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What is the Church?

by T. Austin-Sparks

First published in "A Witness and A Testimony" magazine, Jul-Aug 1936, Vol. 14-4. Extract from "The Risen Lord and the Things Which Cannot be Shaken" - Chapter 4.

Does it not strike you as significant, and very impressive, that when the veil was rent Israel was set aside? Israel had been called in to maintain a testimony in types. Christ had come and fulfilled all the types, and being the centre of all the types, the veil, all that kept God shut off from man, was now dealt with, and the way was open. There was no need for types now. So the custodian of the types departs with the types. This is not the dispensation of the types: this is the dispensation of the reality, the dispensation of a heavenly union with a risen Lord, and of all that that means.

Our danger is of bringing back types. The types have gone and that is the whole message of this letter to the Hebrews. Christ is everything. The outward order of the Old Testament is set aside, and now all that obtains is Christ Himself. He is the Priest; you no longer have priests on earth in the Old Testament sense. He is the Sacrifice: there is no need for any other sacrifices. He is the Tabernacle; He is the Temple; He is the Church.

What is the Church?

What is the Church? It is Christ in living union with His own, that wheresoever two or three are gathered together in His name there He is in the midst. That is the Church.

You do not build special buildings and call them "the Church." You do not have special organisations, religious institutions, which you call "the Church." Believers in living union with the risen Lord constitute the Church. This is the reality, not the figure. That is to say, His flesh, human limitation, is done away. Now in union with Christ risen all human limitations are transcended. This is one of the wonders of Christ risen as a living reality.

We are brought into a realm of capacities which are more than human capacities, where, because of Christ in us, we can do what we never could do naturally. Our relationships are new relationships; they are with heaven. Our resources are new resources: they are in heaven. That is why the Apostle wrote to the Corinthians and said that God hath chosen the weak things, the foolish things. The things which are despised, and the things which are not, that He by them might bring to naught the wise, the mighty, the things which are. Why did God appoint it so? Because it is not by might, nor by power, but by His Spirit; and to show that there are powers, energies, abilities for His own which transcend all the greatest powers and abilities of this world.

That is the history of God's people, and that is where so many people go wrong. Men of the world look upon Christians and for the most part do not think much of them. They measure them by the standards of the world, and say: Well, they are rather a poor lot; their calibre, is not much! But men of the world are unable to measure spiritual and heavenly forces. They are unable to see what is happening when a few of these poor, weak, foolish, despised things get together and pray. They cannot see through there and observe that when these few weak believers are together before God, governed by the Holy Spirit, things are being moved to the bounds of the universe, the whole hierarchy of Satan is being stirred to its depths, and the powers of heaven are being brought into operation. That is God's way, and the world never can measure that. Nor can that be done by human wisdom, strength, ability at its greatest. God has chosen weak things for that. Why? Simply because weak things in their dependence are the best instruments, the best means of giving God a chance of showing that such works are not of any human sufficiency at all, but all of Himself.

Please take no comfort from the fact that God has chosen weak things and foolish things and say: Well, I am that, and therefore it is all right! The point is, Are you in God's hand bringing to naught the mighty, the wise? It is not a case of a resting back on our weakness, and our foolishness, and our nothingness, and saying: That applies to me; that is all right; that is all that matters! That is not all that matters. The thing which matters is that I, being a weak, foolish nobody, may know resurrection union with Christ in all His mighty power, and in that union with Him mighty spiritual things should be done through me. That is the positive side.

Heaven and earth are united in Christ risen. Yes, He is in heaven, and yet He says: "I am with you all the days." Or again, we have the statement" "I go to the Father," and at the same time the promise: "I will take up my abode in you." Stephen, in the hour of his death, saw the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God, and yet that Son of Man by His Spirit was in Stephen, for Stephen is declared to have been a man full of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is the Spirit of Christ. So Christ Who is in heaven is also within, and heaven is also within, and heaven and earth are one in the risen Christ. Christ was seen in heaven by Saul of Tarsus on the way to Damascus, and yet He says to Saul: "Why persecutest thou Me?" When Saul was persecuting believers the Lord Jesus clearly intimated that while He was up there He was also here, and that when Saul touched believers he touched Him. Heaven and earth are one in the risen Lord.


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