The Church's Position and Power in the Heavenlies

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 2 - The Inward Strength of the Believer

The position is just this: that the Lord Jesus has done everything. He has taken up every bit of the purpose of God from eternity - the whole plan, the whole design, the whole intention - and has secured it in completeness and fulness in His own work of obedience, so that in Him all the work of God is finished, all the ends of God are reached, all the purpose of God is fulfilled. There is nothing in the revelation of the Word of God, even of that wonderful revelation subsequent to the cross, resurrection and ascension of the Lord, that is not realised in the Lord Jesus. All that has come out through Paul, or Peter, or anyone else since the Lord Jesus went to the glory, is not new revelation, a something that is extra to what Christ has done. It is only a revelation of that which Christ has already accomplished and secured in Himself; it is done.

Every bit of Ephesians is realised in the Lord Jesus; every bit of Colossians, Philippians, Hebrews - all there perfected, completed in Him. Now He holds all that as completed and perfected in His own Hand, or in His own Person, for us. It is all finished and held by Him for us. The good of all that is held by Him for us, in our interests, on our behalf, that we should have all that and come into all that.

Now, how are we going to get into that, if He came into the good of it? Well, we have, in a very practical and definite way, to register our agreement with it, our acceptance of it, our stand in it and our claim to it. I am trying to think of a simple illustration of it. Supposing that someone here in this world, a great benefactor, undertook a great magnanimous scheme of advantage for us, for you, for me. He undertook it and completed the whole transaction and holds in himself the title deeds of that, a perfect thing right through, and then said, "Now this is all held for you. It is all for you. You are to come into the good of all this. This is an inheritance which I have secured for you. I have nothing more to do, you have to come into the good of it, but in order that you may come into the good of it, there is something you must do. You must take up a position towards it and register that position in a very practical way, you must come to my office. And there is the whole thing set out before you on paper, and there is a seal there, and you must come and put your finger upon that seal and declare yourself as standing in the good of all that. And before witnesses you declare yourself as, in faith, in gratitude, standing in the good of all that is written in that parchment, an open declaration of where you stand. And as you take that position, and as you lodge that claim, and as you affirm your faith, then I will begin to make that good to you."

Now, I do not know whether that is an adequate illustration, but it will set us somewhere, at any rate. It is a coming to a testimony and making a declaration; coming to a testimony, to our faith in that man's good will and ability to do that for us, that he can do it, that he has done it and has made it over to us. It is not his power; we declare our faith in him - not in the thing, but in him who holds it, and our faith is declared in this practical way, that we commit ourselves to it before witnesses and if the thing breaks down we shall look awfully foolish. "They that put their trust in the Lord shall not be ashamed."

We do not think of it as taking risks at all because of our faith in the One, but make this open declaration before men, heaven and hell, and we stand in for that. And He begins to work the thing out and make it good to us. These open testimonies are, as it were, our putting our finger upon the seal, and saying concerning that clause, "I declare myself to be in the good of that" and to count on the Lord to make that good to me. There are various claims of this nature and you will have to put your finger upon a number of seals. Here is Calvary, the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus in its great sweep for us objectively and in us subjectively. We put our finger upon the seal, we have done that in faith, and say, "All that Calvary means for us, we declare ourselves in that; all that Calvary means in us, we declare ourselves for that." In a very practical way we plunge into and immerse ourselves in that, accept that. And we come later to "the fulness of Him that fills all in all". What is the fulness of Him? The Body of Christ, the church which is His Body, the fulness of Him that fills all in all. The fulness of Christ is for the church which is His Body and no one outside is going to have the fulness. We come into the fulness in the church which is His Body, and further, we gather together and testify to the fact of the Body of Christ; an act of identification. As we gather round those who are bearing this testimony in an act of identification, and put our hands on their head, so we say we are members one of another, and in that way there is a testimony of putting your finger upon that and saying, "We inherit something more than individual blessing, we inherit the fulness of Him that fills all in all, with all other members of the Body". These testimonies are our taking position and declaring ourselves in relation to all that the Lord has accomplished by His cross.

You must remember in the case of the Body of Christ, from the divine standpoint it is always spoken of as complete. You never find anything which speaks of the Body of Christ as a thing to be completed from the divine side. Whenever you touch the heavenlies in the Word of God, you always find things perfect; everything is done. On the earthly side there are things still to be done, but on the divine side all is done, so you enter by faith into what is perfect from the divine side. It is great, when you think of all the antagonism, opposition and the seeming doubtfulness about the issue, there is absolutely no doubt or question from the divine side; it is done.

The Lord has those who, although they may still be in heathen darkness, from the divine side they are in the Body of Christ already. He has completed the number of His elect and there will be not one missing when He has accomplished His purpose. This does not eliminate our responsibility. It does not say we need not do anything. The Lord will not allow that. This is the mystery of the eternal counsels of God and the responsibility of man; difficult to reconcile, but the two things obtain in the Word of God. What I am stressing is this, that we testify to our comings into what the Lord has already perfected in Himself. As our brother goes into the water and is immersed, he testifies to the fact that he stands in the good of Calvary, he stands for all the work of Calvary to be made good for him. He may not sometimes think it is all good because the work of Calvary is going to be smashing, breaking, cutting, but it is all good. Some of us have been through it, but we are not sorry. Calvary being wrought out, however bitter to the flesh, is good; we are coming into the good of things by that way, but we stand in all that that means for us and in us and then, blessed be God, through us too, on the behalf of others.

The Inward Strength of the Believer

I have another word on my heart I think, strongly. I must say another word in another connection though I may not be able to go far with it or complete it. It is in another connection altogether and is a very needy word for most of us in these days.

We are occupied with the matter of the overcomer and the pathway of the overcomer to the throne. That is what has been occupying us. Now, this is not in perhaps the order, the sequence of things, but I think perhaps it is suited to this gathering.

It is concerning the inward strength of the child of God, the believer. When you come to last things, last time matters, you find a growing emphasis upon the necessity for being strong within; stress is laid more and more towards the end, upon inward strength. When you come, for instance, to the closing words, the closing phrase of the Ephesian letter, which letter we know brings us up into the sphere of our spiritual warfare where the issue of the ages is being fought out and decided so far as the church is concerned in Christ, the approach to the contemplation and recognition of that warfare is marked by these words, "Finally be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might." The word "finally" would be better translated as "from henceforth", "from this moment", "from this point" "from now onward" because immediately there comes in the battle. "Take unto you the whole armour of God that ye may be able to withstand the wiles of the devil." From this point, with this conflict, this warfare coming into view, from this point onward, "Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might." We need hardly stay to stress the terms, "Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might."

Now, of course, it goes without saying that that is the only sphere in which we can be strong unto a battle of this kind and that is the only strength and might which can serve in that conflict. I say that with another very definite link in my mind which I want to get at in a moment. The strength of these warriors is firstly in their position in the Lord. "Be strong in the Lord." The Lord does not say, "Be strong in yourself" or "Be strong in anything", but "Be strong in the Lord and in the strength (or power) of His might." More literally, "Be strengthened in the Lord". To use other words from this same letter, third chapter, "strengthened with might by His Spirit into the inner man", and the same thought in Colossians, "strengthened with might by His Spirit within the inner man".

Now simply, but emphatically, the growing need of the Lord's children is inward spiritual strength that they shall recognise that they have a responsibility in this matter of strength. You notice how that responsibility is laid upon the saints in the words, "be strong". The Lord does not say "Now finally I am going to make you strong, I am going to give you strength." That is not His word, the Lord lays some necessity upon us and says to us, "You be strong, you be strengthened. Now this is very largely with you." But, you say, that is all very well.

Yes, the Lord calls upon us to exercise ourselves towards His might, to lay hold of the strength, the might of God and be strong by exercising our spirit in His strength. It is set over against that peril of passivity in the believer. There are few greater perils in the life of the believer, and few greater vantage grounds for the enemy than spiritual passivity, that is, a passive state, an inactive state where they are flopping down and expecting the Lord to come and make them something and to put them on their feet, and energise them as outside from themselves. That is a most dangerous position to be in, a disastrous state, and it opens the whole being to the enemy.

And if you have any experience at all in these matters, you know quite well that one of the enemy's great tactics with the Lord's children is to get them to a place where they flop, where they let go, where they shrivel up, where they cease to fight, cease to be active in spirit either by discouragement, or by pressure, or by suffering, or by any one or more of these things. His strategy is to get them into a place where they spiritually sag and take a kind of fatalistic attitude towards everything. They are out of the fight. And believe me beloved, that is the issue: to get the Lord's people out of the fight, to get them down where even their praying is a kind of passive praying, always saying "Lord do this, or do that", petition only, asking the Lord to do everything. It may be very good up to a point, but it may also represent something far less than the Lord desires and requires, and you will find that He does not come in when we are in that state, and lift us up by the hand. The Lord never comes in and lifts up one of His children from the outside, He never comes and picks you up out of your armchair of passivity and puts you on your feet. His attitude is, "What doest thou here Elijah?" - you have to get up. You have got to get onto your feet.

What the Lord does say is, "Be strong"; He calls for an exercise of the spirit, of our spirit towards His own strength and energy, to lay hold on Him and then He gives us the strength. But He expects first of all action out of inaction, movement out of passivity, a shaking off of this thing on our part. He says, "You be strong, you stand and withstand, and I will come in as you do it."

I am touching a thing far more vital than perhaps you recognise at the moment. It is a tremendous thing. I know this and I am speaking out of very deep experience in this matter. I know, as I hope no one else will ever have to know, the terrific, tremendous activity of the enemy to crush you clean out, to rob you of all fighting force, and put you up in a corner so that you do not any longer count as a positive factor, and make it impossible for you to fight. I know what it is to cry to God for weeks to come and do something, to get me on my feet. And I know quite well that the only thing the Lord has ever done is to show me that I must exercise my spirit against that, in Him, and lay hold of His strength, and then He comes in and does it. That is a law of overcoming: being strengthened with might in the inner man, but which is relative upon our recognising our responsibility in this, seeing what the enemy is driving at, and our standing up and taking hold on the Lord. That is a law that abides. You must remember that.

Soul-force and Spiritual Force

I want to close with a word of discrimination. There is a difference between soul-force and spirit. It is possible for us to have great soul, driving force, and taking hold - and that is just as dangerous as passivity, and that exposes us and opens us just as much to the enemy's movements. Passivity makes us mediumistic if we begin to register all sorts of uncanny things, and we get every kind of dark registration. But the soul-force line of things exposes us to stronger things than that in the way of guidance and so on which are wrong. I am not going further with that, but I want to make that discrimination between soul-force and spiritual force. It is not simply that we are pushing on in the strength of our own will, in the strength of our own force, our own determination. Oh, we have learned this lesson, or we ought to have learned this lesson. That is not good enough, that cannot eventually meet the enemy, and it is a dangerous thing and confuses things for God; it means that we project forces which are evil.

We have had a man over in this country recently from India, Mahatma Gandhi. The title "Mahatma" links him with a group of ascetics in India (maybe some present know more than I do about it). As far as I know, these people believe in the projecting of soul-force, and they cultivate soul-force by hours of silence and meditation and prayer. You remember how Gandhi refused to have his hours of silence disturbed even by the whole round-table conference? Nothing would he allow, even for an instant, to break in upon those silent hours, and some people thought that was a very fine example. But what was he doing? Developing soul-force with a view to projecting psychical influence upon people in situations, to turn the current of things by projecting soul influences and forces.

I do not want to carry you into that realm, but do not forget that we meet that and that sort of thing can be, and we can project like that if we live in the soul instead of in the spirit. Where are we to be made safe in the matter? It is the cross, and only the cross, but the cross does it and we come back here where we have an intelligent understanding with the Lord that the soulish man, the natural man, what we are by nature, comes into that cross in identification with the Lord and is cut off from that. And in the resurrection union of the Lord Jesus we shall live in the Spirit, and walk in the Spirit; we are spiritual now, and not soulish or psychical.

There is all the difference between what we are by nature, and trying to put it to the account of the Lord in a kind of strength, and bringing things about, and our being in ourselves weak, impotent, nothing, and yet being strong in spirit. It is a great thing when the Lord gets a man or woman broken in themselves, in their own natures, in a place of absolute dependence upon Him and they know it, but where they do not take their brokenness on the natural side as the criterion, but take hold of His strength. That is the meaning of the Lord choosing the things that are weak, foolish etc.. The Lord does not take up our own wisdom to bring to naught the wisdom of this world. He takes up our foolishness, and by His wisdom through our foolishness, confounds the wisdom of the wise. He does not take up something of our strength and put that over against something else of the world or the enemy. He takes up our nothingness, but the cross has to bring us there, to the nothingness, foolishness.

It is a painful thing to the flesh to feel foolish, but the cross does its work and we must have the understanding with the Lord, that though I had all the wisdom and the cunning of the serpent himself, though I was everything that man would require, I should need to be finished, eliminated. It is no use, I recognise that all I am by nature has to be brought by the cross to the end, and I have to have a divine equipment, a divine outfit, something which is from God, A to Z, and nothing outside of that which is of God Himself can accomplish this spiritual thing, so that we do not seek to bring things about by our own effort, but we lay hold of the strength of God, the wisdom of God. It is all out from God in this new creation.

There is a difference between being strong in ourselves and standing up in a crisis and emergency and setting our teeth and saying we will see the thing through, we are not going to be beaten, and being strong in spirit. The difference is an experimental one almost impossible to set forth in teaching. But you can know, and if you have that understanding with the Lord that He will make the cross good in your own life, and bring you to the place where in your spirit, the forces of hell and earth no longer have power over you. The measure in which we live the resurrection life of the Lord Jesus is the measure in which Satan has lost his power. As we go on to that side, we have come to the place of strength.

That is touching the fringe of this thing - this is a tremendously important thing, that we know how to move in the Spirit, to walk in the Spirit and be strong in spirit because that is a factor which means the overcoming of the adversary, the overcoming of the enemy. I must leave it there.

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