"Not by Might, Nor by Power, But by My Spirit"

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 2 - The Perfecting of God's New Thing

Reading: Zechariah 4:1-14.

It would be well if I went over this chapter with you, not that this chapter is the basis of the things we are led to consider, but there are so many things in it which are of the nature of principles and laws which run right through the whole of the Scriptures. If we just have the chapter summarised for us it will help us to go on. So very hurriedly and concisely we just glance over this chapter.

Zechariah 4:1 sees a prophetic instrument awakened as from sleep.

Zechariah 4:2 that awakened, prophetic instrument is interrogated as to what his vision is, what he sees. And he sees a candlestick which represents the vessel of testimony, all of gold, which speaks of the vessel being altogether of God and nothing of man. A bowl is on the top of it, speaking of the measure of the filling. And then that one bowl supplies seven lamps. The seven lamps speak of the spiritual fulness and completeness of the testimony. There are seven pipes, which speak of the channels of supply. Full ministry in the testimony.

Zechariah 4:3 two olive trees are seen. Two means fellowship and completeness in ministry. These are said later in the chapter to be the sons of oil; here, Joshua and Zerubbabel.

Zechariah 4:4-6 the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel.

Zechariah 4:7 the mountain of difficulty which becomes a plain before the Spirit-filled instrument, or shall we say more accurately, is as a plain. Mountains are not always removed, but mountains can be scaled in the power of the Spirit and got over, and in that sense becomes a plain. The top stone is then seen to be brought forth eventually with shouting's of "Grace, grace unto it". The top stone speaks of the certain completing of the work which God has taken in hand; and the shouting of "Grace" says that when all is done it will be through the grace of God. The final word of accomplishment is the word of grace.

Zechariah 4:9 the hands of Zerubbabel have commenced, they shall complete. Here is initiation and consummation, and it is said that this represents or speaks of vindication, "...His hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts has sent me unto you". The fact that the Lord sees to it that the work He gives to an instrument, that instrument fulfils if governed by the Holy Spirit, is the way in which the Lord vindicates His servants.

Zechariah 4:10 a day of small things. Also, verse 10 sees the seven eyes of the Lord which go to and fro in the whole earth rejoicing when they see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel. That is the Divine satisfaction to the full. Seven eyes - spiritual fulness rejoicing. As they go through the whole earth, they see one thing which brings complete satisfaction to the Divine heart, the plummet in the hands of Zerubbabel.

Zechariah 4:11-14 the two sons of oil, the anointed ones, but notice what they are by the anointing of the Holy Spirit is poured out and poured through the spouts to the testimony. These sons of oil are poured out to the testimony. We might more properly say the Spirit is poured out through the spouts to the testimony.

That, imperfectly, is a survey of the chapter and we are able to take things up there in the larger and perhaps more general way. The main thing with which it seems the Lord is occupying us now is:

His Further Work and Steps Towards the Completing of His Purpose by the Spirit.

That can be put in several different ways. The Lord is going to complete His testimony and to complete the vessel of the testimony, and in order to do it there must be a further movement by the Holy Spirit. "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts".

Now, this chapter presents us with three things, which as we shall see in a moment, are three things which run from beginning to end of the Scriptures. The three things are here.

Firstly, the Lord of hosts, in a word, the Lord. Secondly, Zerubbabel. Thirdly, the Spirit, the Spirit of the Lord. And if you look more closely you will see that there are three activities in relation to those three persons; each of them has His own work, His own function. Number one, the Lord is the Originator; number two, typified by Zerubbabel, is the Constructor; number three, the Spirit of the Lord, is the Perfector. These three things are found all through the Scriptures. The Father originates and instigates; the Son constructs and arranges; the Spirit perfects and leads to final destiny.

We will open that out a little more fully by way of illustration. Take, for instance, Israel as the people of God. The Father originated all that related to them. God, the Lord, was the Originator of their distinctive history. He took the initiative. The whole thing was with Him first, and came from Him, The Father; the Lord commenced matters in relation to Israel. The Son, typified and represented by Moses, constituted, constructed and arranged. You remember the fragment in the letter to the Hebrews: "And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant... but Christ as a son over His own house". And what was Moses' business as a servant in the House of God? To constitute, construct and to order that House. What is the business of Christ as a Son over God's House? To constitute, construct, order, arrange. And then the Spirit perfects. The Spirit in Israel's history is represented by Joshua; Christ, represented by Moses, and the Spirit and the energies of the Spirit represented by Joshua, brings into possession, and points on and leads all to consummation; the perfecting of the thing which God originated and Christ constituted.

Now, these principles, relative to Israel as a type, hold good in the case of the church. Here a great body of Scripture is gathered up. It is, in the first place, the Father who originates and initiates the church. It is "the church of God which He has purchased with His own blood". It is God the Father who first designed the church, chose the church, the elect: it all commenced with Him and came out from God. God in the eternal counsels determined this, but the Son constituted, and ordered, and arranged the church, and does so. "I will build My church", said the Son. That is the Son's work. But then the Spirit is the Perfector. The church is perfected by the Spirit, He takes up that which in, and by Christ has been brought into being, by the will of the Father, the pre-determined counsel of God, the predestined purpose, He takes it up and orders it, arranges it, constitutes it; the Spirit comes to perfect it, to consummate it. And we must remember that the completing of the church is not just the adding to the church of the living stones. It is that, but that is the work of the Spirit in perfecting the number of the elect, in gathering ever-fresh living stones and adding into the building. That is the work of the Spirit perfecting, but it is a moral thing as well as a numerical thing, a spiritual thing, and it is not just having so many living stones, it is having a quality of stone, and the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of sanctification, the Spirit of perfecting in that moral and spiritual sense as well as the spirit of completing in the numerical sense. So that the Holy Spirit comes to lead to the final destiny both as to the sum total, and as to the nature of the church.

And so we can gather that last word all up by saying that the Spirit is here to make perfect all that the Father originated and the Son constituted, and when you have got hold of that, you have the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in a nutshell: you know why the Spirit has come, and you know what He is doing, and you know His place, and you understand all His dealings with you. But one further word in that threefold connection before passing on.

The work of the Father is in His power to bring forth. Take your illustration again. The power which brought Israel out of Egypt, that is the power of the Father. "Let My son go", that is Fatherhood. And the miracle of the Old Testament is Israel's deliverance from Egypt. The Father's power to bring forth is the peculiar work of the Father. What applied to Israel applied to the Lord Jesus: "...but God raised Him from the dead." The paramount miracle of the New Testament is the raising of Christ from the dead, and Paul expresses it in these words: "The exceeding greatness of His power... which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead". The Father's work is the power to bring forth. That power is to "us-ward who believe", and that is to be taken not only in an individual sense but in a corporate sense, that as He brought Israel out and in, and as He brought Christ up again from among the dead, so it is the work of the Father to exercise power unto bringing forth. That is something to hide in and to rest upon. God is well able to do what He has determined to do, and in order to do it, His specific work is the exercise of His own exceeding great power. That is our hope for the end.

The Son's work is the power to arrange, to constitute. Everything in the House of God has to be constituted according to Christ. It has to be made according to the pattern: Christ in us and in the midst of us. That passage of Scripture, "Christ in you the hope of glory", literally applies to the corporate and not only the individual, and literally translated would be: "Christ in the midst of you, the hope of glory". Here you notice that is in Colossians, and Colossians is "holding fast the Head". Now, to be conformed to the Head, Christ in you or in the midst of you, is the constituting of the Body according to the Head. It is Christ in you that is constituting all things according to Himself, the Head, which is the assurance of glory when all things have been arranged and ordered by Him and brought into conformity to Himself as the Head over all things in the church, which is His Body, then it will be glory. So Christ is the power of a ministry which is peculiarly His in so constituting and arranging, as the Son over God's House. It is in that sense that disorder among the saints is a violating of the work of the Lord Jesus. It stands in opposition to the very work the Lord Jesus is doing. And secondly, it is therefore, the veiling of the glory of the Lord Jesus. Disorder among the saints hinders the work of Christ and hides the glory of Christ.

Now, the work of the Holy Spirit is the power to perfect. The work of the Father is the power to bring forth. The work of the Son is the power to order and arrange. The work of the Spirit is the power to perfect and bring all to its final destiny.

Now I can go on from there to begin my main point.

What is the Originating Purpose of God?

What is it that led God to originate and instigate? What is it, in the next place, which calls out the power of God in relation to His purpose as revealing the specific work of God? The answer is a very simple but far-reaching one. It is for His own glory. The originating purpose of God, which calls out the power of God, and is therefore the specific work of God, is that the end should be His Own glory. That is a truth stated, but that is also a test presented. The final test for believers, the final test of everything is in that direction. All the work of the Son and the Spirit are related thereto. The operation of the Spirit in our lives and in the church is all in that direction, and that work assumes the nature of finding out all that is not for God's glory and seeking to have it put away - testing us, trying us, challenging us, as to how much of our glory there may be in view; the glory of the flesh, the glory of man, the gratification of our things, and all that is in that realm. The originating purpose to which all the Divine energies are directed for its realisation, is for the glory of God, and that is encompassed within a clearly defined circle which excludes everything else, and includes just this. And upon that territory there are written these words in large type: "For the glory of God", and no flesh can encroach upon that, no man by nature can come within that circle. It is holy ground from which all of flesh, of man, is excluded; to approach which, all shoes of earth must be taken from our feet.

When you and I come under the initial operation of the Holy Spirit, by which we are born again, we come on to that ground: "For the glory of God". When the Holy Spirit pursues His course in our experience by discipline, chastening, instruction, He is governed by that originating purpose of God: "For the glory of God". When the Holy Spirit comes to anoint, to call to service or ministry of any kind, it is with this one thing on His lips: "For the glory of God". And oh, we enter there with that challenge into a realm where we have to look down, drop our faces in shame and our hearts smite us.

We know how this flesh likes to glory, even in the things of God, to sport itself in the blessings of God; to take praise for the very use God may make of us. Taking away the glory of God from Him and giving it to man is the work of the devil which strikes directly at the originating thought and intention of God. The glory of God is not that we might be saved and have all the blessings of salvation or sanctification, or be used of God in service, not to be a praise ourselves, or have any praise, but that all the glory is for God. That motived God in originating anything and everything, and whenever the slightest fragment of what God brought into being moves outside of that realm where it serves the glory of God, it has ceased to move in the direction of its Divinely determined destiny. It is set aside. It has missed its way. "To the glory of God" is a comprehensive fragment of Scripture. "Do all to the glory of God." That comes into line with God's first thought.

Secondly, the inclusive sphere of the realization of that originating purpose is Christ. Let me put it more simply. "That the Father may be glorified in the Son". That is a great governing law.

The Father who made all things for His glory, and was governed in all His originating by that end, for His glory, finds His end in the Son, realises all in the Son, and the inclusive sphere of the realisation of the Divine purpose is Christ. And it is in that sense that all that there is in the New Testament is comprehended in two words: "In Christ".

Oh, our little badge goes a long way doesn't it - in Christ. Everything of the Divine thought is in Christ. "That the Father may be glorified in the Son". Yes, but there is an additional truth to that. It is here that the church has its deepest meaning as the Body of Christ. The Body is not something objective to Christ. The Body is something in oneness of identification; not something apart from Christ - out there; but one with Christ, "...and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body; so also is the Christ". And our being gathered into Christ means that as the Body of Christ, one with Christ, the glory of God as His eternal intention and originating motive is going to be displayed in Christ and His members.

It is in the church by Christ Jesus that there will be glory to God unto all ages for ever and ever. That is the Ephesians word is it not? "Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end." So that in Christ, in that organic spiritual oneness with Christ as His Body, not dismissing His separate entity or personality, not losing Him as a distinctive Member of the Godhead, but now by reason of this oneness of Life and Spirit, the church becomes the inclusive sphere of the realisation of God's originating purpose - for His glory. Now take up the Scriptures on that matter and you see that we are called unto His eternal glory, that it is in us He is going to be glorified, and at His appearing He comes to be glorified in His saints; but it is all the fulfilment of what God intended from the beginning, that we should be to the praise of His glory as well as to the praise of His grace.

Now, then we come to:

This Work of the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit takes that up to perfect the Father's purpose in the church as He did in Christ. He perfected firstly the purpose of God in the Christ. You must remember that Christ was a sphere of the Holy Spirit's operation; He was, in the first place, separated from His birth by the Spirit to be a sphere in which the glory of God should be manifested, and all His life was governed and controlled by that one thing, that the Father should be glorified in the Son, and He brought the two things together again and again. In the case of the sickness and death of Lazarus He said: "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby." You see the two things, the glory of God and the glorification of the Son of God are one thing, but God is glorified in the Son. But that is the work of the Holy Spirit, and right to the end in His yielding up at the cross it was the work of the Spirit, "Who through the Eternal Spirit, offered Himself". And then it is "the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead". You see all that is the glory of God in Christ, by the Spirit. Now that which has been by the Spirit accomplished and consummated in the Head, in the Christ, in the Lord Jesus, is taken up by the Holy Spirit to be perfected, that in the saints there shall be made good that which has been fulfilled in Christ Himself. The Holy Spirit is working to perfect the saints according to Christ who is the realisation of the glory of God. So that by the Spirit's work we are being brought into conformity to Christ, that the glory of God should be revealed in us as it is revealed in Him.

Now the method of the Spirit is just to make Christ full in us. The travail of the Spirit, the energy of the Spirit, the longing of the Spirit, all the direction and object of the Holy Spirit is to bring the fulness of Christ into the saints, and the saints into the fulness of Christ, because Christ is perfected and consummated to the glory of God the Father, and the Spirit is out after doing in us what He has done in our glorious Head.

That embraces all the work of the Holy Spirit. He begins in our new birth, He goes on in all our discipline and child training, and in all that in the sovereignty and providence of God is allowed to come to us. He is working good because we are called according to the eternal purpose; working good because of the eternal purpose. The eternal purpose is the glory of God in the saints. The Holy Spirit is working good from all things in relation to that purpose. The Spirit goes on in all His anointing, in all His imparting of spiritual gifts, in all His giving of graces as well as gifts, in all His development of spiritual character, the character of Christ, in everything that the Spirit does, in all departments of His activity He is moving to the fulness of Christ in the church, till we all come eventually to the fulness of the stature of a man in Christ, the fulness of Christ.

Perhaps we shall have to adjust some of our ideas and our prayers about the Holy Spirit. We perhaps have wanted the Holy Spirit for salvation from the things which make us miserable and wretched, for blessing and service, but all these things are something in themselves and perhaps an end in themselves. We have to enlarge our horizon, we have to get out on something bigger and more adequate than that if we are going to give the Holy Spirit room to move in everything for the glory of God.

Every challenge which comes to you and me which precipitates a crisis for us, coming from the Lord, is in the Holy Spirit's intention to bring a greater fulness of Christ, and us into a greater fulness of Christ. And some very severe challenges come, and some very deep crises come. A challenge to tradition, perhaps a challenge to the narrow limitations of our upbringing and common acceptance, the things we have been taught to believe, the things in which we have been brought up, the background of our religious history - it may, after all, be a limiting thing, something that is not large enough for the fulness of Christ. It may have brought us so far but there comes a point where the Lord would enlarge us, would break our bounds, bring us out into His wealthy place, and in relation to that enlargement and enrichment a crisis is created which demands the letting go of something smaller. The Holy Spirit brings these crises into our experience. They seem to shatter everything for us but it is unto the enlargement of Christ. The question we must always apply to such experiences is this: "Has the Lord brought me to this?" "Is this thing by the Spirit?" "Have I any reason whatever to believe or to conclude that the Holy Spirit is in this?" "Have I come here by my own choosing? No, I have not." "Have I been driven here merely from the outside or have I reason to believe that there is something of the Lord in this, that the Lord's hand is in this whatever it may be?" It may be the letting go of something I have cherished for so long, or the acceptance of something which I have anything but cherished, something I said I would never touch and never have anything to do with; now I am faced with it and searched by it. "He brought me into the net", said the psalmist and a net is a most uncomfortable place to be in. Have you ever been in a net and tried to get out? The more you try to get out the more entangled you become. Now, if there is the slightest, remote reason for believing that the Lord is in it, oh, believe me beloved, the Holy Spirit has all His work compassed in and bound up with the fulness of Christ and you cannot go outside of that with the Holy Spirit. That is a tremendous thing to say but it is true.

The Holy Spirit has no sphere of operation in this dispensation outside of the fulness of Christ, and everything that the Holy Spirit does is in relation to the fulness of Christ and bringing us into it and it into the church. Now, if that is so, anything which we have reason to believe is bound up with the Spirit of God has as its end, its object, our coming into the fulness of Christ. The net may be a narrowing thing, yes, but it is unto enlargement. We are brought down to be brought up. We are buried to be raised. "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby". In relation to the Lord Jesus no death is unto death, it is unto Life. Out of relation with Him death is unto death.

The Spirit of the Lord is working in relation to God's originating intention, becoming the power of God to realise that intention; the Spirit of the Lord is taking up what has been fully constituted by Christ in His own person as representing all that which is of God.

What I have just said could all have been said by simply quoting Scripture. You will be able quite easily to put Scripture to it all, but may the Lord just give us the vision and the enablement to apprehend, and the grace to accept and see that whatever our thoughts and ideas are about the Holy Spirit and His work, there is nothing that the Holy Spirit is here to do outside of the compass of a Divine intention, which is His glory in Christ manifested in us; to bring us to the fulness of Christ who is the fulness of God. That is all the Divine glory in the saints. There are other things which relate thereto; I will mention them and close.

The Holy Spirit has inspired the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation, but it is a relative thing. It is not enough as a plank in a platform, as an item in a confession of faith, to believe in the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures. The only thing that is adequate in the acceptance of the inspiration of the Scriptures is to see the relationship of all this, and the Holy Spirit inspired the Scriptures throughout in relation to the purpose of God in Christ to bring the saints to God's end, and that is why the Scriptures are almost entirely bound up with the people of God. Weigh it up and you will find the Scriptures are almost entirely bound up with the saints, with believers. And that is why the Scriptures can never be understood apart from the Spirit of God, and that is why men who approach the Bible apart from the Spirit of God always make a mess of it. They have no understanding of it, they get themselves and everybody else into all sorts of confusions and contradictions and errors.

The Scriptures were inspired by the Holy Spirit in relation to God's end - the fulness of Christ, and if you are not moving in that direction, the inspired Scriptures have no meaning. You find if the Scriptures have got into the hands of an unsaved person, and that person is saved, it is by a special intervention of the Spirit and the Holy Spirit never does that where there is positive unbelief, or unwillingness to accept light. It is the honest and open in heart who come under the Spirit's ministry in reading the Word of God, apart from any other ministry, unto salvation. The Scriptures are locked up with the Holy Spirit and no one apart from the Spirit of God, can understand them. The Holy Spirit gave us the Scriptures in relation to the Divine intention concerning Christ. That is why it is the Scriptures that speak of Him: "These are they which testify of Me."

The Holy Spirit has given us the Person of Christ. From birth to death and resurrection, it is the work of the Spirit; and then in revelation to our hearts, we are given the Person of Christ. And the Person of Christ is bound up with the Holy Spirit and no one can know the Son but by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit has locked up the Person of Christ with Himself. And you see why it was that the Holy Spirit revealed the Person of Christ to such as Paul, to bring the church into the fulness of Christ. To talk of the Jesus of history is such nonsense and never gets you anywhere. It is the Christ of revelation by the Spirit who alone can get us through to our destiny according to God's purpose.

The Holy Spirit has given the church, the church is the fruit of the Spirit. "The Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead". No man can add to it by rolls or any other method. You cannot join the church. The Holy Spirit can make you a member of Christ. Oh, what a lot of nonsense and rubbish there is on Ecclesiology! The church is compassed by the Holy Spirit and you can only get in through the Spirit, and when you are in, you have to come absolutely under the government of the Spirit, or your being in, in its purpose, is nullified, paralyzed, limited. All these things are relative. They represent the work of the Holy Spirit, but they are only within the compass of the one great thing: to bring about the universal manifestation of the glory of God in the Son through the church.

May the Lord use what He has given to some real value for His glory.

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