by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 4 - A New Beginning

Reading: Hebrews 5:11-14; 6:1-3.

That portion which could be accompanied by a very great deal more from the letters to the Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, and from Peter’s letters, brings one very foundational thing into view. Foundational because it is addressed in this case to very religious people, and to those who inherited the whole of that system which God Himself produced. It brings into view the fact that with Christ, and a true relationship to Christ, everything begins over anew. Everything else, it does not matter what it is, comes to an end. It makes clear what Paul was so fond of saying, that with the death of Christ everything finished, everything! The central thing religiously, so far as the old order was concerned, in type, was the veil of the temple; everything met in that veil. With the death of Christ, from heaven that thing was ripped and split in twain by the hand of God. The old order was struck right at its centre. The death of the Lord Jesus did bring an end to everything—religiously and otherwise—of the old order and system and creation. The resurrection of the Lord Jesus was God’s starting all over again right from zero. And not one fragment or fraction of the old creation was carried over into the new.

Resurrection more than Elevation

I think that a good many people have the idea, even if they have not thought it out and put it into positive shape, they have a mentality that to become a believer, a child of God, a christian, is to come to a certain point in one’s history where you, metaphorically speaking, go up in an escalator on to a higher platform and proceed. It is in the nature of continuing life on a higher storey. That is, that now you have interests, religious interests, christian interests, which you did not have before, your activities and your energies are directed along lines in relation to Christ, which did not obtain before. You are simply going on now on a different level of life, and thus they confuse resurrection with elevation, and elevation with resurrection. Now it is tremendously important (and I am not careful about being too elementary) that we should recognise that when we become children of God we have come to the place where we have not gone up on to a higher storey as in an elevator, but where we have tumbled into a grave and been buried, and so far as God is concerned, never again to be seen as we were before. You say: Here we are, it is the same old I, the same old ego, the same old personality. That may be from your standpoint, but from God’s standpoint, No! What you and I have to do is to accept God’s standpoint. That is what Paul means by: “...reckon ye also yourselves to be dead...” That is, accept God’s standpoint. Once you have accepted that intelligently and deliberately you are destined to come continually, progressively, increasingly to know that God’s standpoint is a real one. That is, that God had reckoned you dead, and does reckon you dead, and He does not want to have anything to do with you on that old level; and inasmuch as you bring anything in from the natural, you have a bad time, and find God is up against you. You come to these crises, and you say: What is the matter, Lord? And the Lord says: That was ruled out in the beginning! You see it is an accepting of God’s standpoint once and for all, and discovering it is not a theory, not a doctrine, but a reality.

When Did You Die?

I picked up a little book this week. The title on the cover rather struck me. Probably many of you know it. “When did you die?” I have only seen the first few words of it, and the writer says: “A strange question to ask any one”, and then a little while and he says: “You died as long ago as the Lord Jesus died on the Cross.” I know, of course, what he will have to say about that, I know what will follow, but that is the truth which the Lord requires that we shall accept. The Lord’s standpoint is that you and I died before we were born, before we came literally into this world. So far as the old creation is concerned, we died, we died with Christ, and the Lord has nothing whatever to say to us or do with us until we have accepted that position. The first word to any man from the Lord is “repentance from dead works.” Everything is dead until you know resurrection union with Christ, no matter what it is, religion or anything else. Everything is dead until you know union with Christ in resurrection life.

That is God’s position, and the Cross of the Lord Jesus presented to any man or woman represents so far as that man or woman is concerned an absolute end, and on the other side a beginning of an entirely new order. Paul calls the different order: “… the newness of spirit.” That is not the newness of the Holy Spirit, that is the newness of our spirit, that our spirit has become a new thing and out from that everything else works. You can see it in his own case. If ever there was an illustration of what newness of the spirit means, Paul was such. Why, it came about swiftly with him. One day he is breathing out threatenings and slaughters against members of Christ, and on his way with a passionate burning determination to destroy these Christians, and in a few hours he is humbled, before a little assembly in Damascus, which he was going to destroy, taking his instructions for the rest of his life.

That is a change of spirit, is it not? That is newness of spirit. And you find that tremendous change manifested in all kinds of directions. Think of this Pharisee of the Pharisees and his attitude toward gentile “dogs”, as he would call them (anybody that was not a Jew was a “dog” in the eyes of a Jew). See this man in whose very blood that was, now putting gentiles at least upon an equal footing with Jews, and giving his life in continuous suffering that those gentiles might come into the enjoyment of Christ. Something has happened inside, a new spirit! That only comes through the crises of a death in one realm and a resurrection into another realm; something that only God can do. And all that is not of that newness of spirit is of the old creation and it means the impassable barrier of the Cross of the Lord Jesus whenever it arises. Let any of our old man, whether of our old temper, our old way of judging, our old disposition, any of it come up at all, if we are children of God, we know quite well that at that point a barrier is set up and we cannot get past, we are held up in our spiritual life and we have to go back and have that thing cleared up. It is as real as any other thing in the universe to us. At that moment we stand still spiritually, and the flaming sword is across our path. There is no way for that here. Bring that here and you will be judged. You will meet the judgment of God. You will be broken. It is coming up against the fact that God finished with all that long ago and we have to accept God’s standpoint. When we have accepted it then the thing works out, it continually works out. We take that position, we accept the truth. We cannot bring an actual end to the old creation ourselves, but we say in a positive way: I reckon as God reckons. Well then we shall find as we go on that God having put all that under death, death rests upon it, and if ever it shows its head again the sentence of death is met. If we begin to work for the Lord with our own natural strength we meet death and before long our natural strength will come under death. If we begin to use our natural judgment in the things of God we shall meet an arrest and before long we shall come to a deadlock, unable to get through. Anything which we bring of nature into the things of God will bring us up against—not some new issue but—the old issue, death which was made to rest upon the old creation. In so far as we move in the newness of life, work by the Spirit of God, walk after the Spirit, death is done away and we are in life and we can go on and can get through, no matter how much there may be of handicap and weakness in nature, we can get through as we go on in the Spirit. “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and death”. We are free!

Death — God’s Starting-place

Now that is all old familiar ground to many, and yet something which we have continually to remember. It is the foundation. Unless we have the foundation thoroughly well laid, we shall come to a hitch. We know of many children of God who have been the Lord’s children for years and they have been working for the Lord many of them, and yet they have come to a standstill, they have come under an arrest. Why? Well in some way, at some point, somehow, something of themselves, their old self has come up, has come into evidence, has come into the way. It may be some of their old mind, some of their old will, some of their old affections, desires and feelings. They are in their own way somehow. They are in the Lord’s way. What is needed is not that they should die again, but that they should come to accept their once-for-all death in Christ in relation to whatever that may be that has come up, and let it go and be set free from that law of sin and death. “Repentance from dead works.” That is exactly what the apostle is saying to these Hebrews: You have come to a standstill. You simply ceased to go on. You went so far, now you have got to a certain point and for years you have not budged a bit from that position. You have never got past foundations, you are not going on to full growth. You have not settled it once and for all that you died when Christ died. You ended the whole system and order of the old creation religiously and otherwise when you came to Christ. Christ is the end of the law and Christ is the end of the old creation, and He is the beginning of everything new. Do not be wearied at repetition of old truths, they are very important as foundations, and this is foundational.

We are destined, whether we now accept it or not, whether we like it or not, we are destined to discover that God’s foundation stands. This is true, and no one will ever get through in relation to God and His things while still bound by the old creation, on the old creation level. This new way of life is so narrow that we cannot take ourselves into it, we have to leave ourselves behind.

Well, now, that is a position taken up, and what those who are being baptised are doing is to declare in the practical way that that is the position they have taken. What they are going to discover is that they have not just obeyed a form of doctrine, but that they have entered into a very live situation and from henceforth the Lord is going to make good the implications of this. He is going to say: That died, you cannot bring that along, don’t bring that out of the grave, put it back. And they will find all the way along that the Lord just puts His finger upon things which He reckons as ended in the death of His Son. But, of course, whenever there is acceptance of the Lord’s attitude and position to those things on the death side, we get more of Christ as we get rid of ourselves.

I do want you to recognise that every one of us from the wisest to the most foolish, as we judge, every one of us when we really come into Christ, has got to learn everything all over again. It is true that we may have a tremendous amount of knowledge and information as this world can give it, and yet the wisest, the wealthiest in knowledge or in any other way, coming into Christ has got to learn the ABC in spiritual things. They will discover that. Everything has got to be learned from the infant class, from the cradle roll of the spiritual life. It is no use our coming unto the Lord and thinking we know something. It will not be long before we are made to know that we do not know anything. The Lord said: “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” I think if He had been in another world from the one in which He was at the time, if He had been in the Western world He would probably have said: How hardly shall they that have knowledge enter the Kingdom. The boasted knowledge, wisdom, intellect of the Western world is the great obstruction to the Kingdom. It is not prepared to know anything. When Paul got outside of the Jewish world that was the kind of thing he was saying all the time, that the wisdom of this world was the great hindrance. With the Jews, gain along the line of wealth; to the gentiles, gain along the line of knowledge was the hindrance, and anything that appertains to nature has to be set aside. It is a hindrance to our coming into the Kingdom. The longer we live in relationship to the Lord the more we know that we know nothing. One piece of knowledge we have is that we do not know anything at all, and we are just longing all the time to get some knowledge. There is no royal road to spiritual knowledge, we have to start right at the beginning and learn the things of the Lord as we go along. When we start as young Christians we do think that we know something. But, of course, that is the folly of youth. We are learning everything all over anew. With all the knowledge that we might have naturally, if it should be anything, it does not count here. Spiritual knowledge is a different thing. We have started all over again, but when we accept that place: Now I have everything to learn, I am open and eager to learn, I know nothing, then the Lord can teach. It is the proud one that never learns anything. The Lord show us what it means to begin, what the meaning of the Cross is in our end to the old and beginning to the new.

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