by T. Austin-Sparks
Reading: John 7:37-39; Eph. 1:19-23; Phil. 2:9-11.
If you read through the book of the Acts, you will find that there are two main features running right through that book, two things which are uppermost. They are the Holy Spirit, and the Name of Jesus. The Holy Spirit is mentioned some seventy times in the book. The Name of Jesus is mentioned more than thirty times. You will see that they are joined together, they are in operation together. The Holy Spirit has assumed charge of everything, and as He goes forward with His mighty work, He does it always in, through and by the Name of Jesus.
We would suggest once more a perusal of the book, with a view to a fresh impression being made upon you in connection with the place of the Name of Jesus. And you will not get very far into the book before that impression becomes a very strong one, and one which provokes in you wonder and praise.
The fact that these two things are the main features and characteristics of the book is very significant, and bears out so clearly this passage in John 7, as well as the words uttered by Peter on the day of Pentecost about the exaltation and glorifying of the Lord Jesus. In John 7 the distinct and clear statement is by way of comment on the part of the apostle upon what the Lord Himself had said: "...the Spirit was not yet; because Jesus was not yet glorified." The logic is that when Jesus was glorified the Holy Spirit would be; that is, His day would come. And so it proved, that on the glorifying of the Lord Jesus in heaven the Holy Spirit immediately came forth and the first utterances of men under the government of the newly outpoured Spirit were all about the exaltation of the Lord Jesus. Not only were their utterances around the Name, the glory, the exaltation, the Lordship, but their deeds were all in the Name, upon the basis of the Name.
Much later on the apostle Paul is found giving a fairly full explanation of all that happened when the Lord Jesus returned to glory. He says that God "highly exalted Him, and gave unto Him the Name which is above every name, that in the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven, in earth, under the earth". Or, again: "raised Him from the dead... Far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all." That is the explanation of what took place when Christ returned to heaven. That is the ground upon which the Holy Spirit came.
In the contemplation of the Name of Jesus we have to find the starting-point, and to find the starting-point we have to go a long way back. And we shall be conducted to our starting-point by one very clear intimation in the words we have mentioned. A conjunction will be brought into view: "Wherefore, God highly exalted Him", showing to us that the exaltation of the Lord Jesus, and His being given the title to sovereignty which is above every title, is a thing merited. It is not just something by way of mechanical appointment. It is not something which just represents an office (the office is carried with it); it speaks of a work done by which the title was merited and inherited.
We are linked in the context with a former position occupied by Him, a position of equality with God, which was undisputed on the Divine side: settled, not argued, but simply affirmed. Away back in that dateless time there was, as we know, an aspiration, an ambition in another direction to be possessed of a title, the putting forth of the hand to grasp that title as something to be grasped at. The result of that through long, long, terrible centuries we know only too well. The position of dominion in the universe was sought after, to be personally held out of relationship to God, on a basis of independent action and personal interest. There is the root and spring of all independent action and personal interest, and the fruit is easy to be seen. Its direction was possession apart from God.
We will not dwell upon the dark side of the consequent history, but we do know that a rift or a discord came into the whole universal order through that act. Universal dominion has been shattered, the oneness, the concreteness, shall we say the cohesion, of the universe has been upset; a disintegrating force has been projected against the absolute unity of the universe in its government. If we did but know it, everything with which we are familiar of a spiritual character in the small fragment of our earthly life is just the coming out of that vast cesspool which was created at that time. Every bit of broken fellowship, discord, absence of unity, all these things of which we become aware in the spiritual realm when we become spiritual, as things which are always seeking to break in again to get the mastery once more, to assert themselves. These are not things which just come into the realm of our life as something new, they are like the miasmas from that pit just coming up again, like the rolling clouds coming on across the ages.
Have you seen a great volume of smoke arising from some huge fire, and the breeze carrying it in rolling waves across the fields on, on, and on to the distant horizon? Everything near and far, right to the end of sight, becomes touched by that smoke. You sense it afar off. That is exactly what happened in the spiritual realm away back in that dateless time. And even today when we become spiritually sensitive we sense that thing which has come across the ages, and it has broken up the spiritual unity of the universe.
That spiritual unity of the universe has to be recovered. That one sovereign government, centred in One - not in two, not in a host, but in One - has got to be re-established. All that fruit of an independent action and a personal interest has got to be destroyed, and once more this universe has to come under one Head, one government, one Name, without rival. That is the story of Calvary.
You see that the Name which is above every name, the title to sovereignty above every title, the government unchallenged and unrivalled, is something which is given upon the basis of a work; it is merited. At the beginning the challenge, the ambition, the personal reaching out to possess, was something without merit. It was an unmerited possession. It was something sought ambitiously for self, out of relation with God. That was why it was denied, and that is why the rivalry was set up. It has to be merited.
This fact leads us to the heart of such incidents as the temptation of the Lord in the wilderness. When He was shown all the kingdoms of this world and the glory thereof, and offered them for one moment's worship, the Lord Jesus repudiated the whole. His repudiation carried with it two things. Firstly, this can never be truly and abidingly had as a personal thing out of relation with God; and, secondly, this is a thing which must be won, and can never be had as a gift at any other hand than the hand of Him who has a right to give it. And so He went the way of winning it, to receive it at the proper hands, and that way was the way of the Cross. He became "obedient unto death; yea, the death of the cross. Wherefore God highly exalted Him, and gave unto Him the name". The Lord Jesus possesses that Name by right, as a merit. The Lord Jesus possesses that Name at the hand of God, and into Him we see once more gathered the unity of the government of the universe. In Him again everything is made to hold together, says the apostle in the first chapter of his Colossian letter. It is that cohesion of the universe, that unity, that oneness in Him.
Unity is not something that can be brought about by any kind of human agreement. Unity is a thing which is only possible by the registration of the Name of Jesus in all that that Name contains of a mighty conquest of the forces of disunity. We can never hold together simply because we come to certain sympathetic understandings of one another. We can never hold together because we take one another's imperfections into consideration and agree that we will not take very much notice of them. We can never hold together because we have an understanding upon certain things about which we will be agreed. We shall find that in that realm, and in every such like realm, the devil still has power. The only ground upon which unity of the right kind, of the Divine kind, can be had, is that there exists in all its virtue - the virtue of its mighty, universal victory - the power of the Name of Jesus. We win only in that Name, not as a phrase, a label, but in all the spiritual virtue of that Name; for that Name represents something immense beyond our conception. It gathers up into itself all the mighty, infinite forces of a universal conquest. You can understand why things happened "in the name of Jesus" at the beginning.
It sounds so simple, so beautiful (and some have even foolishly fallen into a sentimental realm) when you read the second chapter of the book of the Acts: "...and had all things common". "And they sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all, according as any man had need." That is all very beautiful and nice, and it sounds like a very friendly little party. But there was something mightier behind it. The Holy Spirit did that, and you and I cannot imitate that. We never can say, "We will have a nice Pentecostal fellowship; we will have things as they had at the beginning, we will arrange it according to this plan!" No! It cannot be done. That was the direct outcome of the advent of the Holy Spirit, and of the Holy Spirit having full possession of those lives. That carries with it this immense truth, that the Holy Spirit had come in relation to the Name of Jesus, that is, in relation to all that that Name represented in the meeting of the full measure of the outcome of that original act in the hand against the throne.
It is a very solemn thing, and places a tremendous responsibility upon us, to contemplate this fact, that any lack of unity, broken fellowship, and discord between the saints for which we may be responsible by reason of any real fault, unwatchfulness, lack of tolerance, unkindness, or for any other reason, is in direct complicity with the devil in its nature. It is not intended by us, but it is that in its nature. Or, to put that in another way, it is a hand against the throne, it is a movement against the testimony of Jesus, and we know only too well that when the enemy has been able to bring that about - and he has brought it about again and again - it has always jeopardised the interests of the Lord Jesus. It has always prejudiced His testimony and it has always taken from that glory which is His at the Father's right hand.
If we are responsible for that, and the Holy Spirit strives with us along that line to get that put right, and warns and urges that that thing shall be put right, and we do not do it, we fall into a most tragic and terrible end; we are involved in that original work of the devil. That is a terrible thing to say, but it is true.
All this is but a way of saying one or two things, which can be said more simply and directly, but which need bearing out more fully. They are these: the Holy Spirit works in relation to the Name of Jesus, but that means that the Holy Spirit establishes all that that Name means of victory upon the ground of the Cross, and which Cross must have its inward application to our lives to destroy the thing that is against the Name. One of the outcomes of that is fellowship among the saints.
Let us put that in another way. What is the basis of true fellowship? What is the basis of real spiritual fellowship? To use the New Testament word, what is the basis of New Testament "unity"? It is threefold: it is the Cross dealing its death blow to all that which has come in, into man, into the universe, through Satan's original act; it is the Name as representing the One in whom we are united, the Lord Jesus; and it is the Holy Spirit who is working from the victory represented by that Name, on the ground of the Cross in us. The threefold basis of Divine, spiritual, indestructible unity is the Cross, the Name, and the Holy Spirit.
It is very blessed to see the spontaneous outworking of that in the New Testament. It just came about then. The Cross accomplished, Christ glorified, the Holy Spirit come; all those three made good in the lives of a company of men and women, and you have such unity as you can never find elsewhere outside of that realm.
From that point onward the enemy will be busy to bring back something of the old ground. It is not long before He finds occasion in someone who has not come on to that ground of their utter death to self, personal interest and independent action. What were the governing things in the life and action of Ananias and Sapphira? Personal interest and independent action. It is as clear as anything can be. The enemy found that ground in them, and sought to break in upon that whole regime of Holy Spirit fellowship in the Name of Jesus. It was a blow against the testimony. What was the end? The end was terrible, awful. It was also swift! And things had to be swift in those days, because the Lord was laying down laws for the whole dispensation; and so He quickly made His laws operative for our instruction. Sooner or later something like that will happen in every similar case; that is, a disastrous end will come.
We do not know why we are specially urged to stress this subject: unity and spiritual fellowship. But it comes up in a very strong way, because it is clear that the result of the enemy's work at the beginning was to divide this universe, to send schism right through it. What then, is the means by which that will be rendered inoperative, nil? It will simply be as the Cross is really wrought into our being, getting rid of every kind of personal interest and independent line of things where things are toward ourselves and for ourselves, out of the universal relationship.
There are some very clear, strong, and obvious examples today in certain realms where the subjective aspect of the work of the Cross is refused. In those realms you find the largest number of discords, rifts, breaks in fellowship, divisions and schisms. That is perfectly clear. You do not need spectacles on to help you to see that.
To put that the other way round: where the strongest fellowships are to exist, which hell cannot upset and the devil cannot destroy, will be the place where the Cross is most deeply wrought into the life to destroy anything that is of a personal and independent character when you and I are brought to the place, through that deep inworklng of the Cross, where nothing matters to us personally - and sometimes the test is closely applied. It is easy to say things like that, but it is not always easy to be made a doormat of, or even less than that, to be put up in a corner and never taken any notice of at all. You might even save yourself by a spirit of martyrdom by being a doormat, but to be excluded from all recognition at all is more than human nature takes kindly to.
When the Cross has been deeply wrought into our being, you and I are brought to the place where nothing of a personal character matters. When truly before God - not as we think or imagine, for we do not know ourselves - but before the eyes of Him who is able to look through and see every film, every mist, every little taint of self, it really and truly is the Lord's glory alone which matters, then you have a fellowship, a unity, which hell cannot touch, which the devil cannot break into. That represents a deep work and application of the Cross of the Lord Jesus, and the work of the Holy Spirit is to that end. The Spirit of holiness is always seeking to get rid of every taint of self which forms a suitable ground for satanic activity; He is always seeking sanctification, and when He works that kind of sanctification, He is working in relation to the glory of that Name.
The Name of the Lord Jesus is wonderfully glorified in the second chapter of the book of the Acts because self has gone out, and the Cross is deeply represented in their spiritual state. There is no other way! What a mighty thing real spiritual unity is, and what a great work lies behind it. And what a great means of bringing the glory of that Name into view. We cannot stand in the Name of the Lord Jesus and have any personal interest. Those two things are mutually exclusive; they cannot go together. If there is a personal interest, the power of that Name is set aside. That Name is the Name of Him who had no personal interest, who above all others in this universe had personal rights, reputation, position, and emptied Himself of every bit of it all, and so emptied Himself as to be obedient unto the death of the cross. Was there ever a more emptying means than the death of the cross? Now the Name shines with its pristine glory and splendour, because in His case there was not found a trace of self. "Wherefore also God highly exalted Him...". The whole sovereignty and government of this universe is potentially, and will be presently, consummately, and actually concentrated in the Name of Jesus, and gathered up into His sovereign Headship. Every element that disputes that will be before long ruled out from this universe, and He will reign without rival, without the slightest suggestion of disputing His rights.
He will reign whose right it is to reign. But let no one think that is just because God appointed Him to that. That is because He has attained that position through a course which was just the opposite to that adopted by the one who sought to obtain that same end by personal motives. We shall only know the operation of the power of the Holy Spirit in the measure in which the Cross has dealt with all that ground in us.
There is a price associated with power. Human nature has in it a deeply rooted craving for power. It takes different forms, it may be of different kinds, but it is there. In the simplest form of expression it is that in us which dislikes being thought nothing of. The modern phrase, 'inferiority complex', is an expression which goes right to the heart of human nature. It is the consciousness that you are no good, worthless, and that is how everyone else regards you. It is only perhaps the lowest level of this thing, which expresses itself in many other forms and along more intense lines: a desire for power, place, recognition, reputation. From its lowest level it rises to the great world despotisms, the grasping at power that is in the whole human race. We have to have our ideas of power entirely revolutionised, turned inside out and upside down when we come to the Lord Jesus, and we have to recognise the infinite significance of a Lamb in the midst of the throne.
Why have a lamb and a sheep been chosen pre-eminently throughout the Bible as the type and symbol of One whose destiny it is to reign universally and have dominion from sea to sea? Well, try on any other creature what you can try on a lamb and see the result! Take a goat and see what you can do with a goat! We speak reverently, only by way of illustration. Take a pig and see what you can do with a pig. Take any other beast, and see what you can do! Take the lamb and the sheep: they are unresisting, without a sound, yielding, uncomplaining. Therein is the sublime symbol: He was "led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is dumb so He opened not His mouth". That is yieldedness; that is self-losing; that is the absence of the uprising of personal strength to stand up for its own rights. That is the thing that is going to be represented in the mightiest power that this universe has ever known; but it revolutionises our ideas of power. We come to dominion by letting go, and not by standing up for our rights. We shall learn to reign by learning how to be emptied of all desire to reign as a personal desire. That is what is in the Name.
We may come into a mighty battle over a situation, and we never get through that spiritual battle, though we may be appealing to the Name, applying the Name, until we have been searched through and through as to whether we have a personal desire bound up with this thing; a personal interest in it. The whole issue is suspended until the fire has discovered anything of self, and when that has gone, the way is clear. Very often it is not in the intense fire and conflict that we get through. The heats are too great. It is when we come to the place of helpless prostration and say we can do no more, and we surrender to the Lord, that the thing just goes through.
The power of the Name is the power of Divine virtues wrought into the very depths of human nature, the human nature of the Lord Jesus. That Name is the Name which rests upon a perfected human nature through all the fires of personal testings. He has triumphed as a man in every kind of testing, as to whether He would act out of relation to God, out of fellowship with His Father, or with Himself in view, for His own sake and for His own ends. But never for one moment could He be diverted one hair's breadth from that utter selfless fellowship with His Father, not on any consideration, though He might escape the cross and all that the cross held. If any offer, bribe, suggestion, trick or threat carried with it the idea of disloyalty to His Father, or acting out of fellowship with Him, or serving His own ends, then the thing could not be entertained whatever the cost: "Wherefore also God highly exalted Him, and gave unto Him the name which is above every name." It is the virtue of all that that is in the Name.
When we are going to live and labour in the power of the Name, it represents a spiritual position to which we have come through faith, where for us the Cross means nothing for ourselves, and all for Him; no interests whatever of ours to be taken into account, only His. Upon that the Name can come. The Holy Spirit has come to produce in us that state which is in Him at God's right hand, in order that all the power of that Name might operate in us and through us.
In the midst of this great realm we simply struggle for expression. How infinitely and universally wonderful is the Name of Jesus, when you get back to the starting-point and see what it was, and what it has been all through the ages, that was the ground upon which that Name had to be secured! What terrible work has been done because one wanted a name for himself. What mischief, the result of one wanting a name for himself, a reputation, a position, and an influence for himself. The history of these many generations of misery is the history of that one act. And whenever there is any kind of reproduction of that sort of thing, you have in measure a continuation of that state: unhappiness, discord, loss of peace and rest, and all such things. But when He comes, and in Himself and in His Cross takes up the whole thing from its root upwards and deals with it in His own Person, and carries to glory a mighty, all-inclusive triumph over those works of the devil which He was manifested to destroy, the Holy Spirit comes.
The Holy Spirit comes to make real in us that work of His Cross, and that power of His Name. When we ask for the Holy Spirit, let us recognise what we are asking for. The Holy Spirit must have empty vessels. There is a lot in that word "empty". The Name of Jesus must have the Cross as its foundation. It is the great "wherefore"; the Cross leading to the Name in its mighty, infinite potency.
The Holy Spirit is here to glorify the Name of Jesus, and that necessitates the making good of all the virtues that are represented by and bound up in that Name and reproducing in the heart of the believer the state that that Name represents of an utter selflessness and an utter abandonment to the glory of God.
We have only touched the fringe of this thing. There is so much yet for us to know. The Lord bring us into the place where we can truly glory in the Name of Jesus.