by T. Austin-Sparks
Reverting to our illustration in that transition which is the
underlying truth of the parable of 'The Prodigal Son,' namely the
transition from a relationship on the ground of law, in the flesh,
to that on the ground of grace, in the spirit, we have come to see
that his knowledge of the Father in the spirit was such as he had
never possessed before. He never knew his Father before grace was
revealed and the gift and operation of the Father's Spirit was
manifested as he knew Him afterward. His spirit had been brought
from death, darkness, distance, desolation, and now he had, not
merely an objective knowledge of one whom he had termed Father, but
a subjective understanding and appreciation of the Father because
the spirit of sonship had now been put within him whereby he cried
"Father." There is no saving relationship to, or knowledge of God
only through grace and by new birth. Such knowledge is spiritual not
So, then, those who by being born again have become "little children," Matthew 18:3, or "babes" in spiritual things, 1 Corinthians 3:1 (not wrong if we do not unduly remain so) have to learn everything afresh because "all things are new," and - now - "all things are out from God," 2 Corinthians 5:17-18. Such have to learn a new kind of knowledge, as we have shown. But before this, and ever and always, such have to learn to live by a new life - "to walk in newness of life." This life is always related to the resurrection of Christ, and is "the life whereby Jesus conquered death." This subject is treated more fully elsewhere, especially in booklet No. 2 of 'Incorporation into Christ' [published later as "In Christ"] and we shall do no more than mention it here.
The Apostle Paul says that our conduct is to be "as those who are alive from the dead," and so saying he means that the manifestation in and by us is to be that of the shared power and triumph of the mighty resurrection life of Christ. Again, in order that we may learn how to live by this life, which is a superlative purpose of God concerning us, He is bound to bring our natural life to an end in all its effectiveness and value in the sphere of spiritual achievement, both in life and service. We cannot be or do what God requires: His life alone can produce after its kind. But while this is a law and a test, it is also a blessed truth that Christ came that we might have this life and have it abundantly. Head through your New Testament with the object of seeing how the Divine life is manifested by and in the enforced insufficiency of natural life, and you will see it to be the secret of the romance of New Testament accomplishments.
An element of offence in this teaching is that it demands a recognised and acknowledged weakness; it requires that we have to confess that in ourselves, for all Divine purposes, we are powerless and worthless, and of ourselves we can do nothing. The natural man's worship of strength, efficiency, fitness, ability meets with a terrible rebuff when it is confronted with the declaration that the universal triumph of Christ over hierarchies more mighty than those of flesh and blood was because "He was crucified through weakness" - God reduced to a certain impotence! - and "God hath chosen the weak things to confound the mighty," 2 Corinthians 13:4, 1 Corinthians 1:27.
To "glory in infirmity that His power may be the more manifest" is a far cry from the original Saul of Tarsus, but what an extraordinary change in mentality! God has, however, always drawn a very broad line between natural "might and power" on the one hand, and "My Spirit" on the other; and for evermore the law abides that "He that hateth his life (psuche, natural life) shall find it unto life eternal (aionian-zoe, Divine life of the ages), John 12:25. This is said, of course, in relation to the interests of Christ.
There are two other lessons that we might mention as being set for the "new man," which are a part of the education and training of the spirit or "inner man of the heart." He has to learn a new walk. Many slips and, perhaps, tumbles may be his experience here, but such are honourable if they are marks of a stepping out at the behest of God, rather than a sitting still in fleshly disobedience or fear. The "Prodigal's" new relationship meant new shoes, and in later significance this meant "walking after the spirit and not after the flesh," Romans 8:4. We have shown that the nature of this walk is that reason, feeling, and natural choice are no longer the directive laws or criteria of the spiritual man. For such an one there are frequent experiences of a collision and contradiction between soul and spirit. The reason would dictate a certain course, the affections would urge in a certain direction, the will would seek to fulfil these judgments and desires, but there is a catch somewhere within, a dull, leaden, lifeless, numbed something at the centre of us which spoils everything, contradicts us, and all the time, in effect, says no! Or it may be the other way round. An inward urge and constraint, that finds no encouragement from our natural judgment or reason, and is flatly contrary to our natural desires, likings, inclinations, preferences, or affections; while in that same natural realm we are not at all willing for such a course. In this case it is not the judgment against the desire as is frequently the case in everybody's life, but judgment, desire, and volition all joined against intuition. Now is the crisis. Now is to be seen who is to rule the life, or which road is to be chosen. Now the natural man or the outer man of sense, and the spiritual or inner man have to settle affairs. To learn to walk after the spirit is a life lesson of the new man, and as he is vindicated, as he always will be in the long run, he will come to take the absolute ascendency over the "natural" man and his mind, and so by the energising of the Holy Spirit in the spirit of the new man the Cross will be wrought out to the nullifying of the mind of the flesh - which in spiritual things always ends in death, and in the enthroning of the spiritual mind which is life and peace, Romans 8:6.
This, then, is the nature of the walk after the spirit, and its application is many-sided. But we must remember the law of this walk which is faith. We "walk in the spirit," but "we walk by faith."
To walk by faith there must in the very nature of the case, be a stripping off of all that the outer man of the senses clings to, demands, craves for, as a security and an assurance. When the spiritual life of God's people is in the ascendent they are not troubled by either the absence of human resources on the one hand, or by the presence of humanly overwhelming odds against them on the other. This is patent in their history as recorded in the Scriptures. But it is also true that when the spiritual life is weak, undeveloped, or at the ebb they look round for some tangible, seen, resource upon which to fasten. Egypt is the alternative to God whenever and wherever spiritual life is low. To believe in and trust to the intuitive leadings of the Holy Spirit in our spirit, even though all is so different from the ways of men, and even though such bring us to a Canaan which for the time being is full of idolatry and where a mighty famine reigns; where Satan seems to be lord, and no fruit is found; where all is so contrary to what our outer man had decided must be in keeping with a leading and a promise of God; to leave our old sphere of life in the "world," to break with our kindred, our father's house, for this - this! and then have to wait through much continuous stripping off of those means, and methods, and habits, and judgments, which are the very constitution of the natural man - this is the law of the spiritual walk; but this is God's chosen and appointed way of the mightiest vindication.
Spiritual children and riches, and fruitfulness, and service, permanence, and the friendship of God are for such Abrahams of faith or such children of Abraham in the spirit. God has laid a faith basis for His superstructure of spiritual glory, and only that which is built upon such a foundation can serve spiritual ends. Let this be the test of our walk in all personal, domestic, business, and church affairs. Here, again, we have a principle which if applied would be revolutionary, and would call for the abandonment of a tremendous amount of carnal "natural," worldly stuff in our resources and methods. "Faith without works is dead," true, but the works of faith - of the spirit - are not those of the flesh, the difference is incomparable. The walk of the flesh is one thing, but the walk in the spirit is quite another. The things of the Spirit are foolishness to the flesh. Men of faith see what others do not and act accordingly. This also being true of men who have lost their reason, the two are often confused and the children of the flesh think the children of the spirit mad or insane. They are unable to discriminate between even the insanity of men and "the foolishness of God which is wiser than men."
Abraham was fortified by his faith, but his walk in faith was intensely practical, though so different from the walk in the flesh. A writer has said that faith brings us into difficulties which are unknown to men who walk in the flesh or who never go out in faith, but such difficulties placing us beyond the power of the flesh to help, make special Divine revelations necessary, and God always takes advantage of such times to give such needed education of the spirit. It is thus that the men of the spirit are taught and come to know God as no others know Him. Thus faith is the law of the walk of the new man - the inner man - which brings him by successive stages into the very heart of God, Who crowns this progress with the matchless designation "My friend"!
One other thing in general has to be mentioned. The new man of the spirit has to learn a new speech. There is the language of the spirit, and he will have to realise increasingly that "speech in the enticing words of man's wisdom," or what man calls "excellency of speech" (1 Cor. 2:1) will avail nothing in spiritual service. If all the religious speech and preaching and talking about the Gospel which goes on in one week was the utterance of the Holy Spirit, what tremendous impact of God upon the world would be registered. But it is obviously not so and this impact is not felt. It is impossible to speak in and by the Holy Spirit without something happening which is related to Eternity. But this capacity belongs only to the "born of the Spirit" ones, whose spirit has been joined to the Lord, and even they have to learn how to cease from their own words and "speak as they are moved by the Spirit." It is a part of the education of the inner man to have his outer man slain in the matter of speech, and to be brought to the state to which Jeremiah was brought "I am but a child, I cannot speak."
Not only as sinners have we to be crucified with Christ, but as preachers, or speakers, or talkers. The circumcision of Christ, which Paul says is the the cutting off of the whole body of the flesh, has to be applied to our lips, and our spirit has to be so much in dominion that on all matters where God cannot be glorified we "cannot speak." A natural facility of speech is no strength, in itself to spiritual ministry, it may be a positive menace. It is a stage of real spiritual development when there is a genuine fear of speaking unless it is in "words which the Holy Ghost teacheth." On the other hand a natural inability to speak need be no handicap. To be present "in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling" (1 Cor. 1:3) may be a mood which becomes an apostolic, nay rather, a Holy Spirit ministry. The utterance of God is a very different thing in every way from that of men. How much is said in the Scriptures about "conversation," "the tongue," "words," etc, and ever with the emphasis that these are to be in charge of the spirit and not merely expressions of the soul in any of its departments.
If it is true that only the quickened spirit can receive Divine revelation, it is equally true that such revelation requires a Divine gift of utterance in order to realise its spiritual end.
Many there are who preach or teach the truth as out from a mental apprehension with the natural ability, but the vital potentialities of that truth are not being manifest either in their own lives or in the lives of those who hear. The spiritual results are hardly worth the effort and expenditure. The virtue of speech resulting in abiding fruit to the glory of God, whether that speech be preaching, teaching, conversation, prayer, is not in its lucidity, eloquence, subtlety, cleverness, wit, thoughtfulness, passion, earnestness, forcefulness, pathos, etc, but only in that it is an utterance of the Holy Ghost. "Thy speech betrayeth thee" may be applied in many ways, for whether one lives in the flesh or in the spirit, in the natural man or in the spiritual man will always be made manifest by how we speak and the spiritual effect of the fruit of our lips.
Oh, for crucified lips amongst God's people, and oh for lips among God's prophets touched with the blood-soaked fire-charged coal from that one great altar of Calvary!
Having at some length dealt with the difference, nature, and characteristics of the inner and the outer man, we must now come to some specific emphases. The first of these is all inclusive, and relates to