Spiritual Manhood
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 3 - Manhood in the Spirit

In pursuance of the message which the Lord, we believe, is seeking to convey to us at this time, I want again to bring your attention to two of the things of which we have earlier spoken in the prophecies of Ezekiel, not by any means exhausting the occasions of their occurrence, but just indicating again by a few.

In the first place, the factor of man in relation to the consummate purpose of God, the basic and inclusive and all-governing word - "Upon the likeness of the throne was a likeness as the appearance of a man upon it above" (Ezek. 1:26).

"And he said unto me, Son of man" (2:1).

"And he said unto me, Son of man" (2:3).

"And thou, son of man" (2:6).

"But thou, son of man" (2:8).

"He said unto me, Son of man" (3:1).

"He said unto me, Son of man" (3:3).

"And he said unto me, Son of man" (3:4).

"Moreover he said unto me, Son of man" (3:10), and so on, as we said earlier, for eighty times through the prophecies that thought and idea of man is in view.

And the other for the moment is the Spirit. Just look at some of the occurrences.

"Whither the spirit was to go" (1:12).

"Whithersoever the spirit was to go" (1:20).

"For the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels" (1:20).

"Then the Spirit lifted me up" (3:12).

"So the Spirit lifted me up" (3:14).

"Then the Spirit entered into me" (3:24).

"The Spirit lifted me up" (8:3).

"For the spirit of the living ones was in them" (10:17).

"The Spirit lifted me up" (11:1).

"The Spirit of the Lord fell upon me" (11:5).

"The Spirit lifted me up, and brought me in the vision by the Spirit of God into Chaldea" (11:24).

I just want to place over all that a verse in the New Testament in the book of the Acts 10:38:

"Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with Him."

Manhood in the Spirit. I think the most superficial knowledge of the Bible is only necessary to realize what an immense place is given throughout that book to the Spirit, the Spirit of God. The first reference, even before divine operations for the creation, recovery from chaos - "The Spirit of God brooded" (Gen. 1:2) - and on and ever on right to the end of the Bible, the Spirit is always present.

God's Way is By Spiritual Men

We come to one particular aspect of this whole matter which is perhaps, if not the primary, one of the supreme features of the Bible, that God's way is by spiritual men. If I only said that and left you to think about it, you would find a very great deal of most important truth therein contained. God's way is by spiritual men.

What Spirituality is Not

Now inasmuch as many people, not being able to define for themselves the meaning of the word 'spiritual', it may be necessary just to try and help for a moment. There is a great deal of difference between what the world calls spiritual, and what the Bible calls spiritual. We have heard of people going into an art gallery, art critics, and speaking of certain pictures and summing it all up in that word - "There is something spiritual about it" - by which we suppose they mean that there is something more than just the picture, there is an atmosphere about it, a suggestion that is not just a matter of pigments, colours and scenes, but that it conveys something more. Well, that is an artistic use of the word 'spiritual', but that is not the Bible meaning of 'spiritual'. There are many people who confuse spirituality with mysticism or the mystical, that is, something intangible that you cannot get hold of and lay your hand upon, and they use the word 'mystical', but they really mean mysterious, and there is such a thing as a mystical temperament and a mystical constitution that is abstract, remote and intangible. The whole realm of mysticism, how much it embraces in every direction. But mysticism is not spirituality, not what the Bible means by being spiritual. Medievalism made a great mistake in thinking that if you become ascetic and aesthetic, withdraw from life, shut yourself in a monastery or convent and become an inhabitant of the cloisters, you become spiritual. That is their idea of being spiritual, and an utterly false one, not what the Bible means at all. Other people make an awful confusion between fantasy and spirituality, phantoms, imaginary things, things that belong to the realm of sometimes only imagination, but very real to the people who see and sense these things, and they think that is something spiritual. Not a bit of it. The Bible has no thought whatever, in speaking of what is spiritual, of ghosts and spooks and all that sort of thing. That is not the spirituality of the Bible. Further, we must not mix up what is spiritual according to the Bible, with the occult. That is what is being done today in a whole world of occultism, sometimes called spiritism - a misnomer entirely, and certainly more so when it is put in the form of spiritualism. No, it is not that, for that is, after all, only psychicism and very often demonism. All that and all those things are something which belong to another realm entirely. They belong to the realm of the natural and soulical man, who is a different man altogether from a spiritual man.

What Spirituality Is

What, then, is spirituality? What is a spiritual man according to the Bible? Simply, and yet profoundly, one who has received in a definite act the Holy Spirit of God as indwelling. Altogether apart from himself and his nature, it is Another, the Spirit of God taking up residence. That is the beginning of a spiritual man, a spiritual person. From that point of a definite act and transaction, spirituality is a matter wholly of how much the indwelling Spirit has possession and government of the life. We are more or less spiritual according to the degree in which the indwelling Spirit has His way with us, and His ascendancy over our own natures. That is a spiritual person, and when we say that God's way is spiritual men, we really mean firstly, one indwelt by the Spirit, and then one governed by the Spirit, and if God is going to have His fullest way, then it will only be as the Spirit has His fullest control and government of the life.

Conjunction Between Man's Spirit and God's

Let us come back to the Word, that we should note that the Word of God throughout makes it very clear that for all the fulfilment of divine purpose and for all conformity to the divine mind, there must be this conjunction between man's spirit and the Holy Spirit.

There must be a uniting of the Holy Spirit with the object or objects of the divine interest. Now, you think for a moment, and see how true that is everywhere through the Bible, in the Old Testament as well as the New. While the two dispensations have their different features regarding the Holy Spirit, nevertheless the law remains the same, that for the fulfilment and realization of any part of the divine purpose and of conformity to the divine mind, the Holy Spirit must be there in union, there must be this conjunction. Perhaps that is too obvious and too simple and well-known and accepted a fact, but we have laid the foundation. And get very clear about this, we cannot get anywhere, it is an absolute essential and completely indispensable for all divine purpose, the knowing and the doing and the realizing of the divine mind and will, that the Holy Spirit comes in and links Himself to the sphere of divine interests. You and I can know nothing of the divine mind without the Holy Spirit. You and I can do nothing of the divine will without the Holy Spirit. You and I cannot change one iota into the likeness of Christ without the Holy Spirit. You and I can fulfil none of the divine work without the Holy Spirit. It covers everything, embraces everything and relates to everything. Knowledge, power and nature all depend upon the Holy Spirit where God is concerned.

Now, that is basic and foundational, and perhaps hardly needs labouring, but let us understand that, because until we do, we are not in the way of anything of the Lord. The Holy Spirit is the custodian of the divine purpose. He is in charge of it. The Holy Spirit alone knows it in fulness and in detail. We do not. The Holy Spirit is the only power for putting any fragment into force and operation. Therefore it is impossible to be in the way of what God means and purposes until we have received the Spirit, and our progress in the purpose and will and way of God will be more or less rapid according to the degree in which we are subject to the Holy Spirit. Spiritual knowledge, spiritual growth, and spiritual usefulness and usableness depend entirely upon how far the Holy Spirit dominates our whole life, our whole being.

Now, having laid the foundation, I want to get near to this thing in some detail. Need I say that, as far as I am concerned, I feel very heavily the burden of this word and its importance? I say that only because I want to try to get your co-operation and a sense in you also of the seriousness of this matter.

The Primary Characteristic of the Holy Spirit

What is the primary characteristic of the Holy Spirit? Now, if I were receiving answers from you, I should get quite a number of things mentioned, probably I should get quite a lot of the same thing. Perhaps most of you would come back on the very title. It is the Holy Spirit, and you would tell me that the supreme or primary characteristic of the Spirit is holiness. Well, that may be true, but for practical purposes that is not what I see to be the primary characteristic of the Holy Spirit. I am going to use a word which may sound strange in this connection. It is the word 'originality'. The primary characteristic of the Holy Spirit is originality. Now, we use that word, of course, in different ways meaning different things. We speak of a person as being original. We say he or she or that child is very original. What we mean really when we use the word of people or things, is that there is something unusual, there is something out of the ordinary. It is not in a rut. We make the word 'novel' synonymous with originality. We say it is novel. We come to define that by saying it is original. Now, those are not the ideas connected with originality where the Holy Spirit is concerned. Where He is concerned, originality is that which is primal and elementary. It is something altogether apart from anything else that has come into being. It is absolutely original.

Let me try to explain that. The Holy Spirit is much more than any kind of expression, superior to and preceding all expression. Expression always means limitation. It does not matter where you find expression, you will find limitation where the Spirit is concerned. Try to put things into words, try to put things of the Spirit into words, and you know that you are defeated all the time. It is just not possible to express in words the things of the Spirit, neither in their essential nature, nor in their measure. You are left with a sense of defeat and limitation when you have tried to give expression of spiritual things or things of the Spirit.

Take the matter of formation. Immediately anything of the Spirit is given a form, you have entered into the realm of limitation. You just cannot put the Holy Spirit into a set form or give the things of the Spirit a complete form. It cannot be done. Expression in this matter always means limitation. Therefore we have tradition, and we discover that tradition is a limitation, bondage, a prison. Tradition always circumscribes because tradition is an attempt to put things of the Spirit into expression. Now you see, we are getting at the heart of this word 'originality'. That is true that you impose limitation whenever you try to put things of the Spirit into any form of expression. Therefore the Spirit will always make certain demands.

The Spirit Demands a Free Way

First of all, the Spirit of God demands an absolutely free way, a clear way, an open way through all your forms and all your traditions, and through everything that is your kind of expression. He demands a free way, an untrammelled way, not only in relation to things that are contrary to the Spirit, but in our ways of expressing things of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit demands the right to transcend and correct every form of expression. Now, I am keeping very close to the Bible of course, making demands upon your knowledge of the Scriptures. You notice that immediately the Holy Spirit had come on the day of Pentecost, He came into collision with forms, forms of expression, and the chiefest of the apostles was not exempt. Peter, quoting in effect Leviticus 11, presented the Holy Spirit with Scripture for a position against which the Holy Spirit was standing there and then. A strange position that, isn't it? No, do not misunderstand me. The Holy Spirit never contradicts Scripture, but the Holy Spirit claims the right to interpret the Scripture differently from our expression of it, claims the right to transcend our forms which we have created by the Scripture, and it is a fact that almost everything religious today, even evangelical, is founded upon some Scripture or Scriptures, and for the most part it is all in a terrible conflict. Yes, you will find that Scripture is quoted as the basis and the justification for the existence of numerous things which may not have anything to do with one another, or are in conflict with each other. There is something wrong there; there is a contradiction there. The Holy Spirit will have none of it. He claims the right to transcend, to correct. Evidently Peter had a wrong idea about Leviticus 11, and he had to have that corrected by the Holy Spirit before the Spirit would go on with him and take him up to the house of Cornelius with all that followed. Originality means that the Holy Spirit must have the right because our expressions of divine things are always limitations.

The Holy Spirit claims the prerogative to set aside or repudiate anything that has been used by Him when it has served its purpose. The trouble with us is that we are so unspiritual as to not be able to discern when a thing which has been used of God has served its purpose, and God wants something other or more, and because we are insensitive in a spiritual way to that, we hold onto something which is no longer under the Holy Spirit's direction and government, and the thing becomes a thing in itself that is either dead or is dying. You see, the Holy Spirit is very much more than our expressions of divine things, and originality means that it must be left with Him to say what He means and what He wants and how He would have things, and when He has no longer any use for certain things, to break in with new light, and to break through our fences and all our limitations, and do something that takes us completely out of our depth. That is originality where the Holy Spirit is concerned, and that is the chief characteristic. The Holy Spirit will have none of our ruts and grooves and set orders and forms. He claims freedom to always do a new thing, and with Him it is always a larger thing than anything before. Men of the Spirit then, are like that. They are not bound by the limitations that have been set up in expressions. They are free in the Spirit to move with God.

Marks of Men of the Spirit

1. Vision

Now I am going to say just seven things about men of the Spirit. Men of the Spirit are, therefore, because of what we have just said, always men of vision. Immediately we have put a fence or a hedge around things, immediately we have made this the full and the final and the ultimate, we have lost vision. No person with vision can ever do that, and men of the Spirit are men of vision. There is always something beyond, there is always something more, there is always a deep, inward sense that God has yet something more to show and to do than ever we have seen, and that is not just a theory, an idea, but that is something that dominates the being, and is so dominating as to save from any kind of settling down to something less. You cannot do it if you are a man of the Spirit, you are always, in spirit, on the move. You are a going concern. That is what we have here in Ezekiel - going, going, the Spirit of life was in the wheels, in the living ones, and going, and going, and that follows the statement by the prophet - "I saw visions of God". And if I were to change the word 'vision' for another word, it would be this: men of the Spirit are always purposeful men, that is, men dominated by a sense of purpose, divine purpose. We have not reached the end, and we have not come near the end. To the end of our days we always feel that there is infinitely more than we have ever yet known or seen. That is the very nature of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit can never be confined to our limitations of life and work and way. No, men of the Spirit are men of vision. I do not mean in the natural sense, they are visionaries in a wrong way. They are men of vision who see that God is still on the move, and that God has a purpose, and they sense something of what that purpose is, and we would never be kept going through all the confusion, conflict, pressure and suffering if we had not vision. Immediately we lose our vision, we go to pieces. Immediately we lose the sense that God has not yet come to a stop, we just disintegrate. It is death to be without vision. I trust that where you are in very unpropitious, unpromising spheres, you will believe this - not thinking of having new schemes and enterprises for the work in which you are, but this inward thing of the Spirit, that God has more than this in view, that this is not all that God is after. That is a characteristic of the Holy Spirit and of men of the Spirit, and they will be like that, having a sense of governing purpose all the time that saves them from dreariness, monotony, disheartenment, frustration, defeat and despair. We do go through bad, dark times again, when it seems the vision has faded, but it comes back, it does not let you go. I say, 'it'; it should be 'He'. The Spirit goes on. That accounts for the innumerable resurrections which are the experience of that which is of the Spirit and those who are of the Spirit. The Spirit does not give up and stop working.

2. They Never Reach An End

The next thing, of course, is like unto it. Men of the Spirit are men who never reach an end. Now that is tremendously searching and testing. Men of the Spirit never come to a place where they say, "Well, that is as far as we can go, that is all we can do, we cannot hope for, or expect more, there is nothing beyond this. This is the end." Sometimes they are tempted to say that, and they might even be tempted to say it in words, but they know they are telling lies even when they say it, even to themselves. They know that the Spirit within them does not agree. Perhaps you, as I, at different times have come to that place where we have said, "This is the end, we are finished now", and when we have said it, or even thought it, the Holy Spirit within says, "Oh no, I have not finished yet, I am not at the end yet", and we have been convicted of foreclosing on the Spirit of God, and we have to rise up and say, "Oh no, this is not the end. It seems like it, but God has yet more, this is not the end." Men of the Spirit never reach an end.

Oh, I do hope that you are seeing more than I am saying. I would like to apply this in all sorts of ways. You see, you cannot circumscribe a work of God. If you do, and make this the work of God, this some thing, this some where, and this kind of thing, the work of God, and do not see beyond it, and have no place for anything more in it, you have definitely set yourself across the path of the Holy Spirit. The thing may be good, it may be used by the Holy Spirit, it may have been blessed, but never make it all or final or something apart from the whole work of God. The Lord will disrupt that thing if you do, and bring it to death. The Holy Spirit is abroad in the earth now bringing many things to the point of crisis where, unless the Lord does a new thing and something more, then this thing is going to die, to fade out, and that is simply in keeping with this, that what is of the Spirit never reaches an end and never comes to finality. He is the Eternal Spirit, and all the ages of the ages are gathered into His goings.

3. Conflict with That which is Other Than the Spirit

In the third place, men of the Spirit, men who really are governed by the Holy Spirit, are always in conflict with any substitute or alternative for the Holy Spirit. If there is that which is a substitute for the Holy Spirit and the work of the Holy Spirit: man's work, well intentioned, with all his devotion poured into it, but it is man's work, it is what man is doing, men of the Spirit are in conflict with that. Any alternative to what is of the Spirit sets up this conflict in those who are governed by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit will have no substitutes, no alternatives, and no partners in this matter. He holds this to Himself and says, in effect, "Now, everything that is in the divine purpose and will is to come from Me, not from your councils, your committees, your boards, your discussions, your ideas, your efforts. This thing has got to come from Me, right out from Me." It has got to be of the Spirit, nothing more and nothing less and nothing other than the Spirit. That is what the Bible says throughout, and if we are governed by the Spirit, we shall find that that conflict is set up in us that we cannot be happy unless we are really aware in our own spirits that this thing is of the Spirit of God, the Lord is doing this. There is a very great deal of conflict there. I would like to say much more. But let me repeat, men of the Spirit find themselves always inwardly in conflict with anything that is a substitute or alternative to the Holy Spirit.

4. A Way of Misunderstanding and Loneliness

Therefore, in the new place, men of the Spirit - and shall I stop there for a parenthesis? That which is of the Spirit, not only the individuals, but a work which is of the Spirit, a company in the government of the Holy Spirit, men of the Spirit, things of the Spirit, are always misunderstood and resented by the unspiritual. And Christians can be very unspiritual. There is a lot of difference between being fundamental in doctrine and being spiritual. Those two things do not always go together. Indeed, very often there is a violent conflict between being a fundamentalist and being a spiritual man. You may be absolutely sound and orthodox in your beliefs, doctrines and teachings, and be very unspiritual people. You can be evangelical in outlook and enterprise, and not be spiritual people. Tragedy! And therefore you find that, within the compass of Christian people there is so often the conflict between the carnally minded and the spiritual people, those who are standing for what is absolutely out from God and not out from man on the basis of the life of Jesus Christ, who, Himself anointed with the Holy Spirit, said, "The Son can do nothing of Himself" (John 5:19). On that basis Christians will both misunderstand and resent what they sneeringly call 'so spiritual'. Let them sneer, let them express themselves as they will. Here is a fact: that if you are going on wholly with God under the government of the Spirit of God, you will be misunderstood and you will be resented. It is the price of a life in the Spirit.

Therefore, men of the Spirit, or that which is of the Spirit, have to tread a lonely path. There is this about such a life, strangely enough, that it is lonely in this way: that everyone who treads this path has to tread it for themselves; God so often sees to that. I do not know what your experience is; I know my own. For a considerable number of years, how I have longed, just longed with all my being, to find one man who had gone the way that I am going and knows all about it, and could just tell me all about it, and I could just lean on him. Just someone who knows this way, has been this way, understands it all, this lonely way, this way of the Spirit. I have not found that man yet, and I have had to come to the conclusion that God has deliberately debarred me from finding such a man or such men because of our great propensity for leaning on other people and not getting it firsthand.

5. Everything Firsthand

Now, a life in the Spirit and of the Spirit and everything in the Spirit has to be at firsthand. That is originality. It has to be firsthand. Now do not misunderstand, especially young people. That does not mean that you cannot get counsel and advice from others who have walked with the Lord, that you can dispense with such helps as are available. Oh no, that does not justify you in taking an absolutely independent, detached and unrelated position. None of that at all in the whole realm in which we can get help. But ultimately, when the Lord is trying to do something in us that is His own specially unique work, He shuts us up to Himself. We have got to find the Lord for ourselves in this matter. It is a lonely way. Look at Ezekiel. What a lonely life his was, alone among the captives, alone, a man in the Spirit. Yes, a lonely path.

6. Truly Positive Men

Men of the Spirit are the only truly positive men, that is, there is something about those men that they know they have got something more than that which has come to them through books and reading and other people. It is not something second-hand with them at all. It is something that they have come into in a life with God alone in the Spirit. They have come to know this by their walk with God in the Spirit, and all that that involves in its terrible costliness, of misunderstanding, misrepresentation, distortion and all that ostracism and aloneness involved in going right on with God. They have come to a knowledge of God which gives them something so assured, and if it were not so, it would be absolutely impossible to stand up against what such people have to meet, if we did not know that this was true, not something that has been told us, that we have collected and received in a retail form. This has been wrought out on the anvil and in the fires of a personal walk with God. We know! The figures of Scripture are so often insufficiently apprehended. When such a figurative or symbolic phrase occurs as "the girdle of truth", we fail to realize that truth, and you know this truth in your own being, is a tremendously gathering-up, strengthening thing. It girds you. You know. Men and things of the Spirit are the only really positive and certain things. Therefore God takes great pains to drive us, force us back, to the truth. I am feeling more and more the necessity to be absolutely certain that we are right and the thing is right, not to be caught up in great ideas, vistas of truth, and that kind of thing, however interesting, fascinating, captivating it all may be, but to be absolutely sure that it is true. People have got to go through terrible sufferings in relation to that thing. Are we quite sure that we are putting a solid foundation under their feet, that it is true, that thing will prove its truth, that thing will find God standing by it. "Jesus of Nazareth, whom God anointed with the Holy Spirit and power, who went about doing good, for God was with Him". "God was with him" - that is the man of the Spirit.

7. Life

And finally, men of the Spirit, and things of the Spirit are essential to God, among other things, because of the inveterate addiction to formulate divine things into a fixed system. We suffer from this affliction; the church has always suffered from this affliction. It is a disaster to formulate things into a fixed system - 'as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be' - nothing more to it, to make it fixed. That is how it has been done all through the years or the centuries, that is how we do it, and that means that is how we shall do it to the end. And in all sorts of connections and directions, there is this inveterate addiction to formulating divine things into fixed systems. I am sure you can see that it is so. It has always been so. Immediately God does something, a movement from heaven, man puts his hand upon it and formulates it. Is it a reformation in the recovery of the great fundamental doctrine of justification by faith? - undoubtedly a movement of God into the course of the ages. Very well, men will put their hands upon it and make Protestantism of it, and what a dead, cold thing Protestantism is. Am I to go on? See those movements of God from heaven down through the centuries, real movements of God, there is no doubt about it, movements of the Spirit. But it is not long before the men concerned formulate them, make of them a fixed system of teaching and ways of expression, and they tie it all up, and woe betide you if you do not conform to that fixed order. I say it is an inveterate addiction. God must have men and things of the Spirit for that very reason, because otherwise there is death, division and defeat of what God was really after. It means limitation. Oh, God save us from that!

We must continually be on our guard and praying that we shall never become something formulated. We must pray that the one characteristic shall be life, life which you cannot tie up and bind, upon which you can put no harness, the Spirit which goes on, ever on, to greater fulness. It takes us right out of our depths. You say that is dangerous… (Recorded message ended here).

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