A Living Hope
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 1 - A New Hope

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy begat us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, unto an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who by the power of God are guarded through faith..." (1 Pet. 1:3-5).

"I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and fill up on my part that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body's sake, which is the church; whereof I was made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which was given to you-ward, to fulfil the word of God, even the mystery which has been hid from all ages and generations, but now has it been manifested to his saints, to whom God was pleased to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the nations (Gentiles), which is Christ in you, the hope of glory; whom we proclaim, admonishing every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ" (Col. 1:24-28).

"A living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ...". "This mystery which is Christ in you, the hope of glory". A living hope - the hope of glory.

We have to put these two fragments together in order to understand the real meaning of the 'hope' referred to. For Peter, the resurrection of the Lord Jesus was an experience which opened up for him an entirely new prospect. The context of that, 'a living hope', gives us just a little of the prospect that the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead had brought to Peter. "An inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, that doesn't fade away" - that is what opened up for him with the resurrection of Christ. To Paul, the resurrection of Christ was the very heart of the mystery which had been hid from all generations, but was now revealed.

Peter as Representative

We look first at Peter in this connection. As Peter sits down to write this letter to the "elect scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia" he finds himself caught up at once in a doxology: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath begotten us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." And perhaps Peter, of all men, had cause for a doxology over the resurrection of Jesus! 

But we take Peter as representative of all those who had become followers of the Lord Jesus in the days of His flesh; not only of the twelve, but evidently quite a large number beyond the twelve. There were the seventy and, beyond the seventy, many more who followed Jesus, and had some attachment to Him. Peter can be taken as, in a very real sense, representative of them all. 

We are thinking at this moment particularly of the effect of the Cross upon him, and upon them all; the utter devastation, and then the despair, that the Cross of the Lord Jesus brought upon them. We are told they were "all scattered abroad"; and we know how, even before the Cross became an actuality, any reference to it brought a terrible reaction. From time to time the Lord did just make some mention of His coming death, and, as He did so, many went away (John 6:66). Then again, others said, "This is a hard saying; who can hear it?" (John 6:60). Apparently off they went as well. The very thought and prospect of the Cross was impossible of acceptance. When it came, Peter, as the very centre of that whole company, is found most vehemently denying with a terrible denial, any association with Christ, just because of the cross; and they all shared that, even if not in word and in the same form of expression, for we are told that "all the disciples forsook Him and fled" (Matt. 26:56). And He had said to them: "You will all leave Me" (John 16:32) and it became true.

Then we meet them after His crucifixion. We meet those two on the Emmaus road, the very embodiment of despair. For them, everything had gone and was shattered. All their hopes, and their hope, were eclipsed - "We had trusted..." (Luke 24:21), or "We had hoped that it had been He that should redeem Israel." Now, everything was gone, and the hope laid in His grave.

From time to time we meet Thomas, and we know what Thomas thought about the Cross. He again was in the grip of an awful despair and hopelessness: loss of faith and loss of assurance. As we move through those forty days after the resurrection, we find the Lord repeatedly having to upbraid and rebuke them. They believed not, it says, "because of their unbelief" (Matt. 17:20 AV). "Some doubted" (Mark 16:11,13,14). We can see what a shock the Cross had been. I have not used too strong a word when I have said that the Cross was nothing less than a devastation for every follower of the Lord Jesus. And right at the heart of them all was Peter; we could say that it was all concentrated in him; it must have been, in view of what he had done. Put yourself in his place, and see if you would have any more hope for anything, or for yourself. No!

The One Supreme Essential

Now, there were forty days of this: forty days of appearances, disappearances; coming and going; a steady build-up of the fact that He was risen; overcoming day by day that despair and that unbelief, building up a new hope. But even after forty days of all that, the most vital thing is still lacking. You might think, 'Well, given all that, they have enough to go on'. But no: the most vital thing, even at that point, is still lacking. What is it? It is Christ within! Hence the restraint: "Tarry ye in Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). Do not move yet. With all that you have, you really have not yet got the vital thing, the essential thing. And that thing is Christ IN you, the hope of glory. Christ in you!

That is why the apostles were so particular as to converts receiving the Holy Spirit before ever they felt assurance about their conversion. Thus, there were all the reports about things happening in Samaria. Had not the Lord said that they would be witnesses unto Him in Samaria (Acts 1:8)? The report comes back of things happening, of people turning to the Lord, real conversions taking place in large numbers. Why not be satisfied with the report? It is a good report, and there is surely no reason to doubt it. But no, the apostles are not just satisfied with that. They sent down from Jerusalem, and when they were come down, they laid their hands upon them (Acts 8:14-17), that they might receive the Holy Spirit. Now see again and again how that happens. For them, things were not really settled until they were sure that Christ was on the inside, that Christ was in them; which is the same thing as 'receiving the Holy Spirit', the Spirit of Jesus. That is why the Lord said, 'Tarry; do not move yet!' And that is why the apostles were so meticulous on this matter of 'receiving the Holy Spirit'.

That, too, is why the Holy Spirit gave evidences in those times, that He had come within. We believe that this book, the book of the Acts, is a book of fundamental principles for the dispensation. When principles are being laid down in the first instance, God always bears them out with mighty evidences that they are true principles and governing things for all time. God puts His seal upon them. So, when they received the Spirit, there were the evidences of the Spirit. They spoke with tongues; mighty things happened. It was clear to all without any doubt whatever that the Spirit was on the inside, Christ had entered in; that universal Christ transcending all human language, that Christ of Heaven transcending all earthly things had come in and the evidences were given.

There is no mistaking that this matter of Christ within is the fundamental essential of Christianity. You may have the mightiest facts - the mightiest facts of His birth, of His marvellous life, His death, His resurrection and they are the mightiest of facts - you may have them all, and they may all be impotent, non-potent, until He is inside! This is borne out by this threefold truth: Tarry - do not move yet; the essential has not taken place after all! Make sure; leave nothing to chance; let it not be just an emotional revival in Samaria! Whatever there may seem to be on the outside to prove that something has happened, make sure that it has got inside! Make sure that Christ is in, that the Holy Spirit is in! For as we shall see as we go on, you may have so much, and then, that vital thing being lacking, there is calamity, as with them.

This mighty hope does not merely rest just upon historic grounds - that is, upon the ground of the historic Jesus. This mighty hope rests upon inward reality - Christ in you! That is super-historic! And for the full meaning, the 'mystery which has been hid from all generations', we have to go to Paul.

The Insufficient Foundation

So much for a general approach to the matter. Let us now in greater detail consider Peter and the others whom he undoubtedly represents.

Firstly, then, as to the hopelessness, ultimately, of a merely outward association with Christ, however sincere. There is no question about the sincerity of Peter or of any of those followers. They were sincere; there was a devotion to Jesus; their motives could not be called into question; it was all well-meant. They had left all and followed Him; and to follow Jesus of Nazareth in those days had involved them in a considerable amount of trouble, at least with the high-up people, and the prevailing system. Their association with Him undoubtedly meant something.

Moreover, while perhaps they were not fully able to see and understand; while they were not in the full light of who He was, the fact of who He was was present with them.

For instance, there is the fact of the incarnation: that this One among them was God incarnate, the very Son of God, come down from Heaven to dwell in human form. They were in closest touch with that fact every day of their lives.

Then, there was the fact of His Personality; and there is no avoiding this, that that was a Personality! There was a Presence where He was that was different, that made itself felt, that registered. His was a very impressive Presence, beyond that of anyone else with whom they had any association, or of whom they had any other knowledge. There is a mystery about this Man: you cannot fathom Him; you cannot explain Him; you cannot comprehend Him; He is more; He is different. And wherever He comes, His Presence has a tremendous effect. The fact of His Personality!

And then, although we do not know how far it went, there was the fact of Mary and her secret. We do not know to how many she told her secret; we are told that she "hid all these things in her heart" (Luke 2:19,51). But we do know that some knew about it. We know that she told Elisabeth all about it; and Zachariah knew it; and John the Baptist knew it. John the Baptist knew Mary's secret. She was there with them all. There is the fact of Mary and her secret.

Then there is the fact of the miracles. Miracles in the realm of the elements - the sea and the wind; miracles in the realm of nature - as our hymn says: 'It was spring-time when He took the loaves, and harvest when He brake'. In the realm of sickness and disease and death: His healing and His raising from the dead the son of the widow of Nain. These were facts. And then, in the realm of the powers of evil - muzzling demons and casting them out and delivering the demon-possessed. These were all facts present with them. It is a tremendous accumulation of evidence.

Further, the fact of the teaching that, without special education, He bewildered, confounded and defeated the authorities of His time: all the men of information and knowledge, the scribes, the lawyers, the best representatives of the intellect of Jewry. They picked out on occasions their best intellects to go and try and catch Him in His words; and these very men had to ask the question: "Whence has this man this, having never learned?" (John 7:15). There was His teaching.

There is a tremendous build-up. And yet, while being in possession of that whole mass of mighty facts and realities about Him, and while living in the closest association with Him, it was possible for them to know all the havoc and the despair of the Cross! I venture to say that you and I would probably think that, if we had only a bit of that, we should be safe for ever and never have any reason whatever to doubt our salvation. And they had it all, and yet here we have them after the Cross in abject despair. When it came to the supreme test, all that did not save them; there was lacking the one essential to make it all vital, to make it the very triumph in the trying hour.

The One Essential

That one essential is Christ in you. So long as all that is still objective, on the outside, though you may be in the closest association with it all, there is something yet lacking. And that lack may spell disaster, for it did with them.

By the resurrection a new hope was born; by the resurrection a new power came into the world and human life; by the resurrection the way was opened for Christ to change His position from heaven - from outside - into the inner life of the believer. It has all got to be 'Christ in you, the hope of glory'. This is just the essential nature of this dispensation in which we live. In the former dispensation, the Spirit moved from the outside upon. Jesus said: 'When He is come, He shall be in you'. That is the change of dispensations; that is the character of this present dispensation - the Spirit within. What is the secret of the church's power? What is the secret of the believer's life, strength, persistence, endurance, triumph against all hell and the world? What is the secret of ultimate glory? It is Christ in you. In other words, that you have really and definitely received the Holy Spirit.

How important this is - that you and I shall know that our Christianity, our faith, does not rest upon even the greatest historic facts, but that we know that Christ is inside; we know that we have received the Holy Spirit. That is the secret of everything.

 Let us carry this a little further, and consider the next thing: the hopelessness of work for Christ without Christ within.

"He appointed the twelve, that they might be with Him, and that He might send them forth to preach and to have authority to cast out demons..." (Mark 3:14,15).

"And the seventy returned with joy, saying, Lord, even the demons are subject unto us in Thy name" (Luke 10:17). Tremendous! 'Heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons; freely ye have received, freely give' (Matt. 10:8). And they returned with great joy: it was done; they had seen it! And you have this picture after the cross of these same people devastated! You say: Is that possible? Is that real? If you know your own heart, you will know it is possible. But what is the meaning of this?

In the case of the 'twelve' and the 'seventy', we have set forth a strange, wonderful, and almost frightening fact. It is that - within the vast scope of the sovereign rule of God - which is only another definition of the 'kingdom of God', many things obtain which only express that sovereignty. They are not of the essential and permanent essence of God Himself as in the nature of things; they are the works of God. Within that vast scope of His rule and His reign, God has countless instruments of His sovereignty, be it official or providential, which He just uses in His sovereignty in relation to His end. There is a purpose to be served, an end to be reached, concerning His Son, Jesus Christ: it has got to be made known in this world that the kingdom of God has drawn near, and that Jesus Christ is the centre of that kingdom. And, in order to make that known, God will employ sovereignly even the devil himself! His sovereignty gathers into it many things which are not essentially of the nature of God.

Perhaps you have been amazed sometimes, and perplexed and bewildered, why God should use certain things or persons. You have been inclined to say: 'It is all contrary to what I believe to be necessary to God for His work. I see that the Bible says that instruments have got to be according to God's mind in order to be used.' But history does not bear that out. He has used the devil, and the devil is not according to God's mind. There is a sovereignty of God spread over in relation to His end.

But when you have said that, it is a frightening fact when you come to the work of God. I mean this: that we may be working for God, and doing many mighty things as employees of the kingdom of God, the rule of God, and then, in the end, be cast away! In the end, we ourselves might just go to pieces. Here it is, this strange thing, that these men went out, twelve and seventy, with this 'delegated authority' - this delegated authority - and exercised it, and mighty things resulted; and then these same people are found, after the Cross, with their faith shattered and nothing to rest upon.

The Deficiency Made Good

Thank God, the book of the Acts transforms the whole situation! Because the book of the Acts brings in this mighty new factor: that Christ, who had delegated the authority, is now indwelling as the authority Himself. And the works now are mighty works, but they are not just works for the Lord; they are the works of the Lord. It all goes to prove the tremendous fact: that it is Christ in you that is the indispensable necessity for life and for work. All that they had in their association with Him, and then all that they were allowed to do by His delegated authority, all fell short of being something that could make them triumphant in the hour of the deepest testing.

Paul put his finger on it when he got to at Ephesus, if you remember, when he said: "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" (Acts 19:2) it was ever the apostles' question, and ever their quest. They knew afterwards, if they knew anything at all, that nothing will stand up to anything, but the indwelling Christ Himself.

Now, we can, of course, take that both ways. There is the negative side, the almost frightening possibility that there should be all that, and then disaster at the end. But let us take it positively. What a marvellous thing it is that we are in the dispensation when the one thing, above all others, God will make true, is "Christ in you"! No wonder Peter burst forth with his doxology: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who... has begotten us again... to a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead"! You need to be Peter to be able to speak as he spoke; to have gone through the awful shattering, into that unspeakable depth of despair and loss of hope, to be able to say: "a living hope" - a living hope! And what is it? "Christ in you, the hope of glory".

No, there is no hope for us individually; there is no hope for our companies, our churches, our assemblies; there is no hope for Christianity unless and until the living Christ, with all the tremendous significance of His coming into this world, of His life here, of His Cross, of His resurrection, has come, by the Holy Spirit, on to the inside of things, of people, and churches; until it is "Christ in you". All the other may be there: the creed, the teaching; you may, with all sincerity and honesty, say: 'I believe in God the Father...' and so on. It may all be there, and yet there may be disaster where that thing is most frequently declared.

It is the impact of Christ that matters. In those early days He could not be present without it being known; and that is the thing that you and I need; that is the secret of the church's power. It is the presence of Christ on the inside of you and me, and all of us as people together; this Mystery among the nations, which is Christ in you. You are among the nations, and the deepest, profoundest, most inexplicable thing is Christ in you, as you are among the nations, "the hope of glory".

It is a question of hope. It can be touched by a deep and terrible despair; it can see disintegration and disruption. What we need is a mighty hope, a living hope; that is, Christ, Christ risen, Christ Himself! We need to get beyond even the resurrection to be able to say: It is Christ present, it is what Christ means as within us.


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