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Saturday, July 28, 2018

The Centrality and Universality of the Cross-Chapter 5=FINAL


The Centrality and Universality of the Cross (1927)
by T. Austin-Sparks
Chapter 5
"Now unto the principalities and powers."

At length we come to consider the meaning of the Cross in its vaster ranges and its initial and final impact which is back of the universe and of history. It requires but little spiritual insight to recognise that the whole background of what is recorded from Genesis to Revelation is spiritual and not merely historical. The historical is but the effect in a limited degree of what is going on behind. This earth after all only receives a faint echo of what is taking place beyond. The more spiritual the Lord's people become the more they realise the true nature of the battle (Ephes. 6:12), the more they feel the impact of a super-kosmic conflict, and the more possessed of the secrets of spiritual effectiveness they become. Moreover, the more spiritual they become in all their conceptions of the methods and means by which the ends of God are to be obtained or attained unto.

The Church which is Christ's spiritual Body is a heavenly organism, not an earthly organisation. While it is represented here on the earth, it is universal in its range (Heb. 12:22-24).

The whole Church in heaven and on earth is interested and concerned in the battle which rages. The issue is the outworking of Calvary's triumph. It is not a matter of whether Calvary is victory, that was settled in eternity past and transacted literally on this earth by the Son of Man. It is the progressive realisation of all the content and implications of the Cross which is being challenged so fiercely.

Now this brings us to the deep significance of spiritual truth, and we must seek to keep clearly before us the difference between a mental enquiry which may be merely speculative, and a spiritual understanding which is essentially practical and potent in its effect. Firstly as to this earth. It must be remembered that this earth is not isolated and self-contained. It is part of a system. While this is true in other respects it is especially true spiritually. How far this is so is not revealed, but it is made clear that other realms and orders unto the "heaven of heavens" and the "far above all heavens" encircling "the heavenlies" where "principalities, powers, world rulers of this darkness, and hosts of wicked spirits" have their present abode are all interested in and have their eyes directed toward this earth because of some special vocation which rests upon it relative to all these. It does not make much difference to the essential truth whether there be material worlds involved, and it would be going beyond our present specific purpose to discuss it. The truth is that some mighty, eternal, and universal purpose has been related for its decision and outworking to this earth, and this earth is central to a purpose which is as wide and inclusive as God Himself.

Then as to man. So far as we know, man is an unique creation and the only being in the universe who combines in his own nature the intuitional faculties of a spirit with the reasoning powers of a mind. "God is a spirit," and the angels are spirits. In creating man God determined to have a race at the centre of whose being, as the supreme and dominating reality, was Himself in life and nature. The life of His creation when it attains to His intention is a reproduction in finite form of the elements of His own life and being. To this end He gave man a spirit, in order that He, being a Spirit, might reside within man and reproduce Himself in the human spirit. Thus in carrying out and perfecting His purpose in the creation of man He subjects Himself for a time to the limitations of humanity, but by the incarnation of Himself in the Person of His Son He will lift humanity out of those limitations with which we are familiar into greater infinitudes of spiritual capacity.

But our theme holds us especially to the other phases of man's being. This is the psycho-physical (physical and soulish) body with the power of procreation ("Be fruitful and multiply"): the man who thinks and loves and determines. The entire government, and therefore all the issues of this man should, according to the Divine intention, be in and through his spirit and spirit faculties which linked him with the spirit or spiritual world, and it all depended upon how faithful he was to this law of his spirit as to what the result would be immediately. If his spirit walked after "The Spirit" Who is God there would be spiritual growth in the Knowledge of God and in the capacity for fulfilling the purposes of God. His seed would also have been a spiritual and God-controlled seed. By this course he would have held Divine and spiritual sovereignty in the earth.

But there were other possibilities and this really brings us to the main point of our theme.

The spirit as the "inner man" could listen to the psycho-physical or outer man and conduct himself accordingly and not after his spiritual Head. In this case all the issues would be psychical or soulish and not spiritual. This possibility made room for another element and this is the key to the whole situation.

At this point the theme opens out in several directions or along several lines. In all, however, we accept without discussion the presence of Satan in the universe and especially interested in what is taking place on this earth.

Satan now approaches in the knowledge that if he can fertilise this beginning of the race with a seed from himself, he can capture and be the God of the race. This seed, which is known throughout scripture as "the lie," of which Satan is the father, he presents to the psycho-physical man, the man who reasons, loves and determines. Instead of in turn testing it by the spirit at the court of God, the inner man capitulates and the outer man takes ascendency. Do we see what has happened? The lie has entered by consent in the place of the truth. The false word has taken the place of the true. The seed of Satan has been sown in the race, it has its lodgment in the psychical man, it is a blinding and paralysing and fatal lie, and the blindness and paralysis and death have slain man's spirit Godward, that he cannot know God's mind or will or purpose or fellowship.

But this is not all, there is a positive as well as a negative element. Man thus incapacitated is called "the natural (psychical) man."

There is, however that which is called "carnal." This is the flesh principle, not mere incapacitation, but positive enmity to God and His Things. It only requires a sufficiently divinely spiritual presentation to make it manifest as being in every member of the race. This is the Satanic element as in the entire race in Adam. Those most conscious of this element are those who have been spiritually quickened, and such know best the warfare of flesh against spirit and vice versa. Before following this line further, let us return to take up another, which really is not another but only a different aspect.

This interference of Satan with the psycho-physical man had to do - as we have seen - with the power of procreation and therefore in the covenant of life in blood. Blood was from the beginning recognised as life, its outpouring as the pledge and gift of life, its interchange as a life covenant between those who shared its substance. The function of procreation could only be fulfilled by a shedding and encirclement of blood. Thus the shedding of blood became the door or threshold of life by a covenant in blood on the part of the first parents. From that time onward the significance was given to all kinds of thresholds. The threshold of life and death in sprinkled blood is one of the most familiar things of the Bible. We have the shedding of blood to secure a covering for the fallen pair doubtless at the gateway of the garden. God's answer to Cain's complaint is that "if thou doest not well a sin-offering is at the door." Then we have the encirclement of blood at the door of Israel's national life; the passover being to them "the beginning of months." This was not only a covenant of life against death on the ground of judgment and the threshold of their national life, it was also a spiritual marital covenant, between Jehovah and Israel by which He would propagate a race for His own glory. He that day betrothed the virgin daughter of Israel unto Himself (Jer. 31:31, etc.). Judgments were always "in the gate," in Israel. And so from the time when first a twain were made one in a covenant of blood, thresholds, doors, gates, were places of altars and a spiritual significance was attached to them. The altar was at the door of the Tabernacle and there the blood of the covenant which was taken into the holiest was shed. All this is very important when we come to consider Christ's work in the Cross by which He was indeed the "Door" and place of the covenant of life. We leave this, however, till later.

The covenant sign with Israel was circumcision, an encircling of blood at the beginning of life. It represented a cutting off from all the uncircumcised and a cutting off unto Jehovah for His peculiar possession and purpose. It pointed to a spiritual truth, even the putting away of the whole body of the flesh by the Cross - even the flesh in which Satan had actual and judicial place and hold (Col. 2:11). Circumcision took place on the eighth day. Eight is the resurrection number in Scripture. By the resurrection of Christ it has become the first day of the week. It is in the resurrection of Christ that there is a specific Divine declaration as to His Sonship - see Rom. 1:4, Acts 13:33, etc. Our sonship is on the ground of resurrection union with Christ as begotten from the dead, the whole body of the flesh having been cut off.

What we want to see is that the nature of sin and the nature of the fall, the basis of Divine judgment, the ground of the awful wrath of God, and the background of all, is spiritual fornication. Satan had a hand in the functioning of procreative capacity and inoculated the race with evil, his own nature. It is not difficult to trace the fact by its fruits, although many might find difficulty in understanding the term "spiritual fornication." All forms of Satan worship have had a sensual element strongly developed.

In Israel the constant deviation from spiritual loyalty to Jehovah was marked by the setting up of groves with "pillars" or obelisks, male symbols, and Asherah, female symbols (Exodus 34:12-15; Deut. 16:21-22, etc.). This was a projecting of the Satanic system on one of its sides. Jehovah never treated these or any other forms of idolatry as just acts of innocence or ignorance, and smile at the foolishness of it all. He took it very seriously and destroyed the people with their idols if they forsook them not. He knew what was behind all this and what this implied on Satan's part. It was an abiding testimony to what Satan had done at the beginning, and of his footing in the nature of the race.

Without accumulating the vast evidence in the Word of God as well as outside of it we are surely by this able to see that by reason of an interference to which Adam gave way, Satan has in a very real sense captured the race and propagated a seed with his own nature. In what we have said about spiritual fornication in Israel we have only intended to illustrate the truth. The issue is the same without any Obelisks and Asherah. To summarise this - to the soulish-physical man possessing pro-creative powers, Satan presented a false gospel, a system of lies beautifully and attractively adorned with a view to obtaining an opening for himself to capture the race and by men's consent hold judicial and actual ground in man's nature. The offer of Satan being entertained and acted upon brought about the immediate rupture of fellowship with God in spirit and the suspending of the Divine intention through Adam. This act of spiritual fornication slew man's spirit in its relation to God, and deadened his capacity for the spiritual interchange with God by which all the purposes of God could be realised. God was infinitely removed from man in fellowship, knowledge, likeness, and co-operation.

Man became another species than that intended. A foreign and sinister element leavened the race. Satan installed in man that which would be suitable to his government and which would answer to his suggestions (the entire range of deception), and which would make possible his entrance into man for his own incarnation. All this does not necessarily mean that man realises or believes it. He may have highly developed religious feelings and sublime ideas and conceptions. He may even be given much to religious activity and service, and yet he is still the natural man, repudiating the demand for being born again, and becoming "a new creation." However fine a specimen a man may be of this species the word still holds that "that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit." It is the nature of man, not his positive attitude which is enmity. It is in the light of this interference in the propagating powers of the first parents and the result in polluted, tainted soul in the blood that the true nature of those new born sons of God are said to be "begotten, not of bloods, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:13).

Now we are ready to see how initially and basically the Cross is central to the spiritual universe. There God in Christ, incarnate with a sinless human soul, by the Eternal Spirit poured out that soul in His blood unto death. On the one hand He took on His soul all the pollution of the race - as only God could do - and carried it away into a land of forgetfulness. Only a sinless soul could do this voluntarily and effectually, for corruption by pollution has no native inherence there, therefore it can be flung off as not constituent.

So the works of the devil are nullified and for man by the Cross in the power that is in that blood, even the fleshless, enmityless, sinless soul of the Son of Man, there is

"Remission." - "This is My blood shed for remission." - Matt. 26:28.
"Redemption." - "In Whom we have redemption through His blood." - Eph. 1:7, Col. 1:14, 1 Peter 1:19.
"Reconciliation." - "Peace through the blood of His cross, to reconcile all things unto Himself." - Col. 1:20.
Justification. - "Being now justified by His blood." - Rom. 5:9.
Purging. - "How much more shall the blood of Christ purge." - Heb. 9:14, Rev. 7:14.
Nearness. - "Made nigh by the blood of Christ." - Eph. 2:13.
Access. - "Boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus." - Heb. 10:19.
Liberty. - "Loosed from our sins by His blood." - Rev. 1:5.
Sanctification. - "That He might sanctify with His own blood." - Heb. 13:12.
Cleansing. - "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin." - 1 John 1:7.

But there is more. On the other hand not only Satan's works but Satan himself met the impact of Christ. The whole Satanic hierarchy was dealt with when "He stripped off principalities and powers and made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in His Cross," Col. 2:15. It is in that reality that the supreme significance of the Cross is found and its transcendant power is felt.

Back of Egypt and the Egyptians were "the Gods of the Egyptians." Every judgment was ultimately against the deity represented by the symbol. The "sacred" Nile, the frog, the beetle, the lice, polluting altars, priests, and sacrifices, etc. Jehovah went behind the symbols to the spiritual system. "Against all the Gods of the Egyptians." So with the Canaanites. They, like the Egyptians, knew of Jehovah, and recognised His supremacy, but continued in a system which was spiritualistic at root. There were the rites of initiation into occultism as in "passing through the fire," the worship of demons, all working out in the grossest uncleanness.

In like manner the events of Daniel 3 are the challenge of the false spiritual system through the great image - the symbol and representation of the fire God Isbah. It is not Nebuchadnezzar, or Babylon as such, but Satan behind, and the tenth chapter exposes the real seat and nature of the conflict. "World rulers" of this darkness are behind, and these marshalled and directed by him who was - before calvary - called "the prince of this world," and is still "the god of this age," "the prince of the power of the air."

The whole mighty thundering of God against idolatry has as its reason this false and antagonistic system of Satan whereby he would "be as the Most High," worshipped as God, sitting in the Temple of God, swaying the race and the world.

The persistence of the forces of Satan by every conceivable means - in prosperity or adversity, in false prophets in whose mouths were lying spirits, by bribe, by fear, by impatience, by subtle and almost imperceptible assimilation, by false charity and sympathy, by fleshly passions, to institute idolatry was ever with a view to necessitate Israel's casting off by God and the ruin of their witness and testimony to His sovereignty.

Keep this well in mind, for the device did not cease with Israel after the flesh.

Such as work in heathen countries know only too well the truth of this. The idol or fetish is not the ultimate, it is the spiritual system behind which the heathen are held in chains of iron. It is not such a far cry from this to the cultured, educated, civilised capitulation to the revival of spiritualism and occultism.

The whole subject of total abandonment and utter consecration to Christ is not merely something extra to "Christianity" or the Christian life. Its appeal has its strength in the tremendous fact that anything which limits the Lordship, Sovereignty, Proprietorship of Christ in any life is an ally to him whose eternal quest has been to capture the place of the Son as given by the Father, and at least to divide the honours. This is idolatry. Not necessarily acute forms of devotion to other objects of worship, or initiation into occultism, but a divided heart, a reservation from Christ. In the long run it will be manifest that such gave the enemy his ground for wrecking the whole Christian life, drawing right away from the Lord.




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The Centrality and Universality of the Cross-Chapter 4


The Centrality and Universality of the Cross (1927)
by T. Austin-Sparks
Chapter 4
In our consideration of the main theme of this Conference - The Centrality and Universality of the Cross - those of you who have been present will remember that we concluded, so far as our present consideration is concerned, with that phase which specifically relates to the church which is the Body of Christ in itself, as to its nature; and the one all-inclusive statement which we gathered that up into was that the church which is the Body of Christ is the sphere and the vehicle of all the content and issues of Christ, crucified, risen, ascended, exalted. In other words, all that Calvary means from its acceptance on the part of Christ through its experience, leading right up to the throne of His transcendent exaltation, that is for, and in, and through, and by the church, which is His body - unto the knowledge and the revelation and demonstration of all that the church was eternally elected to be for Him, the medium of His expression, or of His fullest expression - that Christ needs, requires, demands, according to the eternal ordering of God, His Body for His self-manifestation.

Now, we have dealt with that in various and numerous ways, showing the nature of the Body of Christ, and many of its privileges and its responsibilities. One is constrained to just pause at this point for one moment to utter one word of solemn warning, and that against the sin of presumption in relation to the Body of Christ. The New Testament has much to say about the sin of presumption - presuming upon this great truth. Paul calls it "not discerning the Lord's Body." The oneness of Christ and His members as forming the "Body of Christ" is a basic revelation and declaration to much that took place in the nature of a judicial ministry of the Holy Spirit in New Testament times.

The Master said such things as "He that heareth you, heareth Me, and he that rejecteth you rejecteth Me." "In as much as ye have done it (or done it not) unto the least of Mine ye have done it (or done it not) unto Me."

The first glimmer of the revelation of the Body of Christ was one which Paul had when the Lord said to him "Why persecutest thou Me?" He might have retorted that he was not persecuting the Lord, but these followers of the Nazarene. The Lord, however, made it clear that it was one and the same thing on this occasion.

Now the case of Annanias and Saphira, of the Corinthian fornicator, of other Corinthians many of whom were sick and some died, and other cases, are examples of the danger of failing to recognise and discern the Lord's Body. "The loaf which we break is it not a participation in the Lord's body? The cup which we bless, is it not a participation in the Lord's blood, seeing that we who are many are one loaf, one body?" Therefore the Lord's table is a testimony to the oneness and spiritual reality of the Body of Christ. To set this testimony - not merely an ordinance - aside, or to enter into it in a spirit of schism, unforgiveness, dissimulation, partiality, etc., is to be guilty of presumption in a spiritual sense. The Lord's table is not the only form of testimony to incorporation into Christ or of the corporate oneness of Christ and His members, and to neglect or violate any of these is to issue in confusion, strain, loss; sometimes it results in delusion, sometimes in physical suffering, and we have known it to result in the Lord having to take such out of the way.

David prayed, as we have it in the 19th Psalm: "Keep back Thy servant from presumptuous sins, then shall I be kept from the great transgression." In His conception of spiritual and eternal verities, the great transgression was presumption, and the New Testament clearly defines and sets forth the nature of that presumption, and this presumption in relation to the corporate nature of the Lord Jesus Christ, and our incorporation into that. Now I dare not turn aside from the main line to deal with that further.

You recognise that the anointing of the Holy Ghost is through and by the Head upon the Body of Christ. We have so often pointed out that it is not upon the individual as an individual, but upon the individual by reason of the individual's relationship to Christ in His Body. The anointing is for all members, not in a scattered and detached sense, but in a corporate and united sense, so that in this way the oneness of the Spirit, the unity of the Spirit is realised through the Head in the whole Body. Now the sin against the Body of Christ is sin against the Holy Ghost, for it is that which violates the anointing of the Head as upon the Body. You notice how the appeal, which always brings God into judicial action through the Holy Ghost in the Word of God, is "against the Lord and His Anointed." They are one, and the Anointed One is Christ corporate in the Body, so that touching a member of the Body of Christ is as touching "the apple of His eye." Now against the Lord and against His Anointed in this corporate sense, when an appeal is made on that ground then God, through the Holy Ghost, judicially moves. He rebuked kings for their sakes, saying "Touch not Mine anointed - and do My prophets no harm." Take that in New Testament interpretation, and you will find that it relates to the oneness of the Lord with His members under the one anointing. But one is not saying it on this occasion in order to especially emphasise the touching of the members of Christ, but one is saying it now to emphasise this form of presumption, lest we might presume upon the rights, the inheritance, the privileges of our membership of the Body of Christ and exclude, or reject those specific discernings of the Body.

Believe me, beloved, if ever the Lord in any way whatever gives you the slightest degree of spirit uneasiness about any kind of testimony by which the Body of Christ is discerned, and you do not come into line with that, accept, obey, fulfil, all your talk about the Body of Christ from that time onward - will fail of its spiritual value to you in the hours of deepest crisis, and although, for the time being, it seems that nothing happens in many cases, something does happen sooner or later. Although it seems that nothing happens, and there is a sense of being able to go on, even a sense of the Lord, and blessing upon a certain level within a certain limited sphere, there is in the path of such an one, sooner or later, such a mighty upheaval as will bring them to a state of arrest and disaster and will fling them right back upon that testimony to the Body which they rejected or neglected and they will say - "I see the cause of all this as being my disobedience to that about which the Lord touched my spirit on such and such an occasion." You cannot get past that. The slightest disobedience to a touch of the Holy Spirit issues in your becoming uncovered and unsheltered in the spiritual house of God - the cover of the Lord's children, the corporate o'ershadowing and encircling of the Body of Christ which is indispensable to the members. They dare not go on alone, uncovered, without spiritual co-operation, and if we fail to recognise the oneness of the Body of Christ, or are disobedient to any movement of the Spirit in our spirit with regard to such testimonies in the Body and to the Body, the issue will be, believe me, that at some time we come up against the issue of a sin of presumption. We have presumed upon the rights and privileges and resources of the Body of Christ and been disobedient to the testimonies thereof. That issues in the Holy Spirit, by reason of His obligations, bringing us up with a start. It is a thing which well-nigh wrecks our whole career, and in the meantime we are on a second line of spiritual service and effectiveness, when we might be on a first.

At an early point we cited the case of Moses and saw that the Lord met him and sought to kill him because of his failure to discern the testimony to the covenant, and Paul distinctly says that baptism is a testimony to a corporate union with Christ (Col. 2:11,12; Romans 6:4, etc.).

When the Lord speaks to us about anything and we go on and count on the Lord's cover and protection in and through His Body which is His instrument, be sure that cannot be, unless we are absolutely obedient to every means of discernment. Now, I speak out of a good deal of experience in this matter. I have seen spiritual lives wrecked on that, not because anybody has said anything of that to them. Whatever has been said by men has been subsequent to something which was said in them by the Holy Spirit, and then they began to equivocate. The Spirit of the Lord led them to a discerning of their identification with Christ and a testimony thereto in the waters of baptism, and they were disobedient. The Lord pressed it, and they discussed it, and argued and debated it, and consulted unsympathetic people about it, and were very glad when they found someone who did not agree with it, and so they let it go. Oh beloved, the wreckage of such is strewn on the face of the earth. Their spiritual lives have from that time been narrowed in their range of usefulness and serviceableness to the Lord. I could tell you some tragic stories about them, and other forms of testimony - testimony only - to spiritual facts which the Lord requires and a failure to face the issue through disobedience; and yet these, all the time, still claiming the rights and privileges and resources and means of Christ in the Body of Christ. But disobedience! And sooner or later the Holy Ghost has had to come in and judge.

Now we come to say a little, as the Lord enables us, about the church, the Body of Christ in its instrumentality beyond itself. We see its nature, its content, its intent in the mind and purpose of God, and its first sphere of course, of ministry, is to, and in, and among the nations of this world, as the next circle indicates, which requires one further word to define its nature; and the Holy Spirit, through Peter, says of the church, "Ye are a holy nation." It is a nation within the nations but super-national; not denominational, or undenominational, or interdenominational but superdenominational, a nation apart from the nations and above the nations, and yet in the nations. Concerning the nucleus of that church the Master prayed, "I pray not that Thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldst keep them from the evil one," and the man who wrote those words by inspiration later wrote, "The whole world lieth in the evil one." "I pray not that Thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldst keep them from the evil one." They are not in the lap of the enemy, although they are in the world. In a sense they are apart from it; though in it, not of it - "translated out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of the Son of His love" - a holy nation. What is a nation? Well, a nation is that which is of common blood with an identity of life; and that is true - in a peculiar sense - of the church as a nation. An identity of life, a life which is unique and peculiar, which is the Life of God Himself - a common seed, the seed of God. And a nation is not only one in identity of life, a common seed, but it is one in its identity of purpose and in its unity of effort. These things are specifically true of His holy nation.

Now the church, as a nation, is called to bear a testimony within the nations, the strength of which testimony is found in its separation from the nations, and in its difference of life. And what is its testimony unto? Its testimony is that which has the effect of the magnet to the steel, and the steel to the magnet - all the fragments in the church with the magnetic force of the Cross, in which the drawing power of the love of God is resident to gather out from the nations to itself, to complete itself out of the nations. The church is out of every nation and tribe and kindred and tongue, a great multitude which no man can number. Now, beloved, there are one or two specifically vital matters in this connection I want to hand on.

Let us recognise and settle it once and for all that the church, the Body of Christ, or members thereof are not here in this world to have anything to do with the systems of this world, as such, and in so far as we become involved in the matters of the kingdoms of this world, we lose our magnetic vocation, and we shall involve ourselves in chaos from which it will take a very great deal to extricate us. That has been the historic tragedy of Christendom, it has in various ways become linked up with the kingdoms and interests of this world, and that is the secret of its spiritual ineffectiveness. The Church which is Christ's Body is a heavenly thing since Christ its Head has ascended, and all that comes down into and through His Body is heavenly in source and nature. This is utterly different from the things of earth, and cannot even be known by "the natural man."

Moreover, the church is not here now to establish or extend the Kingdom of God universally in the earth. It is here to testify to the sovereignty of Christ, to establish a testimony to it in the nations, and to gather to itself all the elect members. The universal Kingdom is for a later time. Everyone who has a revelation of the Body of Christ will find themselves being detached from tradition, from organised religion, and that they are being brought to the place where there is no alternative but to come out from a thing which is a system, and an order, though religious, though claiming to be in the name of the Lord, and according to the word of the Lord, but which is a thing of this earth. The Holy Ghost always leads out from that, and of course He has got to do it. Don't you do it until He does it in you, until you can do nothing else. You stay until the thing is so plain to you that your whole spiritual life is in jeopardy unless you do it. Mark you, the Holy Ghost is going to do that in order to give to you, and put within you the magnetic power of the Cross of Jesus Christ, in order to gather unto Himself a people from the nations for His Name. You have got to stand clear in order to fulfil that ministry, but stand clear in the Holy Ghost, not by any personal exclusiveness, or detachments, because that can be organised, and that can be prompted by fleshly ambition and subtle motive, desiring recognition, and such things.

This gathering out of the Body of Christ must be the work of the Holy Spirit on the basis of a revelation and an inward withering of our concern for, and interest in, all that is not heavenly in its concept. We have tried to build up, to organise, and to increase "the Church." Advertisement, policy, attractions, schemes, devices, appeals, to draw and to hold to "the Church." Titles, names, and special items; who can exhaust the resource to realise things which, after all, is a caricature of the Divine reality. The Lord's method is firstly to hear "the testimony of Jesus" in every place, and then to gather to that testimony such as He has foreknown and therefore foreordained as those who would respond to His call. The Holy Spirit is strategic. "Pentecost" was a wonderful example of this strategy. "Every nation under heaven" was represented in Jerusalem on that day, and that in itself was another demonstration of the Divine strategy, in using Judaism - now rejected - to head up to the Church by gathering people out of every nation in one place on this occasion. No flaming posters emblazoned the advertising spaces of Jerusalem announcing that at a certain time in a given place eleven great men would preach, or that the Rev. Dr. Peter would preach a pentecostal sermon. They came together, and everything was carried through from first to last by the Holy Spirit Himself.

You see how wide of the mark organised Christendom is! This is a Holy Ghost business, and you are delivered from all the other load, deadweight of work and organisation, and everything else when the Holy Spirit takes things in hand like that. The testimony of Jesus is to be in the hands of the Holy Spirit, and He shall gather those foreknown. You need not that I stay to define, and to safeguard that last clause. Now on the one side, there is that, that glorious truth of the Spirit gathering out a people for the Name of Jesus, and Himself being Sovereign in the gathering out, and the gathering together. It is perfectly wonderful what the Holy Spirit can do, where the people come from, how they hear of the thing, but it gets out. That is the way we put it - that the Spirit has in hand this business of completing the Church of the Lord Jesus.

Well, there are other aspects to that one glorious truth, and this is another - that the Holy Spirit is also strategic in the placing of His church as represented by members. He places them here and there, and makes them the magnet, as it were, to which He may draw elect souls, not elect by favouritism of God, but elect according to the foreknowledge of God, that is all, not because they are elected to Life, as against others who are elected to death, but because the Lord foreknew who would believe "Whom He foreknew, them He predestinated" - their destiny was settled on the ground of His foreknowledge of their faith, and is on the ground of His own grace. Well now, such the Lord knows - "The Lord knoweth them that are His," and He will put His Body representatively down here and there, in order that they may be a magnetic force, that unto them He may bring those who, through their testimony, will find the Holy Spirit giving them a response.

It is most remarkable how in a place there are those who find at once that this is the thing for which their whole being has been crying. Now you want to be saved from your hustle and feverish rushing about to try and get people who ought to come. Let the Holy Ghost move you in those matters, because you will be getting a lot of people to come, and they will be so upset with the whole thing that they will be quite disgusted and disappointed, and you will be making a mess all the time. Do we not pray here continuously that the Lord will keep away those who in coming will not come into His purpose, will not see His will, and accept it? It is just as important to pray that as it is to pray the other way - it may be that many of these will come on later. The Lord has His times as well as His purposes.

This aspect of truth seriously touches the question as to whether it was ever the Divine purpose and method that commodious permanent buildings should be erected in numerous places and the success of "the Church" be determined by whether they are full or otherwise. This is surely not the New Testament conception, and may it not be that the present system with all its organisation, machinery, advertisement, expenditure, and burdensome-ness, but comparative spiritual ineffectiveness, is the inevitable issue of a false conception? It is a tremendous thing to say, but we do not hesitate to say it, that spiritual emancipation from the present system of organised religion and of what is called "the Church" and "Church life," with its methods, institutions, officials, governments, etc., is the necessary way to the maximum of spiritual effectiveness and fruitfulness. And the Lord would lead many out if only they had the courage and faith to leave their support and vindication to Him. The tragedy of so many, and the paralysis of the real work of God, is the earthboundness of vision and the tyranny of a system. Never would we urge anyone to come out until the matter had become to them one of inward revelation, but we do urge upon you that you should earnestly ask the Lord to give you a revelation of the true nature of His Church which is His Body.

Our meditation would lack something very important if we failed to remember that while the Church in the nations by its testimony is as a magnet to draw, it will also repel and make impossible the access and taking hold on the part of flesh and of carnal men and women. In the wild unenlightened lust for members and increase this has been overlooked with disastrous and ruinous consequences. There must be that in Christ and His Body which is forbidding to all but the consecrated and sanctified. The fire of God to safeguard the glory of God is in the Holy "Tabernacle" or "Temple" or "House," and this must break out upon the intrusion of "flesh." It is no sign of God's acceptance of our presence in any system, local, national, or international, which claims to be the Church, in which manipulating, controlling, influencing, and officiating, are unconsecrated men and women. Such would find judgment beginning at the house of God if this were truly His spiritual house in which the Holy Spirit was sovereign.

"For the rest, no man durst join himself unto them."
"The LORD added to the Church."

Can we not be satisfied with this on both sides, and make it our business to see that the testimony is clear and pure.




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The Centrality and Universality of the Cross-Chapter 3


The Centrality and Universality of the Cross (1927)
by T. Austin-Sparks
Chapter 3
(In reading these addresses it will be found profitable to consult the chart of the August Number.)

We shall continue where we left this theme. The point at which we broke off was at the conclusion of the four-fold revelation and content of the Cross in its centrality. That is, we dealt with all that is within the first circle, which circle represents the Body of Christ. As we have been led to say, all that which centres in and issues from the Cross in its first and immediate application and significance is in and for and to the Church, which is His Body, as the instrument, sphere, the vehicle of its own revelation and manifestation beyond the Church and through the Church. We shall not go over that ground even a little bit this afternoon, but go on immediately to speak for a little while about the Church, which is His Body; for we see how all this is through the Church. One might just make a very inclusive statement in this connection - The Church, which is the Body of Christ, is the sphere and the vehicle, and all the content and issue of Christ crucified, risen, ascended and exalted. To use the word with which the first chapter of the Ephesian letter closes:- "He is the Head of the Church, which is His Body: the fulness of Him that filleth all in all."

The fulness of Him that filleth all in all is the Church which is His Body. Let me repeat that statement because it is so important, basic and inclusive. The Church, the Body of Christ, is the sphere and the vehicle, or channel of the full content of Christ crucified, risen, ascended, exalted. It is His elect instrument from all eternity for His Self-manifestation in final fulness. The Church, the Body, is required and demanded by Christ in order that Christ might fully and finally reveal Himself. He is determined not to be manifest apart from His Church, but to bind Himself in His ultimate infinite self-manifestation to the instrumentality of His perfected Body. His fulness is relative fulness. Our fulness is also relative fulness and we can never know the fulness of Christ only relatively to all the members of His Body, and we shall find our fulness corporately and relatively and progressively toward the final realisation of that perfect instrument.

Now, everything we have said has led up to this point. We have seen how in the Person of Christ the Cross is basic and essential to make known What and Who He is in Power; but the Church is the channel through which, by the Cross, the real nature of the Person of Christ is revealed in all the universe. What is true concerning the Person of Christ is true concerning the Holy Spirit who binds Himself to the revelation of the Person, or Logos of the Cross, and that to and in, and then through the Body, the Church. The Holy Spirit is sent to the Body to make the Christ of the Cross real in the Body, in order that the Body of Christ, knowing experimentally the meaning of the Cross, may preach an experimental gospel out to the uttermost bounds of the universe; not a theory, not a doctrine, but a thing which in itself has been wrought out to its depths and its fulness. The Holy Spirit is here to do that; He is sent to secure the Body and to secure the Body of Christ as an instrument and sphere in which Christ, crucified - in all the infinite content of those words - becomes a living manifestation by experience unto farther reaches of ministry in the So Great Salvation. You have the outworking of that through all the stages, and phases and meanings of the So Great Salvation in the Church, the Elect Body; but it is to be revealed in all its wonder as the infinite wisdom of God, far beyond the ranges of the Church; and so, in that fourth section, the Second Coming of Christ, as we saw it, you will have the consummation of the gospel by the Holy Ghost in the Person of Christ as in the Body of Christ.

The Body of Christ is the Person of Christ revealed. All that Christ is in His Person and all that He possesses is brought into action and expression in the Body of Christ in the Church. That carries you a tremendously long way - even to take a fragment; and a familiar fragment - as the exceeding greatness of the power of God was manifested and expressed in raising Him, the Head, from the dead, even so, that same exceeding greatness of His power has got to bring the Body into resurrection union with Christ, and there you get the exceeding greatness of the power of Very God wrought in the experience of the Body of Christ, and what is true of that, is true of everything else in the Person. Is He Life so He is Light; and if He is Life and Light; so He is Power; and if He is Power, He is also Glory; and you may expand that unto all the ranges and realms of the content of the Divine Person and find that that content is being mediated by the Holy Ghost to, and through the Church, which is His Body, unto that timeless day when all that Christ is will be revealed in, and through His Body for ever; so that we may truly say that the Church and Christ, the Body and the Head are One in content and expression.

The Person of Christ is bound up with this elect instrument of His manifestation. We have often put it in this way, that He has chosen that this new form of His incarnation is the Body, and He, in essence, is at the very centre of that Body, and if you touch the Body you touch Christ - if you touch a member of the Body you touch Christ. "He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of God's eye" is an Old Testament word with a New Testament significance of very great importance. We have so often pointed that out. It was here that Paul, the Apostle, got His first glimmer of revelation concerning the Body of Christ when the voice said to him - "Why persecutest thou Me," and but for some perception and insight, which probably came by that action of the Spirit upon him, he might have answered "But I am not persecuting You, I am persecuting these heretics, these apostates, these followers of the Nazarene." But he saw that the two were one, and to touch them was to touch Him Whom he there and then called "Lord," to Whom he submitted himself for instruction and direction from that moment. That was his first inkling of the Body of Christ, the oneness of Christ and His members. From that the thing grows until one day he is caught up in peculiar circumstances and shown this thing in its greater fulness. But there it is, the Cross is in that thing, and the Person of Christ is inseparably bound up with the Body of Christ, and the Body of Christ is Christ in that sense.

Now, that is reiterating things which you have often heard, but here we are being led to cover the whole ground of this testimony which we feel has been deposited with us to bear before the world. So then the Body of Christ is Christ in content and expression. There is much to be done, we know, by sanctification, by the continuous working in and working out of the Cross in the Body before the full revelation of Christ is possible. There are many yet to be gathered by the Cross and added into that ultimate and consummate revelation of Christ, but if it is only the nucleus of that Body, there He is. He is implicate, He is present.

Now having said that, there is another thing which grows out of it, or another thing to be said which is but the defining or explanation of it more fully. It is a very interesting thing to notice how truly this is revealed right through the word of God - the oneness of the Lord and His temple. In our recent considerings of the Testimony of Jesus, we saw on the last occasion what the word says about the tabernacle of the testimony. We saw first of all the pure testimony as within the ark, and then the ark as containing the testimony (the ark of the testimony), and then we moved out, and saw that beyond the central testimony and the ark of the testimony there is the tabernacle of the testimony. Now, if the testimony is that central reality of the Person of Christ, and the ark represents that instrument by which He personally and individually brings that testimony into the world in His own personal incarnation as separate, then the tabernacle of the testimony is the Church which is His Body, and with it all the congregation is gathered together. There is the innermost thing in the type where the people do not come; but they do come into the tabernacle of the testimony and are one with it, and you notice that all that takes place there is on the ground of identification with it. Now we are not going to yield to the temptation to show how truly that is so, but there it is.

Now as to the tabernacle of the testimony. The tabernacle and its counterparts, in the later temples, the temple of Solomon, the temple of Zerubbabel, the temple at Jerusalem, and the temple of Ezekiel are the representations of the full ministry of Christ. They are the instruments, the vehicles of the revelation of the whole and entire ministry of what Christ is. Will you turn to the Book of the Revelation - here is a remarkable thing (4:7) "And the first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face as of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle." - Chap. 4:7.

"And when He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having each one a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, Worthy art Thou to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for Thou wast slain, and didst redeem us unto God with Thy blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation" (v.8).

Now go back from that. You know that the whole congregation, or church of God in the wilderness was gathered under four main standards, or banners. In the Book of Numbers they were divided into four great sections each of which had a banner or a standard. Issachar, Judah, and Zebulon under the standard of Judah, and upon their banner or standard there was the figure of a lion. Manasseh, Ephraim and Benjamin were gathered under the standard of Ephraim upon which was inscribed the figure of an ox. Then Simeon, Reuben and Gad were gathered under the standard of Reuben upon which was inscribed the figure of a man. Asher, Dan and Naphtali under the standard of Dan which bore as its insignia the figure of an eagle. When you come to Ezekiel's visions of the temple you find that this four-fold figure is there - the lion, the ox, the man and the eagle. The tabernacle - the temple.

Now the Revelation, and you notice that it is not Christ Himself in any separate way, but under this four-fold similitude, a congregation singing a new song - "Worthy art Thou for Thou wast slain," so that the two are one, here is the church united to Christ. But what is the implication of this four-fold insignia? Well, this is the implication of the four-fold revelation of Christ in the church. He is the lion of the tribe of Judah. The lion, of course, is always the symbol of royalty, sovereignty, and it is the sovereignty of Christ in the church that is the revelation here. He is Sovereign Head, say the Apostle. The sovereignty of Christ, the monarchy of Christ, the regality of Christ is over the Church and upon the Church, and it is gathered under His supreme authority - "Wherefore God hath highly exalted Him and given Him the title of sovereignty above every title of sovereignty both in this age and in that which is to come in every realm, things in heaven and earth, things under the earth," and that sovereignty is to be resident in the church and demonstrated through the Church which is His Body.

Now you note how in the case of Israel this was true by reason of their identification with this central thing of their life - the Testimony of Jesus - Jesus there at the centre of their national life - their oneness with Him: there was not a nation that was able to stand before them all the days of their faithfulness to that central thing. While their faithfulness and allegiance were maintained, while they were true to it, while they were unswerving in their discerning of the Lord in the midst, while all the meaning of the Cross as there presented in its manifold expression in the altars and the sacrifice and the priesthood was forever governing their lives, keeping sin out and ruling out their own personal interests and ruling in the glory of God, though humanly and naturally they were altogether at a discount (they were not a people who could have stood against the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the children of the East, and against those mighty world forces of Egypt and Babylon), yet while they are true, and it is a poor kind of allegiance that they show, nevertheless, wheresoever there in an expression of faithfulness, the great world forces go down before them. The sovereignty is manifested; the power of their sovereign Head is shown through them to all the nations round about. There it is in foreshadow, in prevision. And these are only types and illustrations, and if that was true in the case of the church in the wilderness with all that it was not which it ought to have been, and all that it was that it should not have been, how much more ought this to be true of that which stands upon the ground of justification in full and final acceptance with God, through the Cross, having perfect access, without a question. But, beloved, first of all the Cross is the basis of the sovereignty of the Lord Jesus, and just as that Cross becomes central in the experience, not in the doctrine, not in the theology merely, but in the experience of the church, so the sovereignty of Christ, by the Cross, is resident within the Church by the Holy Ghost, and manifest through the Church. There is the Lion.

The ox we know is always a dual symbol of service and sacrifice, and here is Christ in another phase of His ministry and activity - the Servant of Jehovah - the Sacrifice of God. Is it necessary for me to even use time, very precious time, in covering the ground which sets Him forth in that two-fold capacity - serving, suffering - "The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many". There you have the two things in one statement, as in many other statements. Beloved, that which is true of the Head (bear with me in my continuous repetition) must be true of all the members. That we are to be baptised into His sufferings and to make up that which is lacking of the sufferings of Christ for the Body's sake. And that is service, you see, taking our share in the suffering in order to serve, as that wonderful passage which the apostle writes to the Corinthians in the second letter [says] "Death worketh in us, but Life in you." "Our sufferings are on your behalf." "Baptised into His sufferings!" "Can ye drink of the cup that I drink? Can ye be baptised with the baptism that I am baptised with? And they said - We can, and He said - You shall." And they knew it, and to this one who had been for a time the blind instrument of Jehovah, and yet in the hands of the Devil, to cause them to drink of that cup, even Saul of Tarsus had had said concerning him at the time of his claiming as an elect vessel, "I will show him how great things he must suffer for My Name's sake," and he speaks about that in the fourth and sixth chapters of the second Corinthian letter - sharing and tasting of the sufferings of Christ. But listen, put the emphasis here: suffering which is service.

You suffer in your relationship to the Lord Jesus. Do you turn your eyes in upon yourself? Why am I suffering? Why should I have so much? Why should it always be I who get it? What have I done? What is wrong with me? Don't always turn your eyes in like that. Remember that the sufferings of Christ come upon some above measure not because they are sinners more than other sinners, but because they are elect instruments for the Body's sake unto a service, and if you are going to be an instrument of the revelation of the fulness of Christ, you have got to be chosen in the furnace of affliction, a sharer in His sufferings. Take comfort from that.

There has never yet been a man, or woman, who truly in the experience of things by the Holy Ghost has been a living revelation and manifestation of the content of Christ crucified, risen, ascended, exalted, who has not tasted of His cup, tasted deeply of His sufferings. Believe that. We have a little way of saying amongst ourselves here, "Yes, the Lord will never be able to use them until they have suffered." There is a great deal more in that than you realise, but if you are (and I expect many of you are) sharing His sufferings, remember it is unto something, and it is unto something which need not be merely related to the short span of your remaining years. This Body of Christ and its members are timeless in their ministry; it only begins here, it is going on in eternity. "And His servants shall serve Him, for they shall see His face."

Oh, that we knew the true nature of spiritual service. We think to serve the Lord means to be rushing around all the time taking meetings, organising religious movements, and doing a thousand and one things externally and feverishly and excitedly and having a full programme of engagements. The Lord undeceive us! Spiritual service is not that, beloved. You may take it that spiritual service in reality, every ounce of it is an ounce of blood, of passion. It is out of the Cross of Christ, and nothing that is not born out from that Cross ever achieves the mighty ends of Calvary, and that has got to be born out from Calvary in the Church, at the centre of which the Cross is planted. Service and suffering: that is a ministry of Christ entrusted to the Church and fulfilled through the Church to reach the utmost limits of God's intention and purpose, through Calvary, and the rim of the universe, to reach that. Your service will be through suffering, and therefore, the deeper you are baptised into His death, the fuller you are raised into the power of His effective service. Have you got that? If you forget a lot else, remember that. So, then, there is the ox, and that is Christ and the Church.

And then the man. You know how often the figure of a man and the word "Son of Man" occurs in the Old Testament, and then you come in the New to the all-inclusive Son of Man. "The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." Now the man figure, the man reality in the divine presentation always means representation and speech. The one who stands to represent another and to utter the mind of that other. So it was with the prophets - "Son of man, go, speak." "Son of man, stand, speak!" Representation and speech, that is the man. Well, now, that is so obviously true in the case of the church, that the church is the voice of the enthroned Christ, representing Him. It is His representative to speak for Him. Beloved, you need in all your visions to restrict them to this one thing, for the Lord will only make His voice heard. That is all surely we want, we don't want personality. We do not want a great deal of human power, and wit, and wisdom and genius, all we want to be is a voice, and that the voice of the Lord, representing Him and speaking for Him.

Finally, the eagle as over the camp, the head of which was Dan; and the eagle throughout the word of God represents heavenly glory and divine mystery - that is a phase of the expression of the Lord Jesus. He, Himself, is a mystery in that scriptural sense of it. He always was a mystery when He was on the earth. "There standeth one among you whom ye know not." "The world hath not known Me." "Which none of the princes of this world knew." They knew Him not because (as He said) "the world seeth Me not, but ye see Me." There is something veiled, something hidden. He is the mystery, says Peter, which God fore-ordained to be a propitiation for our sins.

In reverting to the Tabernacle of the Testimony we see how that tabernacle was a mysterious thing to the nations round about. It had no beauty that they could see, no enchantment for them, nothing they would covet, and yet there was something about it in their consciousness mysteriously mighty; they had no entrée to its secret, no share in its meaning; it was only those who were one with it, only those who lived by it and knew it who knew its secrets, the secrets of its glory, the secrets of its power. Now here are the two things - the mystery of God, the mystery which has been hid from ages and generations, what is it - "Christ in you." Not Christ in isolation, but in you and in you corporately, the Church, the Body.

Christ in you, that is the mystery which has been hid from the foundation of the world, and the church in its spiritual nature and reality is a mysterious thing to the world. One has so often pointed it out, it becomes more and more mysterious even to the religious people of the churches of the day. The true church cannot be appreciated, or understood; the real spiritual people of God who form His Body are beyond the ken of the religious natural man who is always talking about "the church" nevertheless, and making much of "the church"! Oh, but this thing is a thing which is neither understood, nor appreciated; it is a mystery, and its deepest reality is its deepest mystery.

Christ in you! There is the four-fold ministry and presentation and revelation of Christ the heavenly glory. You ask the average religious person today to come on a Bank Holiday to a meeting in a tent in a garden like this and see what he will say! He will see no heavenly glory in that, and to listen to addresses by the hour! No heavenly glory in that. We smile because we know the heavenly glory in a mystery. The multitude of holiday makers will go home empty of heart tonight, and we shall go, I trust, with full hearts and eternal treasures. But that is the heavenly glory in a mystery, which none of the princes of this world knew - "Christ in you" "the fulness of Him that filleth all in all."

Now you see that leads you right through the Old Testament - the tabernacle - the four-fold symbol on the standards in the revelation of that great temple given to Israel, the same symbols; out then when you come to the higher form of realisation here in the ultimate Revelation in this book, the four living creatures they are Christ in the church, and the church worshipping the Lamb because this four-fold thing has been wrought in them, "Thou hast redeemed unto Thyself, Thy sovereignty through service and sacrifice in Thy church and by Thy church, Thy representative, unto Thy heavenly glory, which is a secret glory and a mystery. Thou hast redeemed unto Thyself." And all these elements turn to worship the Lamb, all these elements of divine expression and manifestation provoke the Song of Worship - "Worthy art Thou." It is the church triumphant singing "Worthy the Lamb," because the Lamb has become the dearest possession to the church, and all His ministry has been fulfilled in her.

At this point, of course, we ought to go right on without a break to show that by the church, out of the church you do reach to the nations, so that out of the nations He is redeeming to Himself a people of every tongue and tribe and nation, but there we must stop for the present. 

The Centrality and Universality of the Cross-Chapter 2


The Centrality and Universality of the Cross (1927)
by T. Austin-Sparks
Chapter 2
Without going over the ground again, may I just pause one moment for a re-emphasis upon the centrality of the Cross. I think we were able to see in some small way how central the Cross is in the eternal determination of God in all matters, and how it has been made the hub of all revelation and of all experience; and it is just that last word which one feels must be stressed. With the Cross as central, its centrality has got to be so by experience.

It would be quite interesting and informing to go through the Bible and see stage by stage of the historic unfolding how the Cross is at the centre; and as the result of such an investigation and such a search, we might easily launch out upon a spoken ministry, teaching the centrality of the Cross. It might both grip us with its fascination and grip our hearers in the same way, and yet the impact of it might be utterly lacking.

You will pardon this reflex upon one's own experience in which that has been exactly true. One is not saying a very great deal more, or differently, from what one did say in the first decade and more of one's ministry, but one is saying that same thing with an altogether new realisation, and, one trusts, with a new impact. One came to see the place of the Cross, and much of the meaning of the Cross as in the Bible and in theology, and one spoke about it continuously. The language of Calvary was there in speech, in preaching and teaching, and Calvary's centrality to all the other doctrines of the Bible; but, beloved, the difference is enormous between that and this in one's own knowledge and experience. The day came when all that rose up like an enormous pole-axe and smote one between the eyes in its cumulative effect, and one was as good as dead. One was brought to the place where the key was turned upon all the past, and failure was written in a comparative sense with what one saw ought to be, and must be, if all that one had been saying for years was to have any adequate justification and vindication; and in that deepest and darkest and most anguished hour one came to see the beginnings of what the Cross means and how the Cross is central and all the theology and all the boasted Bible knowledge as such (that is, the mere diagrammatic comprehension, or apprehension of the books of the Bible and the main lines of teaching, and so on) all floored and smitten with oneself through years of deepening dealings with one on the part of God, and in that day, that day, an end! But in that day also a beginning!

Now one is not going to dwell upon one's own experience, one simply refers to it for this word of emphasis. I want to ask you, to interrogate you most earnestly as we go on - for all this teaching would fail, would only again resolve itself into mere mental grasp, unless we face the issue of this - has there been a day or a time in your experience when you were as good as dead? When the Cross really brought that issue, that it was impossible for you to go on in yourself in the world and realm of spiritual experience, to say nothing of Christian work and activity, both as a person and as a worker, a preacher, a teacher recognised individually in the realm of religious activities, when in every sense the Cross registered once and for all in your deepest consciousness that there was nothing possible in you and of you? And that unless God Himself came in in anything short of "the exceeding greatness of His power which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead," there could be no Christian ministry? Now I ask you, have you had in a day or a week, or month, or year (for some it extends over a long period) that drive upon you of the divine hammer of the word of the Cross breaking the rocks in pieces and piercing to dividing asunder? That is "the centrality of the cross" in reality when it is at the centre of experience, planted at the centre of your being; not in the centre of your intellect, not in the centre of your emotions, not in the centre of your natural volition and will, but in the very centre of your spirit so that when it was planted there it was bewildering and staggering and stunning; and as for intellect, it could not cope with it; as for will, it could not face it; as for emotions, why, you were petrified, the thing was staggering? Has the Cross come to you in your spirit in any such way?

Remember that is where it has got to be planted - in your spirit first. If you are seeking, beloved, either to attain to spiritual effect, or to reproduce spiritual effect by the knowledge of the Cross in your reason and your intellect in the first instance, you are destined to spiritual failure. If you are seeking to have this thing for yourself, and then to be able to minister it to others in the realm of your emotions or feelings, in the first place, you are destined to miss the mark.

Now we need to reverse our order in this thing. One of the most amazing things to one in these days is the failure to recognise this on the part of strong, pure, earnest evangelical men and women. What I mean is this mystery - the inconsistency of a strong and mighty repudiation of modernism - as it is called - in the matters of biblical interpretation, and at the same time the wholesale swallowing of modernism in the matter of psychology. Where do you get your psychology from - Plato, Aristotle - Pagans? That is the foundation of modern psychology and the Evangelicals have swallowed that as much as the modernists. It is not biblical psychology! It does not take into account the fact that the soul which it claims to expound and interpret, is ruled out by the Bible in the first instance, and the spirit is demanded to be quickened and energised by the Holy Spirit to grasp spiritual realities. You know quite well that modern psychology only recognises the duality of human life - soul and body, mind and matter, and after a good deal of difficulty and struggling to interpret some third element with which it is confronted, it is at length called the "Subconscious mind" - what the Bible calls the supreme thing, the innermost and deepest thing - the human spirit in which things are eternally registered and never lost, and which will reproduce them in the Day of Judgment, and we shall find that the basis of condemnation and eternal judgment is in that spirit itself.

Hell might well be the divulging in the spirit of man of what is stored up therein as never to be forgotten without the Cross of Christ to deal with it. To put it in another way, one lets a psycho-analyst today bring up from the past without providing an adequate remedy for ridding you of the past, and you have hell begun, and suicide, or an asylum, or something of that kind follows: you let the real state of your being be brought to light without the presentation of the Cross, and you have hell begun. It is a merciful thing that there is a covering over of the human spirit, a door of forgetfulness for a little while, until we know the Cross, and then it is safe for us and it is blessed for the depths to deliver up their content, to have it cast into a greater death, "the depths of the sea." But the Cross is central, and the Cross has got to be placed at the very centre of our being - in our spirit.

Beloved, we may not understand, we may not be able to grasp it thoroughly in all its meaning; it may be bewildering and stunning, too great for us, and it may make our very minds rock, and our emotions freeze, and our wills to be paralysed, and there we are smitten by that Cross, as good as dead naturally, but, in the power of His resurrection, it gets our spirit quickened and energised to rise up. You can never follow in the way of the Cross naturally in your spirit - never - and until resurrection has taken place in your spirit, you will never be able to go on by Calvary.

Well, now, that is a long way round and opening up many other questions, but one has this emphasis in one's spirit all the time that we must not stay here for mere teaching, though it may be right teaching; we have got to come to the practical issue, and the centrality of the Cross is not the centrality of the Cross in theology, or in the Bible as a book, or in Christian doctrine, or upon a platform. The centrality of the Cross is essentially and indispensably experimentally planted in your spirit, and from that time, out from the very centre of your being the Cross radiates upon every activity of your life; for you find that your thinking, your reasoning, your speaking and your going and your staying, your speech and your silence, your handling of all matters in business, in the home, everywhere, everything is governed by the spirit and law of the Cross within you. You look at everything in the light of the Cross. You do not stay to consider it mentally and intellectually, but it is a spiritual force within you which controls you all the time and challenges you when you have unwisely said something, you are smitten by the power of the Cross - you ought not to have said that or you ought not to have said that in that way, and you know it. You have no need for anyone to tell you. It is a very blessed thing when people are in the Spirit - no need to rebuke, you can keep quiet - the Spirit is there making the Cross central in their spirit life to judge and to slay.

Oh, that we should be brought right there and held there in all ministry. Beloved - revelation and the commission are not enough. Are you a Christian worker, a Sunday School teacher, are you in any special sense a servant of the Lord? Yes, you believe that you are that by divine commission: there is no question about it; you held it before the Lord, you prayed over it, and you followed what would take the world and eternity to shake as your conviction that you are in the will of God in that. The Lord may have appeared unto you from glory to commission you, and He may have given you His revelation as the message for your ministry. That is not enough. Listen, the Lord appeared unto Moses, gave him the revelation and said - "Go!" Commissioned on the basis of a revelation of Himself and of His purpose - "And the Lord met him and sought to slay him" - "sought to kill him!" Have you never been met in the way of a divine commission and almost put right out of action? There is no question about the commission and revelation, but you have been met, and you have not got on, you have stopped there and something of a smiting has taken place. "And the Lord met him and sought to kill him!" Why? Because he had failed in the covenant sign of circumcision. It is the symbol of the encircling blood by which the whole body of the flesh is cut off and put away (Col. 2:11). A covenant of Life with the Lord of Life against the lord of Death, as the ground of his right, power, and activity is put away; that is, the flesh. And a revelation and a commission can never be carried out effectively until the Cross has been placed right at the centre of things.

You can speak of divine revelations in the flesh and do yourself harm, and the revelation harm. You can seek to do the Lord's will in the flesh, and rob the Lord's will of all its dynamic because it is done in the flesh. The Cross has got to be central to ministry. Now, are you there? Have you had your Calvary? Everything is bound up with that - everything - it changes things entirely, it changes the outlook, the apprehension, the consciousness, and relationships are all changed, utterly changed from that moment, and you never again judge things according to man's standards. You never judge success in Christian work by the following and numbers and the full pews of a church and all those outward signs of prosperity; not to say that outward signs are not sometimes wholesome and good, but you never judge according to that, you judge altogether according to the spiritual effectiveness and we are going to see what spiritual effectiveness really is by way of the Cross before we are through I trust; but the whole consciousness is changed at the Cross from the natural to the spiritual, and you have a new kind of consciousness a new revelation, and you are perfectly satisfied with it.

Now, we have already seen the centrality of the Cross as to the Person of Christ, and as to the Holy Spirit. We are not going over that again, other than to say that it takes the Cross to make manifest who Jesus Christ is, and Jesus Christ is only manifest in the full power of His Person in and through the Cross - you cannot know Him in any other way.

I am going to stay here for this moment. There is, mark you, an apprehension of the Person of Jesus in a certain sense which is universal, so far as this world is concerned, because of the universal elements in Christ. There are those universal elements which make Him timeless and nationless - that He is of all nations and of all time, and you can never fit Him finally into any one water-tight compartment of time, or race, or nation. And there is a certain apprehension of Him in all the world as He can be the ideal of all nations, but you have to cut out the Cross. Here is the tragedy of a book like Stanley Jones' "Christ of the Indian Road." There is the apprehension of the Christ and the evangelical presentation of the Christ, but be careful how you press the matter of the Cross or you will upset India - the same everywhere else. You will have to modify your interpretation and application of the cross when you preach Christ or else you will spoil His chances of acceptance, keep that out and you will have success and prosper and get on - keep that out in all its deeper meanings. And you know, beloved, that what is true in that sense in the larger ranges is true within the Christian community itself. Yes, preach Christ historic, heroic, idyllic, but don't mention that Cross in its substitutionary truth. Or come nearer still in the evangelical circle. "Yes, we will accept Christ as our substitute, but when you ask us to accept this identification with Christ, that is another matter - leave that out. We are prepared to take the objective, but don't press the subjective." The nearer you get to the Cross the more you sift your following. The nearer you get to the very central meaning and heart of the Cross the fewer there will be that follow. The real central reality of the Lord Jesus is found there, and you do not know Him most deeply and truly until yoU have got to the innermost secret of Calvary.

Then as to the Holy Spirit, we have seen that there is no knowledge of, or manifestation of the Holy Spirit only by way of the Cross.

Passing to the next section we quite clearly see how the "So Great Salvation" is in and through and by the Cross. One uses that fragment - "So Great Salvation" because of its comprehensiveness, its inclusiveness. We are not going to stay with it because it is so patent. The words put on the diagram represent - each one - its own specific significance in the all-inclusive salvation.

We put Substitution first. One died as a substitute, in the place of the many.

We follow with Representation. "If one died for all, then all died in Him." That is representative and inclusive.

And then Redemption. If you want to follow these things in their own particular meaning you have only to ask one question relative to each word. What state does this word suggest man to be in to make it necessary? When you speak of Redemption, then you ask, what is the state that makes that necessary. He is "sold under sin," and there is to be "a redemption of the purchased possession." "Ye were bought with a price."

Next: Justification. By this we are given a place in a plane and in a position as though we had never sinned at all. The marvel of Justification! We must remember that that can only be made possible by death. "He that hath died is justified from sin." Someone inclusively of ourselves must have died to make it possible for us to occupy a position in the presence of God as though we had never sinned at all. What a wonderful standing.

Reconciliation. It suggests enmity, antagonism, alienation, conflict. These all dealt with at the root and spring.

Regeneration. You may not have defined in your minds, or had defined for you the difference between Regeneration and New Birth. They are not synonymous terms. Although they are the same thing, they are not synonymous in their significance. Regeneration relates to the new race. It is a racial term. New Birth relates to sonship. The gift of Sonship, the Spirit of Sonship, born out of God, sons of God. As you are a new creation, regenerated, you come to receive the gift of sonship in that new race of sons.

And then Sanctification and Glorification. We are familiar with these things, but all this, beloved, centres in and issues from the Cross; but what I want you to notice with this, like all that of which we have spoken and shall speak - in its first meaning in this age and dispensation, is for and in the church. It is for the elect Body. Now, of course, it would be easy to see that that means that there are many excluded from the possibility of salvation, but only by their own exclusion, not God's, but God foreknew, and He gathers up all this "So Great Salvation" into and for and in those whom He foreknew in Christ. Now perhaps you are asking, what is the special and subtle value of that? Well, this, that God must have a specific instrument through which to mediate the "So Great Salvation," and the mediation of the "So Great Salvation" cannot be less than experimental. Anybody could preach the gospel as a doctrine, as a teaching, as a system, but only those in whom the gospel has been wrought out, and who have been wrought out in the gospel can preach the gospel with any effectiveness. In other words, if this "So Great Salvation" is bound up with the Cross, then it requires a Body in whom the Cross has been planted experimentally to preach the gospel. That Body must be an elect Body, secured in foreknowledge beyond the possibility of being lost or of failure. It is indispensable to Christ and therefore as secure as Himself.

Only according to the measure in which Calvary has become experimentally real in us, to that degree, and to that degree alone, is there eternal effectiveness in our preaching of the gospel. In another way, we have got to be the gospel, and the gospel has got to be us before there can be any transmission of it with spiritual effectiveness; so God must have a sphere and a centre in which He makes the gospel not merely a revelation, but an experience. You can put it in this other way. Christ, Himself, had to have the Cross wrought in Him to the deepest depths representatively in order to make the gospel effective in the universe. It is not coming along and taking up your Bible and saying that the Bible teaches that, and so prepare an address on what the Bible teaches and get it off on the congregation. That is the tragedy of the modern pulpit. God has nothing to do with that, and is not interested in that. He will call out a people, drawing them by the Cross, and then begin to plant the Cross at the centre of their being, and make all its meaning actual, experimental, and then through them, mediate the forces of Calvary out to the widening circles of the universe until principalities and powers feel the impact thereof. This is in the Church: the gospel demands the Church. The Cross with all its gospel requires the Church, and the Church in the fulfilment of the universal purpose of God is the Church in which the Cross is central in experience. Is that clear? The "Church" is Christ's Body, and what is true of the Head has to be made true of the Body, so that salvation is in Christ, corporately as well as personally.

We come to the fourth and final main section of the inner circle; that is, the doctrine of the Second Coming of Christ. Just as each of the others have been detached, separated, and made a specific line of teaching by some, and taken out of their relative position and significance, so, today, there is a dangerous tendency to make the Second Advent a separate thing. We thank God for every clarion voice that tells of His coming, but we must not fail to recognise the relative place of the teaching of the Second Coming, otherwise we become investigators of prophecy and experts on the ages and the dates, and the geographical and historical movements, and while we may fascinate the minds of people with the romance of it all, we are not making different people of them, and we are not putting into them the commensurate dynamic of a spiritual effectiveness.

We must see, beloved, the two major things in each of these connections. Firstly, the root in the Cross, and secondly, the expression in the Body; and as for the Second Coming it must be the consummation of progressive translation by the Spirit. And if you are looking forward to some isolated event in history for translation from earth to heaven, and have failed to recognise that the Holy Spirit is here, like Eliezer of old, piloting you progressively back by way of the Cross; and that by it you ought to be translated from things of earth to the things of heaven as you are becoming every day less of this earth, and less of this world, and more of the heavens, that everything in your life and make-up is being changed according to the pattern in the heavenlies, I fear that you may have a shock, even a disappointment, in the day of His appearing.

In order that we, like Enoch, might at least take the one step into the presence of God, we must walk in the presence of God every day, until as it were, almost unconsciously - leaving the things of earth - there will be no shock, cataclysm, no startling element about the Lord's appearing, we shall find ourselves with Him - no terrific upheaval - we shall walk in - for we have been walking that way all the time. We have often put it in this way, as Peter puts it, "Pilgrims confessed and strangers" so that the things of earth are becoming more and more strange, and the things of heaven are becoming more and more familiar, and we are feeling more at home in those spiritual things and less at home in earthly things - progressive translation. When Eliezer goes for Abraham to find a bride for his son Isaac, he brings her back over the long road, and the last meeting with Isaac, is only an alighting from the camel which has been moving in that direction all the time. It was not the sudden bumping down from one country into another. That is what some people seem to be looking for in the Second Coming!

Now the test is, are we of the earth, or are we in the heavens? There are two blue lines there. Blue, the heavenly glory, is the church as it is of the heavenlies, far above all, and there has got to be that relationship. The Church is a heavenly body. The fact is it is by the approximation to what we are. We are a heavenly body, and we have got to approximate to that every day. That is the Church's progress and pilgrimage - becoming what we are in the mind and thought of God. The consummation of progressive translation by the Spirit! That, beloved, is the end of walking after the Spirit, and walking in the Spirit. The dropping off of all that is of the flesh and of the earth, then the climax of the walk of faith. For the walk of faith is the walk of faith in accordance with this law so that the progress of spiritual experience is the progressive confounding of all that upon which the senses rest and to which the senses cling.

Oh, I assure you that if you are going on in the Spirit the intellectual as such is going to become far, far less, and you are going to recognise that this thing to you, and everybody else, is the biggest enigma in creation, in the universe, the biggest mystery. There is no doubt about that from the intellectual side, the rational side. God is simply confounding you with what He is doing with you, getting you into realms where you cannot follow in any other way but in your spirit. You know in your spirit that the thing is right; you know that you cannot be elsewhere, or otherwise; you know that your life eternally depends upon it, and yet for the life of you you cannot explain what the Lord is after, and what the Lord is doing and why He does it in this way. He is defying every attempt of yours to follow Him in the flesh. And as for emotions, as for comfortable, nice, warm feelings in the way that the Lord leads you, well some of you have got to the end of all this long ago.

Yes, the walk of faith is the walk of faith, ever increasing, with an ever crushing intensification until at last the climax of the walk of faith will be going in with the Lord and the full unfolding of the meaning and all the mystery of His dealings with us now. "Now we see in a glass darkly (and it does seem that the film and the smoke on the glass deepens and intensifies as we go on with the Lord as to any explanation), but then face to face. Now I know in part (but oh, what a little part it is as we get into the realm of His greater mysteries), but then I shall know, even as I have been known" - by Him, not by other people. The climax of the walk of faith - the complement of an ascension union. That is only saying in another way what we have just said. The approximation to what we are through our being identified with and incorporated into Christ. We were made to sit in the heavenlies in Christ and become a heavenly Body in Him. The complement of that spiritual reality is the appearing of our Lord, and so it is the Body of Christ moving, according to its own spiritual laws, by reason of the Cross - which is a deepening mystery in its out-workings, and methods, and demands, that brings the Lord at last. The Coming of the Lord is relative, not an historic event in solitary isolation, but the consummation of a spiritual process and progress in and of the Body of Christ.

Now having gone round, or taken the first round, merely skimming the surface, we must leave it there and speak a little more of the Body of Christ another time - as to its nature and function. Then move out to the nations of the world, then still further out to the principalities and powers, and then out to far above all heavenlies. May the Lord continue to give us utterance, revelation and light.




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