The Recovery of Spiritual Power

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 7 - The Matter of Spiritual Knowledge

Reading: Judges 2:7,23 and 3:1,31. Ephesians 1:17. 2 Corinthians 4:4,6,7.

Beloved, I feel that the Lord has a very important thing to say to us at this time in connection with this great matter of the recovery of spiritual power. It is a word which, given utterance by the Holy Ghost, and enablement to spiritually apprehend it, I am sure is going to mean a very great deal for the Lord. It has to do with the matter of spiritual knowledge. Remember, we are occupied with the matter of spiritual power, and unto spiritual power, spiritual knowledge is a tremendous thing.

If you will quickly reflect upon the passages we have read, you will see that that is the thing that is in all of them. Go back to the passages of Judges, remembering that the book of Judges represents universal weakness, complete failure and impotence, absolute inability to deal with the forces of evil; and as we have read, one of the things, the basic things to that condition was that a generation which had experimental knowledge of the activities of God had passed away, and another generation which knew not experimentally the works of God took its place. You do not conclude from this reading that this generation knew nothing of the works of God; it would be impossible for them to be in the succession of that generation without knowing, as a matter of history, what had taken place in the experience of their fathers, but the conclusion is that they knew nothing of it experimentally. That is, they were not in living touch with it, not spiritually a part of it. They knew all about it, but they knew not the Lord or His mighty works as present things in their experience. The spiritual reality of that history had not been carried on into their history, and that led to the condition as presented in this book of Judges.

When you come to the passage in Ephesians you remember that you are in the heavenlies, and that the issue of the Ephesian letter, the grand climax is the making effectual in the believers at the end, of what was true in the case of Christ at the beginning. God raised Him up and set Him in the heavenlies at His own Right Hand, far above all rule and authority, principality and power. That is true in the case of the Lord Jesus, and He is there. All that lies between that in the first chapter and the great climax of chapter six is intended to bring Saints to that position experimentally, where their wrestling against principalities and powers is made effectual as was Christ's. That is the issue of the Ephesian letter, that we also in the heavenlies in Christ, in contact with the spiritual hosts of wickedness, know something also of that ascendency over them in Christ. Now then, in relation to Christ's position and our approximation to that, you find that one of the first things is spiritual knowledge. "The eyes of your heart being enlightened that ye may know." Ye may know. "The Father of Glory may give unto you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, His Son" - spiritual knowledge.

When you come to the Corinthian passage which we read, you notice a tremendous thing said there, "That the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God and not of ourselves." What is the exceeding greatness of the power? It is said to be the treasure which we have in earthen vessels. "God hath shined into our hearts to give the knowledge..." It is a revelation of Jesus Christ. That is spiritual knowledge. It is the Lord, of course. But not the Lord as outside of our understanding, outside of our knowledge. The Lord as revealed. The Lord.

All that He is and all that He has may still be detached from us and therefore ineffective. The link between us and the exceeding greatness of the power that is in Christ is the link of spiritual revelation. That is it. That ye may know... The thing that brings all that Christ is into practical operation in us and through us is a revelation of Him. Now we are told here, that against that (not against what Christ is - that is a hopeless undertaking for the enemy. He has enough good sense not to attack that. Not against all that the Lord Jesus is at the Right Hand of the Majesty on High; not against that) against that revelation coming into our hearts by the Holy Ghost, the whole power of the enemy is set. "The god of this age hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest..." Lest that should be revealed to us by the Holy Ghost, and in us by the Holy Ghost; because the enemy knows that once a person, or people, have a spirit of revelation in their own hearts of the Lord Jesus, his ground is lost and his power is weakened. Well, that becomes a practical matter when God shines into our hearts, when it is a matter of spiritual revelation and spiritual knowledge, and so one comes back to say this thing of such importance, that a great secret of spiritual power is spiritual knowledge. This is where we are helpless.

I am helpless ministering, speaking. This is where everybody is helpless who wants to minister in these things. Giving a mental assent to things said, and recognising mentally, assenting that it is the truth, does not imply that you have got it all. We can nod our heads until they ache and still be as impotent in this matter as a child could be. That is the helplessness of the thing. You cannot get over it by talking. It has got to happen, it has got to take place. When that takes place there is something set up for God that is mighty. It is a long journey sometimes from the knowledge of the truth, as truth in words, in systems, in the Bible, in our heads, to the making of that living, mighty, effectual as a very part of our being. Sometimes it is a very painful journey: it is never a journey taken without a good deal of suffering and a good deal of cost. This revelation, in order that it may get through, is withstood by the god of this age. He does not withstand our having truth in a formal way, intellectually, but he does withstand our having revelation by the Holy Ghost, and sometimes he just turns the point just there where the thing said is assented to, and we agree with it, and in our agreement with it we think we have it and we know that now, instead of our going away with it and saying "Now Lord this has to become very life."

There has to be deep exercise on the ground of every bit that is given to us from the Lord. Not that we have had an address or message and it is all very beautiful, wonderful. You know just how far that is might, power, how deep that thing has gone, whether it is in the mind or the very being. It has got to be wrought into the very fibre of the being. Until that is done it is powerless truth; it is not realised truth, effectual truth, not revelation, therefore it is powerless. Again, the proof of the value of anything is in its potency over against the forces of evil, and it is no use taking formulas from the Word of God and trying to apply them in a general way indiscriminately and quote scripture. You cannot take something out of the Word of God just as a doctor may take something out of the pharmacopoeia and try and apply it to any case which has certain symptoms and see how it works. It does not work. You have got to prove this thing out in a very real way. It has got to become a living thing and by the Holy Ghost to touch the specific need to produce results. That comes out of Life.

Many of you will possibly be, in the will of God, going out into spheres of service for the Lord. You will be going out with a considerable amount of knowledge of the Scriptures and of the various doctrines contained in the Scripture. Going out, perhaps, with a great deal of truth, what you might call "light." Oh, I do want to urge upon you, I want to warn you, I feel the Lord wants to say this to you - that that is not good enough. You are going to be worsted if that is all - you are going to be beaten and flawed. You are! The one thing, beloved, that is going to do the work is that that is in you by revelation of the Holy Ghost born out of a very deep exercise with God, the result of a secret history with God in the depths of your being where perhaps through travail, anguish and much suffering that thing has become your very life: has saved your life, has become the very foundation of your eternal hope. That is the only thing that is going to meet the situation. There is plenty of teaching in the world today. Plenty of truth going about, but oh, without judging or criticising, may we not go so far as to say that a very great amount of it is not doing the work, is not registering the impact of the Throne of God upon spiritual situations, and this concerns you and it concerns me. You get out a little more, and the more you get out into this ministry the more heart-sick you will become of your own teaching, of meetings, of conventions; wearied of speaking, talking. Your one groan and cry will be: oh, that the Word shall get through and do something - smashing and breaking! There must be something done by the Word. The thing has to come home to the consciences of the people.

That has ever been the true effect of the Word of God in the Spirit; not merely information to the mind, but the smiting of the conscience, and unless the conscience is smitten the word will fail, and that never happens until the word goes forth in the power of the Spirit; and the vessel, though in itself of clay, must have that thing within, not as something without. I am afraid that you are going before men suggesting the atmosphere of the study rather than the atmosphere of the Holiest of all. The impression made upon them and the apprehension of what you are saying is - "this man has been studying his Bible, reading a good many books on the Bible, has a technical knowledge of the Scriptures," etc. It is no good. It does not do the work. Suffer the emphasis. I am desperately in earnest about this thing. Though it is the truth, it is not revelation, that is in life, in the power of God. Do not neglect the study of the Word, but remember that is only a means of the Holy Ghost, and if you think that to come out with a wonderfully arranged and got up address will do the work, it will fail. It is not revelation. It has got to come through by the Holy Spirit in an inward illumination and, beloved, that does not come as you sit down with your Bible and say "now revelation". That comes through terrific exercises, troubles, deep waters - you must go through things - when you are brought in yourself to despair - then the thing becomes life and you begin to understand the Lord.

You know that the people, the generation through which God did things was the generation who experimentally knew the Divine power, and the generation in utter weakness, though possessing all that history, is the generation which does not know the Lord experimentally. The generation that went through things, through the Jordan, through the knife, and through whom the knife went at Gilgal - that generation knew, and God did mighty things with that generation at the beginning. A generation which knew not the Lord is the book of Judges. I am certain of this, we are not going to be able to carry on unless on the ground of an inwrought revelation of the Lord Jesus. There is more in that than appears in the words. We are going through experiences where, if we do not know the Lord in a real, living way we shall have times which will seem to prove that God is not what He says He is; seem to prove that Christianity, the Christian life, is all a mockery. It is true. You can have experiences which seem to prove that the Christian life is anything but what it is said to be. Prayer! Well, prayer is not answered. What you feel you have a right to expect of the Lord you do not get. You will have experiences that, unless you know the Lord, you will not go through, for it seems that everything in the faith has broken down. It is not a question of externals, but how much in your own heart you know the Lord.

A little bit of true revelation, spiritual knowledge, will go much further than a whole mountain of truth mentally apprehended. I say this is where everybody is helpless to speak of these things. It is a thing you cannot convey to anybody, it is spiritual knowledge. But you can point it out - you can say "This is a thing about which we must go to the Lord." Take this whole question to the Lord, and for us it must never be that we have heard so many things in the Word of God, but we must go back to the Lord: "Now Lord, I believe it, I agree with it, but I know that between that and that thing becoming a mighty operative force working through me out to the forces of darkness there may be a gap." So today we find this situation, that many people have a lot of the truth and very little of the power of it. Not only is the power lacking, but there are terrible contradictions in the life running alongside a lot of truth. It is a matter of our secret history with God. What goes on inwardly, things deep down in our being back of our public life.

Oh, the snare of public life. The snare of public life is this, that in the service of the Lord we have got to have something to say. We will get it, get something to say; go and prepare something, study something, write something, put something together, and say this is the message of the Lord. It is nothing of the kind. It is something we have got up for the occasion because it is expected of us. It has got to be a message for the time and woe betide the man who speaks for God who has not been given the message for the time. We have got to get to the place where we refuse to speak unless God Himself has spoken in us for the occasion. This needs courage, but it means emancipation. That is power. That is the word. If really we see the meaning of this we have got a key to spiritual power. For myself, you will allow this personal word - I am not speaking about something I am getting up for this Conference. There are plenty of other brethren to speak if the Lord does not give me the message, and I assure you that I refuse to speak at a gathering where the Lord has not given me a message for that gathering. You do believe that what I am saying to you is a matter of life and death to me? This is born out of experience. Yes, out of some depth of experience, so deep that if the Lord had not brought us through we would never have got through. One of the most precious things is the question of revelation. Not extra to the Word of God, but what is the mind of the Lord back of the Word of God.

This matter of spiritual knowledge is a tremendous factor in the matter of spiritual ministry and power. I believe that it is that which will account for very much of what the Lord is doing in secret; and let me say again, that in this present time, in this present age, the greatest works of God, almost entirely, are hidden works, a secret thing. The devil's constant attempt through this age has been to draw out Christianity and make it a popular movement, a public thing, attach it to the State or in some way get the mixed multitudes in it; drag it out and make a public thing of it. It is not in this age that the Church will be displayed to God's glory. That is hidden and only the spiritual forces see that. They see it. In the ages to come the Church will become a public body attached to the "State" The Heavenly State! It is a hidden work now, the inwardness of things. Thus you get to Gideon - the vessel of clay, and the light inside. 2 Cor. 4:7. The vessel of clay, and in that is the power by which the forces of the enemy are driven off, by the secret thing they carry in the vessel. That is it. That is the power that meets the enemy. Something you have inside. This can be manifested when we are broken. God has shined into our hearts.

I do urge upon you that you have much in secret with the Lord. Take the messages of the Lord. Take things that are said, to which you give full mental assent; and do not think that because your mind responds to it that you have it. The test is whether it is working. Whether the enemy knows about it. That is the test. It is a tremendous thing, this question of spiritual knowledge, whether it is on the outside or on the inside. That is the question. Is your spiritual knowledge on the outside? Do forgive me pressing this. I am just afraid of this place. I am tremendously afraid because it is a place where there is a lot of teaching. People who frequent this place, who may have been in this place from the beginning, may have got all the teaching, and yet they are still on the outside of things. They are not counting as vital factors. It is ten times worse to be there than to be without the teaching at all. The very teaching may be your snare. Is it inside with you? Is it all counting? Is it serving the Lord's purpose to drive the enemy out? What is the effect of it? What account does the enemy take of it? What is the meaning of the terrific conflict through which we come before there is going to be a ministry of revelation? It seems as if hell withstands, and utterance is stilled - what is the meaning if the devil is not afraid of something? And, beloved, he has got to be made afraid of every child of God. Not because of themselves but because of what is in them by the Holy Ghost. Not what is on them, not what they assent to mentally, but what they know. The very power of the Holy Spirit is IN THEM.

Three hundred are better than thirty-two thousand if the three hundred have got the vessel and got the treasure of the exceeding greatness of the power. I think it is a tremendously impressive thing to note that when you come to Gideon there is a big emphasis upon the magnitude of the enemy. The Holy Spirit does not hide the magnitude of the enemy when He has got what He wants to meet it. So the Holy Spirit causes it to be written: "The Midianites and the Amalekites, and all the children of the East like locusts for number."

The Holy Spirit leads you into the magnitude of the enemy, but what is that - when the exceeding greatness of the power is with those three hundred men? They went out into the dark with earthen vessels and a lamp as the strategic instrument of victory; for remember swords were not drawn - a havoc of the sword was not wrought until the enemy was already in confusion and defeat. It was the light that did the business, and the cry of faith. They had got the thing inside. Well now, the Lord give it to us within. Not that we shall be always studying our own spirit, taking about what we have in our spirit, but let us move in a certain knowledge of the Lord. It is not the vessel, it is the Lord. It is the light of the knowledge of the Glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ in our hearts: and this is the gospel of the glory of Christ. The fact that He is in glory with all that it contains and implies is the Gospel. The Gospel of the Glory of Christ shines into our hearts. This is the power. May the Lord make this more than words to us for His Name's Sake.

In keeping with T. Austin-Sparks' wishes that what was freely received should be freely given and not sold for profit, and that his messages be reproduced word for word, we ask if you choose to share these messages with others, to please respect his wishes and offer them freely - free of any changes, free of any charge (except necessary distribution costs) and with this statement included.