Christ and Cosmic Redemption
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 4 - The Redemption of the Cosmos

Reading: Col. 1.

Redemption in its full scope has been fulfilled, and is gathered up, into the Person of the Lord Jesus. We are definitely told that in Him, by Him, and unto Him all things were created. All things were created by and for Jesus Christ; things in heaven and things in earth. That is the cosmos. Now, inasmuch as the whole creation (the "all things" created) has been affected by evil, so that even heavenly things require purging, it was necessary that all things should be redeemed, and so the Creator, the One for Whom and by Whom all things were created, became the Redeemer of all things. And just as all things were gathered up into Him in creation, so all things were gathered up into Him in redemption.

Take the first part of that statement: "all things were created... for Him", and Satan set himself so that the Lord Jesus should not have all that was created for Him. Satan set himself. I think it is very clearly and quite definitely intimated that while all things were created by Him, the "for Him" represents something more than what He possessed at the beginning in creation. It throws things forward. "All things were created by Him". There is the created universe in existence, but when it says that all things were created for Him there is something beyond that, something yet to be; and it was in relation to the possessing of that in all its fulness ultimately, that Satan set himself, that Christ should not have that inheritance - not only should not have the created universe as it was created, but have it in its full and ultimate intention unto which it was created, for a purpose which it never realised. It was that full purpose of creation lying ahead as something to be realised and something to be inherited, of which He was the heir. If you are an heir of all things, that means you have not got it all yet. If you really have your inheritance you are not the heir in the strict sense. If you are an heir it means that you are coming into an inheritance at some time; you are an heir to something, but you have not got it. The beginning of the letter to the Hebrews distinctly indicates that while all things were created by Him, yet He was the Heir of all things, so there was a fulness of the creation not yet realised, into which He was to come as the rightful Heir.

Satan set himself against the inheritance. The whole question was one of inheritance and heirship, and the history of the cosmos is the history of the gigantic struggle for the mastery of this universe, not alone between Satan and God, nor alone between Satan and Christ, but man involved, having a part and a place. The struggle is related to man.

It is with those elements constituting our background that we take up the matter. If we take as our interpreter the apostle Paul, with certain other fragments from other apostles, and work backwards, we have material which works out something like this (and here you can fill in the Scripture):

1. Redemption of the Human Spirit

Firstly, redemption has its first practical outworking in the individual human spirit when the whole redemption that is in Christ Jesus is brought down to practical application; that is when it is applied and begins to operate, to take effect, to start on its course, the first point of its application is the individual human spirit. That is where applied redemption begins. That is quite definitely in view in chapter 8 of Romans: "The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God".

There are two things about that also to be noted:

(a) A Completed Act

It is a thing which is done in an act once and for all. Our spirits do not come into the value of redemption progressively. There is no progressive regeneration. Regeneration is as definite as a birth, and we are not born progressively. Our birth is not spread over a period; it is an act. Therefore redemption in its first point of practical application and outworking, being in the individual human spirit, is an act, and in our spirits we are able to say, "I am redeemed!"

But that is not the whole of redemption. There is a good deal more redemption to come, and yet it is so definite and complete within that essential realm that we can quite confidently and assuredly say that we are redeemed.

(b) A Resurrection or Renewing

The second thing is that it is a resurrection, a renewing. We point this out because you will see a difference in a moment as to redemption in other directions. Here in the human spirit it is an act, and it is as a resurrection sometimes called a renewing, newness of spirit (that is, our spirit under the Holy Spirit), something new by way of resurrection from the dead, the first outworking of the resurrection that is in Christ Jesus in the human spirit. The resurrection of the Lord Jesus has a present definite value, meaning and expression, and that is in the human spirit.

Now, that resurrection, that newness of the spirit which is an act, is taught by Paul to be the receiving of the Spirit of Sonship. Resurrection union with the Lord Jesus is unto sonship: "Because we are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." So that in the renewed or resurrected spirit by an act the Holy Spirit in that spirit constitutes sonship. All that that sonship means has yet to be known, for redemption goes beyond this, but immediately we cry, Abba! There is a new consciousness of the nature of our relatedness to God. It is the Spirit of Sonship brought in by a resurrection.

2. Redemption of the Human Soul

The redemption which has its first practical outworking in the individual human spirit in that way, then passes to the human soul. But the two things about this mark the difference.

This is not a resurrection; it is a conquest. Whenever you come into the realm of the human soul you come into the realm of a conflict, a warfare, an active state which is opposed to God.

The human spirit unregenerated is dead. It may be in a sense alive; it does not mean that the unregenerated have no human spirit, but it is dead in that sense that it is not working in a relationship to God, and it is submerged, imprisoned in a living tomb. When resurrection passes into this second realm, the realm of the soul, it passes into a realm where everything is now, and always has been, in a state of active, positive antagonism to God.

The mind as a part of the soul is working altogether contrary to God, not always consciously, but always certainly.

The heart is working contrary to God. Sometimes we believe that it is in line with God, and quite sympathetic Godward; nevertheless when really disclosed as to its real nature, it is found to be altogether contrary to God. The heart, the desires, the affections, the feelings, when really challenged by Godís will are discovered to be other than in fellowship.

The will is against God. The more we go on with God the more we discover how our souls are in opposition to God. It is the most advanced believer who knows most thoroughly how the human will is against God. The more utterly God gets down to business with us the more we discover what we would never have believed, how our souls are not by any means the will of God.

The soul represents a realm of antagonism, of active opposition. So that when redemption passes out from the human spirit to the soul, it is a matter of conquest. It is in the realm of conflict, and there has to be a conquest.

But here it is not an act; it is a continuous and progressive thing. These souls are not redeemed in an act; that is, as a practical thing, through the spirit this redemption has to overcome the soul as a daily act. The redeemed spirit has to overcome the natural mind, the natural desires, the natural will. That is what Paul means by daily dying. "Always bearing about in the body the putting to death..." but that is in the realm of the soul. It is a continuous conflict unto conquest, and it requires patience, for in our patience we shall win our souls. "Receiving the end of your faith, the salvation of your souls". That is the end of our faith.

It is here that the answer is found to a good deal of confused teaching, and to recognise this difference now is, I think, to solve the problem, to give the answer. Some people believe and teach that full redemption in the soul is an accomplished thing, an act. Certain phrases have been used. It is not always fair to apply these phrases, such as "eradication", and "sinless perfection", and "a clean heart". Such phrases have become the representative phrases of a certain kind of teaching, and it is all based upon Scripture. Now, what is the Scripture, and what does that Scripture mean which is used to support this? So you are flung into the confusion of one set of Scriptures seeming to indicate that truth, and another set of Scriptures indicating that it is something progressive, not all accomplished in an act. And from the Scriptures you can argue quite well for that conclusive thing, and you can argue just as soundly for this progressive. Is one right and the other wrong? It is the understanding of the nature of redemption. Very largely that one set of Scriptures applies to something which is done at the centre of our being as a completed thing, an act, and we are there a new creation, and in that new creation there is no evil. But that is not our entire being. In another part of our creation, that which is complete in Christ in the Holy Spirit within our renewed spirit, is being daily applied, progressively wrought out. Unless we recognise that, we shall get into confusion. If we take this one line, and then come up against this other thing we shall say, "What is the matter? Our doctrine is either wrong, or there is something wrong with us!"

You see where it begins, and you see what it is in its beginning, but then you see the next phase of it, what it passes into, the human soul, and there as a conquest it is a continuous, progressive thing. Something is going to be worked out through conflict, and the conflict is in ourselves, and with ourselves, and, as we have so often pointed out, the nature of spiritual progress is that in our renewed spirits we are constantly saying to ourselves either, "No!" or, "Yes!" From within we are working against our souls in the natural desire, will, and thought, and bringing these imaginations, these thoughts, and these desires into subjection and into captivity, and into the obedience of Christ; and that is an inward thing. That is governing the soul.

3. Redemption of the Cosmos

The third phase of redemption, which is at a later point; that is, at a far subsequent point (at a dispensational point, shall we call it) applies to the cosmos. It begins in the individual spirit, or in individual spirits. When it has had its practical beginnings in us, many individual spirits making up the number of the elect, and when that has been wrought to a certain point of development or progress in human souls, constituting a moral state in believers, then at Godís time redemption expands still further and moves out to the cosmos.

There are three factors of this final state of cosmos redemption.

(a) Manís Body Redeemed

The body of the believer is redeemed. Redemption will then actually come out into the physical realm of the believer, and these bodies will be delivered from the bondage of corruption. That is not sonship instituted, but sonship consummated.

A resurrected body is essential to the fulness of sonship. In the case of the Lord Jesus, He was marked out as the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead. Now, if we are to be conformed to the image of Godís Son, a part of that conformity is a physical conformity, because that is sonship in its full sense. Sonship is introduced by the Spirit of sonship with the first positive application of redemption to the human spirit. Then sonship is developed by the conquest, conflict, discipline and suffering in the moral realm between the spirit and the soul.

Let us put that in a more simple form. How is sonship being developed in you and in me? It is by the conflict which we have in the spirit that draws us out to dominion, out to ascendancy, out to power. In the first instance the overcoming of ourselves. You and I by our redeemed spirits have got to be in a position where we command our own souls, and that is sonship getting up. You know that when people are growing, becoming mature, they are not so easily a prey to their own feelings, their own soulish emotions. They do not go down so easily under these reasonings and ideas, thoughts and feelings, and passions of the soul. They are not swayed by these things as they once were, by all that which belongs to the soul, which constitutes the variableness of spiritual life in the immature, in the babes. You know how babes are swayed by passions, likes and dislikes, feelings, wants, and their own childish ideas. You make allowances for babes. But when you are supposed to be more than a babe and still those things obtain, there is something very wrong. Growth, maturity, is marked by the bringing of that soul-life into captivity to the spirit, so that your spirit rises up when your soul says, "Yes!" and says, "No!" or when your soul would say, "Yes!" in a certain thing and that thing is not of God, and you know it in your spirit, your spirit says, "No!" to that. You govern by your spirit within the kingdom of your own being. Paul says, "I buffet my body, and bring it into subjection". That is being strong in spirit in the Lord, by the Lordís energising; that is spiritual growth.

The end of that is the manifesting of the sons. The manifestation of the sons is, in its first point, the deliverance of the body from corruption. It is the redemption of the body. "When this corruptible shall have put on incorruption". "The redemption that is in Christ Jesus". First of all He was quickened in the spirit. The final state of His personal embodying of redemption was His resurrection body. That is our inheritance in Christ.

(b) Creation Delivered

The second thing in this third phase of redemption is the deliverance of the creation itself. "The whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now. And not only so, but ourselves also...". The whole creation travails in pain, waiting! And then with the manifestation of the sons as the centre of the creation, "the creation itself shall also be delivered from the bondage of corruption". That is cosmic redemption. The creation is in bondage to corruption. There is a redemption that is in Christ Jesus for the creation.

I believe this is very largely the meaning of His life here on the earth. You notice how closely related the earthly life of the Lord Jesus is with the creation. Nature in the creation took a certain course, and always does take a certain course, and it is always in the direction of death. Death always means limitation, disappointment, dissatisfaction. Now, when the Lord Jesus came into touch with the creation, He reversed that. The creation taking its natural course in death was made by His touch to take the course of life. He turned the course of nature. If it were failure, limitation, by His touch it was made fruitful and abundant. The creation came under the impact of Godís Son, and His relationship to the creation was one always which saw Him as Master in the realm of the creation Redeemer. When He died the cosmos was darkened, there was darkness over the whole earth, and then the earth quaked. There was a convulsion in the whole creation because creationís Creator and creationís Redeemer had died. When He rose the grave opened, here is creation responding to the touch, as it were, of the Creator and the Redeemer in life. It is cosmic. Christ is a cosmic Person. In that Person the universe is gathered up, and wherever you touch Christ, you touch every phase of the universe, and when you see the Lord Jesus after His cross, through resurrection in glory, you see the personal embodiment of the universe. Our whole hope and assurance of complete redemption is Christ there. Body, soul, spirit, creation, and all redeemed in Christ, but now as we have seen, being progressively and in parts applied in a practical way.

(c) The Evil Powers Cast Out

In this crisis expression of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus the evil powers in the cosmos are cast out. The teaching of Paul is that the cosmos through this age is governed by evil powers. This world is governed by evil powers, the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience, the god of this age, hosts of wicked spirits under principalities and powers and rulers of darkness. But there is a redemption for the cosmos from those evil powers, and the last stage of redemptionís outworking is the ridding of the universe of the evil powers; they will be cast out of the heavens and then they will be cast out of the earth.

Now, all that is true of the whole is represented by Paul to be true in the Person of the Lord Jesus. All this that we have said is shown as having already been accomplished in Him personally. By reason of His Spirit being alive unto God - His Spirit never was dead, it therefore never needed to be quickened, regenerated, re-born, or raised from the dead, but it was alive unto God and in living union with God - He could say, not without a meaning (and it would be meaningless if it were simply words and phrases without a practical aspect) "Not My will, but Thine". A statement like that has no value if no two such wills existed, that is, if the element of choice never came in. If there were no choice, what is the meaning of saying: Not my will? The element of choice was there.

The element of determination was there. The element of conflict was there. Not that His own human will was in conflict with the Divine will, but there were other forces at work which sought by a conflict to get in between His will and the Fatherís will. There was no sin or rebellion in His own will, but there were rebellious forces trying to come upon Him so as to make for a conflict. But His attitude was, "No! Not My will, but Thine." It is deliberate. "I refuse the workings, the suggestions of this other will in the universe, and bring My will into line with Thy will!" Thus His soul was delivered, His soul represented the meaning of the redemption of the soul. It is not that His soul was redeemed. Do not think His soul was redeemed, it needed not to be redeemed, but herein is the representation of what the redemption of a soul is as working in humanity, with the spirit and will towards God.

The third stage must be a body which represents that which redemption means, a body which can never see death. He was given that. Our being in Christ means that that is our inheritance, but then, beyond man, there is the cosmos. The corruption of nature is sometimes robbed of its prey. Think of Lazarus: "By this time he stinks." All right, we will see! And out comes Lazarus, anything but that. What has happened? Nature has been robbed; corruption has been robbed. Corruption was unable to hold that, to grip that, to master, to overcome that. He reversed that, and brought out a perfectly healthy and whole man. Corruption has been spoiled. It shows what resurrection is in Christ, that the bondage of corruption, in which the whole creation is, has been overcome in the Person of the Lord Jesus, and is going to be overcome for us in Christ. That is, you and I eventually will have an incorruptible body, simply because He has gained that body for us. That will be a great day.

Then, in the final realm the powers of evil are dealt with. He stripped off principalities and powers. He said, "Now is the prince of this world cast out." He overcame the evil forces of the cosmos, of the universe. That is the final expression of redemption for us, that we shall be delivered from all those evil forces in this universe with the rest of the creation. The redemption that is in Christ Jesus secures that. Christ in heaven is the embodiment of that. That is a great ground of confidence to stand upon, that the issue is not in doubt at all, is not open to question. It is settled in the very presence of Christ, beyond the reach of anything that would raise a question about it.

Our being born anew and having the Holy Spirit is the earnest of all that, and as we go on in the Spirit we shall come to the full inheritance as sons in the Son.

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