by T. Austin-Sparks
"God, having of old time spoken unto the fathers in the
prophets... has at the end of these days spoken unto us in His
Son" Heb. 1:1-2.
"And because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts" Gal. 4:6.
These two passages put together give us the light which we need in this connection. One says that God has at length fully and finally spoken in His Son. The other says that, being sons, the Spirit of His Son has been sent into our hearts. It is a well-known thing that in that clause in the second verse of Hebrews chapter 1 there is no article: "...has spoken unto us in Son". First of all let us get the tense. The more exact translation would be: God did speak. It is stronger, more definite than: "God has spoken." It is the final and full revelation which has come. The absence of the article gives the absolute sense to the Person. It is not merely what Jesus said, but what He is. It is not that God sent His Son and said certain things - however full those things may have been - through His Son as an extra One to all the prophets who had been sent. That is not the meaning here. It is what is meant by ''Son". The absence of the article has quite a definite significance. It is important to get that. It is a tone, a note, that the ear must catch, something for which you have to listen carefully. What is that? It sounds strange! We feel that we have immediately something more definite and can go away with it when we read: "Has spoken in His Son". But when you say, "has spoken 'in Son'", you have to stop, you cannot walk away with that immediately. That draws your attention not to a messenger, not to someone entrusted with a message to deliver; that immediately holds you to the Someone, and you find that it is the Someone who is the message, rather than has the message.
Christ is not entrusted with a message from God. Christ is God's Message, and God's Message in fulness and finality. The revelation is not the revelation of a doctrine, a system, a truth; it is "Son" revelation. Difficult as that may seem to the mind, and technical as it may sound, until we have really grasped that, we shall always be missing the mark, going astray, wandering round. Once we really do grasp what that means, we are anchored or at least we have our feet upon the way to the answer to every problem, the meeting of every need. "God... has... in Son"; what He is, and not just what He says.
Christ Himself is the sum total of all God's thoughts, God's desires and God's intentions. He does not come just to express God's thoughts in word, to make known God's desires, to tell of God's intention. He comes to personify and embody in His own very Being those thoughts, desires and intentions. He is those. When you see Him by the Holy Spirit you see God.
Those thoughts, desires and intentions are now embodied in a human form. Christ's mind was one with the Father's in the thoughts; Christ's heart was one with the Father's in the desires; Christ's will was one with the Father's in the intentions. But that now is represented in human form and that is subjected to testing on this earth, in this world. The action of all other contrary, antagonistic thoughts, desires, intentions is brought to bear upon that in human form: "Tempted in all points like as we", therefore tempted along the line of other thoughts than God's thoughts, along the line of other desires and feelings than God's, tempted along the line of other intentions. Tested, tried in human form, with a view to those thoughts, desires and intentions of God being established in humanity.
It is a fact, and one of the realities of life peculiarly real to the child of God, that no Divine thought, or desire, or purpose which comes to us becomes a part of us until we have been subjected to trial and testing along that line. The thing is not established in us because we have apprehended it, seen it, felt it, or committed ourselves to it. We know quite well that every bit of Divine revelation, in order to be established in a permanent form of life and power indestructibly, has to be subjected to the fires of trial. We have a way of saying that certain people have got the truth, the idea, but they have not yet gone through the fires with it; and therefore it still remains in a realm of unfruitfulness though it is there. We say that they have not gone down into death with it.
Now in the Lord Jesus, while there was a difference between Him and ourselves, the principle is clearly seen to hold good, that He in His humanity was bringing about an establishment in humanity, in human life, of all that which related to God, and He was doing it through testing. As to His moral nature there was, and is, no room for any question as to perfection. The perfection of His moral nature is settled absolutely. In Him was no sin. And yet the Word quite expressly declares that He was made perfect through suffering, and that He, though a Son, learned obedience by the things which He suffered. This shows that He was subjected to ordeals, to trials, which did not relate to His own perfect and sinless nature, but which related to the establishment of something of God in human life. Thus the Divine thoughts, desires and intentions were subjected to testing, to trial, in human life.
There had to be a battle fought over this whole ground, and on every point victory had to be won in human life for God, and only through victory was all this made perfect and established, and in the victory, full and final, this was taken to glory. What was taken to glory was the establishment in absolute victory of God's thoughts, desires and intentions in a human form of expression; that God should have one representative Man in whom the entire battle of God's mind, heart and will had been fought and won. In the Man, Christ Jesus, at the right hand of God, God has that Humanity perfected according to His own thought, desire and intention; therefore glorified.
The Holy Spirit Sent
The next step in the Divine course is the Holy Spirit being sent as the power and the virtue of all that, to introduce that sonship into believers. 'Sonship' as we know, is a word which carries with it fulness, finality - God's end reached - and that is why there is a special declaration connected with the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. It is in His resurrection that there is a specific proclamation made: "Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten thee." That statement is definitely connected in the Word with the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. We know it does not mean that only in His resurrection was He the Son of God. He was declared Son of God from the beginning in His birth, in His baptism, but here you have something which is a declaration of Sonship connected with resurrection. That represents and signifies that here in His representative capacity as Man, there has been brought to perfection in Him the Divine thoughts, desires and intentions; and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus is just the Divine seal upon the perfection of His Humanity. The Holy Spirit, therefore, comes - not before the resurrection but after, not before the ascension but after - as the power of that perfected Sonship in its fulness, its completeness; that Sonship which exists upon the ground of God's thoughts, desires and intentions having been brought to completeness and finality in Him. And the Holy Spirit comes as the power of that to introduce that - and not less than that sonship - into the believer: "God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts".
The Spirit of Sonship the Basis and Key to Everything
How different that is from the imitation of Christ (we do not mean for one moment to cast a shadow over Thomas à Kempis) at the same time it is a false idea to think or talk about imitating Christ until you have recognised and come to know that there is no hope or possibility whatever of ever becoming Christ-like until the Spirit of God's Son is established in the heart.
This represents an entirely different system of Christianity from what has become most generally accepted in the Christian era. It is here that Satan has undercut the whole of God's purpose. It is impossible to be a Christian - if the New Testament is to be the revelation of what a Christian is - apart from that definite act of birth from above in which the Lord Jesus in the Person of the Holy Spirit takes up residence within the life. To talk about being a Christian without regeneration is nonsense; it is talking about a thing which does not exist. To fail to recognise the supreme importance of a Divine act by which the Holy Spirit from heaven comes and enters into the life is to fail to recognise the meaning of what a Christian is. There are all kinds of substitutes for this, which go by its name, but they are all substitutes.
There is a fairly general pagan conception of God related to the human spirit, and the human spirit related to God in the whole race. Upon that a whole structure of religion has been built, but it is false. It is not according to the Word of God.
Then there is the mystical system, which makes everything of the Divine spark, with something of God in everyone which has only to be cultured, cared for, cherished, brought into a right atmosphere and environment, and have gathered around it religious and artistic influences and all that, and there will be development so that finally it will emerge into God-likeness. Again, it is false! It is a substitute, and it is a lie!
There is also what we may call the ritualistic substitute, which sees in sacraments and the partaking of sacraments that which represents God, and you imbibe God through the sacraments, and in the sacraments there is a fellowship with God, a partaking of God. Again, it is a lie! It does not work out.
None of these things work out to the realisation of God's thought, God's intention. When you look over the world you find that the three things mentioned (and there are others) represent the position of perhaps nine-tenths, and more than that, of the people of this world. So Satan has blinded, misled, deceived, robbed and undercut the truth.
It is in this definite, precise act, only upon the ground of what Christ is in glory, and what He is in glory through His suffering and death, the Holy Spirit definitely taking up residence in the life, that there is any possibility whatever of being what the New Testament calls a Christian, and coming to God's end.
We said, then, that the basis and key to everything is the Spirit of Sonship in us. That makes everything inward, as differing from the objective. There is all the difference between an imitation and a conception. One is outwardly presented, the other is inwardly born.
The Spirit of Sonship Must Teach Christ Within
There is no revelation that is extra to, or apart from Christ. We have in mind things which are thought to be specific revelations, and which perhaps sometimes we have spoken of as specific revelations, but which in reality are not separate revelations. We mean the revelation of the church, for instance. We have spoken about Paul having a special revelation of the church. There is a sense in which that is not true, that what Paul had as a special revelation was a special revelation of Christ. If we think of such matters as what is called "the church" or any other thing, as a revelation in itself, we are in grave danger of becoming occupied with a thing. We must recognise that what Paul saw by special revelation was the church as the Body of Christ, and he spoke always of the church as Christ; that is, Christ expressed, manifested, revealed in a corporate form; not losing His own identity, but expressing Himself in a corporate vessel. So that that vessel, in the full revelation, is seen to be the embodiment of that which Christ is. There is no difference between what Christ is, and what that is when God reaches His end; though different in Person, not different in nature and content: conformed to His image. Christ is said to be the express image of the Father's Person. The church is to be the express image of Christ's Person. Do you want to know what the church is? Do not ask the Lord to reveal to you church truth; ask Him to reveal Christ to you.
You come to the tabernacle in the wilderness, and the temple, and you see here you have a representation of the church. Ah! But more truly you have a representation of Christ. In what way? Christ as a wonderful, comprehensive order; if you like, a heavenly system; everything so precisely appointed, so Divinely governed. That is Christ, but Christ in a collective way. What is it that your heart desires? What is it that you seek? You will find the answer in a fresh unveiling of the Lord Jesus, no matter what it is, on any detail, you will find it in Him. Now the Holy Spirit's work is not to reveal to us things, truths, but to reveal Christ, and Christ in relation to all the matters that have any place whatever in our relationship to God. It is the Spirit of His Son. What is the church? It is His body. What is His body? It is a whole set of members, functions, faculties energised and governed by His life. It is Christ.
The difficulty arises there in explaining, defining, making clear; and all that we are able to say beyond that point is that we have to recognise the fact, and seek to have the expression of the fact that in every direction and connection, both in life and in service, there has got to be some expression of Christ, some coming out of Christ. Even in business affairs there has to be some coming out of Christ to meet that position. It is not: "Lord, give me the judgement, the counsel!" It is: "Just show me where Christ touches that, and how Christ meets that, what it is that is Christ that fits in there." That is the effect of it. You will find, if you have not already done so, that as you go on with the Lord, and your life becomes more and more under the immediate (when we say 'immediate' we mean the instantly and growingly conscious, and not the altogether unconscious and indirect) government of the Holy Spirit, that the Holy Spirit is always seeking to lead you to Christ, to a fresh discovery of Him. He will check your ideas, your thoughts about things, such as Christian truths, doctrines, systems, orders and methods, and so on; and He will be emphasising Christ all the time. He will be seeking to show that there is a way in which Christ just fits into that situation, meets that need; that Christ is a comprehensive business system, if you like. In matters of business there is that in Christ which most wonderfully fits into that situation, to solve that problem. It is as though God had gone over the ground to the last detail, and left nothing out of consideration. Most comprehensively He had summed up every situation, every requirement of a life to be lived according to His mind, and had met everything, to the smallest detail in His Son. He then had sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts to show us how Christ fits in all the way along, and meets the need. So that we are learning Christ. Paul said: "Ye did not so learn Christ", meaning that there was a learning of Christ.
We can afford to drop all our terrible, strenuous mental activities in relation to truth. We can let go of our efforts of mind to get through to light, and we can and must recognise that Christ is the all and in all for everything, and that, if the Holy Spirit gives us a fresh illumination of Christ, we shall find that He just fits in there and answers that need, whatever it may be. There is something of Christ to meet that.
We have often thought that if we had such a comprehensive, and such a detailed, microscopic grasp of the Bible, and that it were always present in every fragment to our conscious minds, there is not a situation into which we are capable of entering but what we should find in the Bible that just touched that, some fragment that fitted in there. I knew a man once who was able to quote Scripture for everything that he did. I am not saying that he was always right, but whenever he wanted to do a thing he could quote Scripture for what he did. He had formed the habit of quoting the Scripture first before he went to do a thing. The point is this, that if we knew where it was, and where to find it, there is something in the Word of God, though it be but a fragment, which would relate to and govern any kind of experience into which we could possibly come in our human life.
Of course, we have found again and again the Lord has given us an extraordinarily fitting word for a certain situation. And I believe it is possible for that to be true in anything and everything in our lives.
That is an illustration, that God in Christ has... (may I use something that is hardly in keeping in this realm?) boxed the compass of human need in relation to Himself, and that there is not a point in our lives but that Christ is able, in something that is in Him, to meet just that. Perhaps that hardly needs labouring, but the point is this, that the Spirit of Sonship is in us to teach us Christ in relation to everything in life and in service. It is the basis and key to everything. It is making everything inward.
We are required to let the Word of God dwell in us richly; that is required by the Holy Spirit as His material. The Word is that by which the Holy Spirit reveals and makes Christ known to us. We are required to have a life in continual prayer fellowship with the Lord. Christ will not be made known to us otherwise. When given those things, and a life of obedience to the light which has been given us, the Holy Spirit can illumine Christ to our hearts so that we have all things in Him.
The point of special value is that it is something which is going on inside, and because it is going on inside it means that Christ is related to us at the very centre of our being, and that we are, therefore, in the innermost, deepest reality of our being, one with Christ, joined to the Lord one spirit. That means that we are that in fact, and becoming that, rather than just seeing that and doing it as something presented. It is something which represents the development of our inner being according to Christ. What has happened is this, that, although we do not yet recognise it and enjoy it, it is not the Spirit of the Child Jesus in us, it is the Spirit of God's Son. We mean by that, that it is not the undeveloped, immature Christ in us, but Christ perfected. We are not enjoying it, we are not recognising it, but the fact is that Christ in us is final. We have everything when we have Christ by the Holy Spirit. There is nothing to be added to Christ. Christ is full and complete, and our course is to learn that.
Receiving the Holy Spirit we Receive Christ in Finality, Utterness, Fulness
That is a wonderful thing to contemplate. It is not that we have received a partial Christ, an imperfect Christ; it is now that we have to learn how great and full is the Christ we have received. The glory of a true spiritual life, led by the Holy Spirit, is the glory of discovering daily what a wonderful Christ you have, far more wonderful than you knew. But that should not be something extraordinary; that is how it should be. You have received that, but you never knew the value of what you received until the Holy Spirit, who alone knows the value, reveals that to you.
You might have a jewel given to you, and you might be told that it is a very precious jewel, but you have no knowledge of jewels and you do not know the value of jewels, and so you take other people's word for it. While you can see certain things about it that make it witness to your consciousness that it is precious, you do not understand its full value. But then a man who has the most comprehensive knowledge of jewels comes along and looks at it and says: "Let me tell you something about this". And then he begins to tell you something about that, and you see there is something you never knew before. Then he comes back tomorrow and tells you something more, and the next day. That man is never tired of telling you of the new wonders that are in this jewel, and all the time your wonder is growing. You say: "I have had that all the time; all this that this man has been telling me day after day for months, perhaps for years. I had it all at the beginning; he has not added anything to the intrinsic value of that jewel by what he has told me; he has only made me know what is there." That is what the Holy Spirit is doing with Christ. We have all that from God when we have Christ, and the Holy Spirit has come to show us the things of Christ. He is giving us Christ from every angle, in ever-deepening depths. It should be like that. That is inward. The people who live on that basis at least are living upon a very different level from those who simply live upon a religious external system. Oh, that we might live there more!
Let us drop our quest to know about truths as truths, and let us concentrate entirely upon this: knowing Him. All that Paul ever knew about the church, the body, or anything else came to him by the unveiling of Jesus Christ; not the thing, but Christ.
This gets to the root of things, and today there is so much lacking lustre and glory because of occupation with doctrines, truths, interpretations, traditions - things that have been handed down in some crystallised form and so on, instead of the abiding occupation with Christ. One is death; the other is life. It is not what such-and-such a great man did fifty, a hundred, two hundred years ago, and because of what he did there were certain eventualities which took a certain form, and we believe that he was right, and we adhere to that. Because of what he taught we believe it to be right, and we follow his teachings. Why? It may have been quite right, but I cannot inherit anything from that man; that thing must become as a living revelation in my heart as ever it was to that man, before I can enter into it. I cannot follow that simply because it is something heard. I cannot even take the New Testament and conform my life to the New Testament, because there is such a thing as the New Testament. Believing as I do that it is God's Word, it still remains a Book until the Holy Spirit comes and reproduces that in me. Much as I believe that is right, and God's will, what can I do? I can do nothing until there is an inward something, and that is that the Christ that is in that Book comes into me, and the two become one. That is the key to everything. Once that happens the Book lives. Why does the Book live? I do not mean the fascination, that it becomes a realm of fascinating study. I mean this thing lives in the sense that it becomes power, strength, peace, rest, satisfaction in the heart. How is that? Only because the same Spirit who wrote that Book is in me interpreting, revealing.
These are very simple things, and we have used a great many words just to emphasise one central thing: "God... has at the end of these days spoken unto us in Son", and Son is the essence of everything. Now, because we are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son, the essence of everything, into our hearts. (If that word 'essence' offends you, please recognise in what sense it is used.) Christ in our hearts is the sum total of everything in the mind, heart and will of God, in us by the Holy Spirit, and now we have to learn Christ. We shall not go wrong in our lives if that is the basis upon which we are living.