Spiritual Manhood
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 2 - Manhood According to God

Reading: Ezekiel 1:2-2:1.

I have it on my heart to say a little more about manhood according to God. Those of you who are familiar with this book of prophecies by Ezekiel will know that there are three all-dominating words from beginning to end. The first is the word 'man'. It is almost monotonous to come so repeatedly and frequently upon this word 'man'. It begins here with the man above the throne, and then follows this constant use of the title 'Son of man'. I suggest to you that you just go through with that, and you will find that it occurs some eighty times in these prophecies alone - 'Son of man'. And the word is used in other connections. The heavenly messenger, the angel, is called 'the man', the man with the measuring line. In this figure or representation of 'the living ones' in the two places where it occurs in these prophecies, the predominant feature is that of the man, the likeness of a man and then other features, but that stands by itself as over all - the likeness of a man. You will notice the punctuation is perfect right there. It sets the likeness of a man by itself, and the other things are subservient to that. The lion, the ox, and the eagle are subservient to the man feature.

The second great word in these prophecies is 'the Spirit'. Again we find the Spirit, or reference to the Spirit, recurrent throughout, and again something almost of a monotony as the prophet says - 'The Spirit lifted me up', 'the Spirit took me out', 'the Spirit brought me out', 'the Spirit set me down', and so on right through. Eighteen times reference is made definitely to the Spirit with many subservient references.

And then the third great word is 'life', the Spirit of life, the living ones. Life in the wheels, the river of life, the trees of life. "Son of man, can these dry bones live?" You see, it is the great issue.

Now, all that is quite a lot of detail, but if we note that, we are able to come to this conclusion, that if certain words overwhelm everything else that is said and stand so predominantly in the whole narrative, we know what it is all about, and inasmuch as man exceeds everything else in these prophecies - and may I say that Ezekiel is only representative of the Word of God, the universal interest that the Bible shows in man. Inasmuch as man predominates here, we are compelled to come to this conclusion and to this position: that God has got something to say about manhood; it is manhood that is really in view, but manhood according to God's mind. So we spend our little time in meditating upon the divine thought concerning man and manhood.

The Christian's Bewilderment

Again we find it is necessary to adjust some of our ideas in relation to Christianity, the Christian and what the Christian life means, for there is a serious defect in the common and current ideas about being a Christian. The general, and for many almost entire, conception of a Christian is that he is one who has believed on the Lord Jesus Christ and is saved. Of course, there follow certain differences in his consciousness, outlook, interests, activities and hope. All that is perfectly true and right, but withal when that is so and we are Christians on that basis and in those terms, there comes a time in the life of a truly heaven-born, born from above child of God, when he or she does not know where he is, and the Christian life becomes full of complications, perplexities and problems, full of bewilderment. It sounds a terrible thing to say, but I am quite sure that many of you can corroborate that from your experience. Very much of what the young Christian finds and discovers in the Christian life is very disconcerting and sometimes very distressing. What he finds in the present system of Christianity brings disillusionment and disappointment which throws him into this state of real concern and perplexity. The Christian life is not, after all, such a simple, straightforward, easygoing thing as we expected it to be. All is not as clear as we thought it would be. We have come into a realm of a tremendous number of cross-currents, conflicting elements, and we just do not know at certain times where we are in this matter of being a Christian.

If that has never been your experience, well, do not worry at the moment, and do not think that you must set up some complexes. You go on with God, and you will find that, as it has been with all who have really gone on with God, so it will be with you just like this. Of course, a lot of it may be due to what Christianity has become. That holds very many things to cause us a lot of trouble, distress, perplexity and heartache, but allowing for all that, we can put that in a realm by itself. If we got clear of all that, we should never get clear of this possibility, at least, and this actuality, that it is not all straight sailing to be a Christian, and because of this, bewilderment which comes to many sooner or later. The danger is to resolve the whole matter by compromise, saying, 'Oh well, that kind of Christian life is far too complicated, far too involved; there are far too many problems in that direction. I am just going to settle down to my job and be a simple, honest, straightforward Christian, and not bother about any of that at all.' I get on with my job, and the tendency is to detach oneself in order to get out of that turmoil and all that difficulty, and just live a quiet, personal, shut-in, detached life, and be a simple, honest, earnest Christian without any of the complexes. That is the danger which arises in this realm - not to allow oneself to become involved.

But for others who do not follow that course of detachment and isolation who try to live apart from it all, they find themselves in a battle of seeming, and perhaps actual, contradictions, a battle in the mind, to try and sort it all out, to get it harmonized, adjusted, related, get the solution to it all and bring it all to a nice happy position where you are clear about it all. It is a tremendous battle, is this real Christian life. It can become a terrible mental battle in that way, a spiritual struggle because of the problems, the seeming contradictions, a terrible spiritual struggle, so that the Christian life becomes a strain and a burden. And sometimes, under duress, the question may be asked, "Well, is this all right, is this as it should be? Is this true Christian life, is this what we are to expect?" What about it?

Fundamental Facts

Now, friends, how is this to be resolved, because I want to say first of all that that is the experience of many, isn't it? The perplexities of this life of faith, this life with God. And then that there is a sense in which it is inevitable, unavoidable, and therefore right. How is this to be resolved? And I want to be as helpful as I can, for I have no interest in mere theories or teachings. Either sooner in the Christian life or at some subsequent point when things get like this, beyond our ability to cope with them, we shall have to come back to fundamental reality as to really what the Christian and the Christian life is.

The Christian Another Man From What He is Naturally

And so, in the first place, we have to get perfectly clear on this: the fundamental fact that the true Christian, the true born from above Christian, is essentially and basically another man from what he is naturally. He is another man. There are two of them together making him up, but essentially and basically, as born from above, he is another man, he is a man of the Spirit, and not a man of his own soul, and in that difference and distinction there arises the whole of this conflict and these complexes. The Holy Spirit, who has come into the born-from-heaven child of God is the Spirit of another world and of an entirely other and different order and mentality, looking at things, judging things altogether differently from what you and I do naturally. It is 'another man'. Of Saul the king it was said, "The Spirit of the Lord will come mightily upon thee, and (thou) shall be turned into another man" (1 Sam. 10:6). Those two things go together. For the time being it was like that. It was very, very brief with Saul, but he became another man when the Spirit of God came on him, and the great tragedy was that the Spirit of the Lord left him subsequently, and an evil spirit came upon him, but that is by the way. The fact is that the Spirit coming in by new birth makes us another man than this man that we are, and that starts all the trouble.

The Experiences of a Man of the Spirit

And that accounts firstly, for the experiences of the spiritual or the Spirit-indwelt man. The experiences of a man of the Spirit as to himself are utterly devastating. As to ourselves, sooner or later we are going to find that we have become involved in the devastation of ourselves. That is strong language. Have you never experienced that, that breaking down, that undoing, that bewildering... all that? Well, there is no other word for it - all that devastation of mind and heart and will in every way - the experience of true Christians. His experiences and what is happening to him are utterly inexplicable. He cannot understand them, and he cannot explain them. He does not know what is happening to him. Yes, sooner or later, like Ezekiel, the man of the Spirit, he will find himself in a river which he cannot pass over or cross. He cannot.

Now this introduction of the Spirit into the child of God, into the true Christian, accounts for very much more. It accounts for his own bewildering, devastating experiences. It accounts for the conflicts among Christians. You have a great example of that in the Corinthian church. Take up that first letter to the Corinthians again, and what a scene of conflict between Christians, divisions, strivings, lawsuits, and what not. Christians! Sometimes you wonder if this is Christianity at all. But here they are, Christians, all seeming to be against one another, unable to get on with one another... strain and difficulty, and what is the explanation? Take them out of Christianity and put them in the world, and probably they will get on all right, things will be more or less straightforward, just; good business transactions. They may still have their lawsuits, but get that over, and they will shake hands as they walk out of the court, and that is that. Well, it is not nearly so difficult in that realm. But come inside here. What is the explanation? Read the letter again. The apostle makes it perfectly clear that it is this, that if the Holy Spirit has really been introduced into the life, He will set up conflict with what is of the natural life, and if you or I are not prepared to abandon the ground of the natural life, we will be all at sixes and sevens with one another. Let us put that round the other way. If you and I, who naturally might be at loggerheads with one another all the time, will leave our own natural ground and get onto the ground of the Spirit, we will get on all right; troubles will end. It is this conflict between the Spirit as the new heavenly man of another order, and this other man which we are of; this order.

This accounts also for the opposition of less spiritual people with those who are more spiritual. We have to face facts, not a pleasant thing to note, but there it is. If you are going on in the Spirit with God fully, there will be many Christians who not only do not understand you, but misunderstand you. They cannot go on with you, and what is more, they think you are all wrong, and you come up against what Paul met everywhere - evil report, and so on, and this conflict between less spiritual (I do not like that way of putting
it) and more spiritual is due to this, that the Spirit Himself demands an utter position. And until He gets it, there is strife, there is conflict, and if it is like that between Christians, we have to conclude that there is something amiss as to a life and walk in the Spirit.

All Related to the Man in Heaven

Now let us go on. You see, all this is related to the Man in heaven. That is the governing thing in the whole of these prophecies. A Man above the firmament, and above the throne the likeness as of a man. A Man in heaven. Now we know in this dispensation what that means. The Man at God's right hand, a Man wholly corresponding to a heavenly order. A man - not angels, but man, a man wholly according to God's mind as to manhood, the only One in the universe of that kind in fulness and utterness, and He is in that place above all, over all, governing and dominating all. And all that you have in these prophecies of Ezekiel is governed by the fact and reality of the Man in heaven. It is a new Man.

I do not think that we have yet sufficiently come to understand the meaning of the incarnation and exaltation of the Son of Man. What a different kind and type of Being He is from all others. In every way different, in His personality, His mentality, His constitution, but He is still Man of another order, a new Man in heaven as God's model, blueprint, standard and representation, governing everything. A new Man in a new place there in heaven, above all, over all, in another place, and Man of another and a new order of being, firstborn among many brethren, first-begotten from among the dead, the beginning of a new order of humanity, of manhood and mankind. Everything is ruled by the place, and the Man in the place in heaven.

Now then, that means that if that Man, so different, so other, comes into us by His Spirit, although we are only dimly conscious of it at first and although we have a very real consciousness of it we do not understand it - but the fact is that there is set up in us an entirely different mentality. There is another mentality in us from our own. Now our main trouble is in our effort to bring our natural mentality into heaven, and to bring heaven down into our natural mentality. If only we could resolve this whole thing according to our way of seeing things and judging things it would be all right, but we cannot. Heaven is far beyond us, not only in space, in distance, but in nature, in its way of thinking about things.

I wonder if I dare try to help by a very doubtful illustration. I have read all the books that have recently been published on spaceships and 'flying saucers'. In one of them (now I am not verifying this, do not misunderstand me) there is an account testified to by witnesses, of the meeting of a man from the planet Venus who came in one of these flying saucers on to this earth, and was met by a man who tried to enter into conversation with him, but found that impossible. The same language was not spoken, the same mentality was not held. By certain signs and gestures they did arrive at certain conclusions about certain matters, but the description of the man as to his person, appearance, and the impression that he made and his way of looking at things and his tremendous powers, possibilities of all these things, like travelling at many thousands of miles a minute, it is all set down, and when all is said and done a mysterious visitant with a whole world not grasped, not apprehended, not understood. Now that is this faint and, I say, very suspicious illustration. Here you have a Man of another order, of another world. In a sense He does not speak our language. We speak a different language from the Lord. He does not think our thoughts. He thinks altogether differently. His whole mentality is different, and there is a realm in which there is no correspondence between us and Himself. We are this, and He is that, and something has got to happen in us to reconstitute our entire being in order to make us capable of understanding Him and His world of things. We have got to be made all over again.

Now, that is the essence of the Christian life. That is just where we are, and that accounts for all our bewilderment. Oh, if only the Lord would speak our language and do things as we do them and as we want Him to do them, but He does not. He does not bring heaven down into the compass of our kind of make up and outlook and standards and mentalities. Not at all. He is calling us away. By His Spirit He is seeking to reconstitute us according to Himself in heaven, but, oh, it is a devastating process, shattering, breaking, undoing, bewildering, utterly putting us in the place where we cannot grasp what He means in the natural. He is morally and mentally, spiritually, in another world, far away from us. There is another side to all this where He is very near, and where He does speak to us, but while He helps us as little children spiritually, as we go on we find that we are in something more than a kindergarten. We come right up against tremendous things which are altogether beyond our comprehension, our understanding and our coping.

Now shall we just take one point by way of trying to help illustrate this again. Take the matter of time. I venture to say that in the spiritual life one thing that annoys us is time. As dear Philip Brooks put it - and you have heard me say this before - his wife came in and found him pacing up and down the room one morning, and she said, 'My dear, what is the matter?' 'Oh', he said, 'I am in a hurry and the Lord is not.' That is the trouble, this matter of time. Now, there is a sense in which things are a time factor with the Lord. He has His set times. David said, "When I shall take the set time." He has His set times for certain movements in His dispensational purposes. That is quite true, and while it is true also that God is waiting very often for man, we allow of those two things, yet it is equally true that there is no waiting at all with God. You notice in this first chapter how repeatedly it says, "They went", "they went straightforward", "they went straightforward", "they went straightforward". This is a movement of heaven in relation to God's interests here in man, and they went and they went and there is a going, and there is a sense in which God is never waiting. He is always going.

Now, we have got to be very careful about our time ideas. If we are not, we shall always be looking for a day which will never come. Oh, we are looking for that day when we will get into our real life-work, that day when all that we have prepared for and expected and hoped for will arrive. Most people have a tomorrow luring them on. That is good and that is bad. We have to be very careful in this matter of our time ideas because that kind of thing, always looking for a certain time point when this and that will happen, some of you may think you will be able to get free into what you call "full-time work for the Lord" when this present phase of things will finish and another phase will arrive, either clearly or not clearly defined in your mind as to what it is going to be. But you are, for the time being, marking time, waiting, hoping and looking for that tomorrow which may never come. God in this realm is not waiting. God is now working, and unless God's present work is in you and in me where we are in that monotonous job, in that home where you are tied by duty and responsibility and have been for so many years, we may long for the day of liberty to be more available to the Lord in that business which ties us up. We may say, 'If only I could get free, get out of this secular business into the Lord's work' - oh, what a delusion! Some of us would like to be back in your secular business, we do not find that we get out of the difficulty when we get into full-time spiritual work, indeed, it is the other way round. But that by the way. Don't wait, wherever you are. God is not waiting. What is God doing?

God's Supreme Interest

His supreme interest is man-making according to Christ, and if you are where you are with all the loathing and longing, the desiring and the hoping, the chafing or the compromise to accept this thing fatalistically, if you are not increasing in the stature of Christ, you are missing the work of God now. And take it from me, young man, young woman, who may think of full-time service for God, God does not call you officially, He calls men and women of spiritual measure. The tragedy of organized Christianity is that it takes up immature men and women who do not know the Lord and have no spiritual measure, and puts them right into responsibilities which smash and break them, very often bringing them to spiritual disaster. Oh no, God is not like that. Look at the Bible. God kept His eye upon a man out there in the field looking after the sheep. His eye is upon another man behind the twelve yoke of oxen. He is watching the man where he is, and seeking there to 'man-make' according to heaven, and when the time came that He needed a man, He had been preparing and watching and making, and He got His man ready. And that is a divine principle. Remember it. Our service for God rests really upon our spiritual manhood, our measure of Christ, our stature. Sooner or later we will be forced to recognize it. God is not waiting in this matter. He is now working, and His work now is to make manhood after Christ. He is man-making, He is man-changing. If there is no change going on in us where we are now, the work of God has been defeated, arrested, sabotaged, something has gone wrong if we are not changing now where we are. 'Oh, if only I could get out of this and get into the work of God, I should be different, I should be able to grow spiritually.' What a false idea, utterly false. No, no, no. God is putting you where you are for the time being to make a man of you according to Christ, and that is the only thing that matters with Him. Man-making, man-changing, and man increasing after the heavenly order, all in the light of the Man above.

Maybe (I have so much more in my heart) more of this will come out in the next message. Hold on, because I do feel these things are very important. They are fundamental, and I repeat, the explanation and solution of so many of our problems lies here. What does it all mean? Why this bewilderment? Simply because there is another Mind, and I have got to come into that Mind and get out of my own, and sometimes it seems as though I am going out of my mind! Very true. It is alright to go out of your mind if you are going into Christ's mind. I hope you understand and see something of the real meaning of the Christian life, that we are different fundamentally, and that difference has got to be made more and more and evermore real and actual. We are not the same, we are different, we have got to grow in the difference. The Lord help us.

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