The Way
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 3 - The Meaning of Christ's Anointing

"Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him, saying, 'I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?' But Jesus answering said to him, 'Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.' Then he permitted Him. After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased'" (Matt. 3:13-17).

"When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent, rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting... And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:1-2,4).

Now we come to the third of these major features of Christ as the Way, one of which we have just read. Its part and its counterpart in Christ and in the church is anointing. The statement is made, "Jesus of Nazareth... God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 10:38). This took place on the ground of resurrection where the new man after God's mind emerges. We are not now trying to say a great deal about the Holy Spirit. This is not a discourse on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, the many aspects of the Holy Spirit's Person and work. It is just focussing down upon one thing only, that is, the meaning of Christ's anointing with the Holy Spirit. This is the chief and the inclusive factor and feature in the new creation, in the risen man, the new man: that He is anointed with the Holy Spirit. It is that anointing which marks Him out from heaven by God as that which is acceptable to God and can come to Him and stand before Him in His presence. When the heavens were opened and the voice from heaven was heard saying: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased", God was saying in those few words, 'I have a man Whom I can accept, to Whom I can commit Myself, the Man of My pleasure.' And this One is a type of those who are foreordained to be conformed to His image, and the mark, the seal, the indication of God is the giving of the Holy Spirit in anointing.

That resolves itself into two or three quite simple and concise things. Firstly, that this is something which is wholly of and through God; secondly, this is something which is wholly for God; and thirdly, this is something which is to be wholly by God. Let us look at these things more closely.

Something Wholly of and Through God

The anointing indicates that this is something wholly and exclusively through God. Of all the things that God has ever done, the thing which most of all sets forth the uniqueness and exclusiveness of God's work is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Men can do a very great deal and very many wonderful things when they have got life to handle, but when once life is extinct, man has to close the door and walk out. He can do no more. If God does not go in and take up the situation, that is the end for ever. It is God and God only. And so the emphasis is so constantly made in the New Testament, after the Holy Spirit had come, upon the fact that God raised Him. "You nailed (Him) to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again" (Acts 2:23-24).

It was a unique and peculiar intervention of God, the fact that this One is back here alive, and there is no question about His death. We need not stay to go over that ground, to see how very sure His death was made. This is no theatrical set-up, no pretence. His death was real, and the fact that He is now back here alive represents a mighty intervention of God in the whole course of human history.

Perhaps you think there have been other resurrections from the dead. No, there have not. There have been resuscitations, but no resurrections, and there is a great deal of difference between resuscitation and resurrection. The resurrection body of the Lord Jesus Christ is something altogether different from any other body that was resuscitated - raised from the dead, you may say - yes, in a certain sense that was true of Lazarus, it was true of Dorcas, it was true of the daughter of Jairus, but not in the sense in which it was true of the raising of Jesus from the dead. We will not stay with that. There is plenty to be gathered in to give proof of that and to explain it, but it is something which is distinct, which never was before, in its nature. If God does that, it says that thing is wholly through God. The very existence of that is through God, the very being of that is through God, and God sets His seal upon that as having its being only by His intervention and His unique action. The anointing says that the existence of this One or this thing is something which could only be by God and is only through God. That is very simple, perhaps, in statement, but you see that is one of the constituents of Christ as the Way, and it is that which is taken up in Christianity - the Christianity, of course, of the beginning. It is not true of the Christianity we know today, but the Christianity with which we are dealing, with which we are occupied at the beginning, was that.

Here is something which, by the anointing Spirit, is marked out as God's act. No one else brought this into being, nothing else could produce this. This is of that nature which is not of the will of man or of the will of the flesh, but God. The only Christianity which will abide and go through the ordeal of fire and testing at the end into which we have already come is the Christianity which is only through God, not of man's making, producing, organizing or propagating, but something that God does. We have to be very sure that we rest upon that. It is not the Christianity of our parents, it is not the Christianity of our associations, of our Christian education, or of our Christian tradition, of our denomination, of our society; it is the Christianity which rests upon God having done something in us that no other power in this universe could do; that we have received the Holy Spirit of anointing which attests that this is something of God, and therefore God can set His seal upon it and say, 'That is a thing with which I am wholly well-pleased.'

The counterpart of that is in the word - "He has made us accepted in the Beloved" (Eph. 1:6 A.V.). It is a pity that the translators have not given the full translation. They have just left it "accepted in the Beloved" which many Christians have thought to mean 'accepted among Christians'; "in the Beloved" - that is the family of God. That, of course, is included, but it does not mean that. The word is in the masculine - "the beloved One", so that this Christ standing on the far bank of Jordan under an open heaven as the attested Beloved, is the One in Whom we are accepted; beloved of God in Christ even as He is beloved of God. That is the meaning of the anointing and that is the Way. That is Christ as the Way, and that is what makes the church the way, and oh, that the church were like that, oh, that Christianity were after that kind, that all knowing it and coming into touch with it could really recognize and sense, feel that there is something here that is not of man; it is only of God.

But let us not think in broad terms. Let us come right back to ourselves. Is our very existence a testimony to something that God alone could do and God has done, and the witness is that we have received the Spirit?

Something Wholly For God

Then this is wholly for God. The whole history of anointing through the Old Testament in figure, type and in symbol, is related to that which was anointed, being separated unto God, being hedged around for God, being shut up to God alone. This, by the anointing, is God's sole and only property. Various words - consecration, sanctification, holiness, separation, are all the same thing in essence and root. They all mean that this thing is put apart from all else for God, distinguished from everything else, separated from everything else, apart from everything else - it is God's, it is unto God. It is not to itself, it is not to the world, it is not for men. So the apostle puts that great truth into familiar words when he says, "For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf" (2 Cor. 5:14-15). The anointing takes away all our rights to ourselves, rights to our own lives, rights to our own interests, rights to our own prospects, rights to our own arrangements and plans and programmes. It takes away all those rights and puts those rights in God's hands, saying that our future, our time, our strength, our everything, is now in God's hands. The Holy Spirit has come and taken hold of that.

How true that was of the Lord Jesus. Every moment of that brief but so full life was unto God, not unto men's systems, not unto the thing that was there established, the religious order; but every movement, word, every going or staying was by consultation with the Father. The Spirit consumed Him unto God as a mighty consuming fire. So the anointing says that what God has raised together with Christ is for God. That is searching. That has got to come down meticulously to all the points of our lives. Oh, that we were alive to this! No doubt most of you who are the Lord's do consult the Lord about most things in your lives, ask for His guidance and His counsel, but that is just the system, largely the external system, of our lives. There is a very great deal more inside of us that has to be subjected to the scrutiny of God. We have got to get the permission of God to think like that, to feel like that. We have to bring our moods to the Lord, our temperamentalisms to the Lord, and say, 'Lord, is it right to be like this? Is this acceptable to You that I feel like this, that I am down like this? Is this right, is this really for God?' It has to run right through our whole being. That is what it means to be filled with the Spirit.

If you are filled with the Spirit there is no room for anything else - you are filled, that is all, and to be filled means that God occupies the uttermost recess and corner, and dictates about everything. We shall only get over and out of our moods and our bad times as we come into the presence of the Lord and say, 'Lord, I do not believe that this is what glorifies You; that this is of the Holy Spirit; that this is right; that this is in the realm of the well-pleasing; because of that, it must be changed.' You have got to have an adequate motive. If you just come because you are feeling miserable and say, 'Lord, I am feeling so miserable, do make me a little happier' - that is for yourself. Do you think that is an adequate motive? 'Lord, I am having such a bad time, do give me a better time.' Is that good enough? No! 'Lord, this is not of the Spirit, this is not for Your glory, this does not speak of a Spirit-filled life, this does not correspond to the anointing, this can produce nothing for the Lord.' That is an adequate ground upon which the Lord can work. It is our motives that the Spirit searches out, and so the anointing goes through like a refining fire to deal with all motives, all thoughts and intents of the heart to bring about an inclusive state where it is all unto the Lord.

Something Wholly by God

Then the anointing signifies that all is by God. Everything from that point is to be by God. All the values of the anointed life are for God. All the future possibilities of a life from that point on the other side of Jordan under the open heaven, all the possibilities of that life, from that moment, are from God only. Oh, you can go and do ten thousand things with your life. You can be very successful in your own sphere, your own profession, you can accomplish many things without the anointing, but the point is - how much of that is related to the eternal purposes of God and will be seen in eternity? How much of that will go right through? How much of that will appear again with eternal glory? How much of that will have served the ends of God? That is the question, and nothing whatever can serve God's ends that does not come out from God, and is not done by God. That is very thorough. The anointing means that we are given the power to know the things which are of God, and no unanointed person can know the things which are of God. That is categorically stated in the Scriptures. The things which are of God are a closed realm, a closed book, until we have the anointing. So that, what can you do without knowledge, what can you be without knowledge in any sphere of life? Well, nothing is possible if we do not know anything about it; we are just helpless, impotent. And so in the realm of the things of God, the Holy Spirit of anointing is given that we might know the things which are of God.

It means that the anointing introduces us into a new and other world of knowing, and the knowing is the beginning of everything, because you can never do until you know, and therefore the anointing leads on to capacities for doing what no one else can do, and the anointing is given that we might go through what no one else can go through and may be found at last standing when everything else has gone. He is the eternal Spirit. Everything with Him is of an eternal character and nature. The great phrase which governs all this is 'in the Spirit'. "I was in the Spirit", said John (Rev. 1:10); "praying in the Holy Spirit" (Jude 20); everything in the Spirit. It is the great comprehensive, but very detailed governing thing, is this little phrase - 'in the Spirit'. Anything that is not done in the Spirit will not be of any value - from heaven's standpoint, I mean, from eternity's standpoint. It has no spiritual value. It is only prayer in the Spirit that counts, but prayer in the Spirit does count. Preaching is valueless unless it is in the Spirit, preaching in the Spirit. Walking in the Spirit - which means our conduct, our way of life - in the Spirit. It is all to be in the Spirit.

When the Holy Spirit comes in anointing, He comes as the very preciousness of Christ. The very preciousness of Christ comes with the Holy Spirit. That which is precious to God in Christ is brought to the Life by the Holy Spirit, and when the Holy Spirit is there, there is that which is very precious to God. That life, like a vessel, holds a very precious treasure. It is the preciousness of Christ. "This precious value, then, is for you who believe", says Peter (1 Pet. 2:7), so that "He reproved kings for their sakes, saying, Do not touch My anointed ones, and do My prophets no harm" (1 Chron. 16:21-22). 'My Spirit is upon them, there is something very precious to Me there.' You be careful how you speak about a person who has the Holy Spirit; you be very careful what you do with an anointed vessel. God's eye is upon that, the Spirit is there, and the Spirit implies the preciousness of Christ. There is something there very sacred to God and very precious to God.

The Holy Spirit has ever, by anointing, singled out the object of anointing as something before God in dignity, something set up in dignity. The old symbol of the setting up of a pillar and anointing it, carries this significance: something which is set up before God, having the Spirit upon it; set up, not lying prone upon the earth in that undignified position of helplessness and impotence that cannot stand up, cannot lift itself up, but something that has been set up before God. The anointing means that the anointed are set up before God in dignity. You go back over the Old Testament and you see what dignity the anointing gave. These are kings and priests unto God; there is something dignified about this, and an anointed life before God is something very dignified. There is no conceit, no self-sufficiency, no pride, but we ought to recognize that, having the Spirit, there is something there with us of very great importance to God. There is a right sense in which we are very important, in showing men the way to God. It is no use our going about as though we had lost everything in the world, as though we are poor, miserable wretches hardly holding ends together, going to everybody to try and get help, full of self-pity like beggars or paupers. That is a contradiction and a denial of the anointing.

The anointing sets us up in a right sense and makes us dignified and gives us competence, something to draw upon, wealth, standing. The élite of God are the anointed. They are the aristocracy of heaven. The anointing means that. Take that in the right way and ask the Lord to save us from our pettiness, our misery, our lack of real dignity. This is the way. You read the book of the Acts and see that these people were not going about the world begging for help to carry on the work of the Lord or for their own sustenance. They were dignified, and, in a sense, independent people who could in a right spirit say, 'We have got what you need, we do not have to come to you to get what we need, we have it; it is with us.'

The Lord save us from spiritual pride, the pedestal, but at the same time, make us people who know that we have, if I may use a vulgarism, "got the goods", we have got the answer, we have got the solution. God needs the Josephs today. When the problem of spiritual sustenance is so acute, the problem of spiritual bread so pressing, when Christianity does not know, it is for a people like Joseph to know the secret. "In whom the spirit of God is" (Gen. 41:38).

Well, that is the way. You all agree, that is the way. Christ was like that and therefore He was the Way. The Lord would have us like that because we are not straining this application. We have Scripture for it, that "Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God" (2 Cor. 1:21). In Him we are anointed, and so Christianity should be the Way in this sense - a people whose existence is accounted for by God; a people who are utterly and wholly for God; and a people who are marked all the time by things which God is doing; their sufficiency is of God, and it is a glorious sufficiency. The Lord make us such a people of the Way.

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