"A Candlestick of Pure Gold: of Beaten Work" Exodus 25:31

"The Testimony of Jesus"
Revelation 1:9

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November -- December, 1971 Vol. 49, No. 6



39, Honor Oak Road,
London, SE23 3SH.

Dear Friends,

As we go to press for this last issue in this form, we look back with the deepest gratitude to God for all his enablement over the past forty-nine years.

Our testimony is that help has been received from God to fulfil this ministry (Colossians 4:7) in its various aspects and to Him be all the glory and all the praise.

As we look forward to the future, for we feel we are moving under His guidance as our brother Mr. Foster takes over the editorship, we do so trusting the One who is the same yesterday, today and for ever. In these days of such positive enemy activity we remind ourselves of the word in Daniel: "The people that know their God shall be strong and do exploits."

With confidence then in Him we face the future and believe we shall again prove the sufficiency of the Lord who reigneth.

Yours, by His grace, F. Austin-Sparks


26A Lower Bristol Road,

Dear Readers,

I am grateful to the Witness and Testimony Literature Trustees for this opportunity of introducing to you the new magazine which you will receive in January 1972.

As you have been told, it has been thought right to discontinue the use of the title A Witness and A Testimony, so I will edit a new bi-monthly which will be called Toward The Mark.

This will be devoted to the same spiritual aims as the paper which for so many years you have known and appreciated, and will contain contributions from those of us whose initials are already familiar to you. It will also contain messages extracted from the many manuscripts which Mr. Austin-Sparks bequeathed to us. It will continue to be sent to you unless you write us to the contrary.

As before, the magazine will have no subscription, but will be entirely supported by the gifts of appreciative readers, and they should be sent to the office [109/110] at 39 Honor Oak Road. I shall not continue to print a list of such gifts; the donors will receive a personal acknowledgement.

Although the name of the magazine and some of its details may be different, I have no intention of introducing new features just for the sake of novelty. A list of Witness and Testimony literature will still be provided. The office work, including the dispatch of the magazine and all other literature, will continue to be carried on by our secretary, Miss Ruth Read, from the same address: 39 Honor Oak Road, London SE23 3SH. Please remember her in your prayers.

The editorial work will be done from my new home, 26A Lower Bristol Road, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, and I hope that you will write to me there if you think that I can help you in any way.

When my wife and I realized that the Lord was calling us to relinquish our pastoral work at the Honor Oak Christian Fellowship Centre and move away to Somerset, we had no idea of what the future would hold for us, least of all that the Lord would call me to take up this editorial work. We now realize, however, that our exercise and decision were all a part of the Lord's skilful planning, and rejoice at the prospect of continuing to serve His people in this way.

We count on your prayers.

Yours sincerely in our Lord Jesus, Harry Foster


[T. Austin-Sparks]

Reading: John 16:1 - 17:26
I WANT you just to pass your eye over that prayer again -- "He said, Father ... O Father ... I come to thee. Holy Father, keep them ... As thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee ... Father, that which thou hast given me ... O righteous Father."

"I manifested thy name ... I made known ... thy name", and, quite evidently, from this chapter and from the whole of this Gospel, the name which the Lord Jesus manifested and made known was "Father".

That may not impress us as it would have done those in His own time, for, with the Lord Jesus, there came in a revelation of God which was nothing less than revolutionary. Go back to the Old Testament and look at the manifestation of God in the names and titles which are given to Him there. They are many, wonderful, very great and very glorious, but they are usually very remote, and put Him in a place of holy and awful isolation. He is there the one who is unapproachable in Himself, and whose presence always created fear, even terror. If there was anything approximating to the coming near of God, even in those strange forms of manifestation called the 'theophanies,' when in the first place those visited thought it was a man and then afterwards realized it was the Lord, the people cried out in fear and terror. And the Lord said even to Moses, who was such an honoured, choice, faithful, devoted servant: "Man shall not see me and live" (Exodus 33.20). When a man wrestled with Jacob and subsequently departed, Jacob cried: "I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved" (Genesis 32:30). To him that was a most wonderful thing! Of course, he had met the veiled deity -- the veiled God had come in man form -- but, even so, Jacob recognized that it was the Lord, and the wonderful thing was that his life remained whole in him.

When the Lord Jesus came into this world He brought an altogether revolutionary revelation of God, and the one word which was on His lips more than any other was 'Father' -- 'My Father', 'The Father'.

This seventeenth chapter of John's Gospel is, as you can see, the culmination and summation of all that has gone before of the life of the Lord Jesus and the manifestation of the Son of God with all His works and words. The end has come, for you will notice that the next chapter begins: "When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Kidron, where there was a garden." Then the final scenes of his earthly life were enacted and the cross followed. So this prayer is the gathering up of everything by Jesus. He is gathering up the very purpose for which He came into this world, the meaning of all His teaching and His works, the meaning of His having been here in this world, and He is putting it into one marvellous word, or name: 'Father.' He is saying: 'I have done what I came for. I came to manifest Thy name.' Note the way in which He puts it. He did not come to give people a doctrine, a truth or a teaching about the Fatherhood of God, as a theme or subject. He said. 'I manifested', or, for [110/111] our purpose you could use the word: I demonstrated'. There is all the difference between a lecturer and a demonstrator! To 'manifest' is very practical; it is more than words or teaching, for it is showing in a living way the thing that you are desiring to have grasped and understood.

And so this matter of the Father God was manifested in a Person. The Person Himself was the manifestation. When you look at Him, listen to Him, watch Him, there is one deduction that you can draw, should and must draw: 'That is just what God is like.'

Whether it be with the little children, and His hands of blessing upon them, drawing them to Himself; or any of the many things that He did in healings, in comfortings, in restorings; or in any of the wonderful things that He said in parables, our conclusion should be: 'That is what God is like!' It is an expression of God as Father, and the Lord Jesus Himself is the manifestation of the Father.

Now, open that out and go right back to the beginning of history as the Bible gives it to us, and this conception is inherent in the very beginning. What was the conception with which the Bible opened, when God had completed His creative activities and got His man and the man's wife? It was a family. The family conception was there right at the very beginning, and in God's mind it was to be a family of His own children. He wanted a family of children 'after His own image and likeness', like Himself, and His heart was set upon this. There, at the beginning, He says: "Be fruitful, and multiply" (Genesis 1:22), and behind that is God's intention to have a family.

Do you notice that in the second phase of the Bible, that which we call the Patriarchs, it is the family which is the dominant, characteristic feature? 'Patriarch' is a Bible word, as you know, but do you know what it means? It just means 'the head of the family'. Perhaps you have not thought of that when considering Noah, Moses and Abraham and calling them by this high-sounding name 'the Patriarchs'! But right through that long and very rich phase of the development of history in the Bible there lies, deeply embedded, this idea of the family. And in the patriarchal families it was not only the father who was the head of the household. The eldest son was also the priest of the family, in union with the father. Fathers and sons were the divine idea, and if you like to make it singular you can, for you are looking right ahead to John 17!

And when you move still further on in Bible history and come to that section of the Old Testament which has to do with the kings, the monarchy, have you been impressed with the fact that, when that phase reaches its highest point in David and Solomon, the very conception and idea of monarchy, of government, of dominion, of reign, of a kingdom, lies with the father and son, David and Solomon? That was the peak of the monarchy. And if you look both into the Old Testament account and into the New Testament references to it, you will find that those words spoken by the Lord to David about his son, Solomon: "I will be his father, and he shall be my son" (2 Samuel 7:14), are taken up in the letter to the Hebrews and applied to the Lord Jesus. So God was looking through David and through Solomon -- not just at them -- to His own eternal thought of the family.

You come to the next and final section of the Old Testament, the Prophets. And what is the cry of the Prophets? For in this section there is a cry, a sob, a groan, an anguish, a travail, and, for the most part, that is the spirit of the Prophets. They are burdened, men with a burden, a cry, a heartache, men who are expressing a travail. Listen again to Isaiah 53!

But what is it all about? God has lost His family! The family of Israel has been broken up and disintegrated. It has gone away from God and from His house. God is deprived of that thing for which He first of all created men, and then inculcated into the whole of His dealings with them. In the Prophets God is seen to be in a state of disappointment and sorrow. Listen to Hosea, for instance. There is a cry of deep anguish in that prophet's heart, and it all focuses upon this family conception.

Well, that has covered a lot of history, and there is more in it than that, but that is enough to show what was in God's heart, what His heart had been set upon, what He had hidden, in a way, in His dealings with men and in His constitution of things. This was a hidden desire and purpose in the heart of God.

Then the Son of God comes. Now you go through your New Testament and tabulate the number of times 'Father' and 'Son' occur in connection with God and the Lord Jesus. And then go on to the next step and tabulate the number of times that the Lord's people are referred to as His children, His sons, or as in a family relationship to Himself -- 'begotten of God', 'born of God', and so on. It is very full and rich. We have only to mention it for a great deal just to come back to us and break upon us!

We said that the Son of God came from the Father: "I came forth from the Father" (John 16:27). And why? For one thing, to take up all that history from the creation, through the Patriarchs, [111/112] through the monarchy, through the prophets, and gather to Himself the realization of this thing for His Father, in order to satisfy His Father. Dear friends, if you want to know what the Lord Jesus meant, and what it means where we are concerned when He said: "I came to do Thy will", it is this about which we are talking. The will of God is the family of God in which He is truly Father God, and His Son is truly the Son, the eldest Son, "The firstborn among many brethren" (Romans 8:29). Do you pray to know the will of God? Do you ask to know what God's will is? Well, of course, you may apply that to all sorts of things, but you must remember that the will of God is very comprehensive and specific, and is just this that we are talking about. The Son came, not only to speak of the Father, but to manifest the Father, so that He could say: "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father" (John 14:9). 'There is no further need for you to say "Shew us the Father"' (John 14:8). "I manifested thy name ... I kept them in thy name." And, as we have seen, in this chapter alone He calls Him 'Father' six times -- "O righteous Father ... Holy Father."

The Lord Jesus has come to give in His own Person the revelation of God as Father, and to redeem unto God His family. Those wonderful words in the early part of the Letter to the Hebrews: "He is not ashamed to call them brethren ... I and the children which God hath given me ... Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling" (Hebrews 2:11, 13; 3.1) are the fruit of His redeeming activity.

Dear friends, it is a good thing to be redeemed, to have what redemption means in the sense of sins forgiven, deliverance from bondage, security unto eternal life, and all those blessings. But do we sufficiently recognize that it is a family He has come to redeem, and that we are redeemed as a family? We may be redeemed individually, but God's thought, and Christ's thought, was to redeem a family.

What is a family? Now, if you friends have a family, how happy and pleased would you be if every one of your children was a unit in himself or herself, living an independent life without any concern or consideration or interest in any other member of the family? Just so many isolated units in one place could not be called a home! Would you be happy about it if they all went off and never had any concern for the other members, but were just individuals? Well, they might be children of the same parents, but, if that was the situation, the parents would feel that the real meaning of parenthood had been lost. How God must feel about anything and everything that is other than a family concept and a family spirit amongst His people!

We hear so much about the Church, the churches and the local assemblies. Indeed, we can get very tired of that, for it can be so technical. But what is God's thought in companies of His people in any place? That they should be a representation of the family where His Fatherhood is the dominant thing, where His Son has the place that He ought to have, and where all are a unit. "I pray ... that they may all be one" (John 17:20-21). How? 'As Thou, Father, and I are one.' The Father is revealing Himself in the Son and the Son is manifesting Himself in the Father. What perfect oneness there is between those two! "That they may be one, even as we are one."

The prayer of the Lord Jesus, right at the end, as He went to the Cross, was for the family. He went to the Cross to redeem the family, that out of His death and resurrection many sons should be born.

And there are not lacking some indications that there was a very real answer to His prayer at the beginning. You would never call those twelve disciples a family before Calvary! I should say: 'The Lord deliver us from families if that is one!' There was quarrelling, envying, striving and jealousy of one another. But look afterwards: "But Peter, standing up with the eleven " (Acts 2:14). And there is that wonderful second chapter of Acts when they "were all together in one place ... they had all things common ... and not one of them said that aught of the things which he possessed was his own" (Acts 2:1, 4:32).

Well, we have reached something of the family when the Holy Spirit brings Christ into His place, and God is Father over all. Paul had some conception of this. You know that in his letter to the Ephesians he prayed to the Father "from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named" (3.14).

So the Lord Jesus came, firstly to secure unto the Father the satisfaction of His eternal desire, the realization of His own ambition of heart, to redeem unto God a family; and not to leave it there, but to bring that family to reign, to govern in the eternal kingdom. It is to be the governmental family of the ages to come. The means by which He is going to govern this world in the coming ages is by this family elevated to His throne. The far greater and more glorious counterpart of David and Solomon is the Father and Son. And then, to use another phrase from the Letter to the Hebrews, "many sons" whom He has brought to glory.

We cannot just say these things without reminding [112/113] ourselves that the realization of this, both on the part of the Lord Jesus and on our part, if the Father is to find His satisfaction, is a costly thing. It is by way of travail. There is no family without travail. God has put it in the very constitution of this creation that the family is by way of travail, of suffering. In a word, someone has to be prepared to lay down their life for the family, and the Lord Jesus did it. And, dear friends, we are not going to have anything like this amongst the Lord's people unless we are prepared to suffer for it, to lay down our lives for it, to set aside all our own personal interests for it, really to put up with a lot, that we might bring to the Father that upon which His heart is so much set. It is the way of travail, of sacrifice, of suffering. For this His Body was broken, that we might share that Body as one family. For this His Blood was shed, that we might, in drinking His blood -- in other words, His outpoured life -- share as a family that one life.

So we come back and close where we began, with His prayer. What a cry it is! What an appeal it is! Shall we say: what an agony it is! 'Father, the world has not known, but these have known ... Father, as Thou and I are one ... that they may be one.'

Have you been all the time poised and adjusted, asking: 'Is the Lord saying something to me? Somewhere, somehow, I have violated this family spirit, family disposition, and grieved the Spirit of God, who is the Spirit of the family.' Is there something that He is saying to you and to me? How does this apply to us? Is it just a lovely Bible theme? God forbid! It was a prayer with Him, so let us make it a prayer, and a prayer that will have a very practical aspect, for sometimes we can go a long way towards answering our own prayers. And this matter is not all to be left with the Lord. He has done His part! - T. A-S.


[T. Austin-Sparks]

Reading: John 11:38-44

IT is that last verse that we shall be considering especially:

"He that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes; and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him and let him go."

I would just like to place alongside of that a fragment from the tenth chapter:

"I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly" (John 10:10).

We have said more than once that we are here in the presence of God manifested in the flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, His Son, and, being in the presence of God, we are being made aware of God's mind concerning man. What Jesus says is the expression of the mind of God for man.


I think that you have learned that what is written in this whole Gospel by John is more than an earthly story, or a collection of sayings and doings on the part of Jesus Christ. There is in every one of those sayings and doings, and in every part of the story, a setting forth in one way or another of some eternal and unfathomable truth because it comes from God. God is unfathomable, unsearchable, incomprehensible, profound beyond our understanding. He has a depth and a fullness never, never to be exhausted, either in time or in eternity, and anything that emanates from God in word or deed carries with it that significance. It is not just human language. These are not just the words and works of a man. Every fragment contains the profound depth of God, and this chapter, which is marked out in the organization of the matter for our convenience as chapter eleven, is a wonderful example of what we have just said. Every bit of it goes far beyond the thing that is said or done. It is so comprehensive, so far-reaching, so full of depth and meaning. I have been reading the Gospel by John, and, of course, this chapter, for over sixty years, and I have spoken on it many times, but I am still in the presence of that which is far beyond me. I am not just giving you something that has been said before. The whole Gospel is always divulging that which we have not seen or known before. Now that does not mean that you have never seen what I am going to say at this time, but what I am saying is that there is a fullness here, and that, whatever and however much you have seen, there is more yet that God means in the fragments of this chapter.

We are always wrestling with our limitations both to understand and grasp, and certainly to utter what is herein contained. Some of us are very poor [113/114] at this business, and we know it. A little grandson of mine heard I was going to America and he asked his mother: 'What is Grandpa going to America for?' She said: 'Well, to preach.' He said: 'To preach? He is not very good at that, is he?' And Grandpa fully agrees! So now you know what you have to put up with! Well, that is just how we feel when we come into the presence of the divine stature of God's words.

I think you all realize something of the vastness of this chapter, but I trust that we shall yet see a little more, though by no means the fullness of what is in the passage which we have just read, and especially the fragment in verse 44.


Now, before we come to that, let me just say this word that is necessary, I think, and leads up to it. We must recognize the aspects of this Gospel. First of all, it is a backward aspect. That is, John wrote this Gospel long years after all that is in it was completed. The whole thing was finished, as to the actuality of the content of this record, and the Lord Jesus had left this earth. All that is here lay in the past when John wrote it. It was something completed as to history. John was writing it from that standpoint, with the backward aspect. But you will notice that the Gospel itself is written on the forward aspect. That is, it was all written in the light of the day that was to come. Jesus is here saying repeatedly: "In that day ... in that day ... when ... when ..." and that relates to the day of the advent of the Holy Spirit. "When He is come ... in that day." This Gospel was written for a coming day, and we are living in that day, that is, in the dispensation of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was making it perfectly clear that what He was saying and doing in the flesh related to that day which was yet to be, the day when the Holy Spirit inaugurated the present dispensation. This Gospel, therefore, is written to us precisely because we live in that day.

You, perhaps, are asking: 'Why is he saying this? It is simple and obvious. We know it.' Well, do we? I have said all that in order that we might recognize that this verse 44 belongs to us. It was written for us. In the day in which we live, this very dispensation day, this verse belongs to us.

One other word about that. The backward aspect of this Gospel, written after it was all actually accomplished in history, was the objective side, when everything was outward. All that Jesus was doing was outward. His meanings were put into outward things, ways and means. The day for which all that objective was done and said is the day of the subjective, when it is taken from history without and made history within, when it is no longer something just outside of us, but something to be planted inside of us. That is the real meaning of the coming of the Holy Spirit -- to lay hold of everything in the Scripture which is there objectively and place it right within the centre of the life of the believer, so that it becomes a part of the very inwardness of the believer's life.

If we do not recognize these things we may miss our way in reading the stories, and just think of them as wonderful stories of what Jesus did, particularly this one of the raising of this man Lazarus from the dead. It was done and recorded in order that it might become our inward experience, a very part of our own being. That is the foundation upon which we build what we have to say as to this whole Gospel.


May I add another word, which I hope will have some value to you? It is always necessary, in the light of what we have said, and important to take account of the correspondence between the Epistles in the New Testament and the Gospels, because the Epistles are, after all, only the subjective expression of the objective Gospels. How can I put that to help you? Well, you read your Gospels. If you like, read this chapter. There is the story, the account of what happened; all the parts, the phases and the stages of it. That is very wonderful, but when you come to the Epistles you are told what all that means. It is there that you get the explanation for your own life of what is in the Gospels. The Gospels will remain the history of two thousand years ago until you come to see what God meant them to be in your own life, and you find that out in the Epistles. Always read the Gospels in this twofold way, and remember that this in the Gospels is explained somewhere in the Epistles. Read the Epistles and you will say: 'This is explaining what is in the Gospels.' So read your New Testament in that way. We have to look at the Book of the Acts and the Epistles for the real meaning of the Gospels, and before we can get the real inward value of the Gospels.

Now we have said all that, we come to this verse in the eleventh chapter of John: "He that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes; and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go." Do you know that you have the vast amount of the remainder of the New Testament (after John) [114/115] that is exactly in keeping with that? It tells you what that means for us. Here in this chapter is what it meant for Lazarus and his sisters, but what did that mean in God's mind for us?


First of all, it is possible for us to have life by the word of Jesus Christ, resurrection life, divine life, that which is called eternal life; it is possible for us to have that life by which we have been brought from the death of our natural state into this newness of life by the fiat of the Son of God, and yet be limited in every way while we have it. Limited in ministry -- 'his hands bound'; limited in progress -- 'his feet bound'; limited in understanding -- 'a napkin around his head and over his eyes'. Those three things are three of the major things in the teaching of the Apostles.

Let me repeat that, for it is so true, and it is true of multitudes today. It is one of the problems in Christianity that, while through simple response to the Word of the Lord Jesus, many have been born again and are His people, are children of God and have divine life, it is so possible -- and is actually so in numerous cases -- to be limited in almost every way as to that life, and that life is so limited in them. Here the symbolism is bound hand, bound foot and bound head. The hands are the symbols of ministry, or fruitfulness of life, and are there not many Christians whom believe in the Lord Jesus and have that saving faith in Him, yet whose ministration and fruitfulness of life are exceedingly limited, bound and tied up? Oh, how many Christians are just tied up in this matter of real fruitfulness, real ministry -- and when I use that word 'ministry' I am not just talking about platforms, or Bible preaching, but the ministration of the Lord Jesus. In the next chapter we read that Jesus came back to Bethany and they made Him a feast. Martha served and Lazarus was one of those who sat at meat. It would have been a poor lookout for that whole occasion if Lazarus had been tied up in his grave clothes! But, no, he is able to share with the others in this experience, and if you think I am trying to make something of nothing, look again, because it was at that point that the Jewish rulers took counsel to put Lazarus to death also, because by reason of him many believed. That is what I meant by loosed hands, ministry, fruitfulness: "By reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus." Is it not true that multitudes of Christians are not in that release of life where many believe because of them? They remain isolated, tied up, bound. They are Christians, but in the meaning of hands of fruitfulness, of service, of the ministration of Christ, of the testimony of Jesus, they are still in the grave clothes. And that is why Jesus said: "I came that they might have life", but, more than that, "have it abundantly". And Lazarus had the life, but not abundantly until he was loosed.

Now you get into the Epistles with that fragment only, and see how much there is about the life of the believer being an effective life, a fruitful life, and a responsible life, a life that is really producing something. Indeed, we could say that one of the major purposes of all the Letters that the Apostles wrote was to get these Christians (and need I remind you again that more than ninety per cent of the New Testament was written to Christians? That is impressive and challenging!) who had the life to have it more abundantly, that is, to be loosed in this matter of their newness of life.

Well, perhaps that is enough for the moment on that.


And what is true of the meaning of the hands is true of the feet. Lazarus was "bound hand and foot". Again, is it not true that many, many Christians, born-again believers, are making no progress in the spiritual life, are not going on? You meet them once, and three, six and ten years afterwards they are just where they were when you first met them. They have not gone on, for their feet are bound. They are not going on, not making spiritual progress, not gaining ground, not overtaking the course, not -- to use Paul's phrase -- "attaining". They are in a state of spiritual stagnation, spiritual arrest. Their feet are bound, and that is not God's idea. Jesus, God incarnate said: 'Loose him, and let him go. Release those feet that he may walk, that he may run in the way of My commandments.' That is God's idea for us. That is not only a statement of truth, but a challenge as to where we are.


What about this head, wrapped in a napkin about the eyes and about the mouth? We mention the eyes in particular for our purpose at the moment. Again, is it not true that there are many who are the Lord's people but who are not really seeing more and more, and ever more of what He has for them and through them? Many Christians see no further than their hand before their eyes. It is a little world in which they live, a very short [115/116] horizon of spiritual perception and understanding, apprehension and spiritual knowledge. Their heads are wrapped around and their eyes are covered over. They have life, but that is all.

Having said these things, in order to indicate what we mean by the great fullness that there is here, even in a verse, let us look at it again.


Lazarus came forth and he had life, but at that moment when he came forth he was still in contact with the grave. There was still that about him which spoke of that sepulchre, and the limitations of that sepulchre. Again, what are these limitations? Well, we come over to the Epistles. I am not going right through them all, but I will give you just enough to indicate what is meant.


If you turn to the first Letter to the Corinthians, and have any knowledge of what is in that Letter, you will know what we mean by the grave touch still upon born-again Christians. Paul opens that Letter by addressing the Corinthians as "saints", which means those who are the Lord's, but as he writes on and on an awful situation is unfolded, is it not? They have life, but you cannot say that they have it abundantly. The grave clothes are on them, that is, the grave touch is still there, and in the first Letter to the Corinthians it is the grave touch of the limitations of the natural life. They are Christians, yes, but they are bound and limited by the ties of the natural life. That is the word which the Apostle uses specifically: "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God ... and he cannot know them" (1 Corinthians 2:14). That is limitation, is it not? You proceed into the Letter and you find that these people are behaving as worldly people behave. In their behaviour, their conduct, their procedure, they go on just exactly as do worldly people. Someone has done a wrong to another believer, and apparently that happened in more than one case at Corinth, and the result was that this believer against whom the wrong was done thought this was criminal and should be set right in the court of law in the world. So he hauled his fellow-believer before the judge in the worldly court to get his rights. That is exactly what the world does, and that is an instance of a whole handful of things that were going on at Corinth. Some were worse than that. 'There are divisions among you, and when there are divisions among you are ye not carnal?' Not spiritual, but carnal.

Well, gather up the whole of that Letter and it is a terrible story of those who are the Lord's and who have the life just behaving as other people do, living in the way that the world does. You find the women behaving as worldly women did in their dress, in their demeanour, in their behaviour, and even in the assembly. I do not want to pick out the women particularly, but I am indicating that there is the spirit of the world amongst believers in Corinth, and (read the Letter again in the light of this) that is keeping them still in this bondage, in this limitation of their spiritual life. It is grave clothes, and you are not surprised that at Corinth the world is not feeling the impact of their testimony, that the church at Corinth is not counting in the world, because the world has got into the church, and into its members individually. In this sense the grave clothes are still on them, by reason of the limitations which come upon the spiritual life when the natural takes charge and governs, controls and directs. It is terrible spiritual limitation. There is life, yes, but not 'life abundantly'. Do you see what I mean? Their testimony is bound. There is still something of the grave, and that Letter to the Corinthians was written in the same spirit and with the same idea, intention and object as the Lord had when He said: "Loose him and let him go." Paul is striving to get these Corinthians loosed as Christians loosed, liberated, set free into the fullness of the life which they had.


We pass from Corinthians into Galatians, and no one who knows that Letter will dispute the statement that here you are in touch with the grave very truly. You know all that the Letter to the Galatians is about, and you know the two prominent words- Liberty -- "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage" (Galatians 4:1 -- A.V.) -- and sonship. Not servanthood, nor slavery, but sonship; the liberty of sons. They are the two great words of that Letter, but what are the grave bands there in Galatia? They are the grave bands of tradition, of legalism, and all such things. You know, dear friends, it is very easy to get tied up with these grave clothes! The persistent peril through the ages of Christianity is to crystallize itself into something set, something fixed. You have some light, some revelation, something of the immensity of truth, just a fragment of it, and it is not long before [116/117] you begin to form that into a set system and make it the limit, saying that this is what people must believe, they must come within this horizon, and they must behave like this. It becomes a system again: 'You must ... you must not!', and there is no difference between that and the Old Testament 'Thou shalt ... thou shalt not!' Christianity has fallen into that peril, and is continually doing it, circumscribing the great revelation, making Christ smaller than He is, crystallizing truth into something fixed and set: 'This is how ...', and the meaning of that is: 'This is the ultimate.'

Now you notice that when the Spirit did come, as we have the record in the Book of the Acts, the one thing that these old Jewish disciples experienced was a marvellous emancipation from that bondage of Judaism; and how the Holy Spirit was working all along against any fixed barriers! Peter will argue that he is a Jew, born, bred and died-in-the-wool, and that never has anything unclean entered his mouth, according to Leviticus chapter 11. All right, Peter. You are just putting your interpretation upon the Scriptures, and you are putting your limits upon what Christ has done by His Cross, and so he is told: "What God hath cleansed make not thou common" (Acts 10:15). The Holy Spirit reacted to Peter's traditionalism, legalism, limitation and bondage, and made him go and do what he would never have done otherwise. Again and again, right to his death, the words of the Lord Jesus to him, in the last chapter of this Gospel, were made good: "When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not" (John 21:18). That principle was being applied over Cornelius and his house, and Caesarea and the Gentiles. He was made to go whither he would not. He was saying: 'No, Lord', and the Lord was saying: 'Yes, Peter'. "Whither thou wouldest not" is heaven's reaction to this legalistic limitation, these grave clothes on an Apostle. And that was not the only battle that Peter had, but we will not stay with it.

Then John says that when the Lord Jesus said those words to Peter He was signifying "by what manner of death he should glorify God". Years afterwards Peter wrote: "Knowing that the putting off of my tabernacle cometh swiftly, even as our Lord Jesus Christ signified unto me" (2 Peter 1:14). We do not know the manner of his death, but tradition says that Peter was crucified. Only Jews could be crucified by Gentiles, for Gentiles dared not crucify one of their own. So Peter went that way, but because Paul had Roman citizenship they could not crucify him, so they beheaded him. Peter was selected for the same kind of death as His Lord's, and he knew it for he said: "As our Lord Jesus Christ signified unto me." He was girded by another and carried the way he would not choose to go, but the way of the Spirit is the way that goes against our limitations, our grave clothes, and takes us along ways of which we would never have thought. Indeed, our theology would not accept that way, our doctrine might be against it, our tradition would forbid it, but the Holy Spirit says: 'This is the way. Loose him, and let him go.' That is Galatians, is it not? I said that we need the Epistles to explain the Gospels, and just one verse in the Gospel by John contains all this!


I close with one other thing. Look into the Letter to the Ephesians, and you, having come through the loosing of the hands in Corinth, and the loosing of the feet in Galatia to walk in the Spirit and stand fast in liberty, now move to the head. In Ephesians Paul takes the napkin from the head and does it thoroughly. Ephesians has to do with the napkin around the head. What do we mean? Well, Paul hardly begins that Letter before he says: 'I bow my knees unto the Father of glory, that He would grant unto you Ephesian Christians that you should have the whole counsel of God given to you, to grant unto you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, Christ, that the eyes of your heart be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of His calling, the riches of His inheritance in the saints, the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe.' 'That you may know ... the eyes of your heart being enlightened' -- there is the napkin off the head! This Letter to the Ephesians is a wonderful revelation as to the eyes of the heart being unveiled, unbound, as to the greatness of our calling and vocation, as to the immensity of that for which we have been brought into union with His Son. How great it is! Beyond all our grasping, dear friends. Believe me, it is no exaggeration, and Paul says: "that you may know ".

There is one little prefix missing in our translation which is the key to the whole thing. The Apostle says: 'That you may know ... that you may know', and in the New Testament we have that word given to us in part and in whole. It is not given to us in our translation, but it is just this: Knowing, in itself, is applied to our beginning [117/118] knowledge of the Lord. To quote John again: "And this is life eternal, that they should know thee the only true God, and him whom thou didst send, even Jesus Christ" (John 17:3). That is the entering into life, the receiving of divine life but when Paul speaks here about 'knowing', he is using a compound Greek word which we do not have in our translation. It is 'epignosis ', full knowledge. 'You know', he says to these Ephesians, 'that in the space of two years I ceased not to preach unto you the whole counsel of God.' They knew, and on that initial knowledge they had come to the Lord, but now he is praying, at the end of his life from his prison: 'that you may come unto full knowledge.' It is more than life; it is life abundant. It is more than seeing; it is seeing with a great range of divine purpose and meaning for our calling and our having life.

Will you tell me that all Christians are like that? Are there not many around whose heads there is a napkin, which obscures their spiritual vision, limits their spiritual sight, and narrows down the range of their comprehension of the great purpose of their calling? Real revelation, dear friends, is not just information. It is liberation. To see fully, and more fully, is to be released.

We have often said about this man Paul that there was nothing on earth or in hell, or in a combination of both, that would have changed the rabid, fanatical Pharisee into the greatest friend that ever Jesus Christ had except light from heaven. Nothing could have done it -- but light from heaven did it. The napkin was taken off and the man was set free to walk up and down in the greatness of Jesus Christ.

I think we can see that that one verse in the whole of John's Gospel contains the Bible. Is it not true that God's mind for man, God's thought for His people, is: 'Loose him. He has got life, but loose him and let him go!'? "I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly." - T. A-S.



[Graham Scott]

THE ship was called Ormara, though it is many years now since I sailed in her, and I fear that long ago she has gone to the breaker's yard. I had sailed on quite a number of ships before her, but there was something different about this one. You couldn't miss it; as soon as you arrived alongside it hit you in the eye! On the side of the ship was painted a very, very large Union Jack.

Now all ships fly their national flag when going in and out of port, or when they meet warships, but this one had the national flag painted permanently on the side. There was a very good reason for this. This ship was trading between the Middle East and Japan, which meant that every few months she had to pass through the Formosa Straits. That is the stretch of water between mainland China and Formosa, the no-man's-land between Communist and Nationalist Chinese.

Warships and planes in those parts sometimes shot first and asked questions afterwards, so, just to make sure that they knew to whom we belonged, the flag was painted on the side for all to see.

Just after this experience I flew home for some leave. There I heard a preacher speak about people who had little Bibles that they hid away in their pockets. Now that is exactly the sort of Bible I had. The preacher said that we should have a big Bible so that it was easy to read, and people could see us carrying it to church.

The very next day I went out and bought a big black Bible. Now, it wasn't too bad carrying a Bible in the streets of Edinburgh, for on Sunday morning many people could be seen doing this. After a while, though, I flew back to India to join another ship. Oh dear! No one carried a Bible through the Bombay docks on a Sunday morning.

On that first Sunday morning as I got ready to go to church I looked at the two Bibles. The little one to slip into my pocket and not be noticed, or the other one which would identify me as someone different? As I stood there wonderings the words of a hymn ran through my mind: "I'm not ashamed to own my Lord or to defend His cause." I knew what I had to do, so picking up the big Bible I set off down the gangway humming the tune of the hymn.

The Custom's Officer at the bottom of the gangway gave me a searching look, and I almost thought he was going to speak. When I returned from church he did speak. "I see you carry a Bible. Are you a Christian?" We soon found that we were brothers in Christ, and there began a friendship [118/119] which went on for years whenever he had to board my ship. His heart was cheered to find an officer on a ship who stood for Jesus Christ.

The following day an engineer on the ship spoke to me. "I saw you go ashore yesterday with a Bible. Did you go to church?" He told me that he had wanted to go to church but had been frightened about what other officers might say. From then on we were able to go to church together. He was encouraged because he found he didn't have to stand for Jesus Christ alone.

"Supposing," I said to myself, "I had chosen the little Bible, and so hidden my identity, what a loss there would have been to me and to others." It is not only ships that need to show at all times to whom they belong. And for me it had been so simple. Just carrying a Bible.

There is a much more important reason, too, for showing to whom you belong. Jesus said: "Everyone therefore who shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 10:32-33). - G. S.


[T. Austin-Sparks]

Reading: Matthew 13.1-9, 11, 14-15, 19, 23, 51

YOU will probably note that one word occurs in all these varied verses -- the word 'understanding' in its different forms. I have recently been very much impressed with the necessity for spiritual understanding.

This parable is, I expect, as familiar to you as any of the parables of the Lord Jesus, and you know that it has its setting in what are called 'the parables of the kingdom', that is, in our Lord's teaching concerning the kingdom of Heaven. However, we have to see it in a larger setting, for this book which goes by Matthew's name does make the definitions very clear as to the differences between the Kingdom of Heaven and the other kingdom. Indeed, this book sees this contrast being drawn, pressed and forced to the point of ultimate destiny. There were the two kingdoms: that kingdom in which the Jews were naturally, and the Kingdom of Heaven to which the Lord Jesus was calling men and women. Through this book you find those two kingdoms in very strong contrast and opposition, so that the Jewish rulers, teachers and leaders are found to be increasingly antagonistic to the Kingdom of Heaven until the issue is pressed at last in the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus, that issue being the destinies which are here in view and involved, the destiny of those in the Kingdom of Heaven and the destiny of all others who are not in that Kingdom.

The Lord Jesus, in His teaching concerning the Kingdom of Heaven, is working on a selective line, for He is drawing out from the other kingdom a people for the Kingdom of Heaven, those who will enter and be born into that Kingdom. He speaks on the one side of "an evil and adulterous generation" (Matthew 12:39), which is the other kingdom, and then, on the other side, He speaks of "the sons of the kingdom" (Matthew 13.38), and that is so different.

Now right in that setting stands this most familiar of all parables, that which we call 'The Parable of the Sower'.

It is tremendously impressive that the Lord Jesus makes this whole issue turn upon one thing. This immense issue of the two kingdoms, the two destinies, the two courses, the two kinds of people, turns upon this one thing of spiritual understanding. It is worth looking again at these verses which we have read:

"By hearing ye shall hear, and shall in no wise understand ... Lest haply they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart ... When anyone heareth the word of the kingdom and understandeth it not, then cometh the evil one ... And he that was sown upon the good ground, this is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it ... Have ye understood all these things?"

Before we can go further, we must see that there are three realms to be recognized as realms of relationship between us and God.

First, there is the realm of the unsearchableness and inscrutability of God and His ways. He cannot be understood, He is past finding out, and altogether defeats the last attempts of the wisest of this world to explain Him. That is a true realm recognized in the Scriptures.

Then there is another realm in which we are [119/120] called upon to obey and go on with the Lord in blind faith, and without any explanations from Him. Sometimes, we would say, He will not explain Himself. He just calls on us to go on believing Him without any kind of understanding or explanation. We know we have to go on, but that is all we do know. We do not know why we must take a certain course beyond that the Lord has said that we must. We have to wait. That is another realm that is clearly recognized in the word of God.

But there is a third realm -- and these are not contradictory -- and that is the realm of education and instruction unto spiritual intelligence, and understanding, and the Word of God makes a lot of that.

When this struck me as I was reading this parable, I was led off, and finally turned up my concordance. I was greatly impressed with the place that this word 'understanding' has! It occupies several columns, going right through the Bible, and there are many different connections. There is far too much for us even to glance at now, but how important and valuable understanding is! What a lot really does hang upon spiritual understanding and intelligence! How essential it is for the Lord's people, in a day of crisis and perplexity, difficulty and confusion, to have somewhere, by some means, spiritual understanding! It was a great thing in Israel's history that the men of Issachar had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do" (1 Chronicles 12:32). I am sure that strikes a chord in us! Oh, that there was such a capacity, such a faculty and such a ministry amongst us in these days of confusion and perplexity -- that there were those who had "understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do"! It is saving in such times if there is that gift!

Think of those men on the Emmaus road. What a position and a state they were in! Their world had collapsed and everything had gone -- until He opened their eyes and they understood the scriptures. A new world was recovered instantly, and a new hope and prospect were saved by spiritual understanding.

Oh, the tremendous value and importance of spiritual understanding! However, let us be quite clear as to what it is and what it is not.

Of course, it is not worldly wisdom and acute, natural, intellectual acumen. In this Gospel by Matthew the people who are most in evidence are the teachers and rulers of Israel, the scribes and Pharisees, the people who knew it all and gave the interpretation and explanation of everything. They are in the forefront of the scene on the stage here, but later Paul said about them that theirs was the wisdom of men, not the wisdom of God, "which none of the rulers of this world knoweth: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory" (1 Corinthians 2:8). It was the wisdom of this world that crucified the Son of God. So spiritual understanding is not that!

It is not that we have a great and wonderful religious tradition with all the oracles handed down to us, and we stand possessed of the great inheritance of religion. That is not spiritual understanding! It is quite evident that you can have all that and still go wrong. There was a man in the New Testament who said that he had everything along that line, and yet he was the most vehement antagonist of Jesus of Nazareth and all who were of that way. He pursued them unto distant cities, haled men and women to prison -- yet he was a man with the largest tradition. So spiritual understanding is not that!

Further, it is not a wealth of truth and Christian teaching. Again, it is possible to have that and not have spiritual understanding.

What is it, then? To begin with, it is the combination of two things. First of all, it is the result of the direct action of the Spirit of God upon the spirit of man. By nature our spirit is in death, and the Spirit of God acts to raise it from the dead and bring it into life. And it is our spirit which is the organ of spiritual understanding. If we are normal we have a natural understanding, but by nature we do not possess this faculty, this organ of spiritual understanding. It is dead, or dormant, until the Spirit of God acts upon it, and than we are aware that we have a new faculty -- a faculty of discrimination. We know from that moment, without being told anything about it, what we should do and what we should not do, what is right and what is wrong. It is a new faculty, but that faculty is indwelt and actuated by the Spirit of God, and is not acting independently. "The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God" (Romans 8:16).

Therefore the combination of these two things, the resurrection into life of our own spirit and becoming indwelt by the spirit of God, constitutes the organ and function of spiritual understanding. It begins in simple ways, but education in the Christian life proceeds upon that basis, and that alone.

There is a link formed by this action of the Holy Spirit between knowledge and conscience. Note that, for it is a very important thing. There is a link between knowledge and conscience, which is a new conscience or consciousness. That explains the tragedy of many Christian lives. They have a lot of knowledge [120/121] without any conscience about it. It is not a knowledge which produces a consciousness of life, and so there is inconsistency and contradiction. They know the teaching, the doctrine, the truth and what the Word of God says, but there is no deep exercise in their hearts that gives them, on the one side, a bad time for any inconsistency and, on the other side, great joy in realizing that they are being well-pleasing unto the Lord. This link, you see, is 'what is meant by spiritual understanding. 'I know that that is mere knowledge, information, or truth, but I understand when the thing affects me, when it touches my life, and when it brings me up short on matters.' That is spiritual understanding.

You see, in this chapter all those people received the Word. They received the ministry of the sower and the seed, but with three parts of them it came to nothing in the end. They had the word, they had the sower as much as anyone, and they had Christ. He was present, and they had the word of the Lord. All the potentialities of the Lord's presence, His work and His Word were with them and were there for everyone. It was not that He gave more lavishly to some than to others. They all had the same possibilities, but only a fourth part showed anything for it, and the Lord said: 'There is one reason only. The three classes failed in the end because they had no spiritual understanding. They had the word, the Lord and everything, but they might just as well have never had them for all the value that accrued. The one class showed a return, greater measures, because they had spiritual understanding.' What did it mean? Well, surely it just meant that these people laid the word to heart. They discerned and recognized something of the significance, the meaning, the importance and the destiny that were bound up with the word.

Dear friends, these are not the words, nor is this just teaching. The Lord Jesus was not just broadcasting ideas and saying: 'You can take it or leave it.' There is something here that is going to affect us in relation to the ultimate issue of the Kingdom of Heaven.

A seriousness of attitude is the beginning of understanding. It is put like this in the Old Testament: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 9:10). What is the fear of the Lord? It is taking Him and His word really seriously. Anything that comes from the Lord is of tremendous consequence, and that is the beginning of spiritual understanding.

Now look at the parable and you see what are the values of spiritual understanding.

Spiritual understanding means that that which comes from the Lord finds a place for itself in us. There is a receptivity in the heart. In the first scattering of the seed the birds of the air found it an easy prey because of lack of receptivity. It just stayed on the outside, on the surface, and did not enter in at all. And so it was stolen. Spiritual understanding means that we draw the word in, take it in and apply ourselves to it. There is a receptivity about us.

In the next place, spiritual understanding means an endurance of and through what the Lord gives. The life of the seed on the rocky ground was short, so the history of that bit of the work of God was very short-lived. There was no real endurance. Spiritual understanding is the basis and the means of the spiritual endurance of the work of God in our hearts and in our lives. That is very clear and, I think, very simple. It is so possible, as we know, to hear it all and, in a way, know it all. Then, when the real test is applied, things begin to get difficult, the sun rises with scorching heat, and we get into the fires, the adversities and the suffering, all our knowledge means nothing. All that we have heard and all that has come to us just stands for nothing, and our spiritual history goes. I am afraid that is how it is with many -- there is no endurance through the scorching sun and the fires.

Then, what about this that fell among thorns? "And the thorns grew up, and choked them." Spiritual understanding has a wonderful power to set up in us a resistance to this world and its fires, but there was no resistance here. The thorns sprang up and choked the seed. They were not challenged and subdued. The Lord's explanation shows that there was no resistance because there was no spiritual understanding, no real spiritual apprehension.

Give me men and women, however simple according to the standards of this life, who have spiritual insight, spiritual discernment, spiritual judgment, spiritual sensitiveness and spiritual aliveness to the things of God! There is a wonderful resistance in those lives when other things come along with their appeal -- the thorns, the cares and the pleasures which come along to spoil and overpower the work of God -- and this resistance is because of spiritual understanding. You meet people like that, but you also see people driven away from the Lord by adversity or by prosperity. When you ask yourself why that is you have to say: 'Well, the root of the matter was evidently not in them. They had the things, but not the meaning of them. They really did not understand where they were and what it all meant.'

Spiritual understanding means depth, and that brings us to the fourth class. Everything depends upon our having depth.

Oh, for more of this spiritual understanding that [121/122] has these results! First a receptivity, which means that we embrace the truth. Then an endurance against all adversity and temptation. Then a resistance to everything that comes to us which is not true or right, and finally a depth that lays hold and reproduces.

Now, spiritual understanding is shown quite clearly in the Word to be essential to a sound beginning in the Christian life. Why is it that such a large proportion of those who seem to make a good beginning do not go on? They fall away and you cannot find them after a little while. Why? Because they did not have a beginning in understanding what all this is about, what it means, what it implies and what it involves. It was an appeal on the outside, perhaps a very powerful one and so they made their answer, but where are they after a little while? Spiritual understanding, says the Lord Jesus here, is the answer to that. Be very sure that your converts understand! Do not be satisfied with any light and superficial spiritual catch phrases, but seek to get them truly grounded in the Word of God and rooted in obedience to that Word .

The unproductive soils, by their very contrast, illustrate for us the essentials of a spirit of understanding. The opposite of the hardened ground is the heart which is ready to receive with meekness the seed which is sown in it. Always the Lord requires of His children that they have a teachable spirit. Those who are self-assured and independent give little opportunity for the Word to do its cleansing and transforming work. So the first requisite for an understanding heart is simple dependence and a genuine humility, with a willingness to abandon one's own conceits in order to allow God to do His own work of correcting and reshaping according to His will.

Then there is the stony ground, the opposite of which is surely a heart softened and broken under the hand of God. This is not natural to any of us, for even the weakest nature can be strong and stubborn in its unwillingness to submit to the inward working of the Word. Even though the experience may be painful to the flesh, it is essential that our own strength and self-esteem should be set aside to make room for God. Without such experiences of being broken down and opened up by the working of the Cross it is not possible to become spiritually sensitive to the will of God.

Finally, it is essential to be single-minded if we are really to understand the ways of God. Whether the "thorns" be ugly or whether they be seemingly beautiful, if they are rivals to God's speaking then they must not be tolerated. Spiritual understanding means the ruthless setting aside of lesser things in order to make room for God. The man who is truly taught of God is the man who makes it his daily exercise and delight to give absolute priority to the hearing and obeying of the voice of God.

We need to pray that among the children of God there may be an increase of spiritual understanding in the knowledge of Him, and we need to remind ourselves that the essentials to such an understanding are humility, brokenness and singleness of heart. - T. A-S.


[T. Austin-Sparks]

"Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 15:57-58).

"THANKS!" "Victory!" The Apostle has been dealing with the most formidable enemies of human hope and confidence. It is as though he had called out these giants, arrayed them, and dealt very effectively with every one, immobilizing them by the Cross of Christ.

The first one to be so dealt with is the formidable colossus of condemnation -- the law. No man could ever stand up to that vaunting force. It had challenged every generation, and always rendered men casualties and defeated. Indeed, in the sovereignty of God one purpose of its existence was to expose the weakness and impotence of man in his unregenerate state. But grace , the grace of God, in Christ Jesus, manifested in fullness in Christ crucified and risen, has slain the law's power of condemnation, and has risen over that prostrate form with this exultant shout: "Thanks!" "Victory!" "Through our Lord Jesus Christ!"

The strength of the law was sin and this monster son of that "Goliath" was the next to be dealt with in this tremendous chapter.

What a force is sin! Every conceivable recourse has been made to neutralize it: ceremonial righteousness; [122/123] psychological justification; philosophical reasoning; fatalistic evasion; sublimation and ideological make-believe; to say nothing of the agonies of struggle and striving. But sin remains victor of the field. Do what you may, and call it what you will, it scorns all efforts to put it off. Until Christ came and He was "made unto us from God, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption"; the "Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world" ... "Made sin for us (in our stead) that we might be made the righteousness of God through faith in him". "By his Cross he triumphed", and over that grave the triumphant cry breaks forth: "Thanks!" "Victory!" "Through our Lord Jesus Christ."

The law, sin, and the consummation of both -- death! What an enemy! What a power! In its own realm it is final, and hope is silent. It is the refuge (?) of the hopeless and abandoned. And yet, it is not numbed; it has a 'sting', and, inasmuch as it is an 'enemy', it is a power.

We will not enlarge upon this parent of sorrow, loneliness, disappointment and desolation. Neither can it be dismissed by that philosophy which says -- to man in general -- "there is no death".

But, says the Apostle, "death is swallowed up in victory"! "O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?" It assailed the incorruptible Son of God, and He turned and plucked its sting from it. He, by dying, destroyed death for ever for all who put their faith in Him. Over death He conquered by His resurrection; for "now is Christ risen from the dead", the trumpet has sounded -- "Thanks!" "Victory!" "Through our Lord Jesus Christ!"

The Apostle does not stop there. He adds an inspiring, heartening word of assurance for all who "labour" in "the work of the Lord". "Wherefore " ... 'Be not disconcerted by condemnation, by your own consciousness of fault or imperfection; by the persistent thrusts of the accuser; by the shortness of tenure to finish the work; by the disappointments which time brings. Because of this universal triumph of the One for whom you labour, "Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding ... inasmuch as you know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord."'

"Thanks be to God!" "Victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!" - T. A-S.



[T. Austin-Sparks]

IN pursuing the matter which has been before us, I want to call to your remembrance three fragments of the Word:

"For this cause I also, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which is among you, and which ye shew toward all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him" (Ephesians 1:15).

"My brethren, hold not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons" (James 2:1).

"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial among you, which cometh upon you to prove you, as though a strange thing happened unto you: but insomuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings, rejoice, that at the revelation of his glory also ye may rejoice with exceeding joy. If ye are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are ye; because the Spirit of glory and the Spirit of God resteth upon you" (1 Peter 4:12-14).

May I just remind you that we have been occupied with the truth that the end of all God's works is glory. We have defined glory as being the expression of God's full and final satisfaction, God giving out from Himself His pleasure, His delight, and, like a heavenly contagion, those who come within its range and its reach are very conscious that He is pleased and satisfied. In one place He is called "the blessed God" (1 Timothy 1:11), but the original says 'the happy God'. You know that if you go into the presence of people who are really happy you are affected and infected by their happiness. It is possible to go amongst people who are heartily laughing, and you begin to laugh, not knowing what you are laughing at! The atmosphere influences you. Now, if God is happy, satisfied, well pleased and delighted, and you come within touch of Him, you catch something from Him and feel that happiness. That is exactly the meaning [123/124] of glory: God being completely contented with a situation, or with a life, or with a person, and if you should happen to be that person you just take from Him something of His contentment and satisfaction. It is a glorious sense of contentedness, of satisfaction, of blessedness.

So the end of everything that is really of God is that wonderful power of His own personal pleasure. I think there is nothing in all the universe so blessed as to have a sense that the Lord is well pleased. It must have been a great day for Abraham, a wonderful, inexpressible day, when God called him His friend, and for Daniel, too, when the messenger of God said: "Oh Daniel, thou man greatly beloved". What do you want more than that from God? That is glory, is it not? Well, God is working toward that in all His works in the universe, in the creation and in the redeemed.

You will have noticed from the three passages that we read that the triune God, the three Persons of the Trinity, are personally related to glory. First, the Father of glory; secondly, the Lord Jesus, the Lord of glory; and thirdly, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of glory. Each member of the Godhead takes character from this word 'glory', and each Person of the Trinity is supremely concerned with glory. That opens up a very large door, but I shall not go very far through that door just now. I will just mention that you can follow through the Bible how God, as Father, the first Person of the Trinity, is always concerned about glory; how the Lord Jesus, the second Person in the Trinity, is always working on the line of glory; and then how the Holy Spirit all the way along is operating toward glory, with glory as the governing concern. I leave that, for it is a long, long line of very blessed revelation. The point for me just now is that the Godhead is united, is one in this thing. The three are united concerning glory, and their interest is one interest. As we have already said, it is their priority. So the priority of the triune God is glory.

All I am going to do now is to say a little word about each of these designations -- the Father of glory, the Lord of glory and the Spirit of glory -- and may the Lord give us something in our hearts from our brief meditation!


What does that mean? Well, it means that God is the source of glory, and that glory emanates from Him. The principle of fatherhood is that the father is the source, the beginning and the projector, so all that really emanates from God has, as its very purpose and destiny, glory. We are children of God, and the very object and purpose of our being His children in His mind is that we should come to glory, that is, that we should be brought to that position where at last -- oh, wonderful thought! too wonderful to grasp! -- God says: 'I am perfectly satisfied and content.' Can you imagine God saying that about you? Can you believe that the all-mighty, eternal, perfect, holy, great God could look down upon us and say: 'I am well pleased. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord, into the very satisfaction of My Father heart.'? It is too much for us to grasp just now, is it not? But that is the meaning of His Fatherhood. He has begotten us, brought us into being as His children, is responsible for our coming into being as His children, has taken responsibility for us as His children, and all with this one object of bringing us along the line, along the way, to the end, which is an entering into that unspeakable awareness that He has nothing whatever against us, but is satisfied to the last possible degree.

Whatever comes out from God, whether it is children or His creation, comes out as destined for that glory of His perfect satisfaction. Things are like that at the end of the Bible. There is a state of glory, a glorious condition, which means the outgoing, the emanation of God's own perfect satisfaction. Paul puts it in this way: "Foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son" (Romans 9:29). What is that? His Son! -- "My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3.17). And we are to be conformed to that! We are to inherit God's own attitude toward His Son, to come into that position and condition that His Son occupies of the perfect satisfaction of the Father.

You see, His Father-dealings with us are along that line. "My son, regard not lightly the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art reproved of him; for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth" (Hebrews 12:4). What is the chastening all about? "All chastening seemeth for the present to be not joyous, but grievous; yet afterward it yieldeth peaceable fruit unto them that have been exercised thereby, even the fruit of righteousness" (Hebrews 12:11). What is righteousness? It is that complete peace in the heart that God's sense of rightness is satisfied.


"Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory" is what James calls Him, and it is a wonderful thing that James, His own brother in the flesh, should say that of Him! There was a time when James did not believe on Him. "For even his [124/125] brethren did not believe on him" (John 7:5), was what was said about James formerly. Of course, we have a fairly shrewd idea of why that was. In those early days James and the other brothers of Jesus were a bit worldly and they had an eye to business, to success, to popular acceptance, and they wished especially to stand well with the authorities. That is worldliness, is it not? It is the spirit of the world to wish to stand well with the authorities. This older Brother of theirs was taking a course that was getting Him into trouble with the people who had it in their power to take everything away from Him, and they belonged to His family, which meant that they would suffer because He had taken that line. Well, we will leave that, but I think it is a fairly true judgment of that statement: "Even his brethren did not believe on him." They could not accept the way that He was taking, for it was not going to bring popularity.

Now here is this brother of His, these many years afterward, calling Him "the Lord of glory". Something has happened! James is saying that his own Brother is "the Lord of glory"! Once he did not believe in Him, but now he calls Him "the Lord of glory". That is indeed a wonderful thing! But what did he mean, and what does it mean to call Him "the Lord of glory"?

Well, you know, if anyone is a lord, he has everything under his control. If you should be a 'lord', then things are under your control and in your power. You dictate how these things are going to work out. Yes, you are lord in this situation and, indeed, in all situations. Jesus is Lord, and as Lord of glory He is in a position of mastery.

Peter, who at one time denied Him vehemently later said: "He is Lord of all" (Acts 10:36). A big thing has happened in Peter, too, as well as in James. Indeed, it had happened in all of them, for they all called Him "Lord". We know from the very context of Peter's words that he was at that time having to recognize the absolute mastery of the Lord Jesus. Peter was arguing a bit. It was very strange that he should have been arguing with the Lord Jesus at that time "Not so, Lord, for I have never eaten anything that is common and unclean", but he had to succumb to the mastery of the Lord Jesus, and he did. Then he said: "He is Lord of all", meaning that He was in charge both of Peter and of every situation, and, being in charge, this situation was going to work out to the end that He intended. So, when James says "the Lord of glory", it means that the Lord Jesus is in charge of everything to make it work out for glory.

You have only to read through the book of the Acts of the Apostles, as it is called, and as you go through you see the Lord of glory holding the situations. Yes, in phase after phase, and stage after stage. We need only lift out one or two examples.

Peter is in prison, with his feet in the stocks and four quarternions of soldiers to guard him, and the inner and outer doors of the prison tightly closed. Herod has made very sure that that man is not going to escape! This looks a somewhat difficult proposition, does it not? I doubt whether it would have been possible for any man to have liberated Peter that night. At any rate, all the forces of this world are determined that he should not escape. He is the key man, the strategic man in this new movement, so he must be kept safe. All right, do all you can and all you wish. Take every precaution, every measure, to make everything secure. But the Lord of glory has other ways, and so an angel comes and smites Peter, who is asleep.

It is rather wonderful that when the Lord of glory is in charge you can go to sleep, even in situations where you are going to be brought out for execution tomorrow! You are in a condemned cell, and you know that tomorrow you are going the same way as the other James and be executed, but you just go to sleep right through the night. Well, it needs the Lord of glory to make you do that, so that you can say: 'The Lord has this thing in hand, so I am going to sleep.'

I remember a man who was here in the West in the wild days of long ago. He was travelling and came to a shack, which was in a perilous place where bears were roaming about. He was very tired after travelling all day, but he found that he could not get into the shack. He could only rest under the awning outside, so he lay down there. He belonged to the Lord and before he settled down he read a Psalm: "He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep." He said: 'Well, Lord, it is no use the two of us keeping awake. If You say You are keeping awake all night, I am going to sleep!' And so he went off to sleep and had a good night. That is trusting the Lord!

Peter went to sleep and the angel smote him, struck off his chains and fetters, and said: 'Rise up and follow me.' They left the guards, the cell and the chains, and went out through the first door, then through the next, until they came to the outer gates, which opened of their own accord, and Peter was landed out in the open. This circumstance, so apparently adverse and impossible, was in the hands of the Lord of glory. And what [125/126] about the glory? We have Peter's Letters, written years afterwards, and they are wonderful Letters, are they not? His was a wonderful life, and so much wealth has come to us through Peter's ministry in these Letters. Yes, there was glory, and Jesus is the Lord of glory.

One more thing from that Book of the Acts. We are in Philippi. Paul and Silas have arrived, because the Lord has sent them there. 'They had assayed to go into Asia, but were forbidden of the Holy Ghost, and they assayed to go into Bithynia but the Spirit of Jesus suffered them not.' Then, wondering what all that meant -- 'Why are we not allowed to go this way or that?' -- Paul, in a vision, saw a man of Macedonia and heard him say: "Come over into Macedonia, and help us." "And," said Luke, "concluding that God had called us for to preach the gospel unto them" (Acts 16:10), they set sail, arrived in Philippi, quite sure that the Lord had sent them there -- and the next thing they knew was that they were in a dungeon with their feet fast in stocks and their backs bleeding after thorough lashing. Now what do you make of this? What are you going to do about it? It seems an absolute contradiction, and that a big mistake has been made. Are they saying: 'We have got into confusion over our guidance'? No! Not a bit. In that condition they are singing and praising God at midnight. The Lord of glory has the situation in hand, and that is proved before the morning. There is the earthquake, the prisoners are released, the jailer and his house saved and baptized, and the church in Philippi established. The jailor and his family were amongst the first members and I do not believe his family were infants! It says: "They spake the word of the Lord unto them", and you do not put a little innocent baby in a chair and preach the gospel to it, or teach it the things of Christ. They were intelligent and old enough to understand the teaching and preaching of Paul, and to accept it, so they were all baptized as responsible persons. They were amongst the first members of that church; and we have that beautiful Letter from Paul's own prison, written years afterwards, when he was in Rome. We would not sacrifice that Letter to the Philippians for anything, would we? It is very precious. There is the Lord of glory, you see. It is the Book of the Acts of the Holy Spirit, the acts of the Lord of glory, for He is in charge. I wish we could always believe that when we are in prisons, tied up, with things all against us, and we are having a difficult time! If we could always just say: 'The Lord is the Lord of glory. He has charge of this and the end is going to be glory'! Well, it works out that way, even though He has to say to us afterward: "O ye of little faith! Wherefore didst thou doubt?" Although we, under the trial, sometimes feel that there is nothing of glory in the situation, or in our condition, in the end He is faithful, and we find that glory is the end of His strange ways. He is the Lord of glory. which means that He controls everything with glory in view.


Peter calls the Holy Spirit "the Spirit of glory". Now the context is necessary as the background of that title of the Holy Spirit. If you read this first Letter of Peter's you will see that it is very largely about the sufferings of the Lord's people to whom he is writing. It says that he is writing "to the elect who are sojourners of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father". Then he opens up on this matter of the sufferings of these people: "Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial among you, which cometh upon thou to prove you, as though a strange thing happened unto you."

There is a lot about the sufferings of the Lord's people in this Letter of Peter's, and when he has mentioned the sufferings there are two things that he links with them: first grace, and then glory, grace issuing in glory. It is very helpful to notice how Peter speaks of grace, but, unfortunately, in our translation there are places where the word is changed, and the word 'acceptable' is used. In chapter 2:19 and 20 we read: "For this is acceptable , if for conscience toward God a man endureth griefs, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye sin, and are buffeted for it, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye shall take it patiently, this is acceptable with God." But in putting this right we have something very rich: "For this is grace, if for conscience toward God a man endureth griefs, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye sin, and are buffeted for it, he shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye shall take it patiently, this is grace with God" (R.V. margin). Grace, then glory. In chapter 5:10 Peter says: "And the God of all grace, who called you unto his eternal glory in Christ, after that ye have suffered a little while, shall himself perfect, stablish, strengthen you." 'Through the suffering of this little while there will be grace sufficient to make us triumphant.' Grace triumphant in suffering, and that means glory.

We sometimes sing: [126/127]

Jesus, Thy life is mine,

   Dwell evermore in me;

   And let me see

That nothing can untwine

Thy life from mine.

Thy fullest gift, O Lord,

   Now at Thy word I claim,

   Through Thy dear name,

And touch the rapturous chord

Of praise forth-poured.

That came from the bed of an invalid! It is something, is it not? Well, that is what Peter is talking about -- the sufferings, the fiery trial, and then he says: 'Grace in that means glory.' The Spirit of glory.

The Lord help us! We can say these things, and I say them carefully, guardedly, for we can be so put to the test on things that we say. The Spirit of glory can take hold of the things which could destroy us, and could be our undoing if we had the wrong reaction to them, and turn them to glory. This suffering, this reaction, this trial can mean glory. Paul said: "And by reason of the exceeding greatness of the revelation -- wherefore, that I should not be exalted overmuch, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, that I should not be exalted overmuch. Concerning this thing I besought the Lord thrice" (and when Paul sought the Lord you may take it that he did so very thoroughly, and when he did it three times you may be sure that Paul put himself right into it!). "And he hath said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee; for my power is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

The Spirit of glory can take hold of our trials, and will do so, if we trust Him, and turn the dark things, the hard things, the painful things, into glory. That is, in those things He will lead us to find God's pleasure, God's satisfaction, God's 'Well done!', and what more glorious thing could we desire than that we should hear Him say: 'Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.'?

The Father of glory, the Lord of glory and the Spirit of glory. The Lord place this word in our hearts! - T. A-S.



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We also acknowledge the following gifts received from the 29th July to the 28th September, 1971:

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