JohnSWilson3 Blog


“…we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus…”
October 23, 2011, 1:32 pm
Filed under: Q - Letter to Hebrews

The author to the letter to Hebrews for over ten chapters has described the peerless worth of our Lord Jesus Christ, His supremacy, His centrality, His excellence and greatness over all. Because of what Christ Jesus singularly did for us, on our behalf, He has given us “confidence to enter the holy place.” In the first covenant, to enter the most holy place, there was no such confidence but a fearful judgment. Would God accept the sacrifice or not? For the first covenant was about external regulations and gave no one confidence for anyone to be in the presence of God.

In Christ we have been as Paul says to the Roman ekklesia, “freed from sin.” For “our old self was crucified with Him” and “if we have died with Christ we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over him. For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” “Through the body of Christ” we have been “joined together to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God.” We are no longer “in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.” To the ekklesia in Colosse, Paul said that “having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead…He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions.” And in fact we have been so joined with Christ in His death and resurrection, that Christ is now “our life.” For we “have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Not only that but in his letter to the ekkleisa in Ephesus Paul says that while we are on this earth, in Christ, we are in the eyes of God, He has “raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places.”

The author in Hebrews now gives us another glimpse of how He sees us in Christ. In the Most Holy Place where Christ by His blood was given on our behalf has made “a new and living way.” This new and living way of life is being together in Him, in the Most Holy Place. Because He has perfectly forgiven us by His blood He now sees us in the Most Holy Place, in Him. He sees us now only being in the Most Holy Place, in Him. In the Most Holy Place, we are drawing near together, huddling together, so to speak, around the ark of God, peering into the ark of God, but not the man made shadow, but Christ Himself! Christ is the atonement cover, who has forgiven us perfectly by His blood. Christ is the covenant, who has given us not a Law but Grace and is “the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.” Christ is the manna, our bread in whom we eat and are satisfied. Christ is “Aaron’s rod which budded,” the only One in whom we have life and bear fruit to God. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.”

“Since we have a great priest over the house of God,” in the Most Holy Place, as we gather around Him, “let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.” In Christ, because of all that He has done on our behalf, has “sprinkled” our hearts clean “from an evil conscience” and in His life, in whom are Living Waters, we have been “washed with pure water.” Can we not see how clean we are before our Lord? How utterly and perfectly forgiven we are before Him? No offerings are again necessary for sin, Christ’s alone was perfect! We gather together in Him, perfectly forgiven. We do not need to fall to legalism or institutionalism to try and be clean before God, we are clean already by Christ! “Let us hold fast” this “confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” Because of being in the Most Holy Place, in Christ, peering into Christ, into His life together, in faith and with hope, because of all He did on our behalf, we love. When we gather together in Him, we “consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” We cannot forsake “our own assembling together,” why would we ever want to, knowing that we live in the Most Holy Place, peering into Christ, seeing more of Christ in each other when we do so? In Him we encourage one another, because we see Him in us, “and all the more, as you see the day drawing near,” the day when He appears “a second time.” How we eagerly await Him with our own eyes!

ark of covenant

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“…by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”
October 22, 2011, 2:10 pm
Filed under: Q - Letter to Hebrews

The letter of Hebrews is a sweeping account of God’s eternal purpose in Jesus Christ, to make “perfect forever those who are being made holy.” The Letter describes the perfect work of Christ Jesus our Lord! Can we put our hearts, minds, and souls around the wonderful work God has done for us, “on our behalf,” in His Son? How this would change why and how we gather together as His ekklesia.

Christ is the “Son” who is the Prophet of God, in whom “he has spoken to us” “in these last days.” Jesus is “the apostle,” God’s only and true messenger, “whom we confess.” We must “fix our thoughts on Jesus” alone when we come together! To enter God’s rest we must “hear his voice” and “combine it with faith.” As we “encourage one another daily,” living by His life, we will not “be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” and we will “hold firmly till the end the confidence we had” when we first believed. The Son is the voice of the Father, the Word of God. He is the One who lives and is active is His people. He is the One who “judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden” from His sight. It is Christ alone who can “cleanse our consciences from (dead works), so that we may serve the living God!” (1) So let us hear Him, and be taught by Him, as we express Him together, for “truth is in Jesus.”

Christ has also been “appointed heir of all things.” Christ has been given a “throne” that “will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom.” Only the Son has been approved, anointed “with the oil of joy” by His Father. He alone sits in the place of honor, on the seat of authority in majesty and greatness in the heavens! He alone is the true “king of righteousness” and “king of peace.” There is none like Him, for He alone died and rose again and now lives forever! He is King “on the basis of the power of an indestructible life,” and is greater than any King! As King He has given us “gifts of the Holy Spirit,” His very life, and “distributed according to his will.” He has been “crowned” “with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” Whoever heard of a king who would die for his people so that they could live forever with him? Christ alone is that King! Because we “have flesh and blood, he too shared in (our) humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” Christ, our King, in and through His people, alone is able to help us! Jesus, our Lord and King, lives in us, and as we live by Him, approach His “throne of grace with confidence,” we will “receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Christ is the greater and perfect “high priest in service to God.” He alone “provided purification for sins.” Only Jesus has made a perfect “atonement for the sins of the people.” It is Christ Jesus, our high priest, in whom we fix our thoughts, again in “whom we confess,” as we gather together. Christ is the “great high priest” because He alone “has gone through the heavens.” He alone is able “to sympathize with our weaknesses.” He alone “has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.” Only Christ entered “the inner sanctuary behind the curtain…who went before us” and “entered on our behalf.” Only Christ Jesus is the perfect priest, because “the former regulation…was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect)” and so we have “a better hope!” Our “better hope” is Christ Jesus, “by which we draw near to God.” Because “Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest meets our need.” Only Christ Jesus “remains a priest forever.” Christ is our “high priest forever.” Christ alone “is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners” and “exalted above the heavens.”

Christ is the Prophet, King, and Priest because He was the “perfect” and “better” sacrifice. Christ alone “suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” Christ alone is “the one who makes” us “holy.” As a result we “are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them” “brothers and sisters.” Christ alone, because of “what he suffered,” became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” Christ alone “sacrificed for (our) sins once for all when he offered himself.” Christ is the only “way into the Most Holy Place,” because “he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.” Only “the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God” can “cleanse our consciences from (dead works), so that we may serve the living God!” Christ’s body and blood alone is the “better” sacrifice! Christ’s “sacrifice of himself,” “once for all,” “the shedding of” His blood alone does “away with sin;” His blood alone brings “forgiveness.” We “have been cleansed once,” because Christ’s “one sacrifice” was “offered” “once for all,” so that “by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” “We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” So now the Father’s new covenant, in Christ Jesus is no longer about external regulations, dead works, but about His indwelling life. He has put His laws in our hearts and has written them on our minds. He is now our God and we are His people. We all know Him now because of Christ, “from the least to the greatest.” He has forgiven our wickedness!” He no longer remembers our “sins and lawless acts!” “These have been forgiven!” What a wonderful Jesus we have! When He appears “a second time” how eagerly we will be expecting to see Him, He who is our salvation! For now, we see Him in us as we gather together with Him alone as Prophet, Priest, King, and Sacrifice.

(1) Heb. 9:14; Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, 1975, The Zondervan Corporation, 657.



“…which was a parable for the time now present…”
October 16, 2011, 1:26 pm
Filed under: Q - Letter to Hebrews

The author at the end of chapter 8 concluded with the words “By calling this covenant ‘new,’ he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.” Jesus’ ministry is “superior” to that of the high priest, “the first one” is now “obsolete.” Then in chapter 9 the author then describes “the first covenant” which “had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary” but then concludes his thought by saying that everything about the “first covenant” “was a parable for the time now present.” (1) The reason “the first one” is “obsolete” is because it is a parable of Christ! All of the physical regulations described in the first covenant were nothing more than a “parable” of the life and service of the Son, and the Son has fulfilled and finished it! (2)

So why should we go back and practice the first regulations, when they have been fulfilled, they have been finished in Christ? To fall back to a form of institutionalism, legalism, Jewish or otherwise, is to disregard everything Christ has done! The physical regulations were “only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings” and they applied only “until the time of the new order” and Christ is “the new order!” That is why the author plainly points out that God had planned a “new” covenant in Christ, so that instead of following physical regulations we would now live by His life in the inner man: “I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

All of Scripture speaks of Christ! Everything about the tabernacle, the priest and his ministry was about Christ! How the tabernacle was set up, the Holy Place, the lampstand, the table, the consecrated bread, the second curtain, the Most Holy Place, the golden altar of incense, the gold-covered ark of the covenant, the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, the stone tablets of the covenant, the cherubim of the Glory, the atonement cover, the ministry of the priest, the entering of the high priest into the inner room only once a year, the blood, offering for the sins the people had committed, everything represents something of Christ! (3) It was only a parable, a story acting out the life and work of Christ, the spiritual reality, the spiritual lesson in whom it shadowed and copied and was patterned after. The once a year ministry of the high priest in the tabernacle was a parable of the reality of the once for all ministry of Christ Jesus our Lord! The bottom line is that all of “the gifts and sacrifices” that were “offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshipper!” They were never intended to because the first regulations were only a parable of the One who could!

“When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance – now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.”

Christ in us is the guarantee of our inheritance now and is our “promised eternal inheritance” in the future! Christ is the kingdom of heaven, our “promised eternal inheritance!” Christ’s ministry is superior to any human ministry! May we only look back to see more of Christ in the first and the cost of the life of the Son on our behalf, and realize that it is only a parable for His life and work He has already accomplished and He desires that we live by Him now and in the future!

(1) Marshall translates verse 9 as “which (was) a parable for the time – present.” While Vines’s adds that the Greek word “present” should be translated “now present” versus “then present” as the KJV incorrectly translates. Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, 1975, The Zondervan Corporation, 657. W.E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 484.
(2) Vine’s translates the Greek word “parabole” as “a placing beside” and “signifies ‘a placing of one thing beside another’ with a view to comparison.” This word is only used in the gospels and in the letter to Hebrews 9:9 and 11:19. Vine’s also points out that “it is generally used of a somewhat lengthy utterance or narrative drawn from nature or human circumstances, the object of which is to set forth a spiritual lesson” and “the hearer must catch the analogy if he is to be instructed.” W.E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 457.
(3) For more on how Christ is specifically typified in the tabernacle. Ervin N. Hershberger, Seeing Christ in the Tabernacle, 1995, Campbell Copy Center.



Students Learning to Participate in the Life of Christ Together

Students had a wonderful time learning to share Christ with one another today! I thought you might be edified from it and gives you a brief view of the gathering. This is a gathering of middle school students invited to enjoy a time of fun, faith, and fellowship before school begins in a conference room.

Today was an exceptional day in the life of the younger brothers and sisters.They learned that the expectations of gathering together was for each to participate, to edify one another, sharing something of Christ, making Christ Head of the gathering. Too often we let the “leaders” do all of the serving and we become spectators, not growing in Christ as a result, but I purposefully did not try to function but to help the young brothers and sisters participate. This often resulted in moments of silence, which is healthy, helping each to hear Christ on their own and to sense how to share Christ with others. This caused many to “work out their salvation.”

Most were unsure how to share Christ, this often can lend itself to singing songs which most can do, and is a good way to start learning to participate. In the process they learned how to lead songs on their own, songs that they felt led to sing. Too often they wanted me to begin the song, but I quietly remained silent. As a result some were challenged to start a song and so encouraged the brothers and sisters to sing together. One song in particular is “Our Awesome God” a revision of “Awesome God,” one which I love to lead, but did not. Another song that a young sister led was “How He Loves Us” and thinking this helped the other brothers and sisters see what leading a song looked like. One young sister was unsure how to lead a song, although she knew the chorus. She asked if anyone could start it for the group. There was silence. I mentioned that in scripture that the brothers and sisters often “spoke to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” and did not have to sing it if they did not feel gifted to sing. She was encouraged and read the entire song to the group. So they learned that you can actually read a song to the brothers and sisters. It was quite wonderful!

A young brother asked if the group could sing “Revelation Song,” another favorite of mine. He asked if someone else could lead it, after a moment of silence a sister said if the group could begin at the count of 3. It was cute, :). At the end of the song I was prompted from the inner man to ask what they thought “You are our everything” from the song meant? A sister mentioned that for her it means Christ being our Creator. I agreed and pointed out how as Creator He has left His fingerprint on all of His creation, so when we fix our eyes on Jesus, when He becomes our all in all, we begin to see something of Christ in everything and pointed to the chair, the floor, the ceiling, the light fixture, the window, etc. This requires spiritual sight.

A sister led “The Love Song” and everyone had a lot of fun trying to sing it. 🙂 As a result one young sister testified of a wonderful friendship she has with some other sisters and gave an example, edifying one of those sisters next to her. So much so that they hugged each other. There was much joy. I asked the group where did “love” come from? A sister quoted a passage from 1 John 4 from memory about love coming from God. I pointed out that our sister who testified of her love for her other sisters, that love, actually came from Christ in her, and that her love is because of His life in her. I could sense that this was a moment of reflection.

I could tell Christ, for the time we were together, found a place of rest with His people. There were a number of new students and sure that many went away refreshed that in freedom we can actually participate in the life of Christ, and saw love being expressed. It was a wonderful time of encouragement!



Chapter 4 – The Centrality and Supremacy of Christ as “Head of All Principality and Power”

The Centrality and Supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 4 – The Centrality and Supremacy of Christ as “Head of All Principality and Power”

Reading:Ephesians 1:15-23; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:13; 2:10,15.

In a previous meditation it was Christ’s centrality and supremacy in the light of the individual which occupied us; then it was His centrality and supremacy in the Church, which is His Body. We are now to consider that which is implied by the tenth verse of chapter two of Colossians: “… the head of all principality and power.” Going with that is this statement from chapter one: “… who delivered us out of the power of darkness.”

THE GREAT COLOSSIAN ERROR

To apprehend rightly and appreciate truly the value of particular statements in the letter, such as this which we have just read, we must keep in view the background and occasion of the letter; and so for a moment we will be occupied with the main things which are in view in this letter. And firstly, and all inclusively, there is this absolute supremacy of Christ. For the unveiling of that to the believers and the establishing of the believers in that, the Holy Spirit led the Apostle to write this letter. It was because of a movement by means of a teaching which had come to Colossae, the effect of which was to take the Lord Jesus out of His prominent place and put Him in a lower place, that this letter was provoked. It was a corrective. The nature of that teaching was a combination of Judaism with a spurious Christian philosophy. There were elements of Judaism and elements of Christianity woven into a somewhat fascinating philosophy, and it had to do in the main with supernatural beings from low orders to very high orders: principalities and powers in the lower realms and in the higher realms, and these orders of supernatural and spiritual beings were traced through the ranks of spirits and angels and archangels, and then, as one of them, but of very high rank, Christ was presented. And He was made to be just one of the superior, or perhaps the unique superior head, of angelic forces, angelic orders, and these were offered for worship. There was what the Apostle calls here: “a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels,” by which he meant that people were assuming to be very humble people, worshipping angels, bowing down to any superior person in the spiritual realm, a voluntary humility and worship of angels. As you will see by reading again, the Apostle repudiates the whole thing as being earthly, and of man, and being pernicious and evil, and to be utterly put out because, under cover of a very sincere and earnest religiosity, it subtly struck at this one thing, it struck at the absolute supremacy of the Lord Jesus as in the Godhead. It was a wonderful thing. It drew out worship. It even led to the worship of Jesus, it gave Him a very high place in heavenly orders; it represented a very great deal of devotion, and with its external rites which were taken over from Jewish ordinances, which you will see in the letter, it captured a great many, and they accepted it as a revelation, a wonderful revelation, and as a truth to be received and obeyed. They were in danger of failing to recognize the peril of this thing, that though it exalted Christ, led to the worship of Christ, produced in those who accepted it an attitude, apparently spiritual, of reverence and humility and had that moral effect in them of something to make them very reverential people, very humble, earnest people, with a great devotion to Christ, and a great respect for everything spiritual; yet all that blinded them to the deep, subtle, devilish thing that was there. How far Satan will go even in bringing about a kind of devotion to Christ, and promote a mystical, psychical “Christianity” (?) with elements of moral elevation, and yet hide within that very thing something which is of himself and, being of himself, savours of that which was in him from that time when he himself was hurled out of heaven, that thing which would take from the Lord Jesus the absoluteness of His place in the Godhead.

That is what was here, back of this letter; and the letter was written to expose this Gnostic philosophy, this false spirituality, this Satanic devotion to the Lord Jesus, and to show that the Lord Jesus was not only at the top of angelic ranks, He was Head of all principality and power in the sense that He was the Son of God’s love, and that He was one eternally with God in the Godhead. The fullness of the Godhead was in Him in bodily form.

Now, beloved, from what we have just said there ought to be guidance for us at the end time; and you can take what I have said and apply it to some things which are of this very character, which will have great vogue in the earth, but which just fall short of this essential thing. But that is not the object of my saying this, though it may provide that understanding and knowledge and guidance and precaution. He is head of all principality and power, Christ is absolutely supreme, in a unique supremacy, not as one of that order, at the top of that order, but One whose order is far above every other order and whose supremacy is because there is not another like Him. He does not belong to the angelic order. He is not a created being. He is eternally one with God. Of course, to you that is nothing new, and provokes not a very great deal of enthusiasm because we all believe that quite heartily. I hope that is true of you; that you believe that, that you stand there, that from your heart you are well able to say without the slightest suspicion of a reservation: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

CHRIST’S SUPREMACY INDICATED BY HIS WORK

Now having said that, and seen that, you are able to move on to the thing which is connected with it as a main thing in this letter. Connected with the absolute supremacy of Christ, is His supremacy as indicated by His work. It is here that the Apostle shows in what way Christ is different from, and superior to, all other orders of angels and archangels and principalities and powers. It is not just the statement of the fact that He is, but it is the showing of HOW that is so, in what way that is so; and it is by reason of His work. You see that is what comes out in this letter. You take the great statement of chapter 1:13: “Who delivered us out of the authority (lit.) of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love.” You can say that about no angel or archangel. There is no other being in heaven or in earth to whom you can attribute that. That represents His mighty work, and it was that that He did in what you read in chapter 2:15: “Having put off (lit. stripped off) from himself the principalities and the powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it (His Cross).” When He did that He delivered us out of the authority of darkness, and we were translated into the kingdom of the Son of God’s love. No angel did that. No archangel stripped off principalities and powers. He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in His Cross. It was Christ who did that. It is Christ’s whose is the kingdom. It is the kingdom of the Son of God’s love, His is the kingdom; and that kingdom is His by reason of conquest, by reason of triumph, by reason of casting out all other principalities and powers; by displaying openly in His triumph those others who sought to take possession of the dominion of this world. His is the kingdom in virtue of His Cross; and His Cross is the scene of His dealing with every other authority and power in the universe that would in any way seek to take His rights as the eternal, predestined heir of all things, as the Apostle here says: “All things have been created through him, and unto him.” The supremacy is based upon His work.

It is a great thing of course to recognize the personal supremacy of the Lord Jesus; it is an added thing, beloved, to recognize the greatness of the work which He accomplished which brought Him into that personal supremacy. In Philippians 2 we see the descending movement of the Son of God’s love from the place of equality with God down, down, down, until utterly emptied; He became “obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross.” “Yea” says the Apostle: “yea” – and no glorious death, no honourable death in the sight of men – “the death of the cross” – “Wherefore” (For this reason, on this account, because of this, the death of the cross) “also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” The ground of His supremacy is the uniqueness and the transcendence of the work which He has done.

OUR PLACE IN THIS SUPREMACY

Now the third thing which comes in with this letter brings us in. That is all glorious, and our hearts ought to be moved by that great objective reality, the supremacy of Christ and His work: but we have got to see how we come into it, and one or two fragments will help us. Let us look at Colossians 2:12. “Having been buried with him in baptism, wherein ye were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, being dead through your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, you, I say, did he make alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses.” “If ye died with Christ” – might we not leave out the “if” and make it an affirmation: “Ye died with Christ.” “If then ye were raised together with Christ…” You see formerly he has made the statement that this was so, that we were buried with Him, that we were raised with Him. Now we might take it up like that, as a two-fold affirmation: Ye died with Christ; ye were raised together with Christ: “… seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God.” The right hand is always the place of honour and power; that is where He is. “For ye died, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” “Lie not one to another; seeing that ye have put off the old man with his doings, and have put on the new man, that is being renewed unto knowledge after the image of him that created him: where there cannot be Greek and Jew… but Christ is all, and in all.” That is the way into the good of what we have been saying and it is necessary for us to carry Christ’s work right through to this full issue. The full issue of His absolute victory in the realm of all principality and power, in the realm of the authority of darkness – I say it is necessary to carry His work through to that full issue. Forgiveness of sins is a great blessing, the atonement for our sins is a great blessing, to be saved from hell at last and go to heaven is a great blessing, we would not minimise them for a moment or take from the greatness and the grandeur of those things because of the infinite cost with which they were purchased for us, but I say again, it is necessary for us to carry the work of Christ through to its full issue, and its full issue lies in the realm of principalities and powers, lies in the realm of the authority of darkness, the jurisdiction of darkness. That is important for the sinner to know, that it is not only a matter of being forgiven his sins and saved from sin, but that the sinner should know that in salvation all the authority, the jurisdiction of principalities and powers, of the Adversary, Satan himself, has been destroyed and broken, and out of that jurisdiction, that authority, that rightful hold of Satan, they have been rescued – for that is the word here – rescued by Christ in His Cross; it means that Satan has no more power because he has no more right. His power depends upon his right, and his right is based upon a state of things in our hearts, and the Cross deals with the state of things and destroys or removes the ground of his right, and breaks his power. Carry it right through. Now all that is in Christ for us. Christ in Himself embodies His supremacy over the Adversary because in Him there is no one of that ground that the Adversary must have upon which to encamp and construct his rightful authority to hold in bondage. In Christ there is no such ground; Christ is in us when we believe, and, as we have already pointed out, that apprehended by faith means that the authority of Satan is broken because there is that in us which is Christ; there is Christ in us in whom there is no ground for the jurisdiction of Satan. To be delivered not only from sin (let me say it again) but from the authority of Satan, is a tremendous thing. “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” “It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again.” What is the value of that? The Accuser comes along and tries to lay a charge against us. What is our ground of answer? Oh, our ground of answer is this: “It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again.” That is the way to answer the accusation of the enemy; Christ, who hath triumphed over sin and over all the grounds of Satan’s authority. You and I can never meet the enemy ourselves in ourselves, he would have the best of the argument every time, but if we are able to present him with Christ, what can he do? “… the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.” They are the words of the Lord Jesus. What power has he? In Christ’s death and resurrection all his power has been destroyed. “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Do you follow that? That is the provision God has made, and if only we had a fuller, readier apprehension of Christ we should find that to be the way of victory. What is it that the Holy Spirit works upon in order to make victory in us actual? It is not our struggles to be better. THE HOLY SPIRIT NEVER HELPS US IN A STRUGGLE TO BE BETTER. We may struggle on for ever, and die struggling, and the Holy Spirit will not help us if that is the way in which we think we are going to be either saved or sanctified. What is it with which the Holy Spirit will cooperate? It is our faith apprehension and appropriation of Christ as our perfection, as our salvation. “Oh,” you say, “yes, but we are sinful and there is so much wrong about us; are we to close our eyes to actualities about ourselves?” You are to open your eyes to Christ. Stop looking at yourself and your own sin and get your eyes fixed upon the Lord Jesus as perfection for you to God, and from God to you, and as you take Him by faith – “Not what I am, O Lord, but what Thou art” – “I in myself am bad: ‘… in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing,’ but Lord, You are my salvation, You are my righteousness, You are my holiness, You are my sanctification, I hold on to You for all that” the Holy Spirit makes that good to us. It is our appreciation of Christ that is the Holy Spirit’s ground of activity; that is the way of deliverance.

CHRIST THE WAY OUT FOR THE SINNER

Hear that wretched man crying out: “… for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.” In that up and down life, resolving and failing, at last he cries: “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me? …I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” What is the way out for the wretched man? An apprehending of Christ. Not his struggles, his resolutions, his efforts in making up his mind that today he is going to be better, and coming back and having to repent at the end of the day. No, no! It is our faithhold on Christ which is the way out, the positive ground of victory. You try that way. God honours His Son, and God honours our faith in His Son. “It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again,” triumphant; and, “Christ in you” “… the head of all principality and power.” This, for the unsaved, is a necessary fact. If we had been converted on the strength of this we would have been stronger believers from the beginning. If only we had known this when first we were saved we would have leaped into something that came to us many years afterward. Oh for the preaching of salvation to the full! You get a different kind of convert altogether when you carry the work of Christ to its full issue; when it is not only preached that your sins will be forgiven and you will go to heaven and not hell – perhaps a little more than that; but it is infinitely more than that, and if only we preached the fullness of Christ’s work we would have converts that went ahead, apace, and reached maturity much sooner than the majority are doing, and we should find that most of our conventions are quite unnecessary, for they are mostly to get us to the place where we ought to have come when we were converted.

THE PREACHER NEEDS TO KNOW THIS

It is necessary for the believer; may I just say that is necessary for the worker, the preacher of the Gospel, the one who has to do with souls. You will not be a popular preacher of course, if you preach this. You will find, more than ever, that hell will be out against you, and many of the Lord’s people will turn against you, but it is necessary. You take the case of the heathen; though what we have in the heathen is only obvious and patent: the same thing holds in the case of the enlightened, civilized, but it is not so obvious, it has been covered up by civilization and a great deal of Christian tradition: but in the case of the heathen it is very patent. What is the trouble with so many converts from heathenism? They go so far on the matter of forgiveness and salvation from sin, and faith in the Lord Jesus, but oh, the haunting, tracking, pursuing fear of the spirit world, evil spirits, the authority of darkness; it follows them up, and very often that is the thing which drags them down and brings them back into bondage; and because of the fear of that, and the consequences of their action in breaking from the traditions of their fathers, fear of the consequences in the spiritual realm, what may happen to them, what may overtake them, they become again in bondage to fear and leave the way and go back.

If only we could bring to them in the power of the Holy Ghost right at the beginning the proclamation of Him “who delivered us out of the power (lit. authority) of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love,” and get that in, we should see different results. Take that to them.

Beloved, the same thing obtains here in this country as in heathen countries, but I have said it is veiled. The authority of darkness is just as real here as it is amongst the heathen, the same Gospel is necessary, and you will find that until you have registered the impact of Christ’s Calvary work against spiritual forces behind men you have not wrought out their full deliverance. We believers know what it is for the enemy to try to get us into the grip of fear again concerning himself. The authority of darkness is a very real thing to us. We have experiences, and if we were to capitulate to them, that would be the end of us. He tries to bring upon us that impingement of the authority of darkness, and if we surrender to it, capitulate to it, accept it, we are beaten. If we are the Lord’s, Christ is within, and Christ is supreme and we must go on even if we have no feeling, or if we have a very bad feeling; when it seems to be the last thing we ought to be saying, we say it because it is God’s fact, and when we begin to affirm God’s fact we win through. Believers know what it is for the enemy to try to make them accept the authority of darkness. Stand upon the truth of God. God does not change with our feelings. God does not alter with our consciousness. This whole life of ours is subject to variation, more swift than the variation of weather, but He rules, unalterable, unchangeable. He is “the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.” And if He is there within, He has come to stay, and victory is in faith; believing that, standing on that, holding to that; and we must carry that through to its final and full issue, that He is Lord of all, “Head of all principality and power.” Satan will sometimes try to make us believe that he is in the place of ascendancy, the place of supremacy, but since Calvary he is not, we stand there.

The Lord give us a new joy in the Son of His love as supreme in every realm.

Flash from our eyes the glow of our thanksgiving,
Glad and regretful, confident and calm,
Then through all life and what is after living
Thrill to the tireless music of a psalm.

Yea; through life, death, thro’ sorrow and thro’ sinning,
He shall suffice me, for He hath sufficed:
Christ is the end, for Christ was the beginning;
Christ the beginning, for the end is Christ.



Chapter 3 – “The Centrality and Supremacy of Christ to the Church Which is His Body”

The Centrality and Supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 3 – The Centrality and Supremacy of Christ to the Church Which is His Body

Reading: 1 Chronicles 28:1-21; Colossians 1:18.

The second realm of the centrality and supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ is that of the Body, the Church. First of all let us take note of exactly what is said in this verse. “He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the pre-eminence.” That translation: “… who is the beginning” is hardly sufficient; the more complete and literal translation there would be: “In that he is the beginning.” It helps you to understand what is being said here; reading it like that you will at once come into the fuller apprehension of the truth. “He is the head of the body, the church, in that he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead.” So you see that here the Church is related to Christ by His resurrection: “In that he is the firstborn from the dead.” He is the Head of the Body, the Church in His resurrection.

RESURRECTION AND HEADSHIP

The Headship is two-fold; it is as to place. He occupies the supreme place; and it is as to time; that place was occupied by Him in relation to the Body, the Church, in His resurrection. So that the headship of Christ over the Body, the Church, is by His resurrection. That represents more than may appear for the moment, but I think you will see, as we go on, the greater and fuller context. Now having said so much about the headship of Christ, or His centrality and supremacy in the life of the individual believer, we must recognize that the individual headship of Christ is not, so far as the believer is concerned, an independent authority. It is relative; that is, in other words, there are not so many heads as there are believers, constituting every believer a single entity authority, making of every believer an independent authority. While the headship must be established in every individual believer, there is only one headship and not ten thousand times ten thousand, or a great multitude which no man can number. One Head: which means that everything is relative and the very thought of the Body is that of a unity under one Head. The idea, the conception of a body clearly represents the idea of a unity under one head. The individual supremacy of Christ will lead to the spirit and principle of the Body. I mean that if Christ is central and supreme really in the individual life of believers, the natural, the spontaneous, the inevitable outworking of that will be the principle of the Body. If Christ dwells in your heart by faith – that was one phase of the individual centrality and supremacy of Christ which we considered – if Christ dwells in your individual heart through faith, it leads to the next part of the verse: “… that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to apprehend with all the saints….” Christ dwelling in the individual heart immediately leads to “all saints.” The principle of the Body comes out of the establishing of the centrality and supremacy or headship of Christ in the individual. There is a contradiction, beloved, if it is claimed by anyone that Christ is supreme in the heart and in the life and yet such a one be marked and characterized by personal and independent action and interest. There is a violent contradiction there. Christ cannot be absolutely supreme in the individual life and there be a personal independent activity and interest. If anyone is a law unto himself in spirit – although he would never say that of himself – if his life takes the feature of being something detached, something separate, something independent, something apart from the rest of the Lord’s people, a watertight compartment, there is a contradiction there, Christ is not supreme, Christ is not central. These two things cannot be reconciled, independence and the Body; independence and the supremacy of the Lord Jesus; because He is supreme in the life as a Head, but not merely as the Head of an individual but the Head of the Body, one Head of all. The Body, as that which issues with the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, reverses the very spirit of independence.

THE BODY OF CHRIST REPRESENTS HIS VICTORY

We must see that the Body of Christ represents a tremendous victory. That Body comes out of His resurrection, or with His resurrection, and the pre-eminent example of the exercise of Divine power in this universe is in the raising of Jesus Christ from the dead, or from among the dead. That raising of Christ from among the dead, representing the supreme exercise of Divine power, represents the mighty victory of God in Christ, and if the Body of Christ comes out with and in His resurrection, that Body is a part of an expression of that mighty victory of God. Now Ephesians makes that perfectly clear and says that actually: “… the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to that working of the strength of his might which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and made him to sit at his right hand in the heavenlies.” The Body of Christ is the mighty victory of God in Christ in its realization. What was the nature of that victory? Over what was it a victory? It was over that spirit which came into the universe and found concrete, direct expression in bringing about schism, division, disintegration in the universe. Everything was held as a whole in God. It was one thing in Him. He, in eternity past, summed up everything in His Son, the Lord Jesus, that in Him all things should hold together, subsist; should be a corporate whole bound together in a oneness in the Son of His love. When Lucifer, Satan, saw the pre-eminent position and the transcendent glory of God’s Son, he aspired to occupy a position even above that, to have something even above that, and so he broke away from that relativity of things in the Head, and in an independence of spirit, and action, and motive he sought to have things for himself apart from the Head Divinely appointed. The outworking of that in heaven brought schism there, a breach; the unity of heaven was broken, and angels kept not their first estate and were cast out and are reserved in everlasting chains. The unity of heaven was broken. But Lucifer brought that spirit down into the creation; and whereas God had given to man all things to have in Himself (in His secret which He had not yet revealed to the ages, His secret, His mystery, His unrevealed heart secret concerning His Son), Lucifer again, the Adversary, provoked, prompted, tempted, lured man to have it for himself out of relation to God, and man moved in an independence of God, acted again in an independent spirit, a self spirit, to have things not in God but in himself. Thus in this earth the schism of heaven had a counterpart; the unity of things in God was broken into, and from that time the principle of the fallen race is independence, self-direction, self-realization, self-possession; the flesh is just that, and that lies back of the whole terrible history of the revolt in heaven and the wreckage in earth. There is no unity until Christ comes, God in Christ. The Adversary has to meet God in Christ on this issue, and when God raised Him from the dead and brought with Him – as the Firstborn from among the dead – the Church, the Body, He secured His answer to all that work of the Devil; and the Church, the Body of Christ, represents God’s victory over the disintegrating, dividing, schismatic work of the Devil. Oh yes, that is true in spite of everything. Ever since this, what he did at the beginning and always has done he has pursued with unabated energy, that is, slandering God, and he has tried to slander God since the resurrection of the Lord Jesus by the work which he has done among men, working upon flesh, even amongst Christians, to bring about schisms and divisions; carnality is behind it all. The enemy has done that, and in so doing he has sought to establish a contradiction to God’s victory. But beloved, the unity is not in us, it is in Christ; the unity is not our unity, it is the unity of Christ. The unity is in a person. Now you see the necessity for Christ to be central and supreme.

CHRIST – THE UNIFYING CENTRE AND OBJECT

As we have said before, if we have got any other interest that we are trying to further, something that we call a testimony, perhaps meaning by that a system of teaching, or a fellowship, or a denomination, or the contrary, the opposite, any of these things, well, the history will be still more divisions, it is bound to be. If it is Christ, only Christ, central and supreme, we have got the answer to the Devil; we have got the secret of victory, we have got the secret of fellowship, we have the power of His resurrection. Oh, how important it is for us to see that the Body represents His victory. The Body is His victory in the sense that it is the reversing of all independence, and that independence of spirit or action is a violation not only of the truth of the Body of Christ, but of the power of His resurrection. Now that carries you a long way. Fail to recognize that and you have not got the secret of victory over death and the power of the Devil. Isn’t that exactly what the Apostle said to the Corinthians? “… not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep” some die. Not all sickness and death, of course, is to be accounted for by failure to recognize the Body of Christ, but the Holy Spirit does put His finger upon that, and says that a very great deal can be accounted for by that. That sickness might have been handled and dealt with; that death, that taking away, might have been unnecessary if there had been a recognition of that for which the Body of Christ stands and an employing of the practical value of corporate life among the saints. “Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.” Elders – why? Why that? That is the recognition of the corporate principle, that is the recognition of the Body of Christ. Those elders are only representatives of the Body, and it is bringing the Body in, representatively, and that Body represents His victory, and if the enemy is back of this thing, well, it is through His Body as Head that He operates against the enemy. We may be suffering a great deal more than we need suffer because we have failed to see the Divine order. The enemy may be making much more havoc than he ought to be, because we have failed to apply the Divine means. We have kept the thing to ourselves and we have not drawn the Body in representatively, we have not made this a corporate matter. Individualism may rob us of a great deal in every realm.

INDEPENDENT LIFE CONTRARY TO GOD’S WILL

But what I was saying was, that the Body reverses independence, and we violate some of the great revelations of God when there is independence, separateness, when we just drive our own chariot and plough our own furrow, and do not recognize that we are a part of a whole. All that horrible work that the enemy has done is reversed by the Lord Jesus, and the outworking of His reversing of that work is through the Body, the Church. That is His instrument in resurrection for making known, through this age and the ages to come, the mighty victory over all the disintegrating work of Satan’s independent action and spirit which he has introduced into the race. But this thing is very deeply rooted in us; the subtlety, the imperceptible desire of the flesh for gratification. If we were asked straight out whether we wanted to please ourselves, whether we were after our own personal gratification, whether it was our pleasure and satisfaction that was motivating our lives and directing us, we would at once most vehemently repudiate the suggestion, and probably be very offended with whoever made the suggestion; and yet, beloved, deeper than our deepest honesty, deeper than our truest sincerity, there is that subtle constituent of fallen nature which so often unperceived by the believer himself or herself does just love to be gratified, personally satisfied, and which does not like to be emptied out and have nothing. Gratification and glory is the very essence of the flesh even when we are engaged in the Lord’s work. To set up something FOR THE LORD, yes, but men point at it and say: “That is his work and her work,” and how we like that! Something that will be a good testimony to faith, a great monument – yes, but subtly the monument to OUR faith. Such is this horrible thing that is always reaching out from beneath, under cover, and, quietly and imperceptibly, taking the glory of the Lord to itself. The remedy for that is the Body of Christ practically applied in principle. Yes, it is! That is why it is so difficult to live a corporate life with other believers, because you have to be so thoroughly crucified. There is nothing that demands crucifixion more than to live with other Christians all your days. You say: “That is a terrible thing to say,” but you know what I am talking about. You have to defer, refer, consult, submit, let go. In a thousand and one ways you have to put your own likes and dislikes aside if the Lord is to get His end. Oh yes, it is the Body of Christ that is the saving thing. It is corporate life that is the remedy, but O beloved, that is the way of triumph, the way of victory. It is! It is a mighty remedy for the flesh, a mighty remedy for the work of the Devil, but it does represent the mighty power of God working in us. You see, you can never come into the Body of Christ until you have been crucified. It is because uncrucified flesh has impinged upon the corporate life of believers that there is such contradiction and denial, because the Body represents the exclusion of man, in himself – flesh.

THE BODY NECESSARY TO FULL APPREHENSION OF CHRIST

Now the Body is essential to full apprehension and growth and expression. The body is essential to full apprehension. No individual, and no number of isolated and detached individuals, can come to the full apprehension of Christ. The Lord has constructed the whole thing upon that principle. You think of all the range of the people of God being standardized, say, to one mind. You say: “That would be an awful outlook.” It would! I mean this, the very fact that the Lord has so constituted us differently every one of us, makes possible the varied aspect of apprehension which is its own peculiar contribution. And I am able to say: “Well, the Lord has shown you THAT I did not see THAT but it is splendid”; I profit by that. And you are able to say: “Well that never came to me, but thank the Lord I can profit by that.” And so it is the whole Body that is necessary unto the full apprehension of Christ. The Apostle’s prayer is that we “… may be strong to apprehend with all the saints…”; it takes all the saints to apprehend, and we lose a very great deal when we are detached, isolated, separated spiritually.

THE BODY NECESSARY TO FULL GROWTH IN CHRIST

The Body is necessary to fullness of apprehension, also to growth, because it is the Body that grows up, that is built up, and buildeth itself up until it comes to the full measure of the stature of a man in Christ. You and I individually will never reach the full measure of that stature. I am never promised that I shall reach the full measure of Christ, personally, but as a member, a limb, or even a little tiny corpuscle in this great spiritual organism, with all the rest I can come to His fullness. It will take all the rest to come to His fullness, and insofar as I am detached I am limited, straitened. Insofar as I come into the fellowship of the Body and recognize the Lord’s way, I am enlarged in the measure of Christ.

THE BODY NECESSARY TO FULL MANIFESTATION OF CHRIST

In the expression of Christ the same thing holds good. Is He going to manifest Himself against the enemy? Well, beloved, I shall have very little hope against the enemy in a detached capacity; but if I can bring in the Body, even if it is only in two or three gathered into His Name, that represents the Body, and the principle of the Body in function and representation is there; (and the Lord binds Himself up with a principle) He is in the midst. The Lord’s irreducible minimum for His Body is two, not one. Bring in the Body even by its minimum representation and the Lord recognizes the full value of the Body, and for manifestation it is in fullness through the Body. That is why alone we are so often brought to a standstill; why so often it is hopeless for us to try and get through until we draw in co-operation. The Lord holds us to that. But if you can get the Lord’s people in a larger, fuller way into the real spiritual apprehension of the headship of Christ in relation to the Body, how much greater will be the potency of the impact of Christ in manifestation over against the enemy, and before men. The Body is necessary for the manifestation of Christ in fullness, and that is the Divinely determined method of the full manifestation of Christ in the ages to come. The headship of the Lord Jesus demands the Body. Not so many detached individuals, but the Body; because a head implies a body, demands a body.

INDIVIDUALISM IS LIMITATION AND WEAKNESS

Now I think I can close this phase for the moment; and in doing so, let me stress once more the certain limitation which must be associated with mere individualism and detachment and independence. There may be a very great deal accomplished by independent action, apparently; you can see things and people which are independent, detached, and you can see a very great deal apparently being done. Now in spite of that, I say most emphatically that that does not get where God wants it to get. It may be a wide surface but a superficial one, without depth. It may only get just so far in spiritual things, and not get any further. It may reach the point of conversions; but conversions, beloved, are not God’s end, they are only God’s beginning. There may be much in that realm, praise God, but while we rejoice at every conversion and every bit of work that results in conversions, have we not come to see that there is infinitely more than that in the will of God? The tragedy is that so many who have been led to the Lord have not been taken on, and have either stuck or they have gone back simply because their being brought to the Lord was not upon an adequate presentation of the fullness of Christ. It was upon the basis of their being saved; but Christ did not come into His place as supreme, sovereign Lord and Head, and very often you have to go over the ground again and again simply because there has been a stopping short. Well, you can have a great deal of activity and apparent result – my point is not that that is without value, but it is this, that invariably and inevitably, there is always limitation, if we do not go on to see that the Body of Christ represents His fullness, and not individual Christian life or work. It is not our individual service for the Lord, it is the service of the Body with which we are joined, that leads to fullness. There will be weakness, limitation – ah, yes, and more than that, there will be exposure to error along the line of mere individualism, exposure to error, and a falling into error. Have we not seen this again and again? Things becoming marked by clear misleading, confusion, a having to take back positions and statements, and a confessing that a mistake was made, and the calculations were all wrong because there was something that was independent, individual in that thing. We need the covering of the headship of Christ in His Body amongst His saints to save us from that. You may take it – you will prove it to be so in the outworking – that mere individual independence in the life and service of the Lord will sooner or later bring to a point of limitation, and an element of contradiction and confusion will come in there. It is bound to be. To enquire in His House is the way of the ordered guidance of the Lord. You are struggling to get an independent guidance from the Lord and a whole lot of contradictions are coming in; you really do not know where you are and what is right. The Lord is not going to give you that which will constitute you a law unto yourself in relation to Him, He is going to give it to you in relation to His main purpose. Share it with the Lord’s children, bring in those whom the Lord has provided to be fellows, and in that multitude of counselors you will find wisdom. In the Lord’s way you will find clearness.

You see the principle is a clear one and it just comes right back to the point where we started. It is not making the Body everything – God forbid! It is seeing that the Lord Jesus, as head of the Body, brings us under His headship for protection, for guidance, for fullness, for everything, and we recognize that we are members of a Body and we are not individual units merely. This is a relative thing. We come to enjoy all that is in Christ, and that Christ is as Head, Sovereign, in relation to the saints, in fellowship with the saints, and not in some detached line of our own. We want the Lord’s full support? We get it relatively and not independently.

May the Lord help you to accept His Word, to lay it up in your heart, because I am quite sure that here is the way of a fullness which we may not have known, coming into what the Lord Jesus is by Divine appointment, in greater measure. It is this way. The Lord give us grace to let go our love to be free and independent, and to be crucified to that flesh, brought to live under His sovereignty, to Him as supreme.



Chapter 2 – “The Centrality and Supremacy of Christ to the Individual Believer”

The Centrality and Supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 2 – The Centrality and Supremacy of Christ to the Individual Believer

Reading: Hebrews 1:1-14.

We now go on to the second of the aspects of “Christ in you” and come to the familiar words of Gal. 2:20. “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me.”

2. CHRIST THE LIFE WITHIN

The first is the revelation of Christ within the heart; the second is the life of Christ within. It is important for us to recognize that this is not just the fact that Christ lives within, not merely that Christ is within us, living in us, but this carries with it something more than that; that Christ is the believer’s life. Christ within is the very life of the believer; He must be central and supreme as our life, and He is our life just in the measure in which He is central and supreme, no more, no less. But we want to understand in what way Christ within is the life of the believer, and this whole letter to the Galatians helps us to that understanding. I do not want to be too doctrinal or theological in a technical sense, but I do feel that the Lord’s people should be clear on the great doctrines of grace. Hence, I would ask for a brief consideration of the background of the statement before us.

We often speak about Christ being our life, we often say things to that effect, that He is our very life. We use another fragment of Scripture which is not in the same realm as this passage exactly, although linked with it: “When Christ, who is our life, shall be manifested, then shall ye also with him be manifested in glory.” The principle of Christ being our life is the same, but here there is a background to that. It is not just that Christ is to us the vital energy which we call life. Of course He is that, He is the life; the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of life in us, but here that is explained by the context and given a deeper meaning. If you look at the immediately surrounding words you will see that this statement of the Apostle represents a change. This letter, as you know, is dealing with the legalism into which the Galatian believers had fallen, by which they had been overcome, overtaken or ensnared. You notice how chapter 3 begins: “O foolish Galatians, who did bewitch you…?” literally, “Who did cast the witch’s spell over you?” They had come under a witch’s spell, and it was the spell of a false legalism. Now what Paul is saying here in verse 20 represents a change. Paul had lived, in the old days, by holding on to the law. His position as a Jew was that under the law man must live by the law. The law was: “Thou shalt,” and “Thou shalt not.” When the 44 “shalts” were complied with, and the “shalt nots” were observed and avoided, then a man’s life was preserved by God. If a man wanted to live and prolong his days upon the earth, then he must keep the law, and so he lived by holding fast to the law, the law of commandments. And we know, even from one like Saul of Tarsus who rigidly kept the law, that it was a tremendously burdensome thing, and it represented always condemnation and death. It was like the sword of Damocles always hanging over the head. Deviate one hair’s breadth and you die, you come under condemnation, judgment and death. And the observances associated with purification and right relationship to God never for one moment touched the conscience, never touched the heart, they were merely, shall we say, expediences for the moment; they were purely outward, and there was always the inward sense of something wanting, something lacking. But Saul had lived by holding on to the law, he maintained his life by holding on to the law with all its burdensomeness, all its wearisomeness, all its threat, judgment, condemnation, and its shadow of death which it always kept in view. That was his past life.

Now, no man had ever been found, as Paul makes perfectly clear in the first chapters of his Roman letter, who in his own nature could perfectly satisfy God on every point and requirement of His Divine law. All had broken down, all had failed, and in no man was the root of righteousness found. God could never be satisfied with mere external righteousness which was not in man himself; a sort of theoretical righteousness and not a practical one; and there had never been found a man in whom there was righteousness as in himself, and the whole race is gathered up in Paul’s own declaration about himself with all his ceremonial righteousness: “For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing.”

LIFE BY RIGHTEOUSNESS, IN CHRIST

Now Christ, the only one who could do so, had fulfilled the law up to the hilt in virtue of inherent righteousness, and having satisfied God, not externally, ceremonially, theoretically, but inherently as being the Righteous One, without sin, had in His own person fulfilled the law and put it out of the way. That is done with. God only wanted it fulfilled and then He can put it away. Christ had fulfilled it and put it out of the way and had introduced a new dispensation, not of law but of grace. He has brought in a new regime where the government is not the government of “thou shalt not” and “thou shalt,” not a government of systematized legalism, but of grace, and the new dispensation is the dispensation of faith in Christ; faith in Christ as the One who has satisfied every demand that ever God made of man, and has satisfied God on the behalf of all men; faith that in Him all who believe are gathered up and represented, and God is satisfied with all such in Him: He has produced the righteousness that God required in man and God is satisfied. He has produced it as man for man, and God is fully satisfied and content.

Now that Christ, with whom the Father is completely satisfied on the matter of all righteousness, is within the believer; so that the believer in Christ has all righteousness in Him; God is satisfied. The believer is not any more righteous in himself than he ever was, but the Righteous One is within. God does not look upon us, He looks upon His Son in us; and so now Christ lives within, and Paul says in effect, “Now I live, not by holding on to the law but by holding on to Christ, and the thing with which I hold on to Christ is faith.” “And that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God.” “I am holding on to Him by faith, and I live.” There is no condemnation, therefore there is no death; for righteousness is here, and where righteousness is there is no condemnation. There is no sin in Him, and there being no sin in Him, death and judgment have no power, no relationship. He is here, and therefore, He is the living One in the power of a life indestructible, unassailable. “I live by holding on to Him in faith.” How? By saying, when the Accuser comes to lay a charge at my door, to bring me under condemnation and death: “Christ is my righteousness.” When the Accuser assails with a fiery dart and says: “You are displeasing to the Father” (providing I am not willfully indulging in sin, knowingly doing that which is displeasing to the Lord, and the enemy tries to bring upon me the sense of being displeased to the Lord and get me down into death), I say: “Christ, who satisfies the Father for me, is in me, the Father is well pleased with Him and He is in me”; and if by faith I hold on to Him, link myself with Him, instead of dying I live, instead of coming under condemnation I triumph; and in that sense Christ within is the life, that life which we live. We live triumphantly not by struggling against sin, and not by trying to answer back the Accuser as on our own ground, but by presenting Christ and holding on to Christ as within us, by faith.

Christ is God’s satisfaction within our own hearts. What more do you want? And faith constantly holds on to Him as God’s satisfaction. “I have been crucified with Christ” – Why rake me up then? “… and it is no longer I that live” – Why try and charge me with something then? “He that hath died is justified from sin” “… but Christ liveth in me.” If you can charge Him with sin, and if you can lay sin to His charge, then there is no hope for me; but inasmuch as He is to the Father all that the Father requires in me, and I constantly keep the link of faith strong in what He is to the Father for me, I live. I do not die, I live, He is my life; He becomes my life in that sense. You see it is something more than our regarding Christ as the vital energy within us which keeps us alive. There is a great background to this whole thing. It gathers up all that Christ is in His person towards the Father, and all that Christ has done in His work on the Cross to satisfy the Father, and that is brought into us to be our indwelling portion, and then faith links on with that, keeps hold of that, and we live, “… and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me.”

That has put into a small compass a very great deal of the Word of God, but I feel that it is something for us to dwell upon. You see what is involved is the bringing of the Lord Jesus back to His place of centrality and supremacy as our life, and it is only as He is that that we live. We live by Christ. Christ is our very life in that sense. Oh! answer back the Accuser with Christ!

The phrase “breastplate of righteousness” is only a metaphorical way, an illustrative way, of putting this truth. The breastplate of righteousness is Christ. He is the Righteous One, He is made unto us righteousness, and it is no use our trying to meet the enemy in ourselves, good or bad; we must meet him with Christ, answer him with Christ every time. And if the Father is making high demands, He has provided Himself with all that He needs in His Son, and He says to us: “All I ask of you is to bring both hands full of My Son; bring both hands full of Him in His perfections, that satisfies Me.” Christ is central and supreme in the believer as the believer’s life. I would have you make more of the Lord Jesus. The whole stress of these words is upon what He is in the thought of God; and as we grasp this livingly, not merely as doctrine, grasp it in the heart, we shall know what triumph is; we shall know the victory life; we shall know what fullness is. Beloved, I am convinced that it will be in the measure in which we are taken up with the Lord Jesus Himself that we are triumphant, victorious, overcoming children of God, and nothing else can be substitute for that, for what Christ is.

3. CHRIST FORMED WITHIN

We pass now to the third aspect of this inwardness of Christ, the hope of glory. Gal. 4:19: “My little children, of whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you.” “Until Christ be formed in you.”

Firstly we have: Christ in revelation within; secondly, Christ in life within; thirdly, Christ in formation within. Now here again discriminations are necessary. There is a similar passage in Romans 8, or one which appears to be similar. It has words which are very like these, but the two again are not of the same nature although they point to the same thing. Here it is: “For whom he foreknew, he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son.” There the believer is being conformed to the image of God’s Son. Here it is Christ being formed within. There are similitudes, there are differences, and we are occupied with this one in Galatians for its own specific meaning and value.

Take again the whole letter to the Galatians. Bring to mind its object, see what it is that the Apostle has as his motive for writing; that it is the correction of an error. That falling into that error, the becoming bewitched, under the witch’s spell, is due to spiritual immaturity. These believers had not gone on as they should have gone on in the Lord, and because of their belated maturity they had fallen a prey to this thing that was going about. Now the Apostle, writing to correct the error, puts his finger upon the root of the matter, right upon the spot, and he says in effect: “All this is because of the indefiniteness of Christ in you.” Follow the metaphor closely and you will see what he is saying. In verse 19 the emphasis is upon the word “formed” “… until Christ be FORMED in you.” It is a very strong word. What he is saying is: “Yes, Christ is in you inasmuch as you are believers and children of God, but it is an ill-defined Christ, an unformed Christ, a Christ without features developed; He is there, but He has not yet come to clear definition in you, the features are not developed, and because of that there is all this – this weakness and this aptness to be misled; the Christ that you have is one that has not yet come to formation.” You see that this is a different thing from Romans 8:29. That points on to our progressive growth, unto the ultimate image of Christ the Son of God. That is what is going on. We are being conformed by chastening, by suffering, by tribulation, by pain, by discipline, by things which the Lord allows to come to us, we are being conformed to the image of Christ. That is what is going on daily, but that is not what is here, this is something else. This is the implication of Christ being clearly defined in our hearts. There was confusion, indefiniteness, because they had not seen clearly that “Christ is the end of the law to them that believe”; that Christ really represented a clean cut between the old dispensation and the new, the old order and the new; that Christ had fulfilled the law and put it out of the way. They had not grasped the clear definition of Christ in their hearts, and because they had not grasped clearly those features of the meaning of the person and work of Christ, they were a prey to anything that came along. Now there are a lot of the Lord’s people like that. They are a prey to all sorts of things because they have not recognized the clear implications of Christ within.

THE NECESSITY FOR A CLEAR APPREHENSION OF CHRIST

Why are so many of the Lord’s people just beaten and harassed and tormented by the Accuser causing them always to have their eyes turned inward in self-analysis, self-conscious introspection, occupied with themselves all the time; so tied up with themselves that they are useless to God and to other people? Why? Because they have not clearly recognized the implications of Christ; that Christ has answered to God on their behalf in all that God ever requires of them; they have not grasped that by faith. That is the way of deliverance from ourselves. That is deliverance from self into Christ. But still they are in an ill-defined way trying to provide God with satisfaction, and it is an awful struggle. They have not seen the clear features of Christ. Christ is not formed in them. He is (if you will suffer it) an unformed, ill-defined indweller. It is rather a difficult thing to explain, but probably you see what I mean. Immediately we grasp the clear implications of Christ dwelling in the heart, we have come to a settled place, we have come to a strong place, we have come to the place where no legalisers can come along and sweep us off our feet. It is what John meant when writing about the anti-christs, and about the Lord’s people saying: “I wonder if this is right, if this is true? It looks very much like it.” “But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you.” Inwardly you know by the anointing whether the thing is right or wrong. You are not able to put it into words, not always able to analyse the thing and say, this or that about it is wrong; you are not able to put it all straight; but in your heart you have a witness that there is something about it of which you have to be careful. There is all the difference between our suspicions and our prejudices and the witness within. Do not try and project your mind into anything; don’t think you have to take up a suspicious attitude and question everything to keep yourself safe; don’t think you must be prejudiced for safety’s sake. If you are walking in the Spirit you can have your countenance open, your mind open; you can be without fear, the anointing in you will teach you, you will know every time. You may not be able to define it, but you will say: “There is an intangible something in my heart; I know.” That word was spoken in regard to antichrists, about which the Lord’s people were not sure – “the anointing teacheth you.” That is Christ formed within. You come to a clear, defined place. The features of Christ have been defined, delineated; senses have been exercised; Christly faculties have been developed. It is not an unformed thing but something clear; the formed Christ within. Paul says: “I am in anguish, I am in travail over you my brethren, your state of things puts me into a travail that you may come to a place where Christ is defined in your hearts; where He takes form, and is not a formless Christ.” That is the meaning of Galatians 4:19.

4. CHRIST SETTLING DOWN (HOME-MAKING) WITHIN

And then the next thing, the fourth thing. Ephesians 3:17: “That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to the end that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to apprehend with all saints…” “That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” Now here you have an advance upon all the rest. You may not recognize it, but it is an advance. This is not saying, that Christ may take up residence in your heart. This is not saying, that Christ may come into your heart. And this is not saying, that Christ may find a lodgment in your heart. This is saying: “That Christ may dwell in your heart” and the Greek word there is, “make His home” or “settle down” in your heart. “That Christ may make His home in your heart.” That is something more than a lodging, that is something more than just coming in and being there. Every house is not a home.

Some of you will be going back to our thoughts about “Bethany,” and you will remember how at the outset of our meditation upon Bethany, we showed that Bethany represented the contrast that when He came – He who created all things – came to His own and they that were His own received Him not, so that He said as to His presence here on earth: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head”: that was His place in the world: but He came to Bethany, and He came again, and He came again – and in the face of greatest stress, when things were pressing more and more heavily upon Him towards the end, His constant retreat was to Bethany. The only home He seems to have had here on this earth was Bethany. It was because He found heart satisfaction in Bethany. There was one there who “kept on listening.” As we pointed out, the literal translation of Mary’s listening is: “she kept on listening to His word.” He wanted someone, He wanted some heart into which to pour that what was in Himself and find appreciation and response, and He found it at Bethany – the better part. It was His own heart satisfaction there because He was listened to, responded to, and made to feel that it was the greatest of all privileges to have Him there. “That Christ may make his home in your hearts.”

We are so often like Martha before she got right (thank God she did get right, and the last picture of Bethany is Martha still serving, but things are right now, the activities outwardly have not outweighed the spiritual activities inwardly; things have been put right) like Martha before the correction, we are doing a multitude of things for the Lord when the Lord is just craving an opportunity to be listened to. The Lord would often say to us: “Yes, I know you mean to be very busy for me, I know you mean it all for Me, I know your motive is right, I quite appreciate all that, but oh, that you would give Me a chance to say a few things to you; oh, that you would give Me an opportunity just to speak into your heart, to show you things which you do not know, which would make such a lot of difference.” And this is the explanation of our being called aside at times. He would draw us from the feverish activities of the “many dishes” to a place where He is listened to. But how much better if we gave Him the chance, than He having to make it. We have got to run the risk of being misunderstood for seemingly doing nothing, as Mary was misunderstood. Sometimes we are afraid that people will think that we are slacking because we get away with the Lord a little more. All right, the Lord knows. But mark you, He will come and make His home where He finds that. It is something more than having Christ as a lodger. (Forgive that way of putting it.) It is Christ being at home in the heart, making His home there. You ask the Lord to apply that to you just as it needs applying. You busyworkers, remember that all your work, in the Lord’s mind, can never take the place of an opportunity which He craves of being able to speak fuller things into your heart. Your activities will be without vitality unless you are giving Him time to speak and He is having response to new unveilings.

5. CHRIST GLORIFIED IN THE BELIEVER

Now finally, in II Thessalonians 1:10. “When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe.” “And to be marvelled at in all them that believe” (A.R.V.). It is the consummation of Christ within. Don’t you think that that is a wonderful statement, a wonderful thing that is said there? Yes, we expect to see Him coming in glory, we expect to see the glorified Christ, but He is working something in the meantime which means that when He appears His glory will be in the saints. It is not only the objective Christ in glory coming, it is the subjective Christ manifested in glory. “If so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” He has prayed that we might behold His glory, and He is going to be glorified IN the saints and marvelled at IN them that believe.

It was – from the world’s point of view – an ordinary Palestinian peasant who one day went up the slope of a mountain. There may have been things striking about Him, impressive, but for the most part He was like other men. He reached the summit of that mountain and suddenly that One became ablaze and aflame with heavenly glory, His raiment changed, white and glistening; glorified, changed suddenly from an ordinary man – as the world would say – to the glory of God; suddenly, bewildering those who were there so that they began to talk and did not know what they said. Utterly taken off their feet, as we say. Now beloved, that Christ is in us. We are very ordinary folk amongst men, there is nothing very striking, outstanding, distinguishing about us, but there is a moment coming when that which happened in the mount of transfiguration is going to happen to us; Christ in us is going to blaze out in glory through us, and as those on that mount of transfiguration marvelled at Him, so He is going to be marvelled at in all them that believe. That is the end of “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The hope of that glory is Christ in you; in other words, Christ central and supreme. From the initiation to the consummation of the believer’s life it all hangs upon that.

We ought to go back over the whole five stages and what each one of them represents as a demand. Do it for yourself. You will see that Christ as revealed in the believer means a captured vessel. Saul of Tarsus was taken prisoner on that day when God’s Son was revealed in him. He was a captured man from that day. He called himself “the prisoner of Jesus Christ.” You and I have got to be captured.

WHAT “CHRIST IN YOU” DEMANDS

Christ living within as our life, means a crucified vessel. “I have been crucified” – captured; crucified. Christ formed within means a vessel that is going on with the Lord, not standing where the Galatians were, but going on. Christ making His home in the heart is connected with being “rooted and grounded in love” and then there follows the phrase “with all saints.” Thus fellowship in the Body of Christ, and the mutual love one for the other is a “Bethany” principle, leading to Christ’s settling down. And so each one represents its own peculiar responsibility and demand, until you come to the consummation; and you find the context of each shows you what the demand is. In the consummation that letter to the Thessalonians speaks about their suffering, their joyful suffering for the Saviour’s sake. They were suffering indeed because they had turned from idols to serve the living God and to wait for His Son from the glory, and they suffered, but suffered joyfully. And the consummation of glory is related to faithfulness through suffering. You see there is a demand for each thing. You can look at it more closely.

The Lord find in us that which responds to His purpose and makes possible the realization of His heart secret: “Christ in you,” central, supreme, “the hope of glory.”