Divine Order - In Christ

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 9 - The Ground of the Church - Faith

We are being occupied in these messages with the relationship of the Lord to God's great, heavenly, eternal order. Having looked back to that order in its primal beauty, glory and nature, we have seen the disruption, upset and dislocation which were brought in by rebellious powers in heaven, who, by reason of their rebellion, were cast out. And then, their leader had this one object: to spoil the work of God and to upset that heavenly order which had been introduced into this earth. It is the terrible story resultant from a disturbed and upset Divine order, making that word and its meaning 'heavenly order' a key to the Bible.

But we are particularly seeing the relationship of the Lord Jesus to that whole business - why He came into this world, why He lived long enough on this earth to show and to manifest the laws of that heavenly order in His own Person, and all that was bound up with His union with the Father - in His teaching, in His works; and then, why He died as He did - all related to the recovery and establishment of the heavenly order in this creation. No wonder He was marked from His birth for destruction. No wonder the prince of this world, having a very ready instrument to hand in Herod, sought to curtail that life at its very beginning. No wonder all the way through His public life there ran that malicious hatred. It is repeatedly stated, "and they sought to destroy Him". He was here to "destroy the works of the devil". "The Son of God was manifested to destroy the works of the devil", and that meant to destroy the destroyer of God's heavenly order.

Now, we have covered a lot of ground in that connection. Today we have come to the point where we are seeking to put our finger upon some of the things which were the cause of that disruption. They have got to be destroyed, firstly in the individual believer. Remember that, it is an open window to a very great deal in our individual Christian life that that which the Son of God was manifested to do, destroy the works of the devil, begins in the individual believer; that is, so far as the practical outworking of it is concerned. And then it has to spread and extend through all relationships: personal relationships, and Church relationships. The works of the devil have got to be destroyed. And we are seeking to find out what those works are that have to be destroyed.

I am not going to take you again to passages that were before us in the previous chapter. I come straight to the truths themselves without the illustrations and symbolisms. We saw that the first blow at the heavenly at the beginning; Divine order was struck with the weapon of a lie. The enemy brought with him a lie about God and about man and about the laws of God. Well, it is all right so far, but when man exposed himself or opened himself to that lie (gave an ear to it, attention to it, permitted it to stand) it entered into the very constitution of the man and through the man to the race, and through the race into the whole system of this world. Well, we tried to show the devastating effect of untruth and therefore the tremendously vital importance in the reconstruction of a heavenly order of truth. For it is only in the Divine order that the Divine end can be reached. There is no other way.

Now we come to the second of these things which on the one side spelt the disruption of this creation, and on the other side spells the recovery and reconstruction. And that is: unbelief and faith.

Unbelief and Faith

There are so many parts of the Scripture to which we could turn in this connection. May it suffice for the present to remind you that, when at last the work is done, the recovery is perfected, and all the damage is repaired and the works of the devil have been completely cast out and we have that wonderful symbolic representation of what is heavenly in nature and order, the New Jerusalem coming down from God out of Heaven, there are some very significant things said there. We have this, for one, in Revelation 21:8: "But for the fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, their part shall be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone." The unbelieving come in the category at last. It was an original work by which the creation was thrown into such confusion; it is the final work of the triumphant Lamb that sees unbelief in the lake of fire. As I have said, there are many Scriptures on this matter of unbelief. There is that very significant statement regarding that whole generation which came out of Egypt, with God's thought and will that they should enter upon that which would be a wonderful, earthly representation of the heavenly order. It is written over the whole of that generation: "they could not enter in because of unbelief." It is the great frustrating and limiting thing; it is the great spoiling thing. It disappoints God and man.

What is the nature of unbelief? It is nothing less and other than a vicious slandering of God. "Has God said...?" You can hear mockery and you can hear something unholy, something that would bring God Himself into question. Well, unbelief is all that we can say that is against God; it is disparagement of God. "Has God said...?" There is the note of disparagement there. It is the defaming of God. It is calumny against God. It is libel against God. It is detraction from God. It is casting an aspersion upon God. It is all that and much more that is underneath. Unbelief always calls God into question; always takes something from God of His character; puts something upon God which does not belong to His nature. It is a terrible thing. We know quite well when we are saying all these things that we are hitting ourselves pretty hard. We are not saying this objectively about other people, or about you; we are taking ourselves very severely to task, facing the truth about our own hearts.

We know quite well that unbelief is always weakness, and it always has the effect of disintegrating the life, just shattering its unity, pulling it to pieces. Thus it weakens our souls. It weakens our hands in the work of God or in any purpose; it arrests our progress. Oh how true these things are, and how much more could be said about this terrible thing called unbelief!

If you were going to buy a newly built house and, wanting to be very sure, you brought the builder along and you said to him: "Will the foundation really hold up that house?" And he said, "I am not sure!" "Will that roof really be weatherproof and watertight?" "I don't know, I have my doubts." "Will those floors really sustain the weight that I want to put on them?" "I don't know." "Well, will the whole thing stay together?" "I cannot tell you!" What would you do? Well, I know what you would do. You would say, "You can have your house; that is not what I want." But perhaps you would turn to him, and say, "Have you ever thought of a name for your house?" Again, he might say, "No I don't know." "Well, I will give you a name for that house: Doubting Castle!" And we might just put in there a little parenthesis from our brother, John Bunyan. Do you remember Doubting Castle? And this might be very appropriate today for some of us, for Christian and Hopeful had been really enjoying a good time on the banks of the river as they walked along. But good times have a way of passing, and as they went on, they came upon a very rugged piece of road, so different and hard-going. But after a time, they began to complain about the road, and the hardness of the way. They began to ask questions as to whether this was right, whether this ought to be, whether the King was really kind in asking them to come along such a road. And while they were so occupied, they came to a little bypath in the road which led off from the main road, and it led into Bypath Meadow in which was Doubting Castle, the residence of Giant Despair. And because they were trespassing (how clever Bunyan was!) - they were where they ought not to have been - Giant Despair came out and dragged them in, and flung them into a dungeon.

Another touch of genius is that Bunyan says they had very little to say to each other now, because they both knew they were in the wrong. They had been rejoicing together, talking about the Lord and the things of the Lord, and having blessed fellowship. But now that was all brought to a stop in Doubting Castle, under the shadow of Giant Despair. There they lay, everything suspended. But after a while Christian recollected; he recollected that he had the key to the Castle in his bosom. And he said, "What a fool I am thus to lie in a stinking dungeon when I can be walking at liberty. I have the key!" When he said that, Giant's Despair's limbs began to tremble and to fail him, and his fits recommenced to take hold of him, and he was unable to keep them in his dungeon or his castle! Well, that is unbelief. It is forbidden ground; it is a bypath meadow; it is off the main road. You and I have visited that more than once; we have been caught. That is what happened to man. And that - let us be honest - has happened to us more than once. We have allowed this sinister thing to come in, asked questions about the goodness of the Lord, about the love of God, wondered whether our hard road is after all not a contradiction to His goodness and His mercy. Once we get down that road, we are getting off the track; once we let that thing begin to have a place, it will not be long before we are in the grip of Giant Despair. Well, this world is there and many Christians get there.

All that remains to be said is that faith or belief is a mighty weapon in the Son of God for destroying the works of the devil. You see His life here. He did not come into this world with anything whatever to rest upon as a guarantee, or assurance, of worldly success, or from the natural standpoint that His mission would be successful. He came in minus everything that this world requires for success. And so He lived. He had no wealth; He had no worldly influence; He was brought up in a place which itself represented a handicap for His life, a town with a bad reputation! "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" And so He lived right the way through, with everything lacking that this world demands for success, and very much present that was set against Him and in the very atmosphere of malice and hatred. It was there, but He lived and won through an earthly life on one thing only, and that was faith in His Father. And who shall say, in the light of the record, that that faith was put to it very severely at times. To the last breath He was assailed. "He was tempted in all points like as we are" - sin apart - tempted nevertheless. Satan came to Him in the wilderness on this very thing - 'If God were Your Father, He would not let you hunger!' That is the 'serpent'. But the fact is that under the severest testings of faith to the end, He won through. Those two last cries on the Cross: ''My God, why... why...?" That is the cry of a tested faith isn't it - "Why hast Thou forsaken Me?" You and I will never have, by the mercy of God, to cry that cry, but you and I in so much smaller ways have, more than once, said to the Lord, Why...? But then, I am so glad that there was a change from "My God, My God, why...", to "Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit." Faith has triumphed; back into the realm of absolute confidence in His Father; and there He closes His life. But He was in His own life and Person recovering and re-establishing this law of a heavenly order; it is brought back by triumphant faith.

It is, in the first place, the assurance of God. It is the assurance that God is the Saviour, "...strong cries and tears that he might be saved..." - that He might be saved "from death, and He was heard in that He feared", meaning, of course, as that word always does in the Bible, not that He was 'afraid', but that he 'trusted'. He trusted God for His salvation. The assurance for salvation - that is faith in God. The assurance of purpose in calling. Satan tried to destroy that in the wilderness, to get Him to experiment with God, and resort to some other kind of method of fulfilling His vocation, in capturing the dominion of the kingdoms of the world. 'Do it in your own strength; do it in the popular way; do it as other men do it. Don't do it by faith; do it by works. Do it out of yourself.' He tried to raise the question, "If... if..." all the time as to whether, with all that was against Him and all this threat that was confronting Him, He could fulfill His mission. He was called to this work. And faith triumphed in the matter of His calling, His vocation; the purpose of God in His life. You and I are tested along those same lines. Many a man and woman who has lived a long life in walking with God has had a supreme test before the life closed on the question of assurance of salvation. It is a fact.

Last week I read again the life of Dr. A. B. Simpson. If ever there was a man who walked with God he did; if ever there was a man to whom the Lord talked, he was such. If ever a man was used of the Lord, he was - worldwide and with a wonderful testimony. However, in the closing weeks of his life he was under the dark cloud of questioning whether he was really saved. His brethren had to gather around him and fight that battle of prayer for him, and he came out triumphantly before he went. But Satan, you see, never gives up this thing and tries to spoil everything by insinuating unbelief and questions about God. It shatters everything.

This is because the enemy knows that faith, after all, involves everything, just as unbelief involves everything. It is not one of those things that you can isolate or separate. That is why in prescribing the armour against principalities and powers, the Apostle says: 'And take the big shield of faith'. That is what it is; it is not in our translation, but the big shield, the overall shield. You may have all the other pieces of amour, in all the other places where it fits, but you have got to cover everything with faith. Even your righteousness has got to be a righteousness by faith, every bit of it. The girdle of truth is of no avail only by faith. You see, faith involves everything, and that is why the enemy struck at faith at the beginning and never ceases to strike. And that conflict will continue to the end.

Now, we have related this matter to 'building'. This is the second pillar of the seven pillars of wisdom with which she is building her house. If the first is 'truth' the second is 'faith'. And there will be no building without faith. There will be just the opposite, everything will go to pieces if there is unbelief, if there is doubt. So Paul cries, "The life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God". Now, I am very glad that that is the literal way of putting it and for what that means, because you and I are so often found helpless and baffled because we feel we have not got the kind of faith, that measure of faith that is called for. And perhaps as we speak of it, what a tremendous thing it is, we feel almost appalled at our little faith. But it is 'the faith of the Son of God'. He perfected faith in Himself. He won the battle of faith completely, and in His Cross He met that whole realm of unbelief, that evil thing, and conquered it in His Cross, as we have seen. These principalities and powers and hosts of wicked spirits which compassed Him about like bees, were all concentrating for one final blow of victory - to make Him doubt His God. But He came through, triumphant over them all. And in that way He stripped them off and made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in His Cross.

Now, we know this is one of our platitudes and yet how slow we are to appropriate. We know that the Holy Spirit came precisely to make good in us, and in the Church, what Jesus did in His Cross. That is a part of our doctrine. But that is why the Holy Spirit came, to guide us into all the truth; to take the things of Christ and show them to us; to make real in us all that was true in Christ. The Holy Spirit, therefore, has come to implant faith, to nurture faith, to strengthen faith, to bring the faith of the Son of God alive in us and to increase in us. Oh, if it is 'my' faith, that is not going to get through! If it is 'your' faith, it is a poor thing. If it is 'His' faith, it is a mighty faith that has already conquered. It is His faith! "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I but Christ; and that life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me, and gave Himself up for me." Faith is the gift of God. Faith is the work of God.

Let us ask the Lord to strengthen the faith of the Son of God in us. And as together we are built up, so the building will go on, a structure that proves by its testimony that the works of the devil have been destroyed, and this work in particular. May it never be that we cannot enter in because of unbelief, but rather be those who through faith and patience inherit the promise.

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