Spiritual Fruitfulness

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 6 - Sonship

The way in which everything becomes inward is that God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts. Now: "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God." That is the Spirit of Sonship dwelling within our hearts. It is how it works out, and there is a good deal more involved in sonship after that kind than appears on the surface. It says quite clearly that relationship to the Lord (for sonship is a relationship) is firstly inward, right at the centre of our being, and then it is a matter of having our entire lives governed by what is inward. To be led by the Spirit does not merely relate, and is not merely confined, to crises in our lives and special occasions when we need leading. It is to have our entire lives under the government of the Holy Spirit from the inside.

The Lord, in speaking about the day of the Holy Spirit's coming, said: "He shall guide you (or lead you) into all the truth." That is not just spasmodic, something which is occasional; that is continuous, that is the unbroken course of the life of the child of God. The Lord has not arranged our lives so that according to a Divine timetable or programme the Holy Spirit will lead us into this truth at one period and into that truth at another period, and into a further truth at another period still. Our coming into the fulness of truth, the full revelation of Christ, is not a matter of Divine arrangement as to time, it is a matter of our obedience to what has already been revealed; that we progress in the revelation according to our spirit response to what we have. Some people enter into a fulness of truth much more quickly than others. They get a large measure of revelation while others are going on with but a fragment for years, and their entering in is much belated. That is not because God appointed in the one case the earlier entering in, and in the other case a later entering in. That is not the Lord's way. That has to do with the spirit of the individual concerned, as to how much that one is walking in the Spirit. So that everything in coming into the fulness of Divine thought and desire is bound up with the continuous, and not just the periodic or spasmodic, leading of the Spirit. This being led of the Spirit, then, is not something which relates to particular points, times, crises, emergencies in our lives, but it is having our life continuously under the government of the Holy Spirit from the inside.

That is where the emphasis must be placed. The Holy Spirit would govern us, if we would let Him, from the inside and slowness in progress in the way of the Lord is simply because we will so long be governed from the outside. People who are governed from the outside in their spiritual lives do not develop very quickly. Their maturity is much delayed. They very rarely reach a depth and a height of spiritual life which is more than a very elementary thing. It is the people who walk inwardly in the Spirit who come swiftly to maturity, and enter into the greater fulnesses of the Lord. So then, let us repeat, the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Sonship is in our hearts, and therefore from the centre of our being, and not from the circumference, He would govern our lives.

Sooner or later, if progress is to be made, we are brought back there. If we are not to remain to the end in an elementary state, an infant condition, the Lord, true and faithful to His own laws, will bring us back there.

Let us illustrate. You may have two kinds of call in relation to the Lord. We take for our purpose now the call to service. The call to service in rela­tion to the Lord (we are not saying that it is the true call, but it is a call) may come to us from the outside. We may get it by the impact of an appeal, by the strong force of a presentation of need, by the powerful urge of a situation which demands our service, by an outward application to our hearts of the whole question of service, either in general or in particular. Multitudes have had a call come to them in that way, and have responded, and they have gone out in the strength of that. Now, one of two things has happened with all such people where that only has been the nature of the call. Either they have gone on to the end of their lives in a system of Christian work, which is very largely external, and have spent their lives in that realm of work and activities and an arranged programme. Or else in the course of time they have come up against a situation which raises the big question for them as to whether they really had been called of God, and then they are turned into the vortex of a great enquiry. Things have so operated, so come about, as to precipitate for them the most serious of all questions. Was that the call of God? Was I really called? Or was it the presentation of a need, a situation, an appeal made, and under the stress of the atmosphere I, in my emotions and my enthusiasms, responded? Multitudes have come that way, and they have reconsidered the whole position and opened the door to an enquiry before the Lord as to whether He had really called, or whether they were in something that was not His call. It is a very serious position.

One of those two things happens. In the case of someone who is really a child of God, and is seeking from their heart to be wholly the Lord's, and wholly under the Lord's government, sooner or later that question will arise, if their lives have been governed in their movements by something outside. That is the infinite peril of an external appeal.

Now, we are not saying that God never can, and never does, call through those means, but we are saying that there has got to be something more, and there has got to be a call or the call heard in the realm where the natural ear ceases to function and all natural emotions and sensations cease to control. Away back, where nature ends, the call of God has got to begin. The call has to be heard in the spirit if we are children of God. Sooner or later that will have to be. How much better that it should be so at the beginning. The call is heard in the spirit by the child of God. Until it is so there will be weakness. There will be weakness after this kind, that there is all the room for the setting up of the biggest questionings and doubtings possible in our lives. It only requires circumstances and certain experiences to throw up the whole of the ultimate question as to whether we are where we are because God has put us there, or because of a response to something which was presented. That is a tremendous question.

You see the importance of government from the interior. Our thought all the way through has been that of fruitfulness. The measure of fruitfulness will be proportionate to the inwardness of the government, or what Paul calls being "led by the spirit". Being led by the Spirit determines the fruitfulness of the life, more or less. Action may be the result of inner hearing, and if through the voice of man as God's messenger God's voice is heard, another Voice more than man's voice, which does not register itself merely upon our reason and convince it by an argument upon our emotions and stir them by a pathos upon our wills and capture them by a drive, but registers itself upon our spirits, so that we know - deeper than emotion, deeper than argument, deeper than the impact of human personality - God has spoken. Action which is going to be a hundredfold fruitful must be upon that basis.

This determines the measure of Christ, and therefore it determines the method of fruitfulness, for nothing will be fruitful but what is Christ. Christ is the source and the stream of fruitfulness. It is only what is Christ that will be fruitful, nothing else can be fruitful. The measure of Christ is the measure of that which is the result of the Spirit's operation and activity in our spirit.

This makes some very serious distinctions. These are revolutionary things, and we may as well face them. We are really getting behind a lot of history and explaining it, a lot of tragic history on the one hand, and it makes some of these distinctions which are not pleasant to make, and certainly very difficult to face.

It makes a big distinction between a whole range and realm, and an immense amount of work for the Lord which is not essentially the work of the Lord, and therefore only gets just so far, and attains to just that measure of fruitfulness, if any. This spiritual truth is illustrated for us in the Word of God quite a good deal.

Take up the spiritual principle of sonship, and trace it, and see what a distinction it always draws and what a contrast it always makes. Take Abraham, who represents and expresses the true spirit of sonship; that is, an inner relationship to the Lord. Abraham's relationship to the Lord was inward, so much so that not only was he unique, differing from all the others, but no one else understood him.

Here is Abraham, then, who, because of the inwardness of his relation­ship to the Lord, expresses the true spirit and principle of sonship. Alongside of Abraham there is another: Lot. While these two are walking side by side, they are two, they are not one; and there is an immense difference. The differ­ence is this, that Lot is simply going with Abraham because Abraham goes that way; he is not going that way because God is leading him that way. It is not that God is not able to lead Lot from the inside, but Abraham is going that way, and Lot accompanies him; he is adhering to something else which has the Lord in it, but he is not that something else.

You can have association with something which is of God, and work from the outside, but how far do you get? Just about as far as Lot did! He was full of contradictions in the long run, not really possessing the heavenly vision at all, but simply going that way because he recognised that here was something which was of God, and he joined himself to it. But he had not got the inwardness of that himself.

Take another illustration, that of Joseph and his brethren. Joseph is not the eldest son, Joseph is one among his brethren, but he is distinguished from them, and that which distinguishes him is a purely spiritual thing. It is that spiritual thing which makes him different. It is the inwardness of relation­ship to the Lord, it is the directness of his relationship to the Lord. All his brethren worshipped the same God, were of the same stock religiously, but this man had not an historic, traditional, inherited relationship, but a vital relationship with God. That is what he represents, and he, therefore, had the inward revelations of God. When the writer of the letter to the Hebrews says: "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke unto the fathers in the prophets" the divers manners will embrace dreams and visions and a good many other ways of God speaking. God spoke to Joseph in dreams. There was the inwardness of his relationship to God represented which was direct, not merely inherited, handed down to him. What is the thing that makes that difference? It is this, that the natural order is altogether set aside. Joseph comes to the place in relation to God above all his brethren, the place in union with the heavens, governed under the hand of God. And Joseph is a man to reckon with in the Bible. His name represents something in the Scrip­tures. Joseph is one of the sublime types of the Lord Jesus throughout his life. How is he a type? On what principle is he a type? Not merely because of the outward incidents of his life, which are typical incidents, but because of the central principle: sonship. Sonship is that which directly relates us with God inwardly, and has nothing whatever to do with the natural order, but rather sets it aside, ignores it. If the natural order had been followed, then the eldest son of the family would have occupied the place that Joseph occupied.

The same truth holds good in the case of David. All the sons of Jesse are made to pass before Samuel the prophet, and they are all rejected of the Lord. Then David is found, not considered along the line of nature, not taken into account, but God said of David: "I have found David, a man after My own heart, who will do all My pleasure." David is always a representation of the spirit of sonship, "The son of Jesse". Sonship, you see, is a term linked with David. What was it that made the distinction between David and his brethren? It was that inner relationship to God, and there again the same thing holds good as in the case of Joseph. The natural order is set aside; it has nothing to do with that. Nature has to retire; it must not govern here. We see what the natural order was. When David went to carry greetings from his father and bread for his brethren, we see the spirit of the natural man, what nature is, what nature's judgements and capacities are. God has simply ruled nature out in this matter, and says nature never enters here or puts a hand upon this matter, nature must stand back; this is something other.

The same thing follows on with Solomon, and it is most obvious that Solomon is always a type or a representation of sonship: "He shall be My son and I will be his Father", God said about Solomon. The two things obtain again. Firstly it is a matter of specific relationship to the Lord that is represented by Solomon, not because of what Solomon was, but in the sovereignty of God. And then again the setting aside of the natural order. David had many sons, and Solomon was not in the natural order the heir, but he ascended the throne.

Are we seeing that all this says that something external as governing life may just, after all, only represent what is natural and not what is spiritual? And therefore, before we can truly hear the Voice, before we can trulyhave our lives governed inwardly by the Lord, all natural arguments, all natural orders, have got to stand back; everything that is external as represented by what is natural has got to be set aside. Because it is done, because it is the accepted thing, because it is the recognised thing, because it is the estab­lished thing, because it has been for so long the way, does not mean that we are to capitulate to it and be governed by it. Not at all! It is, after all, what God says in our hearts by His Spirit. "These are the sons of God, even they that are led by the Spirit of God." The fact that a thing has been used of God and blessed of God, perhaps for many years and even for centuries, does not constitute that thing automatically the governing thing of our lives.

That is where Saul of Tarsus made his greatest mistake. Israel, Judaism, raised up by God, used and honoured of God, blessed of God, that with which God had associated Himself, therefore it must be right and we must abandon ourselves to it! No! That is no argument. There comes a time when even that which God raised up, used and associated Himself with, ceases to be the thing in which God is.

This great distinction involves some of the big questions in our lives. It raises the whole question of:

Spiritual Leadership.

Not leadership in an enterprise, not leadership in a great organised movement, but spiritual leadership; that leadership by which others are brought into the living fulnesses of Christ, and into the living activities of God. What is leadership according to God? It is just that which issues from our walking with God Himself, and not being governed in the first instance by anything merely external. Are you prepared to go on with God, and all that that involves? If you are, you will become, in the very course and order of things, a spiritual leader. Leadership is a matter of spiritual responsi­bility, and who can take spiritual responsibility who has no deep life in God, knowing the Lord within?

A Price to be Paid

Spiritual leadership, constituted by walking with God and not with men, and not with orders or systems, inevitably involves loneliness. It did with Abraham; it did with Joseph; it did with David; above all, it did with Christ. The natural mind can never go that way, can never grasp things, can never see things. The measure in which the natural mind is there, is the measure in which it is impossible to have fellowship with that which is walking wholly in the Spirit. Therefore, this leadership means intense loneliness. The very loneliness often becomes the ground of the enemy's activities, "You are alone; no one else sees as you do! See how few there are who can go with you, who agree with you!" Thus the enemy argues.

There are dangers surrounding what we are saying. You can be cranky and be alone; you can be fanatical and be alone. It is not crankiness or fanaticism that we are talking about. It is a true walk with God, knowing the Lord. It is not that inclination to separateness, the freelance line of things, and a lack of the fellowship spirit. That is not what we are talking about. All those things can bring about a loneliness, and people can make martyrs of themselves by bringing that kind of isolation upon themselves for those reasons, but we are not referring to that. But even when your whole heart may be moving out for fellowship - it may be your greatest desire, and you may be working for it and laying yourself open for it - even while you may be shunning everything that is extreme as an emphasis and seeking to keep the balance of things (not by compromise but by maintaining all sides in even emphasis) you may find yourself desperately alone.

No man had a greater genius for friendship and fellowship than did the apostle Paul. No man had a greater universality of ministry and message than he. No man laboured to maintain relationships as he did, and no man was more lonely in this New Testament age than Paul: "At my first defence no man stood with me"; "All they in Asia turned away from me." Why? They could not agree with him. They could not see what he saw. Peter could not see all he saw, though Peter saw some of it. John could not see it all. But Paul saw, and he had to go on alone. What about the value of Paul? What about the fruitfulness? Has anyone approached him in the measure of fruitfulness? Has anyone left a deeper impress upon the history of the things of God than Paul? I am sure we agree that Paul stands alone in more ways than one. If Paul stands alone, so that others are unable to go on with him, he also stands alone in the measure of abiding fruitfulness in this age.

We cannot all be Pauls. We are not suggesting that we are all called to be Pauls, but the laws hold good, the truths abide, that the measure of fruitfulness is the measure in which we go on with the Lord, and are prepared to pay the price of not going on with nature in the sense of what is external, even religiously so.

That is sonship. It is the Spirit of God's Son. It is the way He went. The Spirit of God's Son in us will lead us the same way. It is just a question of utter capitulation to the Spirit within in a full and complete willingness to pay the price. Upon that rests the measure of fruitfulness. The Lord interpret these things to us.

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