by T. Austin-Sparks
So far we have done little more than emphasise the fact that the
supreme concern of the Lord is with the spirit of His children, for
it is there that the fact and nature of sonship has its beginning,
its growth, and its expression. We shall see more about this later,
but for the moment it will be as well if we dwell a little longer
upon the nature of the spirit. The body, we know, has its own
threefold components. The soul also is a trinity, i.e., reason,
emotion, and volition. We have also shown that the spirit is
tripartite. Its main departments or faculties being conscience,
worship (or communion with that which is Spirit) and intuition.
Let us re-emphasise that while all men have these to a greater or less degree of consciousness this does not set aside the fact that all are "dead" in trespasses and sins apart from the new birth. There is no salvation in the New Testament sense of the word in having a conscience very much alive, or in being keenly attuned to the spiritual; and it is no argument that Divine revelation has been imparted because intuitions have eventually proved true. All this only shows that all men have a spirit which acts independently of the rest of their being. For the spirit in its different faculties to be the instrument of Divine purposes it has, as we have said, to be joined to the Lord, and the uniting factors are:-
1. The indwelling life of God as a gift at new birth.
2. The indwelling Spirit of God as the intelligent, executive member of the Godhead.
There are many passages in the scriptures which indicate the difference between the outer "I" of the soul and the inner "I" of the spirit. For instance Paul says "my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful," 1 Corinthians 14:14.
Then in 1 Corinthians 2 the Apostle says that "The psychical (soul) man receiveth not, neither can he know the things of the Spirit of God, but God reveals them to the spiritual (or spirit) ones, and only the spirit ones discern them!
This distinction is very marked in Paul's recounting of the reception of his special revelation. "I will come to revelations of the Lord. I (the outer man) knew a man (the inner man) in Christ above fourteen years ago, whether in the body I (the outer man) cannot tell; or whether out of the body I (the outer man) cannot tell; God knoweth, such an one (the inner man) caught up to the third heaven. And I (the outer man) knew such a man, (the inner man) whether in the body or out of the body, I (the outer man) cannot tell: God knoweth. How that he (the inner man) was caught up to Paradise, and heard unspeakable words which it is not lawful for a man (the outer man) to utter. Of such an one (the inner man) I (the outer man) will glory; yet of myself (the outer man) I (the outer man) will not glory."
Here we see, amongst other things, that, unless the Lord gives the gift of utterance the things revealed to the spirit cannot be expressed by the outer man. In another place the Apostle asked the prayers of the Lord's people that he might have "utterance."
Many other instances might be given, such as "I delight in the law of God after the inward man," and Romans 7 as a whole, but this is sufficient to lead such as desire to do so to follow this truth through. Here are one or two references: 1 Cor. 16:17,18; 1 Cor. 6:20; Rom. 8:16; 1 Cor. 5:5; 1 Cor. 7:34; Heb. 12:22.
Now we proceed to speak of the Lord's special concern with the inner man. Firstly we must realise that His supreme quest is for sons of His Spirit. The underlying and all inclusive truth of what has come to be called the "parable of the Prodigal Son," is the transition from one kind of sonship, e.g., on the ground of law, to another, e.g., that on the ground of grace. From the flesh to the Spirit. There is a sonship of God by creation on the basis of law. In this sense "we are all the offspring of God." But by "the fall," the "going astray" or "deviating" (Genesis 6:3), all the Divine purposes and possibilities of that relationship have broken down, and that relationship is no longer of value. "He has become flesh," hence is "separated from God," in "a far country," and "dead," as well as "lost." Here grace enters and the Spirit through grace. The Spirit begins operations in that realm of death and distance, convicting of sin "against heaven" (the only adequate conviction), compassing the end of the works of the flesh in despair and destruction, constraining, assuring, producing penitence and confession, and at length bringing to the place of forgiveness and acceptance. From death unto life, but not the same life as before, there is no "again" in the original of the last clause of Luke 15, it is a life which never was before. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."
This man is the product of the travail and energising of the Spirit, and everything in the relationship afterward is new. A "new robe," the robe of Divine righteousness. "New Shoes," a walk and a way in the Spirit. Rom. 8:2,4. A ring, the symbol of authority, the jurisdiction of sons John 1:12,13. The fatted calf; food such as never was before, the best of the Father's house. Each of these points has in the scriptures a whole system of teaching. The spirit of man being then the place of the new birth and the seat of this only true sonship (Galatians 4:5-6), it also therefore being, "The new, man" - for it is "in the newness of the Spirit" that we are to live (Romans 7:6 etc.) - here it is that all the operations of God in our education, fellowship, and co-operation have their base.
The only knowledge of God which is of spiritual value for ourselves or for others is that which we have by revelation of the Holy Spirit within our own spirit. God never explains Himself in the first instance to man's reason. Man can never know God in the first instance by his reason. Christianity is a revelation or it is nothing, and it has to come by revelation to every new child of God, or their faith rests upon a foundation which will not stand in the day of the ordeal.
"The Christian Faith" embraced as a philosophy or a system of truth, or as a system of moral or ethical doctrine may carry the stimulus of a great ideal, but it will not result in the regeneration of the life, and the new birth of the spirit. There are multitudes of such "Christians" (?) in the world today, but their spiritual effectiveness is nil.
The apostle Paul makes it very clear that the secret of everything in his life and service was the fact that he received his Gospel "by revelation." We may even know the Bible most perfectly as a book and be spiritually dead and ineffective. When the scriptures say so much about the knowledge of God and the Truth as the basis of Eternal life, being set free, doing exploits, etc., they also affirm that "man cannot by searching find out God," and they make it abundantly clear that it is knowledge in the spirit, not in the natural mind.
Now it is just here that we come to recognise the nature of spiritual knowledge. How does God know things, by what means does He come to His decisions, on what basis of knowledge does He run the universe? Is it by reasoning inductively, deductively, philosophically, logically, comparatively? Does He think things out? Has Omniscience a brain? Surely not! All this laboriousness is unknown to God. His knowledge and conclusions are intuitive. Intuition is that faculty of spiritual intelligence by which all spiritual beings work. Angels serve the will of God by intuitive discernment of that will, not by argued and reasoned conviction. The difference between these two is witnessed to by the whole monument of spiritual achievement. If human reason, the natural judgment, and "common sense" had been the ruling law, most, if not all, of the great pieces of work inspired of God would never have been undertaken. Men who had a close walk with God and a keen spirit union with Him received intuitively a revelation or leading to such purposes, and their vindication came, not by the approval of worldly, human reason, but usually with all such positively opposed. "Madness" was usually the verdict of the wise. Whenever, like Abraham, they allowed themselves to drop out of the spirit into their own natural mind and reasoning they became bewildered, paralysed, and looked round for some Egypt of the senses to which to go down for help. In all this we are "justified in the spirit" not in the flesh. The spirit and the soul act independently and, until the spiritual mind has established the ascendancy and absolute dominion, they are constantly in conflict and contradiction.
In all the things which are out from God and therefore spiritual "the mind of the flesh is death," but "the mind of the spirit is life, and PEACE." This then is the nature of spiritual knowledge, which is the only saving knowledge. We said at the commencement that this recognition of the difference between the "inner man" and the "outward man" would be absolutely revolutionary. Perhaps we can see this a little more clearly now. A rich knowledge of the scriptures, an accurate technical grasp of Christian doctrine, a doing of Christian work by all the resources of "worldly wisdom" or natural ability, a clever manipulation and interesting presentation of Bible content and themes, may get not one whit beyond the natural life of men and still remain within the realm of spiritual death. Men cannot be argued, reasoned, fascinated, interested, 'emotioned,' willed, enthused, impassioned, into the Kingdom of the heavens, they can only be born, and that is by spiritual quickening. This new birth brings with it new capacities of every kind, and amongst the most vital is a new and different faculty of Divine Knowledge, understanding, and apprehension. But some may ask, where does our brain come in? Do we understand you to mean that our human intellectual faculties are ruled out? No, not at all! But we do affirm again that this is not primary but secondary. The human intellect is not the first instrument of our apprehension of spiritual things, the things of God, but its function is that of giving them intelligent form to ourselves and to others.
Paul's intellectual power was not that which gave him his knowledge of truth, but it was joined to the spirit for passing that truth on to others. Someone has said that the brain may act as a prism and give a spectrum of the Eternal Light, but it is not the first organ of spiritual knowledge.
The spirit of man is that by which he reaches out into the Eternal and unseen. Intuition, then, is the mental organ of the spirit. It is in this sense, that is, the deadness of the spirit Godward, and the going on with religion in its manifold form of expression merely from the human mind, that God says "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," and the measure of the difference is the heaven from the earth; the heavenly and the earthly. One of the chief lessons that we have to learn, and which God takes pains to teach us is that spiritual ends demand spiritual means. The breaking down of our natural life, its mind, its resources, its energies, in the bitterness of disappointment through futility, failure, ineffectiveness, and deadlock in real spiritual achievement, is a life work, but the truth mentioned above is the explanation and key to the whole thing. What is true of spiritual knowledge is true in every other connection and direction as we shall see.