"The Laying on of Hands"
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 2 - Christ the Focal Point

"...the rudiments of the first (beginning) principles of the oracles of God"

"Let us cease to speak of the first principles of Christ, (Greek reads: The word of the beginning of Christ) not laying again a foundation of the laying on of hands." Hebrews 5:12; 6:1,2.

Having, in the first place, brought together the Scriptures of both Testaments which relate to this subject, and made one or two general remarks as to possible wrong applications of the truth, we now proceed to do that which we saw to be necessary in the case of every aspect of doctrine, that is, set it in relation to all the rest of truth.

If the Holy Spirit calls this a "first principle of Christ," and a part of the "foundation" (the regular idiom for laying the foundation of a building is used here) then something foundational is missing if this is left out, and weakness in proportion must be at the base. Moreover, the other principles must relatively be weakened, and the symmetry be upset if the Lord says so many are required and we reduce the number.

These "principles" are said to be "of Christ" (objective genitive: about Christ). The context shows that these things are the initial basic principles of the believer's life. While true that they belong to spiritual babyhood, they do belong thereto, and maturity cannot be reached unless the foundations are according to Divine prescription. The superstructure will always have a basic weakness in such a case, and it is always a difficult thing to put foundational weaknesses right when the building is well-advanced, although it is done, even in the case of a long-standing Christian life, with much history behind it.

Christ - The Focal Point of all Truth

The little, yet all-important, objective genitive which we have noticed - "about Christ" - gives us the focal point of all truth, and immediately corelates the particular matter before us. Christ is the Centre of everything, and He is the key to and explanation of everything.

There are three main aspects of the Person and work of Christ brought into view by the Scriptures; they are:

Substitute, Representative, Head

While, in the work of His Cross (1) and (2) may, and do, overlap in measure (that is, He not only died for us, but as us) these three relate respectively to His death, His resurrection, and His exaltation. He is substitute in death. He is representative in resurrection and ascension, and He is Head in Exaltation.

One sees Him "made a curse for us" and rejected. The second sees Him made a blessing for us, and accepted. The third sees Him filled with all the fulness of God for us.

Death is rejection. Resurrection is acceptance. Exaltation is fulness. There are always two sides even to the sacrifice, the altar, the cross; the death-side and the life-side; the rejection side and the acceptance side; the consuming from the presence of the Lord, and the consuming unto the Lord.

It will be seen that this embodies a very great deal of the content of the Word of God, and may lead to a fresh study thereof, but it brings us to what is specifically before us.

In our former survey of the Scriptures we saw that, in the main, the laying on of hands in the Old Testament was connected with the substitute in relation to salvation; with blessing in relation to life and enrichment from the Lord; and with anointing in relation to ministry and responsibility. In all these connections there was a laying on of hands which carried with it either an acting as on behalf of the Lord man-ward, or on behalf of man God-ward, and in some instances both combined. In any case and whatever the object in view, the act was one of identification. By the outstretching of the hands a practical declaration was made that those who so acted and those touched were one. Thus, without any further delay, we can say with confidence that the laying on of hands all inclusively brings into view:

The Oneness of Christ

This oneness is shown to be in three connections: firstly, His Person; secondly, His finished work; and thirdly, His position and continued activity.

1. As to His Person, this comes out in a special way in His incarnation. But looking back to the two-sided feature of things and persons in representation in the Old Testament, we see that God and man came together in one object.

There is a sense in which the main matter of all the Scriptures is that of God's fellowship with man, and man's fellowship with God. This relationship is taken back into the "before-times eternal" in the thought and intention of God. It is a phase of the "mystery hid from ages and generations," but is now made known unto His saints (Col. 1:27).

But it is not just the bare fact of fellowship, it is the nature and method of that fellowship. In the full light of revelation it is seen to be, not objective, but subjective; not outward, but inward. It is God and man joined in one life and one nature. It is here, of course, that all the errors and heresies have found their entrance. This truth has been recognised, but it has had constructed upon it philosophies and interpretations which, because Christ has not been apprehended, have led their inventors, exponents, and adherents into the deepest deceptions. The cause of this error and lie - which becomes so refined as to be - in principle - accepted even in what would seek to pass as thorough-going New Testament evangelism (we are referring to the idea of "the divine in man") is the failure or refusal to accept the absoluteness and utterness of the "Fall," and its consequences. The one all-inclusive issue of the "Fall" is the impossibility of that man - the fallen man, man by nature - to be united or reunited with God, or for God to be united with him. That man has passed away for God, and has died. There must be a new man, according to God's thought and heart and will.

This New Man is Christ. He is truly man, with a humanity as real and complete as ever God meant humanity to be. But He is also God; as utterly God as Very God. These two facts meet in His Person and are interwoven beyond man's power to dissect. The gold of His Sonship is interwoven with the white linen of His perfect humanity and is one with the fabric. This is not so with even the "born anew" believer. Here again other mistaken systems of teaching have found their entrance in relation to regeneration and sanctification. Christ is the link of God and man. God is in Christ, and Christ is in God. Union with God is only possible IN CHRIST, and as Christ in the Person of the Holy Spirit is in us. "Christ in you, the hope of glory."

But this postulates the setting aside of one man who "cannot" (1 Cor. 2:14) for the Man who can. "If any man be IN CHRIST there is a new creation" (not, "he is a new creature") (2 Cor. 4:17). The new creation is what is in Christ, and what Christ is. Our fellowship with the Father is in His Son, our Lord Jesus. The Father's fellowship with us is in Him also. Everything in the types and symbols of Christ in the Old Testament declares this basic truth.

In the New Testament we find that the primary thing unto any relationship of life with God is to recognise Who Christ is. The work of Christ in His Cross was not the first thing for men's salvation, but it was WHO it was that did that work. Paul's conversion was not based in the first place upon what Christ had done, but who Jesus was; the other immediately followed, and broke his heart. The first thing that Paul preached was not His work, but that He was the Son of God - His Person. One of the last prayers of Paul on record was that believers might be granted "a Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the KNOWLEDGE OF HIM." (Ephes. 1:17.)

The revelation of this reality of the Person of Christ, if it stood alone, might not lead to salvation; that is, if it were an objective thing only. There was something gravely lacking in Peter's life even after the revelation from the Father concerning the Son, as recorded in Matthew 16. If Paul had stayed only with the objective side of his experience on the Damascus Road things would not have worked out to his salvation. But the subjective is bound up with the objective. Peter was destined to have the counterpart, and Paul says that "It pleased God to reveal His Son IN ME." That inner revelation is undoubtedly of "Christ crucified," and embraces the work as well as the Person.

What we have sought to emphasise thus far is the oneness of the Person of Christ. This is a far-reaching, and, as we have said, an all-embracing truth which will touch things at every point as we go on. God has come to us in Him; has joined Himself with man in Him - and only in Him. We have come to God in Him; and have our relationship and fellowship with God in Him; and not otherwise.

Salvation is not "deciding for Christ," it is seeing and receiving the Son of God.

2. Now, inasmuch as the Person gives the value and meaning to the work, and the work cannot be of value only in the light of Who it was that accomplished it, we must go on to speak of the oneness of Christ's finished work.

While this work will always have its individual aspect, and all the saved will with Paul glory in that "He loved ME, and gave Himself for ME," a contemplation of the Scriptures on the subject will very soon convince that in the mind of God and of Christ the whole work of Christ was a collective and corporate thing. It relates to humanity as a human family, and not to individual members thereof merely. The race is in view, and the race is always regarded as an organism, related in a single life and nature.

"He made of one (blood) every nation of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth." (Acts 17:20.)

The sixth chapter of the Letter to the Romans is a summary of what has preceded it in which the whole range of the race - both Jew and Gentile - has been searched and swept in quest of inherent righteousness and it has not been found. Hence the race in its entirety is under condemnation and sentence of death. Then Christ is brought in and accepts the position of racial representative, and although Himself wholly and inherently righteous (which means that He is not involved in man's estate by what He Himself is, and therefore He can be a VOLUNTARY representative as one apart) He submits to being "made sin in our stead, he who knew no sin." Thus, when Christ died, from God's point of view, the sentence of death upon the entire race was executed, and the race died in Him.

When God raised Him from among THE DEAD (for it was not possible that an inherently holy one should see corruption) it was still in a representative capacity, that is, as Head of a new creation, a new race, and of the Church which is His Body. This resurrection representativeness is collective and corporate, and, while all of its members will have to come into it on a personal apprehension, appreciation, and appropriation of His work, it is already regarded from the Divine standpoint as complete and a whole. God is working backward, not forward. That is, in sovereignty He has reached His complete end in foreknowledge, and is working from completeness not to completeness in the matter of the number of the elect.

Now this matter of the original nature of Christ's work and its result is the key to the whole subject which we have before us. Of that resurrection organism He is Head, and His headship embraces various aspects of our relationship to Him and to that organic spiritual entity or Body.

Four Connections of the Laying on of Hands

In bringing the Scriptures of both Testaments together we have seen that - in the main - the laying on of hands is in four connections, but we must clearly and strongly keep in mind that headship is that which governs them all. The four connections are:

1. Identification with the representative Head as Substitute and Saviour through judgment and death.
2. Identification with the Head as inclusive of a new race and organism.
3. Identification with the Head as anointed for blessing and gifts.
4. Identification with the Head in relation to service and ministry.

Number one includes the death side and the life side of union with Christ.

Number two brings in the corporate nature of union with Him and of the member's new life.

Number three has to do with the gift and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Number four relates to the believer's place and work, in general and particular in the "Body of Christ" or "House of God."

Let us say again that a survey of the Scriptures on the subject will show that the laying on of hands is clearly connected with all these aspects of Christ's Headship. The Headship of Christ is the one correlating, co-ordinating, all-embracing reality, and all truth has to be focussed there.

Before we go on to deal with the laying on of hands in the four-fold connection indicated, we want to come back to our present particular object and point out that the laying on of hands cannot be regarded as some sideline of truth, some mere phase of doctrine, some optional observance, if in the Divine thought it really is connected with four such tremendous matters, for these four cover the whole ground of the believer's life, and if this is one of the "foundation principles" of the doctrine concerning Christ, then they all stand or fall by each other. That is, the general foundation is weak or strong according to the equality of importance given to them.

Whether or not Paul wrote or instigated the Letter to the Hebrews does not come into this discussion at the moment, but at his conversion the first four of the six principles (Hebrews 6:2) were definitely operative. "Repentance from dead works." "Faith toward God." "Baptisms" ("Arise, and be baptised, and wash away thy sins." Acts 22:16). "The Laying on of hands" ("And Ananias, laying his hands upon him, said, brother..." Acts 9:17.)

There is always the peril of recognising a thing as stated in the Scriptures, and then adopting it as it stands and constructing a procedure upon it, making it a part of a creed or practice without having revelation as to God's thought - larger thought - back of the simple form of words. This leads to mere institutions, ordinances, and forms. Everything in the Word of God has got - for its true value and power in life - to come to us by revelation of the Spirit, and when that takes place we are introduced into the universal and eternal which lies behind every Divine thought.

The laying on of hands, with other things, e.g., baptism, the Lord's Table etc., can be just the acceptance of certain bodies of people, and have to do with custom and practice, which others leave out. It is even possible that these things may be regarded by some as having no place or meaning for certain parts of the dispensational arrangement and character of the ages.

We venture to say that all this may be because the eternal and universal thought of God back of everything that comes from Him has been missed, and the things in question have been regarded too much from a local and earthly standpoint, rather than from the heavenly. These things can - and do - mean life and strength where they are spiritually apprehended and observed, but as mere ordinances they may have little uplifting or enduring value. We have known the thing in both realms and we know the difference.

(This chapter ended "To be continued" but was not continued)

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