The Exceeding Greatness of His Power
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 4 - Power by Revelation

"The exceeding greatness of His power" (Eph. 1:19).

We began these considerations by underlining the word 'exceeding', and showing that it is not only a matter of degree, but it is a matter of comparison. It is great, but it is a greatness which exceeds. The power and the expression of that power to which the apostle here refers, is different. That is borne out by the immediate context. The exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward, the believers, to us-ward, and that again, has the context of the whole letter which stands related to the pre-eminent, supreme purpose of God in this universe, that is, that in this particular dispensation the supreme object of God's eternal interest has been brought into being and is in view, and it is concerning that that he used this word 'us-ward'. He does not just mean himself and a few other fellow-workers, nor does he mean himself and the believers of his own time alone.

This letter, as you know, is wholly taken up with and focused upon that elect Body, the church, and so it is in that connection that he uses this word 'us-ward'. He meant church-ward, the Body-of-Christ-ward, and the exceeding greatness of His power, the power in expression beyond any other time or in any other realm is related to that. And this statement is not built upon an isolated fragment, because there is so much more in this very letter itself to support that. There is much more in the whole context of this fragment, this sentence, or part sentence, that bears out the fact that all that the apostle is saying has to do with this particular object: the church, which he calls the elect, chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. So it is something comparative, and compared with it, there never has been such an expression of Divine power.

A Comparison and Contrast

Having made that emphasis and observation at the commencement, we have since been looking at some examples of Divine power in expression from which we have been able to derive some understanding of the working of that power and the principles of its working. And in the previous chapter we have been looking into the book of Daniel. There we see Divine power most evidently in operation, but the realm of Daniel (I mean the book now, not only the man) is, after all, the earthly and the Messianic. That is Israel's earthly hope in person and possession. The book does at points leap beyond that, but it is mainly and essentially connected with an earthly history and an earthly people. It has to do with the earthly side of God's kingdom. It is God's kingdom, but it is the earthly side of God's kingdom. It is what we call historical. This book is just full of history, but it is the history of the kingdoms of this world and the relationship with that nation Israel. If in that earthly and more temporal realm there is such a wonderful display of Divine power, how much more in this other realm of which Paul is writing, for he is dealing with another and a higher realm and object than this earth and an earthly people or nation.

We ignore for the moment the school of interpretation which rejects all such theories and teachings about the future of the Jews, and claims that all such prophecies about Israel's future are now to be spiritualised and carried over into the church - not arguing whether it is true or not - but supposing that there is to be a resurrection of the Jewish nation, for resurrection it would certainly be, at most and at best it would only be on an earthly level. That is the horizon of that prophetic interpretation which gives Israel as a nation still a future. I am not saying whether you should accept that or not. We will not bother about it, it does not matter, but we are saying that even if such a resurrection is to take place, it will never be beyond the earth level.

What Paul is talking about here is something which goes far beyond the earth level. You notice the whole context is the church in the heavenlies. It is the church's eternal calling, vocation, destiny, and position as in the heavenlies, and as operating from the heavenlies to the getting right back behind the whole book of Daniel, right back behind the kings and the dominions and the empires to the whole spiritual government and influence of this world. That is an infinitely greater thing than ever Israel as a nation at their very best is ever destined to know. Here is something so much higher, so much greater, and it is in that comparative sense that the apostle used this word, "the exceeding greatness of His power which is to us-ward... believers". The word 'believers' defines the church, does it not, as a whole? "The exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe>/i>, according to that working of the strength of His might which He wrought in Christ" - not only raising Him from the dead. That may be true of Israel, it may be true of many others, but "He... made Him to sit at His right hand in the heavenly places, 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." This is something very great. Therefore the power by which this is accomplished is exceeding great power. That is the realm into which you and I, through the grace of God, have been called. That is our calling, that is our destiny, that is God's purpose concerning us in this dispensation, and therefore that power is to us-ward because we belong to the dispensation to which this power relates, and in which this purpose is the object.

The Secret of Daniel's Power

Let us analyse this matter by illustration again from Daniel. That is the first thing: the comparison and the contrast. But what was the secret of Daniel's power and that of his friends? Daniel's power was by way of revelation of times and seasons, of events and things in history. That very largely sums up the book which goes by his name. You notice every time that Daniel came into a place, a position of influence and power and the increase of God's power and ascendancy, it was by way of a revelation. There is something that the wisdom of this world cannot deal with, solve, or explain and no one, not even the wise men of Babylon, can explain. The wisdom of the world is exhausted and defeated. And then the thing is revealed to Daniel, and it is revealed to his three friends; and more than once this happens, this kind of thing, by revelation. It is perceived that in him and in his friends there is a spirit, as it is put, an "excellent spirit", the spirit of the gods, able to explain, to interpret. That is the pagan way of explaining it because it does not understand, but this is exactly what happened, and so their influence and power in that realm was by way of revelation, but the revelation related, as I have said, to times and seasons.

We know the prophetical program of the book of Daniel, what would happen during coming centuries. One empire succeeded another, the pageant of empires and a number of other events in the earth, with here and there a glimpse, a breakthrough of something extra, but dimly, far-off perceived, and imperfectly disclosed. That was power by revelation because, being revelation from God, it carried with it power.

Every revelation that comes from God, no matter what the realm is in which it is intended to operate, or to which it applies, carries with it power, enough to overthrow a Babylonian Empire, or a Medo-Persian Empire, or a Greco-Macedonian Empire (as was the case) and a Roman Empire; power by revelation to deal with these mighty systems of this earth. Yes, they are great things, and it is a great power at work, and that power is functioning and operating by way of revelation. It is a tremendous thing really to get a revelation from God. If God reveals something, something is going to happen, something bound up with it that all the empires of this world cannot frustrate. Revelation from God can hurl the mightiest edifice to dust and ashes, as was the case here. Well, that is power.

The Secret of the Church's Power

But do you see what Paul is saying here in immediate connection with the exceeding greatness of His power? "That (He) may give unto you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him". There is something bound up with a revelation of Jesus Christ which transcends all other revelations, and has in it power exceeding all other expressions of power. A real Holy Spirit revelation of Jesus Christ is the most momentous thing that can happen in this world and to any life - a revelation of Jesus Christ, a Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.

There was nothing in all the world that could accomplish a thing like the emancipation of Paul but a revelation of Jesus Christ. Saul of Tarsus was steeped, embedded, rooted in the tradition of his fathers, in all the history of the Old Testament and of his people Israel. He was a personal embodiment of all those oracles and of all that tradition and of all that faith and hope, the hope of Israel. He was so convinced to the very last thread of his fabric that Jewry was right, there was nothing more and nothing beyond. For such a man in almost an instant of time to be emancipated from that, so that it becomes to him nothing in comparison with what he now sees, can be only through revelation. You could imprison that man, you could flog him, you could heap upon him all the ignominies and sufferings that can be, bring every force and power to bear upon him to make him recant Judaism, but a man like this will not be moved one hair's breadth by anything and everything that you can do to him. But it took only a revelation of Jesus Christ, and it was done. While he never lost his love for his brethren after the flesh, nor his travail for them, he was out of that realm, and strangely enough, not only out, but he was sponsoring the very thing for which all Jewry had the most contempt: the Gentiles and their salvation. See what he had to meet from the Jewish leaders because he was standing for the entrance of Gentiles into the kingdom of God. That was where he was. What a tremendous thing a revelation of Jesus Christ was and is!

Therefore we are in something very much greater, are we not? Daniel at most could only faintly prevision the Messiah. The Holy Spirit in this dispensation has the full Christ for our present revelation. I want to underline very strongly that word 'revelation', but safeguard it. When I am speaking about revelation of Jesus Christ, do not for one moment think that I am suggesting something extra to the revelation which we have in the Word of God. I do not mean something extra-Scriptural, but at the same time I say that to have it here in the book is not everything, and to have the revelation of Jesus Christ only in printed form does not accomplish this thing of which we are speaking. The Spirit of God has got to take this revelation which is in print, in book form, and open the eyes of our hearts that we may see, that we may have knowledge of Him, not as One in the most sacred of books, the most authentic of books, but passing from the written in the book to the revelation in our hearts. When that happens, that is an end of all argument, and that is a mighty thing beyond anything else.

Although many of you have heard things like this before, and so often, do suffer the new emphasis, for what is needed by Christian people, perhaps more than anything else, is not a better knowledge of the text of the Scriptures, the content of the Bible as a book, but a revelation of Jesus Christ in their hearts. It would be altogether impossible to directly handle the difficult situations which concern the Lord today, and His purpose, along that direct line of attack, saying, 'You are all wrong, you have missed the point, everything is topsy-turvy. This is where you are wrong, and this ought not to be, and this ought to be', and all that whole realm of argument, accusation and condemnation. You never get anywhere like that. It is utterly futile and fruitless to attack this present situation in that way. It makes no difference, and if you could get people to change their attitudes, positions and acceptances, it might after all only resolve itself in another system of truth, teaching and practice. They do it because you overpower their reason and they therefore think that this is the more proper and correct way, but that is not very profitable.

But here is a great situation, impossible of handling along any of these lines. Indeed, if you try, it will break you, it will crush you, for there are people who are as completely and utterly abandoned to their system of things as ever Paul was to Judaism. You have a very bad time if you tackle their pet things. But let there break in a revelation of Jesus Christ, and the thing is done. They are out of that prison, and what is more, they see that it was a prison, and they never before would have believed it was a prison, but they are out. A revelation of Jesus Christ is necessary.

Exceeding power which puts people into a position of real spiritual power is by revelation of Jesus Christ - true, through the Scriptures and not apart from them - but the revelation of Jesus Christ in their own hearts. We know quite well that Paul based the whole of his life upon that very thing. "It was the good pleasure of God... to reveal His Son in me" (Gal. 1:15-16), and that revelation, he says, was comparable to what took place in the Divine decree in creation. "God, that said, Light shall shine out of darkness... shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6). A Divine order, and the thing is done. "He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast" (Ps. 33:9). The thing has happened; that is all. A revelation of Jesus Christ is not something in the mind; it is a happening in the life. And when it has happened, well, it has just happened, and that is all there is to it. Something has happened. And what is needed among the Lord's people today more than anything is that mighty happening by a new revelation of Jesus Christ. That is the working of His power, and it is the secret of power. I trust that before we close, we shall have come to see something of the meaning of the working of that power where we are concerned.

Inward Revelation

Now again just to underline something already said, but to bring it into stronger relief. Daniel's activities and revelations were by sovereign acts to him. The revelations that he had were things that came from the outside objectively to him. He got his revelations by dreams. Whether a dream is objective or subjective, I am not going to argue, for we understand that it was something that happened to him. It came objectively by dreams and by angel visitants. These were sovereign acts, acts to Daniel. This present dispensation is the dispensation of nothing less than the Holy Spirit of God within believers and the church. Not things objective, but revealed within, "God has shined into our hearts." It is the revelation of Jesus Christ within. We are not moving now on dreams, even though they might be God-given, nor on angel whisperings and speakings, though they might be the angels of the Lord. In this dispensation we are Holy Spirit indwelt. That is the essential nature of the dispensation and of the church. There is a transcendent, an infinite superiority in the very character of this dispensation over all other dispensations. This is the dispensation of the Holy Spirit, and this is the dispensation of the Holy Spirit not speaking to, but revealed within. Moses wrote on tables of stone, the Holy Spirit writes on tables which are hearts of flesh, says Paul. The new covenant is inward, that is the difference.

Well, that is no new light for you, but this marks something very much in advance upon, and superior to, all former dispensations and therefore it marks power beyond anything that ever was before. We know by our very New Testament itself and what it contains that that is true. There is a power at work by revelation of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit in people, that is unmatched anywhere else.

Satan's System - A Soul System

Now note: the system of Satan and this world is a soul system. I hope you have really recognised what that means. The soul system is a tremendously strong system. We know that in ourselves, the awful times we have with our own souls, our own soul life. That is the system of Satan and this world: the soul system. You see it in Babylon in the days of Daniel and his companions. Oh, how this thing was worked up and played upon, and what tremendous power was exercised by it. Take only one feature - the time when the king set up the great image and called for universal worship of that image. By what means did he proceed to it? By music. The enemy used emotions to be played upon, to be worked up, the whole thing to be swayed towards this image for worship, by music.

Music always affects the senses, but music alone never touches the conscience. I am not saying you cannot sing in the Spirit, and that music cannot be used for spiritual purposes. I am not saying that, but I am saying that Satan's system is a soul system, and therefore that which affects and influences the soul and its senses most is the thing which he employs. That is his line of action. This whole thing is not touching conscience at all. I am not saying that God will not touch conscience through words put to music, but music alone never touches conscience. It only works on senses. That is a great factor in this whole soul kingdom of this world and of Satan's set-up. How much we can say about that, and what a lot Satan has done. I believe that there are few more, if as much, deceptive things to put you in a false position more quickly and more utterly than music. It can make you believe anything or do anything. Why do we have military bands? To make men do anything. Withdraw the band, withdraw the music, and you find the whole thing has gone. I mean that tremendous strength is withdrawn and the whole thing has been artificial. All your good feelings go, all those wonderful emotions disappear and die down, all that you are going to do under that tremendous impulse of the band, of the music, is all a myth; an exploded, burst bubble. What a false realm it is! You can decide to do anything under that emotion, and then you come away from the hot atmosphere of your choruses, of your singing, of your music in which you have been converted, and you wonder in a few days where your conversion is, and if you cannot keep that up, that atmosphere and that kind of occupation, your Christian life begins to fade out. What a deception! What a lie!

You see, here is the working of the lie in Babylon. It is the principle of the whole system of Satan and this world kingdom, and music is a part of it; that is, it is a soul system.

We are in Christ. We are not in a soul system at all. Everything here in this dispensation so far as the church is concerned, is not soul, but spirit. I do not mean that soul is annihilated, that feelings are ruled out and forbidden, but I mean that spirit takes ascendancy and command. It is a thing that you and I need to understand very much more than we do.

I do not feel that we can really say too much about this matter for our present time, especially concerning the false positions into which people are being put because of this drawing upon soul emotions, the destroying of real spiritual life and testimony, because some Christians will sink down into their own souls and live in their own feelings. You can, as I said earlier, produce almost anything by your soul. You can so dwell upon a thing in your soulish mind that you can produce the very symptoms of anything, and the thing itself not be there. If you like to dwell upon some disease and think you have got it, and then let the idea get hold of you, you can produce the very symptoms of that disease. Medical people will bear me out, and the disease is not there at all, and yet you are feeling that you have got cancer, you have got something. You have been dwelling upon this, your soul has become occupied with it, and now you are getting pains and all sorts of things, and you are certain that is what is the matter with you, and if you will only go and have the thing explored, there is nothing there at all, it is a lie.

We have heard of one person who so concentrated mind and soul upon the death agonies of the Lord Jesus that blood actually began to come out of the veins of that person. You may not believe that sort of thing, but it is true. Get into that realm, and there is no end to it, but it is all so false, such a lie. But what a power it is, what a strength there is in it. You cannot argue people out of it. Even if you produce the evidence by X-ray or something like that, they still do not believe it. What a strength there is in this soul life of ours!

Now, a spiritual person is one who has been delivered from that realm, and delivered from that power, and that is the exceeding greatness of His power, and it is for you, dear friend, if you are in the grip of your own miserable, deceiving, lying soul. What a power this is, and it is very true. The apostle has a corresponding phrase: "strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inward man" (Eph. 3:16).

Another Comparison and Contrast

I am coming to one other comparison and contrast as I close. Here in Babylon in this great dream of the king interpreted by Daniel, we have this world system, which is Satan's system represented in a composite person. Take the two words not only together, but separately. Composite. Person. You see, it is the figure of one man, but that one man is made up of empires and kingdoms which spread over literally hundreds and into thousands of years, all bits and pieces put together to make up this one man. But how significant is it that Antichrist is a composite person! What tremendous power there is in Antichrist, in this composite build-up of systems under one personal control, one inward personality drawing together to himself all these parts, and working through them all the kingdoms of this world. All the kingdoms of this world are one kingdom under Satan's power. They are a composite person. That is how it is in the world; that is how it is in Satan's kingdom.

When you come to this letter to the Ephesians, what have we got? No composite person, but one Person in one organic Body; not bits put together. Oh, let us get rid of this worldly and divisive conception of the church, that it is made up of all sorts of things - the church is made up of Methodists and Baptists and Congregationalists and Jews and Gentiles and Americans and British and Chinese and Indians - that is a lie, is it not? That is composite. It has a lot of power, and it is very useful to the devil, and there is a lot of His power working through that kind of thing. Get up against it and see. You do not meet the Lord. You meet something that is not wholesome, not good. You are up against a terrific power when you touch that composite thing. But how much superior and greater is this Body, the organism - not something put together of all kinds of bits and pieces, but something of organic growth out of Christ. And the picture, the revelation of that church is that it is going to overthrow all this other. This is the stone cut out without hands that smashes the composite. This is it. This is organic.

Oh, what power, superior power, there is in organic oneness with Christ! That is only saying in other words, what tremendous power is bound up with the church because it is an organism, the very Body of Christ Himself. And so that is going to emerge when all other systems collapse and dissolve. Yes, it is going to emerge triumphant. Do not again talk or sing about Jews and Gentiles being in the church. There will not be a Jew or a Gentile in the church. There will not be a British or an Indian or an African or a Chinese, or any other nationality, in the church. Do not make any mistake about it. It is a wrong interpretation of "out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation" (Rev. 5:9, AV). It does not say 'made up of every tribe, tongue, people and nation', but "out of". If at the beginning He made of one blood every nation (Acts 17:26, AV), He has now in the end made one nation from one Blood: His own Blood. There are no nations in the church. It is one nation, and that is the strength of it, that is the thing that Satan fears.

Well, I will not say more, but you surely glimpse something of the exceeding nature of the dispensation in which we live, and therefore of the power which works in this time, and thank God it does work. We see something of this in the earth where all these other things of this world system have disappeared, and we can meet together forgetful of every kind of artificial distinction and division, whether it be national or any other. It just does not come in, it does not affect, it does not influence, it does not matter. We have found another ground of strength, another ground of life. That other ground is the one new Man in Christ.


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