still he is saying, "Brethren, I count not myself already to have attained... I press on that I may know Him." What does this imply? Paul says that there was something vast bound up with his revelation of the Lord and his going on with the Lord which might be missed - not his salvation, but something in his salvation. May the Lord bring upon our hearts something of the force and weight of all this which is bound up with the Person of the Lord Jesus as representing God's heavenly system, and urge us to go on to full growth.

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