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“What is Man?” Chapter 11 – “The Spirit Himself”
April 11, 2013, 12:48 am
Filed under: 1G - T. Austin Sparks "What is Man?"

This concludes
What is Man?
by T. Austin Sparks

Chapter 11 – “The Spirit Himself”

“The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirits” (Rom 8:16).

We have said many things about man’s spirit, but, when we have said all that can be said, we really get nowhere until we give the full place to the Holy Spirit. The most perfectly articulated and adjusted man would be no more than a fine piece of machinery without power, but for the Spirit of God. He is the “Spirit of life”, “light”, “truth”, “wisdom”, “grace”, “supplication”, “power”, and “understanding”; and indeed of all that God is for us in Christ Jesus. While it is necessary that he has an organ (spirit) in man of the same order as Himself, that organ cannot function in relation to Divine things without Him one whit more than the body can function without its animal life. When we have fully recognized the nature and faculties of the human spirit, we must ever be watchful against making our spirit the governing factor in our lives. We do not keep our ears open to our spirit. Such procedure would lead us into serious dangers. We must “abide in Christ”, not live in our own spirit. For the child of God the Holy Spirit is the Divine indweller of the human spirit, and He has the direction and government of our lives. We shall not escape confusion and confounding if we make anything apart from the Lord Himself our court of appeal or sphere of life. There are several matters in relation to the Holy Spirit which are very vital to a life in any real measure of fullness. One such matter is that of the corporate nature of the anointing and operation of the Spirit. We have dealt with this in other writings, so will do no more than refer to it here. But one far-reaching, and, we might say, all-inclusive consideration is that of the Holy Spirit’s supreme object in this dispensation. This is—to make Christ all-in-all.

Pentecost was a movement from heaven to make real and true in men and women here (as the Church) what had taken place in heaven. There Christ had been exalted at the right hand of God. He had been “crowned with glory and honour”. “All things” had been put, “under his feet”, etc. He had been installed as the pattern of man in full accordance with God’s thought and intention. This exaltation and installing was to be a governing reality in all God’s dealings with man. Conformity to the image of God’s Son was to motivate all God’s practical relationships with believers. Everything, from new birth to glorification, was to have Christ as its power, its nature, and its goal. He, and He alone, was to be the resource for living, being, and serving. What had been true in principle as to His own life on earth in relation to God had to become true in the case of all related to Him after His exaltation. “Nothing of (out from, Gk.) himself” (John 5:19) was a rigid law of all His movements, works, words, times, ways. He would commit Himself in no way that would make it impossible for Him to quickly change His course if the Father intimated the desire. He would care nothing for publicity or public opinion. In everything and everywhere the Father’s will and way ruled His life. This was the great “even as” which embraced both Himself and His Own afterward (John 15:10; 17:16 etc.).

For all this—the setting aside of all of self in every way and consideration, and, the enthroning of Christ as absolute Lord—the Holy Spirit came. The soul is the seat of the human ego, the spirit is the sanctuary of the risen and exalted Christ, and there He has to rule all that is personal in us, so that in all things He may have the pre-eminence. This is the all-embracing work of the Holy Spirit.

“For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father… that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, that ye may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man; 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 the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled unto all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:14-19).

“What is Man?” Chapter 10 – The Soul, The Spirit and the Evil Spiritual Powers
April 11, 2013, 12:46 am
Filed under: 1G - T. Austin Sparks "What is Man?"

What is Man?
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 10 – The Soul, The Spirit and the Evil Spiritual Powers

This is not a treatise on demon-possession, although reference will be made to the unhappy reality.

At one point we have said that, in the Fall, the powers of evil entered into alliance with the soul of man by his complicity with Satan. Then we have sought to show how those powers of evil take full advantage of any undue projecting of the soul in order that they may further the interests of Satan’s false kingdom. We have also, on the other hand, also to make it clear that the innermost reality of new birth and spiritual union with God is something much deeper than the soul and all soul-sense. It is this, for one thing, that we now wish to follow up a little more closely.

First of all we must refer to that very real and painful experience into which many—even of God’s children—pass by reason of physical and mental injury. There is the ‘nervous breakdown’, and there is neurasthenia; there is anaemia, and blood-pressure. Not invariably, but more often than not, these maladies are made an occasion for the enemy to make cruel assaults. There is the terrific sense of—is it too strong to say?—devilishness within. The most wicked person alive could not be more wicked than such sufferers feel and believe themselves to be at times. Not only do they feel this, but at times they speak and act out of harmony with a truly Christlike disposition. Then, with one of these maladies at least, there is an extra factor; it is that of secondary personality—the sense of another presence as being in the immediate offing. We need not enlarge upon this. Many, sadly enough, know all about it; and if any who read this have no experience of this kind or with such sufferers, let them thank God, but not pass hasty judgment. Then what of that fact, which it is not pleasant to mention, but has to be recognized—the drive to self-destruction, which, alas, has not always been overcome? We cannot say with truth that these are conditions which lie outside of the experience of true children of God. We have known the most godly and saintly to suffer thus.

Well, in the first place, the soul is the soul and the stark reality is that it has these possibilities, capabilities, and tendencies bound up with it. At such times, and in such conditions, when the helpfulness of good health and a balanced physical system is no longer present, we see what is possible to any mortal under the same conditions. This is only a matter of the degrees in which a basic fact is manifested. Much can be done to relieve this condition and produce amiability and a more happy frame by physical readjustment and renewal, but good health with its attendant good demeanour never was saintliness in its essential nature. A man is not made really more Christlike in his nature by being relieved of certain nervous and mental aggravations, pressures, or sicknesses. Perhaps the greatest value of such relief is that he loses the melancholic beliefs about his spiritual state. But what we may believe about ourselves under certain conditions, and what is actually the truth, may still be worlds apart. Satan has led many children of God to extremes of despair, and even to self-injury, by the lie that their own soul-life is the criterion; whereas, for the child of God, Christ is the criterion. Be the most self-assured, self-complacent, self-possessed, self-composed person imaginable, and you are not necessarily therefore a child of God. Be the most pressed, harassed, tortured, devil-assailed person possible, but this need not alter the fact that you are a child of God.

Demon Domination and Demon Possession

But before we go further with this there is another aspect of the matter to note. There is a difference between demon domination and demon possession.

This difference might be the salvation of many if they recognize it in time. It is far from our thought or intention to imply by anything that we have said that all men by nature are demon-possessed. An alliance is not a possesion, and it need not be domination in the full sense No two allied nations would agree to that. But we are now going further than just alliance, while stopping short of the possession. There are those who, because of a strength of soul-life being on any of its sides—reason, emotion or will—become deceived and dominated by the evil spiritual forces. In time they show signs of something extra to human wit and perception. They develop an uncanny power of mind in giving interpretations and explanations. These are often unanswerable along ordinary lines of reasoning. But of course, this acuteness of mind is always in support of their own course, and it is so deeply and terrifically set in their conviction of right that even their course cuts right across the precise Word of God they either do not see it or will not have it. Other symptoms also show themselves, in looks, conduct and voice. Here is domination. It is in the realm of the soul and although it is on the high road to possession, it is still short of that. This kind of thing can clear up without demons being cast out, but it comes by much suffering and humiliation.

Surely, this was the history of Judas Iscariot. He will ever remain a mystery from some points of view, but we do know that his was a progressive course. He first allowed his own soul, or self-life, in avarice to govern him. Then, having capitulated to it, the ever present evil powers made their suggestion—to his gain! Playing with fire, he became dominated by those forces and plotted. At length—the inevitable issue of such a course being pursued—”Satan entered into Judas” (Luke 22:3). This is something more than soul. An evil spirit may be allied to a soul, but it can possess a spirit, like to like.* This is “spiritual wickedness”.

Of course evil spirits can inhabit bodies, as in the case of the swine, but this is not in the same realm of things as spiritual possession. The incarnation of Satan in human life is something more than inhabiting a beast’s body, which has no spiritual basis.

Satan’s supreme and final object is to capture for possession the whole man—spirit, soul and body. We know that the disembodied evil spirits revolt against their condition of ‘nakedness’ more than anything. Perhaps this was their penalty when they “kept not their first estate” (Jude 1:6). Hence came Satan’s eye upon man—God’s creation—and hence his wish to sever man’s spirit from God and possess it himself. But even before this he would use it.

The Key to Spiritualism

And so we must point out that it is because man has a spirit that he can have intercourse with fallen spirits. We believe that this explains the whole system of spiritism (spiritualism) and that the supposed departed with whom spiritualists communicate are none other than these “spiritual hosts” impersonating the departed, whom they knew in lifetime. Leaving the many phases of this thing in its outworkings and issues at the end of the age, let us note the terrible nemesis in wrecked minds and bodies; haunted, driven, distraught, reason-bereft souls; crowded asylums, prisons; suicides, moral and spiritual wrecks, etc.; all because that which was given to man specifically for union, communion and co-operation with God, namely the spirit of man, has been used as the medium and instrument for this demon invasion and control of his life. The tremendous warnings and terrible judgments associated with all kinds of spiritism—necromancy, witches, “familiar spirits”, etc.—are because of the spirit complicity, dalliance, consorting, with fallen spirits whose purpose is always to capture men and women through their spirits. This they will do even by adopting the guise of an angel of light, and talking religion. Strange, isn’t it? that fifty years ago men threw off the belief in the supernatural in the Scriptures, and today they and their school so strongly embrace spiritism. Surely this is the “working of error” sent that they who received not the truth for the love of it “should believe a lie: that they all might be judged” (2 Thess 2:11,12).

It was the spiritual background of their life which led to the destruction of the Egyptians, Cannanites, etc., and this was spiritism in different forms. But it was their being joined to demons that involved them.

The Deepest Reality in the Child of God

Now, to return for a moment to the thing that is deeper in the true child of God than all else. We have devoted a whole book to this matter in The Battle for Life, but our present purpose would lack something vital if we omitted the particular point. We must always seek to realize that what has taken place in the new birth, that is, the renewing of our spirit and the imparting to it of eternal life, with the Holy Spirit and sonship, is far deeper than all surrounding conditions and circumstances; and far deeper than our physical or our soulical life. Unless we hold on to that we have no ground of victory. It is possible for a child of God to pass into great soul-darkness, mental darkness, even to lose the reason and have to go to a mental home; yes, and for things worse than that in the outer life; and yet for the real relationship with the Lord to be unbroken. These extreme conditions may be no part of a Divine plan, but it is true that a part of God’s ways with His children in their education is to cut off their sense-life at times. When this happens they have nothing to prove that they are His children: that is, nothing in all the realm of their own human consciousness. What is left is God, His Word and the fact that they have put their trust in Him. The real battle of faith is joined here. Not what we are, but what He is! Not what we feel, but His facts.

“He cannot fail, for He is God.
He cannot fail, He’s pledged His word.
He cannot fail, He’ll see me through;
‘Tis God with Whom I have to do”.

It may please God to risk being misunderstood and, to our way of thinking, seem to contradict Himself.

The education of ‘sons’ is important above all in this one respect, that they are to represent the reversing of the unbelief, and disobedience thereby, which led to man’s spirit-separation from God. That spirit-union has to be established without the help of the soul, so that the soul will once more be put back into that place from which it so forbiddenly asserted itself.

This is the forming of Christ fully in us—that is, in our spirit.

Spiritual Service or Warfare

Having seen that the basis of all fellowship and cooperation with God is spiritual, in and through the born-again spirit, we must realize that this at once defines the real nature of our service. The background of all cosmic conditions is spiritual. Behind the things seen are the things unseen. The things which do appear are not the ultimate things.

“The whole world lieth in the evil one”. There is a spiritual hierachy which, before this world was, revolted against the equality of the Son with the Father in the Throne, and in spite of the hurling out of heaven and the eternal doom which followed, has been in active revolt and antagonism to that “eternal purpose” right through the ages. A certain judicial hold upon this earth and the race in Adam was gained by Satan through the consent of that first Adam through whom the purpose of God should have been realized on this earth.

Thus we have Paul telling the members of the Body of Christ—the last Adam—that their warfare “is not against flesh and blood but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (lit. heavenlies) (Eph 6:12).

What a lot is gathered up into that inclusive phrase “this darkness”! How much is said about it in the Scriptures! The need for having eyes opened is ever basic to emancipation (see Acts 26:18). The cause of all “this darkness” is said to be “spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenlies”. Literally translated the words are “the spiritualities” or “the spirituals”, meaning spiritual beings. “Wickedness” here does not just mean merely inherent wickedness or evil, but malignance; destructive, harmful.

“In the heavenlies” simply means inhabiting a realm beyond the earthly; not limited to earthly geographical localities; moving in the realm surrounding the earth and human habitation.

“World rulers” means that these malignant spiritual hosts are directing and governing the world wherever the government of Christ has not been superimposed through His Body—the spiritual Church.

“Principalities and powers” (authorities) represent order, rank, method, system. Satan is not omnipresent, hence he must work through an organized dividing of the world under these principalities and authorities, and he himself goes “to and fro in the earth”, and has his seat “here and there” (Job 2:2; Rev 2:13 etc.).

The Apostle declares that the explanation of situations is to be looked for in the unseen, behind the actual appearance.

What looks like the natural has its rise too often in the supernatural. Man is always trying to give a natural explanation and therefore to put things right by natural means. But when he comes up against a situation in which interests of the Christ of God are involved, he is floored and beaten. Such situations have become the commonplaces—nay, more—the overwhelming order of the day amongst ‘Christian workers’ in these days, both abroad and at home. We have no intention of dealing with the subject at length here, but state the fact, and remind the Lord’s people especially, that in more realms than that of Divine activity, “What is seen hath not been made out of things which appear” (Heb 11:3); but that multitudes of the things in daily life which are inimical to spiritual interests must have their explanation from behind. Let us emphasize that this spiritual union with God in the super-cosmic significance of the Cross of Christ means that our supreme effectiveness is in the spiritual realm. We who are the Divine “spirituals” are to be energized by the Holy Spirit to take ascendancy in Christ over the Satanic “spirituals”, and thus know something more than mere earthly dominion. Seated together with Him “in the heavenlies” as to our spirit we are to learn to reign in that greater “kingdom of the heavens” of which the earthly millennial kingdom is only an earthly counterpart.

Again, let us affirm that all the energies of God in our spirit are toward a corporate spiritual union with Christ, whereby the impact of His victory and sovereignty shall be registered among and upon the “principalities and powers”, etc., and their domination paralysed, and ultimately destroyed.

“What is Man?” Chapter 9 – The Resurrection or Spiritual Body
April 11, 2013, 12:44 am
Filed under: 1G - T. Austin Sparks "What is Man?"

What is Man?
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 9 – The Resurrection or Spiritual Body

The origin of the life of a child of God as such is spiritual—”that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). The sustenance also of the life of such is spiritual. “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father; so he that eateth Me, he also shall live because of Me. This is the bread which came down out of heaven… he that eateth this bread shall live for ever… the words that I have spoken unto you are spirit, and are life” (John 6:57,58,63).

So also, the consummation of this life is spiritual, and is found in a spiritual body. We are not allowed to take the resurrection of Christ as a type of our resurrection physically, but we are allowed to take the nature of His resurrection body as the type of our resurrection body. There was something different from all others in Christ’s resurrection. His body was sinless, and it therefore did not see corruption. “Thou wilt not… give thy Holy One to see corruption” (Acts 2:27). His, in its particles, was preserved and resuscitated, so that it was recognizable as the same body after resurrection, bearing the marks of His crucifixion. And yet so other! Our bodies will see corruption, for they are already corrupted. “This corruptible must put on incorruption” (1 Cor 15:53). But there is that difference about the pre- and post-resurrection body which is in keeping with the whole principle of the believer’s life. This principle is set forth in the following familiar words:

“That which thou sowest, thou sowest not the body that shall be, but a bare grain;… but God giveth it a body even as it pleased him, and TO EACH SEED a body of its own… it is sown a natural (soulical) body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual… Howbeit that is not first which is Spirit, but that which is natural; then that which is spiritual… we shall bear the image of the heavenly” (1 Cor 15:37-49).

By the Spirit were we first quickened and made spiritually alive. By the Spirit of life were we made free from the law of sin and death. So, by the Spirit of life is the consummation brought about when what is mortal is swallowed up of life.

In some way the human soul-life is bound up with the blood. So that body and soul have a special or peculiar relationship. The Old Testament statement, with repeated emphasis, is “The life (or soul) is in the blood”. This is also seen in the interchange of “life” and “soul” in the New Testament, especially in John’s Gospel (eg. 12:25). Thus the present body of man is a physio-soulical, or a psycho-physical, body having a spirit. But the statement is that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption” (1 Cor 15:50). Any physician will say that the blood is the seat of disease. This is only another point of evidence in what we have been saying, that corruption lies ever in the soul. In Christ’s resurrection body, there is no blood. “Handle me and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have” (Luke 24:39).

This is, in the first place, the proof and vindication of His Sonship, and of His having lived and triumphed in His spirit, and having not yielded to the soul or self-life.

“Declared to be the SON OF GOD with power, according to the SPIRIT OF HOLINESS, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom 1:4).

The resurrection body therefore is not a blood-soul body, but a spirit body. This is the consummation of the spiritual life. Paul refers to this when he says,

“Whom he foreknew, he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom 8:29).

This follows his earlier words:

“The earnest expectation of the creation waiteth for the revealing of the SONS of God… ourselves also, who have the FIRSTFRUITS OF THE SPIRIT… groan within ourselves, waiting for our adoption (majority) to wit, the redemption of our body” (Rom 8:19,23).

We are totally unable to understand what a spiritual body is, but we see that it is free from many of the limitations of our present form of existence. Our present purpose is not to attempt a description of life beyond the present order, but just to point out and emphasize the principle. There is all the difference between a bodiless spirit and a spiritual body, between a disembodied spirit and a spiritualized body. It is here that our mentality breaks down.

Then, again, all resurrection is not this resurrection. Our Lord has said that some will be raised unto a judgment resurrection; others unto a life resurrection. The life resurrection is that of a spiritual body, the consummation or full fruit of a spiritual life. In the light of this, how important it is to know the difference between soul and spirit; between religion as a thing of the soul, and true spirituality as from the Christ within, Who alone is the “hope of glory”.

“Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed…”

It is, indeed, a mystery how a physical body can exist without all the features of this blood system. But we are told that it is so, and certain other statements in this connection indicate that it is so. For instance, in the resurrection they “neither marry, nor are given in marriage” (Luke 20:35). This does away with a very great deal in soul and body. The whole procreative power and system as to this order of life will have gone.

But we have seen that the spirit has its own faculties and functions for knowing and doing, for sustaining and energizing.

There is one thing very evident; that Satan hates resurrection. He would obscure it by spreading a false report as to that of Christ. The one pre-eminent testimony and attestation of God is resurrection. The supreme note in the apostolic proclamation was “God raised him!” The supreme note in a believer’s experience is resurrection. Hence Satan is allowed to bring a servant of God into “deaths oft” (2 Cor 11:23), and we are suffered to have “the sentence of death within ourselves, that we should… trust in God who raiseth the dead” (2 Cor 1:9).

This is not the evidence in which the soul rejoices. It prefers success, achievement, progress, reputation etc., according to man’s standards. But heaven’s standard measure of power is the resurrection of Christ. Hence Paul will cry, “that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection” (Phil 3:10). “The fellowship of his sufferings” and “becoming conformed unto his death” are the platform upon which this supreme power is demonstrated. But it takes a spiritual man to see this, and much more to desire it!

We have “the earnest of the Spirit” (2 Cor 1:22); yes, the earnest of our resurrection body. This earnest is even in our mortal bodies. “If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwelleth in you, he that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall quicken also your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Rom 8:11). There is possible a present testimony in prospect of the resurrection of the body, even in mortal bodies.

“What is Man?” Chapter 8 – The Cross and the New Man
April 11, 2013, 12:42 am
Filed under: 1G - T. Austin Sparks "What is Man?"

What is Man?
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 8 – The Cross and the New Man

The History of Man, from God’s Standpoint, and His Own

By the simple diagram herewith inserted, [Click here] we have attempted to set forth the inner history of man both from God’s standpoint and his own.

Firstly, we have man “in the day that God created” him (Gen 5:1). His threefold nature is defined.

1.) Spirit: with three faculties, Conscience, Communion and Intuition; the main value of which is spiritual apprehension.
2.) Soul: with Reason, Emotion, Will or Volition; the function of which is interpretation for human life.
3.) Body: of flesh, blood and bone; for executing or transacting the business of spirit and soul.

Then we have the relationship to God by the spirit. This is fivefold:

1. Likeness (basic, “spirit”).
2. Fellowship.
3. Knowledge (spiritual perception).
4. Co-operation.
5. Dominion.

Secondly, we have the ‘Fall’.

The results and effects of this were, and are:

1. The human spirit subjected to the soul.
2. The soul the seat of the Satanic attack and triumph, having come under the power of evil forces.
3. The body, the instrument of the soul, under the influence of Satan, especially for purposes of procreation in man’s own likeness, after his image (Gen 5:3).

Then, by the spirit severed from God in what is meant by spiritual death, the fivefold relationship was disrupted—the likeness marred; the fellowship destroyed; the knowledge obscured; the co-operation made impossible; the dominion forfeited. So man is severed from God, alienated, darkened, spiritually paralysed and “subjected to vanity” (Rom 8:20).

From this point he is called flesh—”in their going astray they are flesh” (Gen 6:3)—and we know from the New Testament that this does not only mean mortality, but the presence of an active principle which is inimical to spirit and to God. Moreover, he is thenceforth known as the “natural man” (soulical). But, above all, he is actuated by “the god of this world” inasmuch as he chose—in his will—to believe in Satan in preference to God.

From this point a double history begins. This is represented in our diagram by the two sets of lines one, narrowing, the other broadening. The narrowing lines set forth man’s history from that time according to God’s mind. From being the piece of God’s creative activity, God has “concluded” him under sin because of unbelief (Rom 11:32). So God introduces in type and symbol the principles of the Cross of Christ. Along this line nothing of man himself is ever accepted by God. Certain things—three mainly—are always kept clearly in view:

1. The fact of man’s sinful state, under judgment.
2. Death, being the end of the natural man, to be the due of all, and to be accepted.
3. The perfections of Christ the only basis of all, or any further, relationship with God.

This is what is inherent in the instance of Cain and Abel. This is why death has such a large place in the whole Divine economy. And—wisdom, power and wonder of God!—herein He is seen taking hold of the very tail of the serpent, the very sting of death, the works of the devil, and making death the way of a new life, the pathway to His purpose in the resurrection of Christ and the spiritual resurrection of believers in Him. This, again, is why every offering acceptable to God, to bring man nigh, is to be without blemish. The expert eye of a priest, after the most thorough scrutiny, must be able to say ‘It is perfect’. This is actually what Christ cried on the Cross as to the conclusion of all His testings and fiery ordeal—”It is perfect”, not merely concluded or finished.

On then, ever on, with unvarying, unchanging conclusiveness, God’s mind leads to the Cross of Christ. Whenever a man or a people comes under immediate government of God, in relation to His eternal purpose, they will have one thing brought home to them. It is that in themselves “dwelleth no good thing” (Rom 7:18), that they are accepted only on the ground of a righteousness which is not of themselves, nor of works, but by faith—it is the goodness of Another. This realization will smite the natural man hip and thigh, that out of the smiting there may emerge one such as the Lord can look to, “even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit” (or “heart”).

So we see that the Cross of Christ is God’s mind as to the natural man, for there the Son of man took not only our sins but ourselves in His representative person, and died under the judgment of God in our stead, or as us (Rom 6:2-10; Col 2:12; 2 Cor 5:14,15,etc.). This Cross throws its reflex back to the hour of Adam’s sin. It is for want of a complete or adequate realization of the meaning of the Cross, that so many Christians are “carnal”, or try to live for God out of themselves. This goes to the root of the ever-present weakness and poverty of spiritual life. There is much prayer for ‘revival’, and much effort for ‘the deepening of the spiritual life’. The only answer to this is a new knowing of the Cross, not only as to sins and a life of victory over them, but as to Christ as supplanting the natural man.

The conditions at Corinth which caused Paul to write, “I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, as unto babes” (unduly so), were explained in the opening chapters of his first letter as being due to their living so much on the basis of the soulical (“natural”) man; and his only remedy was “Jesus Christ, and him crucified”. Yes, believers, “called saints” (1 Cor 1:2) can do this, and can even bring spiritual gifts into the realm where they are soulishly valued and exploited. It is something to make us very sober and steady when we recognize that what is called the ‘baptism’ of the Holy Spirit, with ‘tongues’ and other ‘gifts’ following, does not necessarily carry with it the knowledge of the major things of the spiritual life. Hence Paul had to teach those who had such experiences the real meaning of baptism, the Cross, the Lord’s Table, the Body of Christ, and Sonship. Revelation is something more than gifts or experiences. The manifestation gifts are no marks of spiritual maturity; often the reverse. Herein lies Satan’s most subtle snare. The mistaking of such experiences for deep and real spirituality provides him with his most desired opportunity to lead the most sincere children of God into a false experience. The Cross as deeply applied to the soulical man is the only safeguard against the presentation of what is psychical as a marvellous imitation of what is spiritual.

To continue with our diagram, there is the other aspect. Man has ever refused to recognize and accept God’s verdict about him. Hence he pursues a course of self-expression and self-realization. From his beginning, even when the way of God in Abel’s offering was so definitely enunciated, he pursued his own course. He went out to build a world, to create a civilization, and to constitute a kingdom. Babel or Babylon is its name. It is the expression of and monument to man’s power, ability, and glory. “Let us make us a name” (Gen 11:4). “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built…?” (Dan 4:30). Thus, he inflates, expands and asserts himself. Yes, it is a wonderful world which he has produced, and it has got quite beyond him. He cannot manage it. Full of wonders, yes—but full of tragedy! It is fast leading to his undoing, and his own productions will wipe out his civilization. He has set something going which, by its own momentum, has got out of his hands. God will have to step in to shorten the days of this issue, or no flesh will be saved (Matt 24:22). That is what is immediately on the horizon. What an amount we could write on this line! but we refrain. Only fools, blind fools, Satan’s dupes, see Utopia as the natural outcome of this present world course. Civilization has only accentuated soul-sense or sensibility, and we already know something of the meaning of “men’s hearts failing them for fear” (Luke 21:26).

Yet still God’s position is unchanged. Man may build his kingdom, and build it to the clouds, but heaven is closed to him. The Cross of Christ proclaims that God settled the end of all that long since. So that ‘Calvary’ is zero! So far as God’s eternal purpose is concerned, there is no way past the Cross but by death, in identification with Christ by faith. When that place has been taken and all its implications accepted, then a New Man is brought in as by resurrection-union with Christ. “If any man is in Christ, there is a new creation…” (2 Cor 5:17).

From that point another double process begins. There has to be a definite crisis in which all the meaning of God is accepted, whether wholly understood or not. The crisis involves and potentially carries with it everything.

The twofold process is, on the one hand, the ascendency of the new man, the spiritual man; and on the other hand, the subjecting of the natural or old man. This is a life education. It is necessary to understanding. Were God to actually blot out, ‘eradicate’, the old man, then the whole basis of spiritual training would be removed. We have elsewhere pointed out what this “newness of life” means in learning everything anew, in a different world, with new spiritual faculties. This new man is the “hidden man of the heart” (1 Peter 3:4) and the training of him by “the Father of our spirits” (Heb 12:9) will be in keeping with the earlier statement in the same letter, “the dividing of soul and spirit” (Heb 4:12). If the remainder of the diagram is studied, the meaning of this will be clear; for here is a new and altogether other law “the law of the Spirit of life”. This life has its own law or laws, which have to be known.

It is a faith life. “That life which I now live… I live in faith…” (Gal 2:20). So, knowledge is the fruit of faith. We need go no further, but return to a final emphasis upon the crisis of the Cross. God has nothing to say to man, but there only. Every new development in the life of a child of God will in some way be by a new expression of the meaning of the Cross; deeper death unto fuller life. God keeps the balances with a steady hand, and eventually the last phase of our self-emptying here will issue in enthronement with Christ there.

“What is Man?” The Cross and the New Man Diagram by T. Austin-Sparks
April 10, 2013, 4:50 pm
Filed under: 1G - T. Austin Sparks "What is Man?"

The Cross and the New Man
by T. Austin-Sparks

The Cross and the New Man by TAS


“What is Man?” Chapter 7 – World Domination or Dominion?
April 10, 2013, 12:53 pm
Filed under: 1G - T. Austin Sparks "What is Man?"

What is Man?
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 7 – World Domination or Dominion?

In the course of our lifetime we have beheld a new phenomenon, or the return of an old one. It is the meteoric rise of dictators. We say truly when we say that this has been phenomenal. In a few short months, from nowhere and nothing, from ostracism, ridicule, and almost general suspicion, such have risen to a place where not only their own nations are at their feet, but all nations are holding their breath while these dictators speak. How is it explained? What is the principle basic to it?

It dates back to the eternal counsels of God. In those counsels God determined to gather up the dominion of this world under the Headship of His Son. Adam was “a figure of him that was to come” (Rom 5:14).

“…He hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness IN A MAN whom he hath ordained…” (Acts 17:31).

“And he charged us to preach unto the people, and to testify that this is he who is ordained of God to be the judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42).

“For there is one God, one mediator also between God and men, himself MAN, Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).

(See also Eph 1:9,10; 4:10; Col 1:16-19; Heb 1:8; 2:6-10)

Thus it has been made known that the dominion of this world and of all which, being beyond it, relates to it is eternally vested in a Man: the One Who is known to be the Son of God, Who became Son of man. He is the “heir of all things”. The inheritance is the “inhabited earth to come” (Heb 2:5). But there is another who has assumed the role of rival to God’s Son, and whose ambition has ever been world-dominion. The background of this world’s history, that is, the spiritual and unseen background of the cosmos, can be summed up in a few quotations from Scripture.

“…Cain was of the evil one, and SLEW HIS BROTHER” (1 John 3:12).

” Ye are of your father the devil… He was A MURDERER from the beginning” (John 8:44).

“Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? and they KILLED THEM WHICH SHEWED BEFORE OF THE COMING OF THE RIGHTEOUS ONE; of whom ye have now become betrayers and murderers” (Acts 7:52).

“A man planted a vineyard, and set a hedge about it, and digged a pit for the winepress, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into another country. And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruits of the vineyard. And they took him, and beat him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent unto them another servant; and him they wounded in the head, and handled shamefully. And he sent another; and him they killed: and many others; beating some and killing some. He had yet one, a beloved son: he sent him last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son. But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is THE HEIR; come let us kill him, and THE INHERITHANCE SHALL BE OURS. And they took him, and KILLED HIM, and cast him forth…” (Mark 7:1-8).

The emphasis is ours, for the purpose of indicating the connecting thoughts. The governing matter is that of the inheritance vested in God’s Son. The next thing is a long history of jealousy working out in murder wherever that Son is in view in type, prophecy, or reality.

We next come to Satan’s means, or instrument, of domination. It is also in man. As God’s Son is the Man according to His mind and after His heart (using human language of God) so, as we have sought to point out, Satan sought to adapt, and succeeded in adapting, man to his thought for his purpose. The history of man is a long-drawn-out effort to reach to heaven independently of God, the course of Cain: power, rule, domination, worldly glory, reputation, etc. It is the story of man coming to the fore and occupying the place of honour. It is the pride of Satan working through the poor, worthless, ruined human race (as viewed from God’s standpoint). Oh, what an indictment of so much that is brought into Christian work to make a success of it, even by those who mean to be so consecrated! Think of the value that is attached to degrees, titles and orders in the propaganda work of the Christian organizations. To carry weight, have influence, attract interest, make an impression, we find a feverish quest for people of degree, title, of standing as amongst men, and when we see these letters and qualifications on the announcements, advertisements and programmes of Christian effort, we may well ask, ‘But what has that to do with the work of God? What place does that have in Holy Ghost activity?’ Degrees, titles and honours may be all right in their own realm, if they are really earned and the result of genuine qualification as before the best standard of honourable men; but it is of the essence of antichrist to make them currency for profit in the things of God! These are strong words, but we will prove our point. It would be well for all Godly men to suppress and hide their degrees when they come into the presence of holy things, and so holy a God. Here, only spiritual values are recognized. But let us proceed.

Satan has ever in his mind world-domination through man, and the full-grown expression of this mind will be antichrist. Now let us see several things which are said about antichrist.

“Little children, it is the last hour: and as ye heard that Antichrist cometh, even now have there arisen many antichrists”. “Who is the liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? This is the Antichrist” (1 John 2:18,22).

“Every spirit that confesseth not Jesus is not of God: and this is the spirit of the Antichrist” (1 John 4:3).

“Let no man beguile you in any wise: for it will not be, except the falling away come first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, he that opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God or that is worshipped; so that he sitteth in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God…” “Whose coming is according to the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders…”(2 Thess 2:3,4,9).

From these passages we learn four things:

(1) Antichrist is firstly a spirit.
(2) Antichrist is the expression of a principle.
(3) Antichrist is a type of man.
(4) Antichrist has a kingdom or world-domination in view.

No. 1 relates antichrist directly to the evil powers, “not of God”.

No. 2 means that the glory of man is ever the factor which governs.

No. 3 means that this spirit and principle operate by way of a dominant ego, and intense soul-force.

No. 4 indicates what it is antichrist is after.

Now we are able to understand the times and world happenings. Steadily the world is coming under the domination of a handful of dictators. The probability is that they will suffer one another until other forms of world-government are weakened. But in time they will have to eliminate one another until one is left supreme. (That is, one representative of a human System.) Leaving prophecy aside as not being our present subject, there are however two or three things that need to be said in summarizing the whole matter.

Firstly, may it not be a significant thing that in the realm of what speaks of God there are no outstanding giants in spiritual leadership today? Some of us came into our ministry just at the tail-end of a generation of such. We will not mention names, but Bible teachers, missionary leaders and mighty preachers were in the earth in no sparsity for a generation or more. There was a galaxy of them, and their works stand today. But we have seen the last of them pass off this scene, and there are few, if any, successors. Sometimes we almost cry that God would raise up men adequate to the present spiritual need. Why are things as they are? May it not be that as Satan is bringing his antichrist in so manifestly along the lines of the power and glory of man, God, in His things, is keeping man as such hidden and largely at a discount because He is going to bring in His Man with heavenly glory? May not dictatorship then be one of the most powerful signs of the times?

But then what of the phenomena? We cannot wholly account for this power, influence and domination on human grounds. There are greater forces at work which operate in spite of the will of the people. It is uncanny. And yet is it not perfectly true that the connecting link between the instrument and the supernatural powers is an intense and terrific soul strength? A will is asserted which will brook no resistance. A mind is projected which is agile, subtle and tireless in the extreme. An emotional force is poured forth like a tidal wave carrying all before it, and working people up to uncontrollable frenzy. Yes, it is the consummate demonstration of that selfhood, that ego, which first drew things away from God and cast His Son out of His world. All this is with the accompaniment of pageantry which makes man its object of glory and almost worship. Is this not enough to make Christian men shun everything and anything which would make them to appear something before men?

But, ‘behold the Man!’ How has world-dominion been secured in Him?—for it has been secured. The answer is in the Scriptures:

“…this mind… which was… in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, counted it not a thing to be grasped (margin) to be on an equality with God, but emptied himself, taking the form of a bondservant (margin), being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross. Wherefore 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” (Phil 2:5-11).

So that what counts before Him and in His work is not man’s attainments, achievements or abilities, but just the measure of Christ. What an infinitely higher level of spiritual life would be represented by God’s people if the only consideration in the matter of their leadership, and the ministry, were that of the measure of Christ!

We have moved into a new phase of things. ‘Revival’ is being sought earnestly, and certain great names in revival history are in mind, on lip, and much used to stimulate revival-mindedness or mentality. But it may be that God is not going now to allow a great work of His to be related to men’s names. Try as we will and may, we shall not produce anything adequate and living if God is not doing it. It has got to be His work, and manifestly His alone. Pentecost in its meaning and value for any time stands over against the background of the Cross—the Cross in which Christian disciples and apostles lost everything of this world.

They lost their Christ after the flesh; they lost their kingdom of God after the flesh. They lost their own lives, reputations, hopes, expectations and faith so far as anything of God being bound up with this earth was concerned. They recovered all only in a heavenly and spiritual way. Their own souls were crucified when Christ died. But what a mighty recompense in the spirit!

There may be too much soulishness about for God to commit Himself, and He will not until there is more emptiness and despair.

There is one other thing which is apropos of what we have been saying. This introduces another set of Scriptures, such as:

“And he put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, THE FULLNESS OF HIM that filleth all in all” (Eph 1:22,23).

“Having abolished in his flesh the enmity… that he might create in himself… ONE NEW MAN… and might reconcile them both in one body…” (Eph 2:15,16).

“Unto him be the GLORY IN THE CHURCH and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever” (Eph 3:21).

These, and other suchlike Scriptures, make it clear that “the church, which is his body” is the “one new man” which is destined to be the instrument of Christ’s world-dominion.

This “man” is the fruit of His Cross. This Church was born of His travail. This is a crucified, buried, and risen Church in union and identification with Christ. What glory can it know save the glory of its Head? In this Church there is no place for antichrist in principle. It is in and by the Church which is His Body that the fullness of Christ will be displayed, and God will come into His rights. “Unto him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever”.

In this connection, there is much said in the Scriptures as to measurement in relation to the Church. In type we have it in Solomon’s Temple, but even more so in that of Ezekiel. There every aspect and phase is strictly measured by a heavenly standard. That which is represented by the types is brought out in the spiritual reality of the Church in “Ephesians”. There we have:

“The breadth and length and height and depth” (3:18).
“The measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (4:13).
“The measure of the gift of Christ” (4:7).
“The working in due measure of each several part”(4:16).

So that what governs in this spiritual Church or Body is the measure of Christ. We are told that in this Body no earthly factors have any place. “There cannot be Greek and Jew” (not, there is both Greek and Jew); no nationalism or national distinction; no denominationalism, inter-denominationalism, or undenominationalism. All of these represent only human distinctions and differences from one another. Christ is other than all this, and, when Christ predominates, natural elements and features become subjected, whether temperamental, social, educational, national, or of any other kind. The ascendancy of Christ is the only way to one-ness and spiritual power. It is in this “one new man” that “the exceeding riches of his grace” will be shown forth “in the ages to come” (Eph 2:7).

We have been careful in our use of the words ‘dominion’ and ‘domination’. The latter speaks of force, assertiveness, despotism and suchlike features. These belong to antichrist. The former is by Divine right with all the universe agreeing and co-operating eventually.

“His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth” (Zech 9:10).

“To him be the glory and the dominion for ever and ever” (Rev 1:6).

Spiritual power and soul-force are very different things, and they belong to different kingdoms, the kingdom of the heavens and the kingdom of men. Man’s destiny, according to the thought of God, demands that he be born of the Spirit, walk in the Spirit, and come to spiritual maturity.

“What is Man?” Chapter 6 – The Soul and Deception
April 9, 2013, 10:07 pm
Filed under: 1G - T. Austin Sparks "What is Man?"

What is Man?
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 6 – The Soul and Deception

One matter upon which the Bible is unmistakably clear throughout is that of man’s deception. All God’s methods with man have had this fact behind them. With and ever since the Fall the race is regarded as being a deceived race. Not only was the race initially deceived in Adam, but it is ever led on in its deception to deeper depths. Rather than escape from this deception by what is called ‘enlightenment’, i.e. civilization, education, culture, etc., these are only making the deception stronger. This is seen in the fact that the most ‘enlightened’ and ‘advanced’ nations are, at this late hour of the world’s history, locked in the grip of a force which compels them to use all their enlightenment for producing the means of mutual destruction on such a scale and by such devilish and barbarous ways as have never been known before. Let us here introduce one or two passages of Scripture.

“Now the serpent was more subtile than any beast of the field… And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said…” (Gen 3:1).

“But the Spirit saith expressly, that in later times some shall fall away… giving heed to SEDUCING SPIRITS. and doctrines of demons” (1 Tim 4:1).

“This wisdom is not a wisdom that cometh down from above, but is earthly, sensual (soulical), devilish” (James 3:15).

“And the great dragon was cast down, the old serpent, he that is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world; he was cast down… and his angels… with him” (Rev. 12:9).

“And cast him into the abyss… that he should deceive the nations no more” (Rev 20:3).

“And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire…” (Rev 20:10).

In these passages, Satan is seen to be the deceiver, first of the woman and finally of the whole inhabited earth. Deception was his first method, and deception was the very heart of the Fall.

Man is by nature now a deceived creature. Deception is deception, and the deceived never know it until they are enlightened or delivered. It is like a disease. There are forms of mental sickness which cause those who are so suffering to believe certain things which to the healthy mind are ridiculous and impossible. It is useless to argue with them, and futile to try to convince them of the untruth of their beliefs. Indeed, it is cruel at times to oppose them. If you are to live with them in any measure of peace and be at all helpful you have to take the attitude of agreeing with them and deal with the situation along some other line. Otherwise it is going to be continual clash. The only way to change their convictions is to heal their sickness.

So it is with man. He believes many things as to himself, his ability, potentialities, destiny, about God and about the world, which are not true. He mistakes certain things for other things, but he cannot see that he is deceived. It is useless to hold objects before a blind man, and to tell him to see them; and it is foolish to be surprised or annoyed that he does not do so. So the Scriptures say, “The natural (soulical) man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; and he cannot know them…” (1 Cor 2:14). And again, “The god of this world hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving” (2 Cor 4:4).

Now, when we go to the source of this deceived condition, we find that it originated in the soul. The Deceiver assailed the soul—desires, reason, will—and drew this out as a basis of life apart from and independent of God. The motive was to have things in the ego, the self, instead of in God by dependence. Having succeeded in getting man to so exalt the ego to independence and superiority, he captured man as now a suited instrument for his purposes. Man ceased to be suited to the purposes of God, for his very nature was changed. This man, changed by complicity with Satan, is a false man, not a true man according to God’s mind; and is now suited to Satan’s false kingdom. The history of man in his natural state is the history of a lie, a false nature, a false expectation, a false hope, a false faith and a false world. The end of that man and that world is sorry, tragic disillusionment. By the aid of a spirit which, while still existing, is no longer in the place of living fellowship with God, this man faintly glimpses or senses something more of intention and purpose in his being than he can grasp. It eludes him, he cannot come into real touch with it; and so life mocks him, and he seeks satisfaction in other and further deceptions and illusions. Thus he is a part of the creation which the Word of God says is “subjected to vanity” (Rom 8:20). Conscience still is more or less active, but always accusing or excusing, never approving.

As we have said, not only was deception an initial work of the enemy in the soul of man; he presses this advantage, or works on this vantage ground; and whenever he has this ground of nature he seeks to advance his own government and power thereby. As we shall see, the stronger the soul-life in a person, the greater the peril to that one, and the greater the advantage to Satan and the evil powers. The pursuit of this course is by a multitude of ways, always adapted to the people with whom he has to do. With the ungodly he employs one method; with the religious, who recognize God, another. With the spiritual he resorts to yet other ways, and for them his whole system of deception is by counterfeiting God’s system of truth.

He counterfeits God Himself. He “fashioneth himself into an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14). He counterfeits the Church of God with his “synagogue of Satan” (Rev 2:9). He counterfeits the works of God with his “signs and lying wonders” (2 Thess 2:9). There is a counterfeit life, and there are counterfeit “gifts” (as of the Holy Spirit). There is counterfeit Divine (?) power. There are counterfeit conversions, spiritual (?) experiences, guidance. He uses Scriptures in a false way to counter God’s meaning by them. There is counterfeit worship of God, counterfeit teaching, “doctrines of demons”. There is a counterfeit baptism of the Holy Ghost with “tongues”, etc. To those who know the Word of God, all these things are not strange, but are exposed therein.

The point is this. Satan, as the Deceiver, could not bring all that upon man from the outside. Man must first be constituted so that Satan can find in him that which responds to his deception. There must be, for all that, something in man which is the organ to be used. The play of Satan upon the soul of Adam drew that soul out as the ground of procedure. It stretched itself beyond its legitimate measure, and Satan impinged upon it. Thus an alliance came about between man’s psuche (soul) and the powers of evil, “deceiving spirits”. The object was gained—the ability to know good and evil—and God admitted this. “The man is become as one of us, to know good and evil” (Gen 3:22). But at what a cost! Knowledge in itself is not evil, although it would be well for man if he did not know some things. It is knowledge apart from God that has rendered man a prisoner, a slave, and has cost him that knowledge which is eternal life. “This is life eternal, that they should know thee the only true God, and him whom thou didst send, Jesus Christ” (John 17:3). The cost was a “darkened understanding” (Eph 4:18). The Apostle Paul, who said that “it pleased God… to reveal his Son in me” (Gal 1:15,16), also placed on record that that revelation was intended by the Lord to constitute him an instrument “to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God” (Acts 26:18). As to this, he further said: “God, that said, Light shall shine out of darkness… shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:6).

Whenever God in Christ is revealed in the inner man, deception and Satan’s power are destroyed, and the man is set free. Against this inshining, Satan works by every conceivable means, ranging from open assault to destroy the messengers, to beautiful substitutes for the truth. But let us return to the principle.

To extend and consolidate his work of deception, and to build his rival and false kingdom, the Deceiver must have ego—soul or self-life. Herein lies the greatness of the peril of believers leaning toward their own self-life, for his occasion against God is greatest in their case. Herein, also, lies the explanation of many other things, as that called ‘spiritualism’ or ‘spiritism’ and dictatorship, etc.

Children of God who lean to the soul on any or all of its sides—reason (intellect), emotion (feelings) or will (volition)—will be a ready prey for deception. First of all, such people are already a contradiction of their essential nature as now—by new birth—spiritual. It becomes clear at the outset that they are locked up and a law unto themselves. Their way is the way, and they see no other. As to further light, they are largely unteachable; as to further experience, they are content; as to another course, they cannot conceive of it.

Christians who live in their own mind will often be found occupied with a question. They cannot live without a question or a problem. If one is shattered, they will soon have another. Thus they go ever round in a circle, and come back to their starting point, making no real spiritual progress. Like a horse in the ring, they are whipped and driven, and there is no expanse of life or vision. Or they lash others with their ideas and seek to subject other minds to their own. It may eventuate in some very weird, unsound and untrue conclusions. At length somewhere in this occult position—for it is nothing less—a deception will be found, and Satan’s hand will be seen.

The same thing is true with regard to Christians living on the emotional side of the soul. This side demands experiences, evidences, manifestations. Indeed the whole realm of sense-life governs here. If we intensify and project our emotional side sufficiently, we can have any experience that is possible. The whole body and mind can be involved. Vocal cords or solar plexus may be affected. There may be facial distortions, rigidity, ‘second sight’, visions, extra capabilities, prodigious strength, mirth, ecstasy, etc. All these, from simple beginnings, may come through the psychical or soul-life as extended and strained along the line of intense desire.

If this is true in these two directions, how true it is on the side of the will. A forceful, dominating, assertive soul, not under the government of the Holy Spirit, is a terrible menace to the interests of God. Decisions will be made, courses adopted, objectives secured, positions occupied, in the name of devotion to God, which will be Towers of Babel, Pyramids of Egypt, Ishmaels of Abram (not Abraham). There will be a good deal of remorse bound up with these achievements eventually, and a wish that they had never been. The result will be something false, and many may be involved in the tragedy.

If there is a combination of a strong soul-life with an acute and needle-like brain the supreme peril is that of grasping the deeper implications and meanings of Divine truth, so that it seems to be revelation. Thus, through the soul there is an imitation revelation, which is really only keen natural insight. Usually, when the soul is strong along one line, we shall find it strong in other directions, and so the craving for a sense of power will not be far away. This keen insight, this quick or acute grasp of things, will demand as its complement an opportunity to exhibit itself, and this in its outworking will be to bring others under its influence. The test of genuine revelation is as to whether the one concerned is manifestly well crucified to a desire for power, position, influence. Can that one be resisted, assailed, thwarted, rejected, without in some form seeking to come out even or on top? An element of personal domination or self-vindication will destroy the ministry and discredit the ‘revelation’ of such an one. Oh, the peril of getting hold of Divine truth in order to use it!

God has laid down every safeguard against this kind of thing in what is truly of Himself. Fellowship, relatedness, interdependence, in the Church which is His Body, are not only privileges or extra factors in a Christian life; they are basic laws for safeguarding Divine interests from the dangers of independence and personal dominance. This is why one who is in a doubtful position is called upon to “hear the church” (Mark 18:17). That means ultimately the surrendering of their own judgment and way to the spiritual judgment of a spiritual church. This in turn—provided the church is walking in the light—is coming under the headship of Christ as head over all things to the church, which is his body (Eph 1:22,23). “Subjecting yourselves one to another in the fear of Christ” (Eph 5:21) is something which cuts the ground from under Satan’s feet. In keeping with this principle, the Holy Spirit never made an individual the sole overseer of a church. Elders, not an elder, were made in every city and church. God will not have anyone lording it over His heritage. This opens up the whole subject of Divine order which would require too extensive a deviation for our present intention. But let us emphasize that the law of mutual subjection is but the outworking of that subjection of Christ to His Father which led to the complete nullification and discomfiture of Satan in His own case. All of Satan’s temptations of Christ were intended to seduce Him by deception, even to quoting Scripture. If Christ had asserted Himself, instead of referring and deferring to the Father, Satan would have triumphed. What a great deal there is in letting go to God!

What we have said has been mainly on the positive side. The soul can be passive; but this is only another form of soulishness. There is the weak passivity of soul which makes it easy for Satan to just play with those concerned; or which means that, being altogether negative, they count for nothing, and it may be that, sooner or later, he will crush them out of simple trust by producing an inferiority complex. On the other hand, there is that more positive passivity—if we may put those two words together. This is that deliberate rendering of the mind and will negative, so that a mediumistic state is produced. It is not necessary to say what the results of this are in the direction of deception.

When all has been said about the peril of soul-life as such, we have to recognize that the end is death. Injury is done in the mind, in the nerves, in the spiritual life, in the work of God. How necessary, then, it is that the Cross should have done its work in relation to ourselves as well as our past sins! How tremendous a principle is embodied in Paul’s words, “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I…” (Gal 2:20)!

Strong-mindedness may be thought to be a praiseworthy or excellent thing, but let it be recognized as an infinitely dangerous thing if the one who has it is not a crucified man or woman so far as self is concerned. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt” (Jer 17:9).

Many movements have swept over this earth with the name of Christ attached to them. They claim to be for Him, and multitudes are swept into their nets. There are ‘conversions’ and experiences. There are supernatural features connected with them. But they are psychical in their foundation. Physical persons with psychical experiences and powers, abnormal and uncanny personal influence, are behind them; and a cult is developed by certain methods being standardized. These methods or soul-tactics are employed to draw out soul-expression in certain forms. It may be a religious form of psychotherapy or psychoanalysis, and it has remarkable effects upon those who respond to it.

The infallible test of all such things is as to what place they give to that fundamental aspect of the Cross of Christ which sets man by nature wholly aside and gives him no place at all—that is, the death of the man, not only the remission of his sins. Try this truth in such movements and they will collapse, and be popular no longer.

It is a matter of very great importance to be able to discriminate between what we have just mentioned and spiritual understanding.

Spiritual Understanding

Paul prayed for saints that they might “be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Col 1:9).

Understanding implies a sense or apprehension of the fuller meaning of what is known, with the ability to apply that knowledge to adequate value. It is a matter of intuitive recognition or perception of the hidden nature and trend of things, and differs from the merely outward impression made upon the senses which calls for thought and reasoning. There may be something of this, as we have seen, in people of good and quick intelligence naturally, but spiritual understanding is something more. It is that faculty of the renewed spirit—an insight, perception, sense, appreciation in relation to Divine matters—which is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is the faculty which makes its possessor assured in an inward way of what is of God and what is not so, when very fine questions are at issue and when things are not by any means obvious. This ‘discernment’ or ‘judgment’ cannot always at first be explained or given a reason; it is just there, and very real to those who have it. Spiritual understanding is one of the most important things in the equipment of any Christian for responsibility. To put anyone into a position of responsibility in the things of God, or for anyone to take such a position, without this qualification will be to jeopardize the work of God and to put all related thereto into a false and dangerous situation. Something much more than just good ‘common sense’ and natural judgment is required in things eternal and spiritual. The one pre-eminent object and goal of this spiritual faculty is the knowledge of God, and it does not matter how great and complete may be a man’s knowledge otherwise, the one indispensable requirement for responsibility in spiritual work is that he knows God in a measure beyond all natural capability or possibility. No efficiency can substitute for spiritual understanding!

It must be possible for all who are affected by what is said and done to find in the one who speaks and works a personal, living and true knowledge of God, a deep spiritual understanding. It is significant how much people themselves are brought into the limelight by some forms of Christian work; but it is not the Christianity of Romans 6!

Any movement which would make for self-consciousness is missing the way. Self-consciousness, whether it be bad self or good self, big self or little self, is weakness and evil. While all that we write here is necessary, we believe, to enlighten as to a great fact, it is not to turn people in on themselves for self-analysis, introspective occupation. This would be fatal! Christ is our only safe and healthy occupation; and He is the deliverer from ourselves. A basic and crisic thing must have taken place, so that we know by an established law and an inward government when we cross the line from Christ to self in our own souls. A simple, humble and selfless way is safe; so let us not refrain from stepping out on the Lord in conscious weakness, for fear of moving in the soul and not in the spirit.

“What is Man?” Chapter 5 – Where Christendom is Deceived
April 9, 2013, 6:00 pm
Filed under: 1G - T. Austin Sparks "What is Man?"

What is Man?
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 5 – Where Christendom is Deceived

Perhaps the greatest failure to make the great discrimination with which we are concerned is in relation to the difference between mysticism and spirituality. It is here that not only the world is mistaken but Christendom is deceived. Indeed, an overwhelmingly large proportion of those who would regard themselves as Christians are unable to distinguish between mysticism (pertaining to the sense of the beautiful) or asceticism (the practice of self-denial) on the one hand and spirituality on the other. The fact is that these belong to two entirely different realms, and the Word of God cuts clean in between them, dividing them asunder.

When we speak of Cain and “the way of Cain”, we are accustomed to recall immediately his act of murder, born of jealousy and malice. We remember his peevish, querulous, petulant, ill-tempered or even insolent manner with God. But there is another side to remember, and we must be fair to Cain, or we miss the whole point. Cain did not exclude or ignore God. He was not in the usual sense of the word a godless man. He acknowledged God. Then he built an altar to God. Further, he no doubt selected the best of the products of his hard toil as worthy of God, and brought them. Here was devoutness in religion. Cain worshipped with his whole aesthetic sense, and Cain—murdered his brother! The Jews did the same in Christ’s day. Christendom is largely constituted by this sense—its architecture, its ritual, its music, its adornment, its lighting (or lack of it), its tone, its atmosphere, its vestments and so forth. All are of the soul. But Cain did not get through to God! Neither did the Jews! Spiritual death marks that realm, and while there may be intense emotions which make for resolves, ‘high’ thoughts and desires, there is no genuine change in the nature of those concerned, and repeated doses of this must be taken to maintain any measure of soul-self-satisfaction which makes them feel good. All religions have this soulish feature in common, more or less, and it is here that the fatal blunder has been made by many religious people who contend that other religions, which are undoubtedly devout and sincere, should not be interfered with, but the good in them should be recognized and accepted. It is the confusing of religion with what the Bible means by being spiritual. Religion can rise to high levels and sink to terrible depths. It is the same thing which does both. But that thing never rises above the human level; it never really reaches God. Religion can be the greatest enemy of God’s true thought, because it is Satan’s best deception. Asceticism is no more truly spiritual than aestheticism. There is no more a brief with God for rigours, denials, fastings, puritanic iciness, etc., as such, than for the opposite. Simplicity may give God a chance, but it is not necessarily spiritual. It may be a matter of taste. What sublime thoughts and ideas, in poetry, music and art often can go hand in hand with moral degeneracy and profligacy!

How near to the truth in perception and interpretation can the mystical go! What wonderful things can the imagination see, even in the Bible! What thrills of awe, amazement, ecstasy, can be shot through an audience or congregation by a master soul! But it may all be a false world with no Divine and eternal issues. It may all go to make up this life here, and relieve it of its drabness, but it ends there. What an artificial world we live in! When the music is progressing and the romantic elements are in evidence—the dress and tinsel—and human personalities are parading, see how pride and rivalry assert themselves, and what a power of make believe enters the atmosphere! Yes, an artificial world. We have been in it and know the reactions afterward.

How hollow, how empty; Dead Sea fruit! The tragedy in this melodrama is that it is ‘real life’ to so many. This soul-world is the devil’s imitation. It is all false, wherever we may find it, whether associated with religion or not.

Those of us who have tasted of this world’s springs have recognized the kinship between what is there and what is in religion so far as that soul-nature is concerned. It is only a matter of difference of realm, not of nature. What the music and drama of the world produce in one way—the soul-stirring, rousing, craving: the pathos, tears, contempt, hatred, anger, melancholy, pleasure, etc.—are all the same, only under different auspices and in a different setting, and the fact is, that it passes and we are really no further on. A little better music, a change of preacher, a less familiar place, a few more thrills, will perhaps stimulate our souls, but where are we, after all? How Satan must laugh behind his mask! Oh, for reality, the reality of the eternal! Oh, that men might see that, while a highly cultured soul with a keen sense of the beautiful and sublime is immeasurably preferable to a sordid one so far as this world is concerned, it is not necessarily a criterion that such has a personal living knowledge of God—of God as a Person—and has really been born anew! Occultism—the power to see deeper than the average, to sense what most do not sense, to handle the abstruse, to touch unseen forces—is not spirituality in the Divine sense. The soul realm is a complex and dangerous one, and can take most people out of their depths, but then land them into moral, mental and physical ruin, with all hope gone.

When we pray for ‘Revival’ let us be careful as to what we are after and as to what means we use to promote it, or carry it on.

Having been more precise as to the functions of the soul, we must go a little further at this point, as to those of the spirit.

The Attributes of the Human Spirit

As the soul is a trinity of reason, affection, and volition, so is the spirit a trinity. Its attributes are conscience, communion (worship) and intuition.

“The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord” (Prov 20:27).

“Gentiles that have not the law do by nature the things of the law, these, not having the law, are the law unto themselves; in that they shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness therewith, and their thoughts one with another accusing or else excusing” (Rom 2:14-15).

When Adam sinned, he did so as the result of what seemed to him a sound and right argument and reason, and a judgment of what was good and desirable. But immediately he had so acted he became aware of a faculty within, which rose up and condemned his judgment, reason and ‘good (?) motive’. Henceforth he lived under a sense of condemnation. The conscience which accused him and caused him to excuse, could not restore him to God’s favour, but for ever kept God in his consciousness. Thus it is that to live in and to be governed entirely by our souls is not to have rest and real life. It is possible to put our wills so strongly behind our reason and thought and desire, or so to surrender our wills to our emotions and affections, as to muffle the voice of conscience so that we have little or no conflict within. But should God come into “the garden in the cool of the day”, or, in other words, should we at any time seek a living knowledge of God, we are in for a very bad time with regard to this former mentality, these former reasonings, and this former affectional life. But we are not saying that the human conscience is infallible and always right. Most certainly it is not. We can have a sense of right and wrong which is altogether misinformed and false, and Satan can play tricks with conscience. We are only pointing out what conscience is as an attribute of the spirit. For conscience to fulfil all of its Divinely intended purpose in relation to God—not merely to keep man aware of something beyond his own way—conscience must (as with the whole spirit) be renewed in God and united with the Holy Spirit. Christ is God’s perfect standard for conscience, and union with Christ is the only ground of life in the spirit. “Christ… was made unto us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Cor 1:30), and when Christ is received by faith, so that our standing before God rests upon what He is and not what we are, then we “find rest unto our souls” in this “yoke” (Matt 11:29), for we have our “hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience” (Heb 10:22). With the whole human spirit, conscience must be quickened from above, raised, enlightened, adjusted and related.

Having already spoken of worship in spirit and in truth, we can pass on to see the function of spirit by intuition. Here the difference between soul and spirit is very clear and definite. The spirit is the organ of spiritual knowledge, and spiritual knowledge is very different from natural or soul knowledge. How does God know things, and by what means does God come to His conclusions, decisions? On what basis of knowledge does He run the universe? Is it by reasoning inductively, deductively, philosophically, logically, comparatively? Surely all this laboriousness of brain is unknown to God. His knowledge and conclusions are intuitive. Intuition is that faculty of spiritual intelligence by which all spiritual beings work. Angels serve the will of God by intuitive discernment of that will, not by argued and reasoned conviction. The difference between these two is witnessed to by the whole monument of spiritual achievement. If human reason, the natural judgment and ‘common sense’ had been the ruling law, most, if not all, of the giant pieces of work inspired by God would never have been undertaken. Men who had a close walk with God and a living spirit-fellowship with Him, received intuitively a leading to such purposes, and their vindication came, not by the approval of natural reason, but usually with all such reason in opposition. ‘Madness’ was usually the verdict of this world’s ‘wisdom’. Whenever they, like Abraham, allowed the natural mind to take precedence over the spiritual mind, they became bewildered, paralysed, and looked round for some ‘Egypt’ way of the senses, along which to go for help. In all this we are “justified in the spirit”, not in the flesh. The spirit and the soul act independently, and until the spiritual mind has established complete ascendency over the natural mind, they are constantly in conflict and contradiction. In all the things which are out from God and therefore spiritual, “the mind of the flesh is death; but the mind of the spirit is life and peace” (Rom 8:6). This, then, is the nature of spiritual knowledge.

The only knowledge of God which is of spiritual value for ourselves, or for others by our ministry, is that which we have by revelation of the Holy Spirit within our own spirits. God never—in the first instance—explains Himself to man’s reason, and man can never know God—in the first instance—by reason. Christianity is a revelation or it is nothing, and it has to be that in the case of every new child of God; otherwise faith will be resting upon a foundation which will not stand in the day of the ordeal.

‘The Christian Faith’ embraced as a religion, a philosophy, or as a system of truth, a moral or ethical doctrine, may carry the temporary stimulus of a great ideal; but this will not result in the regeneration of the life, or the new birth of the spirit. There are multitudes of such ‘Christians’ in the world today, but their spiritual effectiveness is nil.

The Apostle Paul makes it very clear that the secret of everything in his life and service was the fact that he received his gospel “by revelation”. We may even know the Bible most perfectly as a book, and yet be spiritually dead and ineffective. When the Scriptures say so much about the knowledge of God and of the truth as the basis of eternal life, resulting in being set free, doing exploits, etc., they also affirm that man cannot by searching find out God, and they make it abundantly clear that it is knowledge in the spirit, not in the natural mind.

Thus, a rich knowledge of the Scriptures, an accurate technical grasp of Christian doctrine, a doing of Christian work by all the resources of men’s natural wisdom or ability, a clever manipulation and interesting presentation of Bible content and themes, may get not one whit beyond the natural life of men, and still remain within the realm of spiritual death. Men cannot be argued, reasoned, fascinated, interested, ’emotioned’, willed, enthused, impassioned, into the kingdom of the heavens; they can only be born; and that is by spiritual quickening. The new birth brings with it new capacities of every kind; and amongst these, the most vital is a new and different faculty of Divine knowledge, understanding and apprehension. As we have said earlier, the human brain is not ruled out, but is secondary, not primary. The function of the human intellect is to give spiritual things intelligent form for ourselves and for others.

Paul’s intellectual power was not that which gave him his knowledge of truth; but it was taken up by the spirit for passing that truth on to others. He may have used his intellect well, as he certainly did, to study and acquire knowledge of the Scriptures; but his spiritual understanding did not come that way. It was the extra thing, apart from which even his Bible (Old Testament) knowledge had not kept him from a most mistaken course. The spirit of man is that by which he reaches out into the eternal and unseen. Intuition, then, is the mental organ of the spirit. It is in this sense—that is, the deadness of the spirit in the matter of Divine union and the going on with religion in its manifold forms of expression merely from the natural mind—that God says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Isa 55:8); and the measure of the difference is as the height of the heavens from the earth, of the heavenly from the earthly.

One of the chief lessons that we have to learn, and which God takes pains to teach us, is that spiritual ends demand spiritual means. The breaking down of the natural life, its mind, its energies, so far as the things of God are concerned, in the bitterness of disappointment through futility, failure, ineffectiveness and deadlock in real spiritual fruitfulness, is a life work: but the truth mentioned above is the explanation and key to the matter.

How important it is that every fresh undertaking in work for God should come by revelation to those chosen for it. Because God has so spoken and given revelation to some chosen instrument and a truly spiritual work has been done, others have taken it as a model and have sought to imitate it in other places. The result has been, and is, that they are called upon to take responsibility for it—find the resources of workers, funds and general support. This, in turn, issues in many sad and pathetic, if not evil and worldly, methods and means being employed, and those concerned find themselves in a false position. Conception, not imitation, is the Divine law of reproduction. Anointing, not human selection, is the Divine law of succession. The fact is, that the work of God has become a sphere for so many natural elements to find expression and gratification. Man must do something, see something, have something. Ambition, acquisition, achievement, etc., have found their way over to Christian enterprise, and so, very often (let us be quite frank) things have become ‘ours’—’our work’, ‘our mission’, ‘our field’, ‘our clientele’; and jealousies, rivalries, bitterness and many other things of the flesh abound.

It is a very difficult thing, a crucifixion indeed, for the natural man to do nothing and have nothing, and especially to know nothing. But in the case of His most greatly used instruments, God has made this a very real part of their training and preparation. The utter emptying of all self-resource is the only way to have “all things of (out from) God” (2 Cor 5:18). On this basis, even Christ elected to live. We need not remind you of Moses’ “I am not eloquent” (Exo 4:10), and Jeremiah’s “I am a child” (Jer 1:6), and Paul’s “that we should not trust in ourselves” (2 Cor 1:9). These were of a school in which the great lesson of the difference between natural and spiritual was taught experimentally.

God’s Special Concern

This will help us to see that God’s special concern is with the spirit in the believer.

Firstly, we must realize that His quest is for sons of His Spirit. The underlying and all-inclusive truth of what has come to be called the parable of the Prodigal Son is the transition from one kind of sonship, i.e. on the ground of law, to another, i.e. on the ground of grace; from the flesh to the spirit. There is a sonship of God by creation on the basis of law. In this sense, all men are the offspring of God, and Paul used this phrase in quite a general way to the Athenians (Acts 17:28,29). But by the Fall—the “going astray”, or “deviating” (Gen 6:3)—all the Divine purposes and possibilities of that relationship have broken down, and that relationship is no longer of value. “He is flesh”, hence he is separated from God—”alienated” (Eph 4:18), in a “far country”, “lost”, and “dead”. Here grace enters and the Spirit through grace. The Spirit begins operations in that realm of death and distance, convicting of sin “against heaven” (Luke 15:21) (the only adequate conviction), compassing the end of the works of the flesh in despair and destruction, constraining, assuring, producing penitence and confession, and at length bringing to the place of forgiveness and acceptance: from death unto life, but not the same life as before. “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). This man is the product of the travail and energizing of the Spirit, and everything in the relationship afterward is new; a “robe”, the robe of Divine righteousness; “shoes”, a walk and a way in the Spirit (Rom 8:2,4); “a ring”, the symbol of authority, the right or jurisdiction of a son (John 1:12,13); “the fatted calf”, food such as was not his before, the best of the father’s house. Each of these points in the Scriptures has a whole system of teaching.

The spirit of man, being the place of the new birth and the seat of this only true sonship (Gal 4:5,6), is also therefore “the new man”, for it is “in newness of the spirit” that we are to live (Rom 7:6, etc.). Here it is that all the operations of God in our education, fellowship and co-operation have their base.

The ‘prodigal’s’ knowledge of the father after his ‘new birth’ was such as he had never possessed before. He really did not know his father until grace came in. His spirit had been brought from death, darkness, distance, desolation, chaos, and he then had not just an objective knowledge of one whom he had termed ‘father’, but a subjective and experimental understanding and appreciation of him, because the spirit of sonship had been born within him or given to him whereby he cried “Abba, Father”. There is no saving relationship to, or knowledge of, God except through grace and by new birth.

So, then, those who by being born anew have become “little children” (Matt 18:3) or “babes” in spiritual things (1 Cor 3:1)—not wrong if we do not remain such—have to learn every thing afresh, because “all things have become new” (2 Cor 5:17,18). Such have to learn a new kind of knowledge, to live by a new kind of life, “newness of life” (Rom 6:4). Paul says that we are to act as those who are “alive from the dead” (Rom 6:13). We have to learn that our life, our natural life, cannot do God’s will, live as God requires, or do God’s work. Only by His risen life is this possible. An element of offence in this truth is that it demands a recognized and acknowledged weakness; it requires that we have to confess that, in ourselves, for all Divine purposes, we are powerless and worthless, and that of ourselves we can do nothing. The natural man’s worship of strength, efficiency, fitness, ability, meets with a terrible rebuff when it is confronted with the declaration that the universal triumph of Christ, over hierarchies more mighty than those of flesh and blood, was because “he was crucified through weakness” (2 Cor 13:4); God reduced to a certain impotency! And “God chose the weak things… to confound the things that are mighty” (1 Cor 1:25-27). To glory in infirmity, that Christ’s power may rest upon him, is a far cry from the original Saul of Tarsus; but what an extraordinary change in mentality! God has, however, always drawn a very broad line between natural “might” and “power” on the one hand, and “My Spirit” on the other (Zech 4:6), and for evermore that distinction abides. This ‘new-born babe’ has to learn a new walk, now in the Spirit as different from nature. There may be many slips and perhaps tumbles, but such are not altogether evil if they are marks of a stepping out in faith rather than sitting still in fleshly disobedience or fear. We have shown that the nature of this walk is that reason, feeling, and natural choice are no longer the directive laws or criteria of the spiritual man. For such an one there are frequent experiences of a collision and contradiction between soul and spirit. The reason would dictate a certain course, the affections would urge in a certain direction, the will would seek to fulfil these judgments and desires; but there is a catch somewhere within—a dull, leaden, lifeless, numbed something at the centre of us which upsets everything, contradicts us, and all the time in effect says No! Or it may be the other way round. An inward urge and constraint finds no encouragement from our natural judgment or reason, and is flatly contrary to our natural desires, inclinations, preferences or affections: while in the same natural realm we are not at all willing for such a course. In this case it is not the judgment against the desire, as is frequently the case in everybody’s life, but judgment, desire and will are all joined against intuition. Now is the crisis! Now is to be seen who is to rule the life! Now the “natural” man, or the outer man of sense, and the “inner” man have to settle affairs.

To learn to walk in the Spirit is a life-lesson of the new man, and as he is vindicated—as he always will be in the long run—he will come to take the absolute ascendancy over the “natural” man and his mind; and so by the energizing of the Holy Spirit in the spirit of the new man, the Cross will be wrought out to the nullifying of the mind of the flesh (which, in spiritual things, always ends in death) and in the enthronement of the spiritual mind which is “life and peace” (Rom 8:6).

This, then, is the nature of the walk in the Spirit, and its application is many-sided. But we must remember the law of this walk, which is faith. We walk in the Spirit but “we walk by faith” (2 Cor 5:7).

To walk by faith there must, in the very nature of the case, be a stripping off of all that the outer man of the senses clings to, demands, craves as a security and an assurance.

When the spiritual life of God’s people is in the ascendant, they are not overwhelmed by either the absence of human resources on the one hand, or by the presence of humanly overwhelming odds against them on the other hand.

This is patent in their history as recorded in the Scriptures. But it is also true that when the spiritual life is weak, undeveloped, or at an ebb, they look round for some tangible, seen resource upon which to fasten. Egypt is the alternative to God whenever and wherever spiritual life is low. To believe in and trust to the intuitive leadings of the Holy Spirit in our spirit, even though all is so different from the ways of men, and even though such brings us to a Canaan which for the time being is full of idolatry and where a mighty famine reigns: where all is so contrary to what our outer man has decided must be in keeping with a leading and a promise of God; to leave our old, sphere of life in the “world”, to break with our kindred, our father’s house, for this—this! and then to have to wait through much continuous stripping off of those means, and methods, and habits, and judgments, which are the very constitution of the natural man—this is the law of the spiritual walk, but this is God’s chosen and appointed way of the mightiest vindication. Spiritual children and riches, and fruitfulness, and service, permanence, and the friendship of God, are for such Abrahams of faith or such children of Abraham in the spirit. God has laid a faith-basis for His superstructure of spiritual glory, and only that which is built upon such a foundation can serve spiritual ends. Let this be the test of our walk in all personal, domestic, business and Church affairs. Here, again, we have a principle which, if applied, would be revolutionary, and would call for the abandonment of a tremendous amount of carnal, natural, worldly stuff in our resources and methods. “Faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:26). True, but the works of faith—of the spirit—are not those of the flesh; the two realms are not comparable. The walk in the flesh is one thing, but the walk in the Spirit is quite another. The things of the Spirit are foolishness to the flesh. Men of faith see what others do not, and act accordingly. This also being true of men who have lost their reason, the two are often confused, and the children of the flesh think the children of the spirit mad or insane. They are unable to discriminate between even the insanity of men and “the foolishness of God”, which is “wiser than men” (1 Cor 1:25).

Abraham was fortified by his faith, but his walk by faith was intensely practical, though so different from the walk in the flesh. A writer has said that faith brings us into difficulties which are unknown to men who walk in the flesh, or who never go out in faith. But such difficulties place us beyond the power of the flesh to help, and make special Divine revelations necessary, and God always takes advantage of such times to give such needed education of the spirit. It is thus that the men of the spirit are taught and come to know God as no others know Him. Thus, faith is the law of the walk of the new man—the inner man—which brings him by successive stages into the very heart of God, Who crowns this progress with the matchless designation, “my friend”! (Isa 61:8).

One other thing in general has to be mentioned. The new man of the spirit has to learn a new speech. There is the language of the spirit, and he will have to realize increasingly that speech with “enticing words of man’s wisdom”, or what man calls “excellency of speech” (1 Cor 2:1,4), will avail nothing in spiritual service. If all the religious speech and preaching and talking about the gospel which goes on in one week were the utterance of the Holy Spirit, what a tremendous impact of God upon the world would be registered! But it is obviously not so and this impact is not felt. It is impossible to speak in and by the Holy Spirit without something happening which is related to eternity. But this capacity belongs only to the “born of the Spirit” ones, whose spirits have been joined to the Lord, and even they have to learn how to cease from their own words and speak as they are moved by the Holy Spirit. It is a part of the education of the inner man to have his outer man slain in the matter of speech, and to be brought to the state to which Jeremiah was brought—”I cannot speak; for I am a child” (Jer 1:6). Not only as sinners have we to be crucified with Christ, but as preachers, or speakers, or talkers. The circumcision of Christ, which Paul says is the cutting off of the whole body of the flesh, has to be applied to our lips, and our spirit has to be so much in dominion that, on all matters where God cannot be glorified, we “cannot speak”. A natural facility of speech is no strength in itself to spiritual ministry; it may be a positive menace. It is a stage of real spiritual development when there is a genuine fear of speaking, unless it is in words “which the Holy Ghost teacheth” (1 Cor 2:13). On the other hand a natural inability to speak need be no handicap. To be present “in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling” (1 Cor 2:3), may be a state which befits an apostolic, nay, rather, a Holy Spirit ministry. The utterance of God is a very different thing in every way from that of man. How much is said in the Scriptures about “conversation”, “the tongue”, “words” etc., and ever with the emphasis that these are to be in charge of the spirit, and not merely expressions of the soul in any of its departments!

If it is true that only the quickened spirit can receive Divine revelation, it is equally true that such revelation requires a Divine gift of utterance in order to realize its spiritual end. It is possible to preach truth without the preacher having any spiritual apprehension of it; that is, from a merely mental apprehension. The preaching may be just natural ability; but the grievous fact may be that neither the one who preaches nor those to whom he preaches will be in the good of the living and working values of the truth. The spiritual results are hardly worth the effort and expenditure. The virtue of speech resulting in abiding fruit to the glory of God, whether that speech be preaching, teaching, conversation, prayer, is not in its lucidity, eloquence, subtlety, cleverness, wit, thoughtfulness, passion, earnestness, forcefulness, pathos, etc., but in that it is an utterance of the Holy Ghost.

“Thy speech betrayeth thee” may be applied in many ways, for whether we live in the flesh or in the spirit, in the natural man or in the spiritual man, will always be made manifest by how we speak and the spiritual effect of the fruit of our lips.

Oh, for crucified lips amongst God’s people, and oh, for lips among God’s prophets, touched with the blood-soaked, fire-charged coal from that one great altar of Calvary!

“What is Man? Chapter 4 – The Nature of Sanctification
April 9, 2013, 11:13 am
Filed under: 1G - T. Austin Sparks "What is Man?"

What is Man?
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 4 – The Nature of Sanctification

While we cannot extend ourselves to a comprehensive consideration of the subject of sanctification, we are sure that a very great deal of confusion through false conceptions would be removed if it were seen in the light of the difference between soul and spirit. For, indeed, this is the key of the matter. As sanctification is but the continuation of regeneration, because regeneration is but sanctification begun, it has to be seen as in the same sphere as new birth. We have said that in new birth it is not the soul but the spirit that is born from above—or born again.

The soul remains prone to evil to the end. This fact constitutes the basis for the whole doctrine of sanctification, inasmuch as the New Testament is one big exhortation to spiritual progress by spiritual ascendancy. There is ever an enemy to holiness in man’s own nature, and holiness in us is not fixed and static, it is progressive. All trial, testing, chastening and suffering lose their meaning if there is no ground or fear of failure. Enlargement has ever been, and ever is, by conflict. There has only been One in Whose nature there existed no actual and positive evil or sin.

The question of sanctification has been greatly confused because certain Scriptures have been made basic which really were not meant primarily to deal with sanctification in itself.

The Problem of Romans 7 and 1 John, etc.

For instance, we have Romans 7, and the first Letter of John. We cannot quote the entire text, but we extract the salient parts.

“…the law is spiritual: but I am carnal… For that which I do I know not: for not what I would, that do I practise; but what I hate, that I do… I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me, but to do that which is good is not”. “…I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity under the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me out of the body of this death? (or, this body of death). I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then I myself with the mind serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus that the ordinance of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit… They that are after the spirit (do mind) the things of the spirit… the mind of the spirit is life and peace… But ye are… in the spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you… If Christ is in you… the spirit is life because of righteousness… If by the spirit ye do mortify the deeds of the body ye shall live” (Rom 7,8).

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us”. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive… If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us”. “Everyone that doeth sin doeth also lawlessness”. “Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither knoweth him”. “He that doeth sin is of the devil”. “Whosoever is begotten of God doeth no sin, because his seed abideth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is begotten of God”. (1 John 1:8,9,10; 3:4,6,8,9).

On the face of it, these last Scriptures appear to present a contradiction of the first magnitude, but as the Word of God cannot contradict itself there must be some way in which they are all true.

But first let us repeat that these Scriptures were not written in the first instance in connection with sanctification. Romans 7 was written in relation to justification and deliverance from the law. 1 John was written in relation to a true and a false Christianity, the genuine new birth, and the claim of some to be Christians. The two categories are represented by two clauses or phrases: “We know”; “He that saith”. One indicates living experience, the other the unsubstantiated claim. Apostasy was in view with John.

But in both cases one thing is common; it is the nature of the new birth and its outworking in life afterward. Sanctification comes up as one with regeneration in nature, but as the issue and progressive outworking of regeneration. We cannot therefore read Romans 7 without going on into Chapter 8, and we cannot read 1 John without noting all of its governing words, such as “walk”, “abide”, “practise”. We will touch that again.

The Place in Experience of Romans 7

We must first of all place this chapter. To what part of man’s history or experience does it belong? Is it the experience of one who has no inward work of the Holy Spirit, or is it that of one who has been spiritually quickened? We think that it is the latter. There are several reasons for this conclusion. Firstly, the letter was written to believers, amongst whom were Jewish converts whose clean cut with the law had not been made, and who, on the one hand, were in a state of unsettled and restless or uncertain spiritual life, really neither one thing nor the other as to daily experience, failing and repenting, failing and repenting in monotonous repetition, and almost despairing of victory; and, on the other hand, needing further enlightenment and instruction as to what being “in Christ Jesus” really means. They were not in liberty or deliverance because of an inadequate apprehension of the death and resurrection of Christ; that is, of its representative aspect as in addition to its substitutionary. Secondly, Paul, having already stated what identification with Christ really means (Chapter 6), goes on to show that its result is to draw a line between the flesh and the spirit in the believer, and makes the demand that the “walk” shall be in the spirit. Failure to do this always produces the state set forth in Chapter 7. It was a condition not uncommon amongst Christians even in New Testament times, as see 1 Corinthians and Galatians, and which drew out the mass of New Testament writings.

The Effect of Spiritual Awakening

Thirdly (and this is a fairly strong point) writing many years later the Apostle said that in his unregenerate days his position as to the righteousness which is of the law was “found blameless” (see Phil 3). He puts himself into Romans 7 and there says that the law was too much for him; it smote him; it slew him; he could not stand up to it. Under its burden he cried “O wretched man”, not “found blameless”. Something must have happened to disturb his complacency and make him such a divided man with civil war raging within. In the unregenerate man conscience was hiding behind the ritual and observance of the law. Rigid observance of its forms and rites made conscience play deceiving tricks; saying peace, peace, when there was no peace. But when the time of spiritual awakening comes, this kind of thing can go on no longer. It cannot play deceit any more, and, while there may be some flirting with sin on the part of the soul, the awakened and quickened spirit hates and loathes its own soul and calls a spade a spade—that is, calls sin sin! Instead of treating the ceremonial law as an offset to the moral, it sees that the latter is the important one, and that “to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Sam 15:22).

Two Possible Evils—Romans 7, or Antinomianism

Unless the meaning and value of the death and resurrection of Christ is known, and the truth of identification by faith therewith, one of two terrible things will follow. Either there will be a history such as is set forth in Romans 7, a history of struggle, longing and defeat: fear of going back on faith in Christ, and yet deep disappointment with the Christian life: leading ever nearer to despair and gloom; or else there will set in that terrible, conscious-searing, spirit-deadening evil known as antinomianism. It might be useful to state here what that doctrine is. The word is—anti, against, and nomos, law. The term was first used by Luther as a designation of the followers of John Agricola, who maintained that the moral law was not binding, as such, upon Christians. But the thing itself existed long before Luther’s time or the name given to it. From the earliest Christian times, there have been those who have denied that the law was of use or obligation under the Gospel dispensation. It would appear from several passages in the New Testament (Rom 3:8,31; 6:1; Eph 5:6; 2 Peter 2:18,19), that the principle was at work even in Apostolic times, for in those passages the Apostles warn their converts against perversions of their teaching as an excuse for licentiousness. At the heart of this doctrine there lies a mistaken interpretation of the doctrine of justification by faith. Some have in the past even taught that, being spiritual, their nature could not be corrupted, whatever their moral conduct might be; or that an elect person did not sin even when he committed actions in themselves evil.

Now, no one would sponsor such a doctrine deliberately, but the principle may operate all the same. Justification by faith: having finality and fullness of perfection in Christ: Final Perseverance, i.e. once in grace always in grace: and suchlike beliefs, can—strange to say—produce a hard and legal kind of Christianity if wrongly held, and result in many things which may be either positively evil, questionable, or other than according to the graciousness of Christ.

Two Doctrines of Sanctification

From the Scriptures it is possible to frame two mutually exclusive doctrines of sanctification. One is that our sanctification is in Christ Jesus, complete and perfect, and, having taken Him as our holiness objectively, we must just trust that He answers for us in all Divine demands and requirements. We in ourselves are not holy, and it can only be contrary to faith, and an unhealthy introspection or subjectivity, if we become intensely occupied with the matter of personal holiness. We must believe that His Cross has done something which holds good in the sight of God in spite of our state, and “looking unto Jesus”, or the attitude of faith, is the way, and the only way, of deliverance from despair or unrest. We have no hesitation in saying that such is a mixed and indefinite position. It uses certain glorious truths to obscure other equally glorious truths. This is a position which makes it necessary for those who hold it to keep ever on their guard lest their defences are broken down. They are always having to go round to see if their position is intact. It really does not settle the question when they either fall into sin and its resultant shame, or meet another and more desirable position in teaching, or those who have it. They know that they cannot accept an alternative position which to them goes to the other extreme, and so they have to dig themselves into that which is not perfectly satisfactory.

The other doctrine is that which, with varying forms of words and phraseology, and minor shades of differences, means that sanctification is the rooting out, eradication, cleansing, destroying of all sin, so that a sanctified person does not sin, and cannot sin; the sin nature has been fully dealt with. To those who hold this view, sanctification—in this sense here mentioned—is an act, a conclusive experience at a given moment, just as is new birth; and it is to be taken as such by faith.

Here, again, we have to say that there is mixture and a position which has brought a very great number of believers into confusion and despair. We say that both of these positions have Scripture used for their support, and when you look at the Scriptures, on the face of them, there seems to be such support.

The passages cited from John’s Epistle appear to present a contradiction:

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us”.
“He that doeth sin is of the devil”.
“Whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither knoweth him”.
“Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not”.
“Whosoever is begotten of God doeth no sin:… he cannot sin”.

These words must be regarded as all addressed to Christians. This seems proved by Chapter 1:7: “If we walk in the light… the blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth (Gk., cleanses, or is cleansing; present active tense) us from all sin”.

Here, then, is the position. A child of God has to walk in the light, confess his sins, acknowledge sinfulness, and, as he does so, the Blood keeps on cleansing. At the same time “He that doeth sin is of the devil”, and “Whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither knoweth him”. And yet, again, at the same time “Whosoever is begotten of God doeth no sin…he cannot sin”.

The usual way through the apparent dilemma is to correct the translation, and this is certainly a help; but it does not give anything like a final clearance. Let us get the help that lies in that course by trying to retranslate the passages more accurately and literally. The reader of the English will understand that different Greek words are used for one common English word in certain places, and certain Greek words mean more than the English word employed for them.

(1 John 2:29) “Everyone that practiseth (or, is practising) righteousness is begotten of him”.

(1 John 3:4) “Everyone who practiseth (or, is practising)* iniquity practiseth lawlessness”.
*FOOTNOTE: A.T. Robertson says: “The present active principle (poion) means the habit of doing”.

(1 John 3:6) “Whosoever abideth in him does not wander from (or, miss) the right path” (“sinneth not”, Gk. harmartano = to miss the mark or the right way). Or, “Whosoever abideth in him is not missing the mark”.

(1 John 3:7) “He that doeth (or, is practising) righteossness is righteous”.

(1 John 3:9) “Whosoever hath been born of God is not practising sin (or, is not missing the mark) because a seed of him abideth in him and he cannot be practising sin” (moral aberration).

The help given by a knowledge of the actual words employed lies mainly in the word ‘practise’ as representing both an habitual course and a present—ever-present—conduct.

The Real Key to Sanctification

But all this does not settle the whole matter. We therefore submit that the key to this dilemma is the difference between soul and spirit. We have said that what begins in regeneration proceeds in sanctification. The carry-over of the atonement as a sanctifying power is thus: there is in the born-again spirit a striving after holiness as well as a new desire for the Lord. When the spirit is renewed and quickened, something happens. That spirit itself is that in man which is the image or likeness of God (spirit). It has been dead—that is, it has been severed from its life in God, and has ceased to function in any Divine way. The Holy Spirit, in virtue of the atonement, first renews it by cleansing and quickening, and also imparts Divine life (eternal life) in Christ to it, thus making it one in nature and fellowship with God. The spirit, when thus dealt with, is that seed or has that seed of God which is said by the Apostle to be unable to practise sin—”cannot sin”. This new ‘inner man’ cannot be committing or practising sin. The dilemma of many is that there are two natures and two springs of life in believers. One gives forth sweet water and the other bitter, and the Bible says that a fountain cannot do this. “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?” (Jer 13:23). Therefore there must be two fountains.

The soul, which is the fountain of the natural life, is poisoned and impure. It is ever prone to evil, like the “flesh” in it. The soul is that which has to be continually subdued, won and eventually saved (Heb 10:39, etc.).

The renewed spirit is prone to good; its course is naturally upward. The life in it makes it gravitate to its source—God. It judges and condemns all the motions of the flesh. It strives, as energized by the indwelling Holy Spirit, to make the whole man go Godward. Its nature is Divine, although it does not become the Divine Person. It is here that “there is a new creation” (2 Cor 5:17), and that which “is being renewed… after the image of him that created him” (Col 3:10).

As we have pointed out elsewhere, this is all a deeper reality than the life and motions of the soul, and registers itself continually against ourselves in the natural. There are stages in spiritual experience, more or less pronounced in different cases for certain reasons. The first phase may be a great and overflowing joy, with a marvellous sense of emancipation. In this phase extravagant things are often said as to total deliverance and final victory. An earnest of the ultimate is often given with the incoming of the Holy Spirit. He is that earnest, and His advent in the human spirit is celebrated with glory.

Then there may, and often does, come a phase of which inward conflict is the chief feature. It may be very much of a Romans 7 experience. This will lead under the Lord’s hand to several things; firstly, to the fuller knowledge of the meaning of identification with Christ, as in Romans 6. Happy the man who has been instructed in this from the beginning.

Sanctification and Education go Together

Then it will introduce to the way of spiritual education. Sanctification and spiritual education are one, as Hebrews 7:1-13 makes clear. The advance in this double course is marked by the growth of the spirit. When the spirit is first quickened, it is barely able to show its existence. It is far from able to show its mastery over soul and body. The advance of sanctification is marked by a growth of the spirit. It begins to assert its supremacy, to compel the physical and animal life to know their bounds, and to obey God. The more sanctification advances, the more marked is the spiritual intelligence, power and life, until at last it reaches its coming-of-age in “the revealing of the sons of God… conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom 8:19,29). This education and sanctification is the result of walking, “not after the flesh, but after the spirit”. Such a walk leads away from carnality and babyhood, as 1 Corinthians 3 shows.

There may be crises in this course marked by definite and tremendous experiences. But no such crisis is final: every one has to have an outgrowth leading to greater fullnesses. It is fatal to relate everything to a crisis or experience of years ago, and to stop there. So the distinction between soul and spirit is the true key to sanctification, for sanctification must not be negative like innocence, but positive in the sense that it goes along with spiritual understanding and responsibility. Sonship, which is all of a piece with sanctification (see Rom 8) is a matter of spiritual and moral responsibility in God’s house. We are born “children”; we are adopted “sons”. “Adoption” in the New Testament is not bringing an outsider into the family, but the born one reaching his majority and being made his father’s responsible representative with ‘rights’. Romans 7 has to do with condemnation by the law, and the big question is that of deliverance from the death which has become such a real, terrible and intolerable thing because of spiritual awakening. Romans 6 shows that such deliverance from death and condemnation, is by union with Christ’s death and resurrection. Romans 8 transfers the law from the outside as an obligation imposed, to the inside as a power imparted. Thus, in the spirit, the new covenant is written by the Spirit of the living God (2 Cor 3 & 4).

It will help us if we get Paul’s mental picture again. He had in mind the gladiators in the arena. (Remember, the letter was to the Romans, and familiar scenes in Rome were drawn upon.) When the victorious gladiator had been given the ‘thumb-down’ signal from the judge, which meant ‘kill’, it was incumbent upon him to drag his victim’s body round the arena for the spectators to applaud. It was a horrible and loathsome thing, and the one who had to do it would be longing to reach the exit. Paul imagined such an one saying to himself, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from this dead body?” and then, espying an exit, he cried, ‘Thank God, through here!’ This was carried over into Christian truth, and the way out for the “wretched man” was “through our Lord Jesus Christ”. This has been more fully explained as being through His death, burial and resurrection. So then, the death of Christ is something to be made good in a believer’s life by the Holy Spirit, through faith’s deliberate identification. Then the resurrection of Christ is likewise proved to be a present mighty, delivering power; or the power by which the believer, by the spirit, puts to death the doings of the flesh.

“What is Man? Chapter 3 – Where Psychology Fails
April 8, 2013, 11:05 pm
Filed under: 1G - T. Austin Sparks "What is Man?"

What is Man?
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 3 – Where Psychology Fails

Many who read this will be familiar with the position of psychology, and it is just here that we find that point which makes all the difference between the natural, which keeps God out, and the spiritual, which gives Him His full place. For here we find that the scriptural description of man runs entirely counter to the conclusions of ‘scientific’ psychology. We have observed that the psychologist will not allow the threefold description of man as spirit, soul and body, but only soul—or mind—and body. But still, the psychologist has to confess to the existence of a third element. He recognizes it, finds his chief interest and occupation with it, builds up a whole system of experimentation around it, and often borders on calling it by its right name. But to do so would be to give too much away; and Satan, who has the mind of the natural man well on leash, sees to it that in this, as in other matters, just the word is not used. The psychologist, therefore, recoils and calls the extra factor ‘the subconscious mind’, or ‘the subjective mind’, or ‘the subliminal self’, or ‘the secondary personality’, etc.

Listen to some of the things which indicate the length to which such teachers go:

‘The soul consists of two parts, the one being addicted to the truth, and loving honesty and reason; the other brutish, deceitful, sensuous’.

Or again:

‘There is a schism in the soul’.

‘The existence of a schism in the soul is not a mere dogma of theology, but a fact of science’.

‘Man is endowed with two minds, each of which is capable of independent action, and they are capable of simultaneous action; but, in the main, they possess independent powers and perform independent functions. The distinctive faculties of one pertain to this life: those of the other are especially adapted to a higher plane of existence. I distinguish them by designating one as the objective mind, and the other as the subjective mind’.

‘Whatever faculties are found to exist in the subjective mind of any sentient being, necessarily existed potentially in the ancestry of that being, near or remote. It is a corollary that whatever faculties we may find to exist in the subjective mind of man must necessarily exist in its possibility, potentially, in the mind of God the Father’. (All italics ours.)

When we read things like this, two things press for exclamation: first, Oh, why not call it by its right name! The other: What a tragedy that pagan philosophers should have been their sphere of research and that the Bible should have been set aside! It may be thought that it does not matter much what you call it if you get hold of the thing itself. But we hold that it is vital to read that we are dealing with two things which are absolutely distinct and separate, and not with two sides of one thing. It is error to speak of soul-union or soul-communion with God, for there is no such thing. ‘Divine union’ is with spirit. “He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit” (1 Cor 6:17), and however highly developed the soul-life is, there is no ‘Divine union’ until the spirit has been brought back to its right place and condition.

This opens a further big question:

What is it that is Born Again?

This experience is said by Christ to be imperative (John 3:3,5,etc.).

Nicodemus stumbled over the physical question, but was soon told that “that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit”. Firstly, then, and obviously, it is not the body that is born anew. But neither is it the soul! “The sinful body of the flesh was destroyed” (Rom 6:6), and “they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Gal 5:24). The passages similar to these are too many to quote, but look up “flesh”, “old man”, “natural man”, etc. The answer to the question is emphatically that new birth is the requickening of the human spirit by the Spirit of God, an imparting to it of Divine life, and thus a re-uniting of man with God by one life in the inward man. This, of course, is solely on the ground of Christ’s resurrection, and is the believer’s union with Him therein; implying that all the meaning of His death as atoning, substitutionary and representative, has been accepted by faith, although perhaps not understood. From that time it is “in newness of the spirit” (Rom 7:6). The soul may still be capable of its erstwhile fears, doubts, questionings, feelings, etc., showing that it is not a new soul: but there is something deeper than all this, and God is greater than our souls. That which is the truest thing about the new-born is often deeper than consciousness, and although the soul, and even the body, may derive good and enjoy the blessing, God will seek to wean us as babes from the sensations to the fact and to Himself. Such as must have, and demand, in the senses continuous evidence of their new life will not grow up spiritually, but will remain babes. More on this later. Seeing that we have seemed to give the soul such a completely secondary place, we must hasten to the third question.

What is the Place of the Soul?

What have we said and inferred as to the soul? We have indicated that it was with his soul that Adam sinned. The result of this was that it is with the soul that the evil powers have become allied. Further, a consequence is that man has become pre-eminently a soulical being as against a spiritual; that is, soul dominates. Thus man is in a disrupted state, and represents an upsetting of a Divine order. This is only one part of a much wider derangement through Adam’s sin. In the new creation in Christ the principles of the true Divine order are re-established. The spirit quickened, raised, indwelt and united with Christ is set to be the organ of Divine government over the rest of man, soul and body. In a truly spiritual or born-anew person, the soul and body will not have a place of pre-eminence, but in their right place will be very fruitful and useful servants and instruments. By his soul, man functions in two directions—from within to without, and from without to within. The soul is the plane and organ of human life and communication. Even Divine things, which cannot in the first instance be grasped or known by the soul, if they are to become practical in human life, must have an organ constituted to interpret, translate and make intelligible to humans. Thus, what is received by the spirit alone with its peculiar faculties (see later) is translated for practical purposes, firstly to the recipient himself, and then to other humans, by means of the soul. This may be by an enlightened mind for truth (reason); a filled heart, with joy or love etc., for comfort and uplift (emotion); or energized will for action or execution (volition). But it must ever be borne in mind that to really serve Divine ends and to be of eternal value this does not come in the first instance from our own souls, but from God to, and through, our spirits. It must be truth by revelation (Eph 1:17,18 R.V.) not firstly of our own reasoning; joy and love by the Holy Spirit, not our own emotion; energy and strength in Christ, not our own drive and force of will. When these latter obtain, then again the Divine order is upset, a false position exists, and the fruit will perish, although it may seem very good for the time being.

Then, as to the opposite direction. The soul can recognize, appreciate, register and apprehend everything of this world in the measure of its capacity, natural or acquired. All this can stop there and be exhausted upon itself, or it can be brought on to the higher ground and regulated so as to be transmuted into spiritual value (which is eternal), made completely subservient in life, or rejected. The spirit will thus, by its touch with God, dictate as to what is good or evil, or only seemingly good. The soul does not know this of itself. It must have a spiritual organ with spiritual intelligence, conveying Divine standards.

Why is it that so many of the most artistic, poetic and soulish people have been and are so morally defective, degenerate, lustful, jealous and vainglorious? Why is it that dictators whose ego is so all-else-obscuring, are so godless and God-defiant? Why is it that so many great intellectuals are so proud, arrogant and often infidel? Well, the answer is obvious. All this is soul! They know nothing of a balancing, adjudicating spirit-union with God, and therefore their own souls are the last word in every matter. It is not that they all dismiss God from the universe, for they sometimes refer to Him. But there is no correspondence between Him and them, and He exists to no practical moral purpose where they are concerned. We leave this just for the present.

We have sought to show that the soul as a servant—not a master—can, and should, be very fruitful and useful in relation to a superior organ. And thus, when we speak of people being ‘soulish’, we only mean that soul predominates, not that soul is wrong or necessarily evil. Divine order is always a law of Divine fulness.*

FOOTNOTE: See Appendix—note on “Natural Man” and “Old Man”.

At the same time, we would be careful to point out that the soul is a very responsible servant. Indeed, the human ego—the ‘I’—as a conscious and rational self-life, has to answer to God for its submission or vaunting of itself; its ‘laying down of its own life’, or its exalting and asserting of itself beyond its measure and province. Hence “the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Eze 18:4) was God’s dictum, and still is. Altogether apart from a renewed spirit by new birth, there is a responsibility for God’s Word.

In this connection, certain things must be made clear, as clear as possible. While it may not be possible for an unregenerate person to do the revealed will of God, because for this the enablement of the Holy Spirit is essential, yet to such and all others that revealed will makes an appeal and a demand. This may only be to the extent of taking an attitude to be made willing and able. But, as morally responsible creatures, that obligation rests upon us whenever the word of God is presented.

Then with regard to those who are the Lord’s people, there is no such thing as an extra spirituality or revelation, which sets God’s Word on one side or transcends it. If God says a thing in the Scriptures, that thing stands, and we stand or fall by it. By spiritual illumination we may come into much fuller meaning of the Scriptures and see God’s thoughts and intents behind them. But that does not suspend their practical obligation, provided that we are in the dispensation to which they apply practically. We have met a certain type of Christian who, claiming to be acting according to the spirit in relation to the will of God, has been guilty of the most flagrant contradiction of the most obvious and elementary obligations of honesty, righteousness, good faith, trustworthiness and humility.

Sometimes a subtle mental evasion is betrayed by the attempted justification of a course contrary to the Word of God in ‘Yes, but the devil can quote Scripture’. It seems incredible; had we not been met by this sort of thing we would feel it too unbelievable to mention. It is, however, something which touches our very subject. Let us ask, How often does Satan try to turn an unregenerate person away from Christ by using Scripture? Have you ever heard of his doing so? It must be the most remote case if you have. No; it is those who are truly God’s children with whom he employs the method of using the Word of God. Why is this? It is because he has something very much deeper in view. Let us get at it by taking Christ’s own case.

When Satan assailed Christ, our Lord met him with “It is written”. In effect, Satan said (within himself): ‘Oh, that is your ground, is it? Very well, then—”It is written, he shall give his angels charge concerning thee”,’ etc. He at once sought to defeat Christ on His own ground. What was his real point of attack? The Lord Jesus had definitely and deliberately taken up the position that He would have and do nothing for or of Himself, but that all should be held in relation to the Father and therefore only by the Father’s permission; yes, all things utterly and only for God, and self-interest, soul-gratification, utterly set aside. The thing most likely to move Him from such a position of abandonment to God would be to support any proposed movement or course by the very Word of God itself. It would be useless to say to the Son of God, the last Adam: “Yea, hath God said?” But to say “God hath said” is much more subtle. It is the question of spirit (in union with God) or soul (in self-direction) that is ever the point of Satan’s efforts. If Satan quotes Scripture, it is to destroy inward union with God. But the Word of God itself never leads to that; and no one would ever defend a course contrary to the clear Word of God with the rejoinder that ‘the devil can quote Scripture’, or even have such a thing in their mind, unless they were in themselves wanting to go a certain way. How our soul-life will defend and save itself! But how necessary it is for our own deliverance from our deceitful heart that we are so subject to God that we are alive to the nature and implication of the snare. We have here touched the key to the whole question of the place of the soul. Two things have got to happen to it. Firstly, it has got to be smitten a fatal blow by the death of Christ as to its self-strength and government. As with Jacob’s thigh or the sinew thereof after God had touched it and he went to the end of his life with a limp; so for ever there has to be registered in the soul the fact that it cannot and it must not: God has broken its power. Then, as an instrument, it has to be “won”, mastered and ruled in relation to the higher and different ways of God. It is spoken of so frequently in the Scriptures as being some thing over which we have to gain and exercise an authority. For instance:

“In your patience ye shall win your souls” (Luke 21:19).

“Ye have purified your souls in your obedience to the truth” (1 Peter 1:22). “The end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:9).

We must be careful that, in recognizing the fact that the soul has been seduced, led captive, darkened and poisoned with a self-interest, we do not regard it as something to be annihilated and destroyed in this life. This would be but asceticism, a form of Buddhism. The result of any such behaviour is usually only another form of soulishness in an exaggerated degree; perhaps occultism. Our whole human nature is in our souls, and if nature is suppressed in one direction she will take revenge in another. This is just what is the trouble with a great many people if only they knew it. There is a difference between a life of suppression and a life of service. Submission, subjection and servanthood in Christ’s case, as to the Father, was not a life of soul-destruction, but of rest and delight. Slavery in its bad sense is the lot of those who live wholly in their own souls. We need to revise our ideas about service, for it is becoming more and more common to think that service is bondage and slavery; when really it is a Divine thing. Spirituality is not a life of suppression. That is negative. Spirituality is positive; it is a new and extra life, not the old one striving to get the mastery of itself. The soul has to be taken in charge and made to learn the new and higher wisdom. Whether we are able yet to accept it or not, the fact is that if we are going on with God fully, all the soul’s energies and abilities for knowing, understanding, sensing and doing will come to an end, and we shall—on that side—stand bewildered, dazed, numbed and impotent. Then, only a new, other, and Divine understanding, constraint, and energy will send us forward or keep us going. At such times we shall have to say to our souls, “My soul, be thou silent unto God” (Psa 62:5); “My soul… hope thou in God” (Psa 62:5); and ‘My soul, come thou with me to follow the Lord’. But what joy and strength there is when, the soul having been constrained to yield to the spirit, the higher wisdom and glory is perceived in its vindication. Then it is that “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour” (Luke 1:46). The spirit hath, the soul doth—note the tenses.

So that unto fullness of joy the soul is essential, and it must be brought through the darkness and death of its own ability to learn the higher and deeper realities for which the spirit is the first organ and faculty.

No; do not live a life of suppressing your soul, nor despising it; but be strong in spirit, so that your soul may be won, saved and made to serve your fullest joy. The Lord Jesus desires that we should find rest unto our souls, and this, He says, comes by way of His yoke—the symbol of union and service.

The soul, like some people, will find its greatest value in service, not as a master. It wants to be the latter, but it is blind to the limitations which God has imposed upon it. It thinks that it can, but God says it “cannot”. But, in its place, with the self-interest lying under the ban of Christ’s death, it can be a very useful servant.


“Natural Man” and “Old Man”

A distinction has been made by a certain writer between the “Natural Man” and the “Old Man”. It is said that the “Old Man” is totally depraved, without ‘a single feature that is of God’, but that the “Natural Man” bears traces of that which is of God, eg. ‘natural affection, kindness, and often a great measure of truth and uprightness in dealing with his fellows’. This distinction or division of man is the basis of the contention between the humanist and the ‘total depravity’-ist. Our point in what has been written here is that, while the soul is not necessarily evil as a part of man’s being, there are two things about it which put it altogether outside of the humanistic realm of self-salvation or merit before God:

(1) It is under the rule of “vanity” (Rom 8:20) and the great “cannot” of 1 Corinthians 2:14.

(2) The soul is the point in man which, through its complicity with them, has become allied to the evil powers; and only when man’s spirit is quickened and renewed does he really know how terrible that alliance is.