The Unsearchable Riches of Christ

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 2 - The Power of God

"Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past tracing out... Unto me, who am the least of all saints, was this grace given, to preach unto the nations the unsearchable riches of Christ".

"The unsearchable riches of Christ." Having noted that this word "riches" is linked with a number of things in the New Testament, we have commenced our meditation with the first of these connections: "the riches of His grace". We have said a little about the basic character of grace, something about the works of grace and the works of law. And we have gone on to look at Godís work of grace, of finishing His work for man before ever man comes into the picture at all and is then called into the work which God has finished. This is the grace of God.

Now let us for a few minutes look at the free action of the Holy Spirit as:-

The Spirit of Grace

You know that the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of Grace. What does it mean that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Grace, that the Holy Spirit is that, and the Holy Spirit comes to us as that? And the Holy Spirit is freely given to us through faith, as the Spirit of Grace. Here is the Grace of God: we never earn or merit the Holy Spirit, He is freely given, to faith. And although it may sound like repetition and labouring the point, I do want that we should be impressed with this: that the Holy Spirit, given freely as the Spirit of Grace, brings to us from God all that Grace means. We have the Holy Spirit in possession, in-dwelling, we have in Himself, His very Person and Presence, all that Divine Grace means. He is that Spirit of Grace.

Now, with Him, we have the free action of God. The free action of God! The Bible begins in a very simple way, so simple that you hardly notice it. It's something written, set down, you read it and you hardly know or notice what you have read. "Now the earth was without form, and void; darkness was over the face of the deep." and on we go. "And the Spirit of God brooded upon the face of the deep..." and on you go again. What was there in that condition to merit the presence and action of the Holy Spirit? The initiative was all with the Spirit of God, over against a set of conditions utterly contrary to Himself. And yet this brooding was a very active thing, a very energetic thing, a very purposeful thing; in a word: the Spirit of God brooding, hovering over that state of things was the presence of God to change the whole situation, because God wanted it changed, that's all. Just that! God wanted it changed. And He took the matter in hand. There was not only the lack of merit, but plenty of demerit. We don't know, there has been surmising, perhaps guessing, perhaps right guessing, that that state of things was due to some judgment which had come upon the creation, which we will not speculate about at all. There was a state which was altogether contrary to the mind of God and the state could do nothing about it for itself. It was the free action just the free, voluntary, unearned initiative and action of the Spirit of God.

Now, dear friends, you and I are here, and there are multitudes in our position, as we believe, saved; born anew, children of God, who would say we are a new creation in Christ. How did it happen? Did we go up into heaven to call Him down? Did we go into the deep to bring Him up? Did we go to the uttermost parts of the earth to find Him and persuade Him? We really did nothing about it. We are where we are and what we are by an action altogether apart from anything that we did in the matter. He did it. He did it, He did it all. We did nothing toward it, indeed our condition was all against Godís thought and Godís mind and yet He took the initiative and He did it by His Spirit. That is the Spirit of Grace, you see, taking things in hand, taking things in hand to have them - to make a beginning. To make a beginning, to have things not as they were, but as God intended and intends them to be. That's all very simple, isn't it? But there's much more in that for our heart-ravishing than perhaps we're aware of, because perhaps our salvation is taken too cheaply, taken too much for granted. It's those people who know best than most, what they really were, what a chaos they were, what darkness they were in, what disruption there was in their lives - it is those people who know that most and best, who know that their salvation was nothing of their doing; it was the free action of the Spirit of Grace. We will add to that in a minute.

Therefore, the Holy Spirit has brought God to us. He has brought God to us, He is God, very God, He has brought God to us, but what does that mean? In other words, what are the riches of His grace? Now, we are going to dwell upon that this evening, in part, at any rate. And we'll begin with another three things with which we are so familiar.

First of all, as the Spirit of Grace coming as God to us, He comes as the power of God into our lives to do all that God wants done. Now, that's a simple statement, but He has come to do it. He has come to do it! It's no more of ourselves, than it was of the first natural, material creation that brought about the change. No more of ourselves, it's the power of God that has taken this thing up. Is it too common place as to evoke no response in our hearts? Are we not more, and more, and ever more aware that whatever has been done, or is being done, or has got to be done is by the power of God?

The Power of God

And what power! What power! Is darkness a power? Is it a power? Well, perhaps you have some experience to make it possible for you to say, "Yes, I know". When you've got to move into this world, where the Lord is neither known nor recognised, nor acknowledged, apparently not wanted, and you realise that darkness is an awful power, "darkness covers the earth, and gross darkness the people". They're in darkness, and what can you do about it? You can talk, you can do all that is in your power, but you cannot break this thing until the Spirit of Power as the Spirit of Light breaks in on that soul, on that life, in that realm. It wants the power of God.

Darkness is an awful power. And if that is true in this side of the world where there has been so much light given and so much truth given, and there is so much Christian tradition, you go to the other side of the world - you go to those dark places of heathendom. You have only got to move in such a place, such a country as India where the gospel has not touched, and you can feel the darkness. It is evil. It's positively evil! It's like that.

You may feel it in a traditionally Christian world or realm. I will never forget my first visit to the city of Rome; and wanting to see various things, I went to the Colosseum to see the place where the Christians were flung to the lions. And I went to this and that, and then I went into St Peter's church. And, you know, I  couldn't stay. After a very short time, I had to go out. I felt ill; physically ill! A sense of awful death came on me physically, and I was glad to get out of the place. It was an atmosphere of death and darkness to the spirit. But, if that's true there, as I say, you go to other parts of the world and you can cut the darkness. It's so strong. It's a terrible thing.

When the Spirit of God as the Spirit of Light entered into this darkness which was over the face of the earth, it met an awful power, it was dealing with an awful power, and it called for the exercise of the Infinite Power of God to break that reign of darkness. It called for the Divine Fiat: "Let there be light" - the Word of His Power. Oh, that our hearts cry and crave for the knowledge of that Power in His Word more. If the smallest percentage of all our speaking had the real Power of God in it, something would happen. Something would happen, it would be a fiat, an act of God to speak. That is why the Lord Jesus is called "the Word" because where He comes as the Word, something happens, something happens! The devil is exposed, as when He was here and cried out, "I know Thee Who Thou art, the Holy One of God". Hell felt the impact of the Word. Men, sinful men, cried out in His presence like that. The point is, darkness is a terrible power.

The disruption in our humanity is a terribly strong thing. We are, every day, almost every moment of our lives, up against that breakup in the humanity which is ours, or the breakdown of it, the disorder of it, the disintegration of it, the disruption of it. We know that our humanity is a broken down thing. We are all the time striving to pick it up and build it up and hold it up. We know it's a power, a terrible power - the disorder and chaos in ourselves. The Spirit of God came of His own accord, of His own accord as the Spirit of Power to deal with what no other power in this universe could deal with; to change it. And that's where we are in the new creation; it's what the Spirit of God has undertaken to do with us. And surely there are few, if any, in this place tonight who would not echo the words of the apostle, "Kept by the power of God". You know you would not be a Christian today, you would not be going on with the Lord, you would not be standing true, but for the keeping power of God. In a world like this, there is such a power against what is the Lordís.

Well, this is the Spirit of Grace, you see, that has come to take it over. The Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Grace is the custodian of the Divine Perfection. He has taken responsibility for realising Godís End. Oh, thank God for that! Knowing ourselves and the awful forces that there are in our nature; knowing the world, or something of it, and the awful forces that there are in this world; and knowing the devil and something of his inimical hatred and opposition to what is of God, anything that's of God, we say, "Well, the only possibility is if God Almighty does it, sees to it". And that is the Spirit of Grace that has come to take it up, to do it - the free action of the Holy Spirit.

See, we read, you know we read John 16. We read John 16, and if I asked you what's in John 16, you'd have the answer. Well, you know John 16 is, "I am going away, I am going away. You see Me now, you won't see Me anymore. I return unto My Father... for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come, if I go away, I will send Him to you..." and on and on and on, what He will do, what He will do when He is come, when He is come; when He is come. It's all so natural, all so effortless, it seems; it's just going to be! It's just in the order of things. He's coming and He's going to do this and that; and that is all there is to it. It's just that He is coming, "I am going to send Him". We read it, we know the content of the Word, but do we realise that all this just means that the Holy Spirit is taking over all that Christ came to initiate, to carry it right through to its End. He's just going to do it; it's what He's come for. He is the Spirit of Grace, and grace is just God doing all that God can do without asking for any merit or any payment. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of that grace as the power of God, but that's one of the riches: the riches of His power through grace.

We ought, you see, to get down to our Bibles and have a word study, and a passage study here, and there, and there. Perhaps if I only just remind you, it will start off something. Have you not noticed that grace is many-sided in the New Testament? And one of the sides, or aspects of grace is that it is an energy. It's an energy, it's a power. It's a force in our lives. "There was a messenger of Satan given me to buffet me." And although these are not the words that the apostle used, this is what he meant, "I cried out to the Lord: Take this away, because I can't endure it. I shan't be able to go on with this thing. I'll not be able to get through; this is too much, this is too strong, this is too great a burden. It's going to limit me; it's going to spoil my life. And He said unto me, 'My grace is sufficient for thee: My strength is made perfect in weakness.'" Grace there is introduced as over against the conscious inability of the apostle to go on with what he had been called for on him, what had been put on him. His natural reaction was, "I just cannot! If I've got to have this, I'll just not be able to. Take it away, Lord". He said, "I asked Him three times, take it away, Lord; take it away, Lord; take it away! Life is impossible." He said, "My grace is sufficient for thee" - everything is possible to grace. It's a power, you see. It's a power; an energy in the life. We do know this in measure, not as we ought to, we have had to say many times, "But for the grace of God I should have acted very differently from what I did. But for the grace of God... grace saved me. Grace kept me. Grace held me." It's the power of God as the Spirit of Grace. But there is where the riches begin.

But what next? He is called the Spirit of Wisdom.

The Spirit of Wisdom

Later we will have something more to say about wisdom, but just for the moment what does that mean? What is wisdom? To begin with, what is wisdom? Wisdom is more than knowledge, you know. You may have a lot of knowledge and have no wisdom. And the people who have got the most knowledge, have got the least wisdom; they are the most foolish people with all their knowledge. What is wisdom? It is knowing how to do things, or how to do it. Knowing how to do it. That's a simple formula for wisdom. As I said, there's more to say in another connection, here it is.

I remember a few years ago I heard or read a little incident of a firm of engineers who were given a contract to do a certain job. And when it was done they sent in their account, more or less general, and it was a very big account. And the people who had to pay the bill sent it back and said, "Look here, this is not good enough. I want you to explain this and tell us how you make up this bill". The firm sent back, "Materials: so much. Time of workmen: so much. One or two other practical things: so much"; but when those things were added together, it didn't come up to the whole account. And they wrote underneath: "Knowing how to do it: the balance".

Ah, well, knowing how to do it. It's quite a big part, you see, in the whole business, isn't it? They might have had the materials, and they might have had the workmen, and they might have had all the other things, but not knowing how to do it, what would have been the good at all? They would never have done it.

Wisdom is knowing how to do it. And here is the Spirit of Grace in this way: Grace knows how to do it. We have to learn a lot about that, have we not? But Grace knows how to do it: to take up the problems, handle them and solve them, negotiate the situation to a successful and triumphant issue, handle the people concerned - how to handle them; oh, and a thousand other things which require knowing how to do it.

Now, I do say, and I am quite sure that I am speaking the truth now, that you and I are many times brought to the place where we don't know how to do it, or what to do. We just do not know, we haven't got the wisdom for the situation. Perhaps you are in it now; I am, but the Spirit of Grace is the Spirit of Wisdom; He knows how to do it. We have some experience upon which we can say, "I never thought it would be done, and I never imagined it would be done like that, the way the Lord has done it. What the Lord has done, how He has done it, that never occurred to me that He would do it like that!" And when you think of it, was there any better way, could it have been done better? No, no. The riches of His grace is the riches of His Wisdom. Grace... in the Wisdom of God.

If you and I do believe in the grace of God brought to us by the Spirit of Wisdom (and I almost hesitate to say it because I know I am involving myself as well as you) we ought never to despair of a situation. He knows how to handle that, how to get us through that, how to resolve that. We do not know, and in the presence of this quandary, this problem, we cry out. It wants something so deep and so great that it's altogether beyond us. It may be in time, but certainly in eternity, we will say, "Oh, the depth of the Wisdom... the depth of the Wisdom! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out."

The Spirit of Grace is the Spirit of Power. The Spirit of Grace is the Spirit of Wisdom. The Spirit of Grace is the Spirit of Life. He is called:

The Spirit of Life.

"The law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus". By the Spirit, we are told, Jesus was raised from the dead. Raised from the dead through the eternal Spirit - through the eternal Spirit; the Spirit of Life.

We need not go back again for our analogy to the first creation, the operation of the brooding Spirit, and the result of the life in the creation - both in the animate creation and in man - is the other kind of life. It's all the result of the presence of the Spirit in the new creation, it's like that. But here again, it's not just a Christian truth, a Christian doctrine. The gift of eternal Life is not just one of those things that we come into when we become Christians. This Resurrection Life is a continuous abiding from day-to-day in power and experience. It's put in all the tenses of the Christian life and salvation: "We were raised together with Him, that we should walk in newness of life". That's in the past tense. We are now living in the good of that, that "the life whereby Jesus conquered death should be manifested in our mortal flesh". That's present tense. And this goes on to the future, the future: a great revelation of Life in its final, full, perfect expression. This Resurrection Life is not something only that happened when we were saved. It's a Power to work in us continually now. Well, you know it so well in theory and teaching, but this is the Spirit of Grace.

Oh, thank God for the power of this Divine Life which is demonstrating itself continually! And it seems to me, it does seem to me, I have often said this in the past, that it seems more and more to be the case that the further you go on, the deeper this Life has to go, because you're taken so much deeper, more deeply into death. The experiences of going down become deeper and greater than ever they have been before, so it seems, and therefore the power of His Resurrection becomes greater all the way along. This is a very hopeful thing for us. Perhaps some of you are feeling today that well, you're touching bottom and perhaps you're saying, "Well, this is the end". But do not forget that Resurrection is a reality, it's not a theory. It is not just a doctrine. It's an experience and a continuous experience. And, dear friends, the great revelation in the Word of God is that in the end, in the end it's going to be up and not down.

I usually, when I go into a lift [elevator] and there's a lift man there, I have a little joke with him and say, "Your life is full of ups and downs, isn't it?" He says, "Yes it is, sir." I said, "Where's it going to finish; up or down?" And he looks rather wise, and he knows that something's coming... we know how it's going to finish. We know how it's going to finish! It's an elevation life that we have. And we may from time to time descend, but we are going to ascend as many times as we descend as the Lordís people, and the final movement is an ascension. This Life is that way, it must seek out and find its own source. Where it began, it will end. It began in God, and it will end in God. This is the Spirit of Grace, the Spirit of Life.

I know, dear friends, that I have only said things with which you are familiar, but sometimes our most familiar things, because of their familiarity, lose their power and it's as well to be reminded of them.

Now, I have mentioned these three aspects of grace as three great and primary riches of grace and how rich they are. What I have next to say, if the Lord wills, would take considerably longer than we would have time for this evening, because they really do take us into the depths.

So I'll leave it there, but you've enough to get on with, you've enough to get on with what I have said this evening, or what, I trust, the Lord has said. You go away and let your hearts, as well as your minds, dwell upon this.

You know, we miss a lot, dear friends, we miss a lot because we hear, we hear, we go away, and do nothing. It would be very good, all to our good, of real value if, after tonight, we just recalled these things, and went to the Lord very quickly, and said: "Now Lord, this is what is said; this is the truth. I look to You to make that good in me. The Spirit of Power, the Spirit of Wisdom, the Spirit of Life... it's said that these are features of Your grace, brought in the person of the Holy Spirit. This is the teaching of the Word of God. It mustn't stay in the Book. It must come into reality, into my own life. And Lord, I count on You to make this true, make this real and so, more than ever."

In keeping with T. Austin-Sparks' wishes that what was freely received should be freely given and not sold for profit, and that his messages be reproduced word for word, we ask if you choose to share these messages with others, to please respect his wishes and offer them freely - free of any changes, free of any charge (except necessary distribution costs) and with this statement included.