The Place and the Work of the Holy Spirit

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 3 - The Holy Spirit and Illumination

Reading: John 14:15-18, 25-27; 15:26-27; 16:7-14.

It is necessary to mention a few technical details before we come to the real value of these Scriptures. In John 3 the symbol of the Holy Spirit is "wind"; in John 4 it is "water"; in John 7 it is the water again, a river, or rivers. When you come to this second triad of references, you find it is not symbols, but direct teaching. Quite a clearly marked change is found here, and this change has its reason.

In the first three passages you are dealing with the unsaved. When you come to these chapters you are dealing with disciples, those in close and believing relationship to the Lord. So that you pass from the elementary forms of teaching by symbols, into the realm where things can be stated quite plainly and clearly without any illustration. Here you are dealing with people who are in faith relationship to Christ. Then we are able to understand and appreciate the value of these particular statements. These things cannot be said to unbelieving people. The things which are here uttered, can never be given to those who are not in a faith relationship to the Lord Jesus. These things demand that basis. And yet they are prospective utterances. So far as this Gospel is concerned, they are looking on to a time which has not yet arrived: "When the Comforter is come, whom I will send...".

For us that day has arrived, and that means that we are in the time now, not necessarily of waiting for these things, but the time when these things are immediately available to us and ought to be our blessed possession. A faith relationship to the Lord Jesus is necessary. Given that, there need be no waiting.

What are the things that are said? What is it here that is to be ours by the Holy Spirit? We will look at those things.

For the moment it is not necessary, and perhaps it would be without significance, to indicate that we are dealing in the second half of this Gospel with the collective side of things. In the first half we are dealing with the individuals: Nicodemus, the woman at the well, and all those chapters, right up to chapter 10, are related to individuals, and unsaved individuals. Now from chapter 10 onwards the collective comes in.

A further stage is reached in chapter 20, in relation to the Holy Spirit. From chapter 10 to chapter 17 there is the collective, and in chapter 20 the corporate comes in. There is a distinction between the collective and the corporate. The Lord is dealing with a company in these chapters, especially from 10 to 17. When you get to chapter 20 you are on resurrection ground. The Lord Jesus, coming into their midst in resurrection, says: "Peace unto you; as the Father has sent Me, even so send I you." Then He breathed on them and said: "Receive ye the Holy Spirit." That is making a company, a collection, One Body.

The Inward Illumination of the Spirit

We return to chapter 14, verses 15-17: "If ye love Me, ye will keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive; for it beholds him not, neither knows Him: ye know Him; for He abides with you, and shall be in you." Verse 20: "In that day ye shall know...". It is a very simple truth, but one of great value; so great is its value that to be without the realisation and enjoyment of it means to be in a very unsatisfactory spiritual state, in a state of great weakness, the weakness of the kind that ought not to be. It is that great value of inward illumination: He shall be in you! The world cannot receive Him because it knows Him not, it sees Him not. "In that day ye shall know."

The two things are set one against the other. On the one hand there is ignorance, darkness, blindness, and a state of incapacitation. The world cannot, because it sees not. It cannot because it is blind. But He shall be in you; at that day ye shall know. What a great blessing is ours now by the appropriation of faith, of inward illumination by the Holy Spirit. The value and importance of that being ours in an active way cannot be estimated. To be without that means to be in a state of helpless weakness in our relationship to the Lord. Many times we have said, and it must be repeated with renewed emphasis not only now but perhaps continually, that one of the greatest needs of the Lord's people today lies in this very direction.

If we were to range the whole state of things which go by the Lord's Name today, and to understand why it is that they are so unsatisfactory as an expression of His mind, we should probably discover that this thing goes to the root of the whole situation: it is that the Lord's people, or those who bear the Name of the Lord, have become parts of a great external Christian order and system, as differing from the Holy Spirit's illumination of the things of the Lord within their own hearts. That does go to the root of matters. On the one hand it means ignorance, it means incompetence, inefficiency, inability to take spiritual responsibility. It means exposure to almost anything which comes along which has a semblance of truth. It means openness to all manner of error and falsehood and deception. It means being carried about by every wind of doctrine at the devices and cunning craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive. All that is because of the absence of inward illumination by the Holy Spirit, and much more than that.

Turning from the disastrous and unhappy effects of such a state, let us view the thing positively, that it is true that for you and me the Lord has met this present provision by giving the Holy Spirit of inward illumination on all matters concerning Himself, which also concern us. Spiritual strength, real sonship, is marked by that, that there is a real present, definite, personal, living inward knowledge of the Lord by the Holy Spirit, and nothing can substitute that. The stress laid upon this is born of the sense of the tremendous need of these days that the Lord should have strong, virile, spiritually competent children, that His family should not be composed of those who have very little, if any, immediate inward knowledge of Himself. This is the only thing to save from all the wreckage of the satanic campaign of deception. To send men and women out into the world who are not going to be easily caught by things which look like the truth, but are not; to have men and women who are able to take responsibility in relation to other lives also, for their preservation, their protection, their safeguarding, their holding in the way of Life, it is necessary that the Lord has those who know the Holy Spirit in the direction of inward illumination.

It is a blessed thing to notice that the first thing that the Lord Jesus says to those who are in a living faith relationship to Himself is this thing. This is not necessarily something at an advanced point in the spiritual life and you and I must grow and grow until we reach a certain point, and then we become possessed of spiritual inward illumination. We have seen those leap into this thing in the very early days of their spiritual life; that is, that almost from the beginning we have been able to discern their own personal walk with the Lord in which they were able to say: "The Lord is speaking to me; the Lord is showing this and that to me; the Lord has been saying so-and-so to me!"

For many this thing is not strange, but it is something they are already enjoying, something which is very real to them. If it is, then we are not speaking to you, but we are today tremendously exercised concerning a far-reaching state of things which is very much other than this, and which explains an appealing spiritual condition among multitudes who bear the Name of the Lord. The whole of their Christian life and order of things is external to themselves, is bound up with a regulated, systematised order of Christianity in which they operate, but for them to know the voice of the Spirit, to be led by the Spirit, to be illumined by the Spirit concerning the Lord is another world.

It is not necessary to go further than simply to think of such a system as the system of Rome. It is an atrocity from this standpoint. Look at its results. Look at what can be done. I have been into the most solemn feasts of the Roman Church, where men and women in crowds at the moment of the elevation of the 'host' have prostrated themselves, and literally perspired, writhing in agony. Ten minutes later, in a brawl they drew knives to stab one another. That is taking an extreme example. You may modify the thing, and to some extent get much higher levels of Christianity than that, but still it may be all external and outward. The only thing that will ever bring us to the place of spiritual maturity, to the satisfaction of God's heart and express true sonship, is that which was true of the Lord Jesus when as man on this earth He walked under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, knowing in His own heart what the Father was saying, and what the Father was doing. That is the present value of the Holy Spirit for us.

We may as well take these things as they come, and note that these things are provided already by the Lord, and given that we stand on the right ground of faith in all the work of our Lord Jesus in His Cross, we can have these things by the appropriation of faith now. We do not come into things willy-nilly, and we do not come into these things automatically. God has made His promises and His provisions, but He desires something on our part before they can be made good to us. We have to recognise these facts, and look them straight in the face. First of all, God has definitely provided,= on the ground of the Cross of the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit; and one of the values of the Holy Spirit being given is inward illumination. Now, how is that going to be made good in my case? By the appropriation of faith! "Lord, that is Your provision; I stand on the ground of the Cross of Jesus Christ by faith, put in my claim for that, and appropriate it!" We shall find that it works, and we begin to know the Lord in a new way. But there must be a definite transaction with God on everything that He has offered, before it becomes an actual possession. You say, "As a child of God, born again, surely I have the Holy Spirit?" There is all the difference between having and enjoying; and very often there is all the difference between having and living abidingly in the knowledge of what we have. But it is not a matter of having the Holy Spirit for everything. It is a matter of the Holy Spirit being able to make real all those things specifically in our experience. That comes by recognising the things, and exercising faith in relation to them.

The Spirit's Witness to Christ

"But when the Comforter is come... even the Spirit of truth... He shall bear witness of Me: and ye also bear witness" (John 15:26-27). The question is: how shall the testimony of Jesus be maintained? That is a very big and important question. There is only one way, and this is it: "He shall bear witness of Me". But, mark you, this again is the Holy Spirit's witness in the believer. Then the outward thing follows: "and ye also bear witness". The Holy Spirit is not going to bear witness to Jesus apart from instruments, but the witness of the instrument is subsequent to the witness of the Spirit; that is, the witnesses bear witness, because already witness has been borne in them.

That is how it was on the day of Pentecost. That is how it has ever been. What is the ministry of the church - that is, not of a special class in the church set aside to be ministers, but the ministry of all believers? It is the maintaining through the dispensation of the testimony of Jesus. How shall that be done? In no other way and on no other ground than that the Holy Spirit has borne witness in the church, that is, in all believers to Him.

Now follow this closely, for it is important. We shall see by this how it is possible for every believer to be in the ministry of the age, of the dispensation. That is our calling. What is it that constitutes us ministers of Jesus Christ? In other words: who are those that maintain the testimony of Jesus through the age? It is simply this, that the Holy Spirit bears witness to Him in us. What is the witness of the Holy Spirit to Him? That comprises everything. Have you tried to range the content of the Lord Jesus? Have you ever sat down to try and draw up a list of all the values and virtues that are in the Lord Jesus? I have tried once or twice, and given it up. I thought one day that I would make a magnificent diagram, and catalogue all the things that are in Christ for us. I did not get very far, and will never try again. The content of the Lord Jesus can never be ranged, but there is in Him that which meets our need to a detail from A to Z. Whatever the need could possibly be in our life in relation to God, that is already in Christ for us. You will never, by any possibility, emergency or chance, come into a situation or a position in your life in relation to God, and in your service in relation to God, without provision already being made in Christ for that specific thing.

Now, what is the witness of the Holy Spirit to Him? It is the revelation for you, at all points, and times, and crises, and emergencies in your life, of that particular value in Christ to meet that particular need. So that as you go on in the Spirit He is just showing to you Christ in His manifold, many-sided, inexhaustible sufficiency for your life.

You may come to a position which you do not know how to meet; you see no resource for it. A new crisis has arisen, and the Holy Spirit must show you just how Christ meets that particular situation for you. That is the Spirit's witness to Christ, and that is the testimony of Jesus, the Holy Spirit maintaining it in us as a living, progressive thing. It is not that the Holy Spirit showed us ten, twenty, thirty, forty years ago that Jesus is the Saviour and there it stopped, but that every week, month, perhaps day since, the Holy Spirit has been witnessing to something more of Christ in us. That is the testimony of Jesus. And right to this very day there is something that the Holy Spirit can show to us of the Lord Jesus which we never saw before, and bring the testimony right up to date. That is the church's ministry, that today - not ten years ago - I have a Christ who is right up to date in meeting my need. If the church had maintained that position, what a different story there would have been! The testimony today has resolved itself into a set of doctrines and creeds, and theological interpretations, the philosophy of Christianity and all that sort of thing, instead of this experimental reality by the Holy Spirit.

How shall the testimony be maintained? Not by our preaching certain facts as contained in a book, but by our testifying to those facts having been made living realities by the Holy Spirit in our hearts. "He shall bear witness of Me... ye also bear witness...". That is what ministry is.

The World Ministry of the Glorified Christ Carried out by the Holy Spirit

"Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go, I will send Him unto you. And He, when He is come, will convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgement. He shall glorify Me: for He shall take of mine, and shall declare it unto you" (John 16:7-14).

A wide range is now brought in. It is the Holy Spirit moving out in the wide range of the world in relation to the glorified Christ. Every bit of this statement relates to Christ personally. "Of sin, because they believe not on Me; of righteousness, because I go to the Father... of judgement, because the prince of this world hath been judged" (v. 9-11). Who did it? Christ! It is the threefold work of the Lord Jesus: "They believe not on Me". Therefore they are convicted of sin. How does that apply? Well, He bore our sins in His own body on the tree, and if they do not believe that, then they are convicted under sin, they still remain under sin. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1). But if you have not believed that He has borne your sin, you are under sin, and the Holy Spirit's work is to bring that home.

"Of righteousness, because I go to the Father." Convicted in respect of righteousness "because I go to the Father". That is another aspect and a very blessed aspect. The question of righteousness is all settled if Christ gets through to the Father. Surely the object of His coming was to deal with the whole question of righteousness. God requires righteousness, and will not set aside one iota of His requirement. In His own Person the Lord Jesus provided God with what He wanted, and because He did that He was able to go to the Father. Seeing that He is altogether righteous, He goes to the Father. Now the Holy Spirit comes to convict in relation to the fact that in Christ God has found what He wants - righteousness. And the whole righteousness question has been settled, and is represented by the Man in the glory.

"Of judgement, because the prince of this world has been judged". Again you come to the darker side of things. This is a terrible contemplation for a sinner convicted of judgement. Upon what does judgement rest? This: that you are in the same company as the devil, the prince of this world who has been judged. If you have not accepted the Lord Jesus, you come under that judgement, and you company with the devil. There is no judgement in Christ. We are delivered from judgement in Christ, altogether delivered. The fear of death and the fear of judgement has gone for ever for those who are in Christ, but the Holy Spirit convicts of judgement where we are not in Christ, and says that we lie under that judgement that the devil lies under. God never intended that; God never intended hell for any man or woman. Hell was never brought into being for you or for me, or for any man or any woman. Hell was made and is reserved for the devil and his angels, but there is the awful possibility of our being in league with the devil, in complicity with the devil, and we are there by nature if we have refused the Lord Jesus. We are said to be by nature children of wrath. Why is that? Simply because there is a spiritual, hidden alliance between all in Adam and the devil. Adam brought about that alliance with the devil, and broke his alliance with God; and all the children of Adam are in the alliance which Adam brought about by disobedience to God and obedience to the devil.

Christ has come and borne the wrath in our place, to deliver us from the wrath. Faith in the Lord Jesus means that we are saved from judgement, but the Holy Spirit is here to tell us that if we are not in Christ, there is inescapable judgement. The world ministry of the Holy Spirit is in relation to Christ. He bore our sin; therefore we need not bear it. He provided righteousness for us that we may come to God. He delivered us from judgement by bearing the judgement Himself. The world ministry of the Holy Spirit is related to Christ in glory, because of what Christ has done by His Cross.

Men under the government of the Holy Spirit have ever been used to raise those major issues. Through their preaching, conviction of sin, of righteousness and of judgement has resulted. That is the work of the Holy Spirit.

If we are out of Christ the sin question lies at our door; we are responsible. We have to answer to God in the matter of all righteousness. Can we do it? We have to face sure and certain judgement! Are we ready for it? The Holy Spirit would convict concerning these things, but He is pointing to One who has borne the sin, so that we need not bear it; One who has provided us with a righteousness which we could never provide for ourselves; One who has swallowed up our judgement in His Cross. The Holy Spirit bears witness to Him, the Christ who has gloriously accomplished all that work for our salvation. That is world ministry concerning the glorified Christ.

So we reach the final word. What is provided for us in the Holy Spirit? God has given His Spirit, and the Word says that He gives His Spirit to those who ask. You can have a no more beautiful, effective presentation of the whole case than that which is found in Luke 11. See how the Lord Jesus deals with this matter. He says: "Of which of you that is a father shall his son ask a loaf, and he give him a stone? Or a fish, and he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he give him a scorpion?" (v.11,12). Which of you would do that? You say: No man in his right mind, unless he was a perfect fiend would do a thing like that! It only wants an ordinary ground of loving parenthood to at least not do that, but if bread is asked, to give bread, if possible. Well, then, if you parents and you, even at best, being evil "know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?" (v.13). "Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you" (v.9). All that is related to the Holy Spirit.

We have to recognise the necessity of the Holy Spirit, the values of the Holy Spirit, and the meaning of the Holy Spirit and then, convinced to the very depths of our being that we cannot go on without the Holy Spirit, we come and seek, knock, and ask, and He will not withhold.

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