by T. Austin-Sparks
In the earlier chapters we have seen some of the characteristics of the "City of God."
1. A spiritual people with a heavenly nature. "According to the Eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord." - Eph. 3:11.
2. The glory of God in the people of God; the revelation and realisation of His own nature in a people; "He hath granted unto us His precious and exceeding great promises; that through these ye may become partakers of the Divine nature." - 2 Peter 1:4.
3. Elevation and holiness; ascendancy is a feature of the people of God after His own heart; "His foundation is in His holy mountains." - Ps. 87:1. "Like as He who called you is holy, be ye yourselves holy in all manner of living, because it is written, be ye holy for I am holy." - 1 Peter 1:4. Babylon is of the earth; Zion of the heights.
4. Life. The "River of Life," clear as crystal. This denotes transparency. The "Tree of Life," twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month, Rev. 22:2 A.R.V. (Marg.) and the leaves of the tree for the maintenance of health in the nations; a life triumphant over death. Christ has conquered death; this "Life" within to be a feature of His people, beginning now and increasing day by day. To that we are called and in that "life" we should be moving.
5. The fullness and greatness of the city, "he measured the city, twelve thousand furlongs... the city lieth foursquare... the length and the breadth... and the height thereof are equal." - Rev. 21. You could not find land space for twelve thousand furlongs each way in the Western Hemisphhere in which to place the city: we turn to the Ephesian letter, 3:17,19, and read again the prayer of the Apostle Paul, "that ye may be strengthened with power through the Spirit... that ye being rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled unto all the fulness of God," the fulness and greatness of this City of God - a people filled unto the fulness of God; here we find the realisation of the Apostle's prayer; and unto that we are called.
6. The feature of transparency; everything that makes up this city is said to be clear as crystal, transparent. So the people of God are to approximate to this thought of God, and transparency is to characterise their spiritual life now.
We now come to consider the characteristics of
Strength, Stability, Light, Sovereignty.
The foundations of this city, this people of God, are very solid; the foundations are tried stones, and the wall is great and high. All this speaks of strength and stability.
The throne is central, and is the manifestation of the might of God in weakness - the "Little Lamb" in the midst of the throne is greater than all the might of hell and sin; the Lamb hath conquered, and the Lamb in the midst of the throne is the LIFE that hath triumphed over death in all its range and depth, in every realm; a strength out of weakness, a strength that endures from eternity to eternity. And the people of God, who are the called according to His Eternal purpose are a people possessing this eternal life in Christ Jesus.
As God's people, ours is an eternal calling, unto an eternal purpose possessing an eternal life; a life that lasts out and triumphs in all and over all; "They overcame... by the Blood of the Lamb." - Rev. 12:11.
"God has given unto us eternal life and this life is in his Son, he that hath the Son hath the Life." - 1 John 5:11,12, A.R.V. John 6:53-56.
"The Holy City, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God; her light was like unto a stone most precious, as it were a jasper stone clear as crystal." - Rev. 21:10,11.
"The city hath no need of the sun... for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof." - Rev. 21:23.
Her light as a stone most precious, no need of the sun - the light was over all in its sovereign power. These features all blend and are all related to one another, strength and stability are related to light and all three lead to sovereignty; thus we are given to understand the nature of sovereignty.
"His foundation is in the holy mountains, Jehovah loveth the gates of Zion... glorious things are spoken of thee O city of God... the Most High Himself shall establish it." - Ps. 87. This - in relation to the City of God - is a key to a tremendous unfolding of the strength, stability and sovereignty of this city. See the significance of the Name of God which the Holy Spirit chooses to use here "Ey-Elyon" the Most High God Possessor of heaven and earth.
Turn to Isa. 14:12-14. - "How thou art fallen from heaven, O Lucifer Son of the Morning... for thou hast said in thy heart, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God... I will be like the most High." Yes, it was the Most High God, Possessor of heaven and earth whom Lucifer challenged; it was his aspiration to possess heaven and earth.
The Lord Jesus, when on earth, referred to Satan as the Prince of this world; and in Eph. 6 the church of God is shown her warfare is in the heavenlies. The establishment of the city of God is by El-Elyon, the Most High God and is unto the casting down to hell of all the powers of Satan; Satan and his sovereignty cast down for ever.
Trace the word "to establish," through the Scriptures. "The Most High Himself shall establish her." - Ps. 87:5.
"He brought me out of a horrible pit, (Heb. a pit of destruction). He set my feet upon a rock and established my goings." - Ps. 40:2.
"Beautiful for situation - (beautiful in elevation, A.R.V.) a joy of the whole earth is Mount Zion... the city of the great King... God will establish it for ever." - Ps. 48:2,8.
"He shall build a house for my Name and he shall be my son... and I will establish the throne of his kingdom... for ever." - 1 Chron. 22:10.
"I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant, thy seed will I establish for ever and build up thy throne to all generations." - Ps. 89:3,4.
"He is the Mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises." - Heb. 8:6.
"Sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and offerings for sin Thou wouldst not... lo, I come to do Thy will O God; He taketh away the first that he may establish the second." - Heb. 10:8,9.
"Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God even our Father... establish you in every good word and work." - 2 Thess. 2:17.
"It is good that the heart be established by grace." - Heb. 13:9. A.R.V.
"Now to Him that is able to establish you." - Rom. 16:25. A.R.V.
"Rooted and built up IN HIM and established in your faith." - Col. 3:7.
"Be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord." - 1 Cor. 15:58.
"Now unto Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to Him be glory, majesty, dominion and power both now and for ever, Amen." - Jude 24,25.
All these passages and many others teach us that this work of establishing is a working principle. Today the Lord's people need establishing, for on every hand there is going on a great falling away because of the pressure of the enemy. This could not be if the people were properly established in the Lord. Lack of assurance on the part of the people of God generally is the devil's weapon in his great campaign of error, false teaching, counterfeit, suspicion, etc.
Uncertainty, a Master-stroke of Satan.
To prevent assurance of faith is the devil's own work, it is his aim to get the Lord's people unsettled; and doubt is one of his most subtle means of working. It was so in the beginning, "hath God said?" - Gen. 3:1, and it is still his method. The way, and the only way, to frustrate this is by being established in the faith, Acts 16:5; Col. 2:7. "Stand fast in the faith." - 1 Cor. 16.
"A true heart in full assurance of faith." Heb. 10:22.
"Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion walketh about seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith." - 1 Peter 5:8,9.
"I know... where thou dwellest even where Satan's seat (throne, A.R.V.) is... and thou holdest fast my name and hast not denied my faith." - Rev. 2:13.
The great need of God's people is to be established in the faith, not just established in doctrine, in an orthodox gospel, or by acquiring knowledge of fundamental truth, but established by an inward knowledge of our standing in the Lord Jesus on the ground of His finished work and complete triumph over the devil and all his works. So many of the Lord's children lack this assurance of their position in the Lord; yet it is written: "God chose us in Him before the foundation of the world... in love having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto Himself." Eph. 1:4,5.
"There is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus." - Rom. 8:1.
"He hath made us accepted in the Beloved." Eph. 1:6. This acceptance has to do with warfare, all things in our "so great salvation" are related to God's Eternal purpose in Christ Jesus our Lord." - Eph. 3:11.
"Thanks be to God who leadeth us from place to place in the train of His triumph to celebrate His victory over the enemies of Christ." 2 Cor. 2:14.
The people of God are robbed of their fighting power when the enemy has got them to doubt and question their standing in Christ. God must build His city in certainty, and we must stand in the full assurance of faith.
"The foundations of the wall of the city were furnished with all manner of precious stones." - Rev. 21:19.
"The trial of your faith being much more precious than gold... though it be tried by fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ." - 1 Peter 1:7.
Get the internal troubles settled, then you can get on with the work. To be established in the faith with full assurance enables us to strike a blow at Principalities and Powers; but the devil and his hosts have much power where there is uncertainty, doubt, question. When the believer knows the power of the personal "I know" because of full assurance in the Word of God, then that very knowledge is a weapon of defence against the enemy; hence he desires to prevent assurance by inserting doubt whenever he gets a chance.
Stand on God's facts and not on the quicksands of your own feelings. Some are doubting simply because of feelings! Salvation is not a matter of feeling, it is God's fact - "It is written" - God hath said. The word of God is "no condemnation". "There is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus." - Rom. 8:1. We are perfect in Christ the day we are born anew, that is as to our standing, we have good reason to be sorry for our state; but the word is "grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" - 2 Peter 3:18. "My little children of whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you" - Gal. 4:19 A.R.V. Yes it is to be a day by day growing in grace.
Salvation seems for so many of God's children to be a matter of feelings, therefore there is no fighting force that counts against the enemy; (they have not put on the whole armour of God so as to be "able to stand against the wiles of the enemy"). "Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward" - Heb. 10:35. Your great reward! - that ye might be filled into all the fulness God." - Eph. 3:19. There is an assurance of faith which sets us free from all the power of the enemy and self as well; enabling us to endure and be strong in the Lord. Having the ground of our salvation settled, we now have ground from which we can wield sovereignty in the Lord.
Here we are passing through trial, adversity, sorrow, suffering, and we are tempted to think the Lord has given us up; the enemy presses in on every side with accusation, condemnation, question, doubts, fears. "Be ye steadfast, unmovable," for beloved, this is the establishing principle at work, our faith is being exercised. We know anguish, travail. Remember the establishing work is done while our eyes are unto Him; when things are against us, seeking to press us down, then we look off unto Jesus now in the presence of God for us, having all authority in heaven and on earth, and a NAME that is above every other name, a title of Sovereignty above every other title of sovereignty.
"The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give unto you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your heart enlightened (full of light), that ye may know HIM... and what the exceeding greatness of HIS power to usward who believe according to that working (in-energising) of the strength of His might which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead, and made Him to sit at His right hand in the heavenlies, far above all rule and authority and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come; and He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him to be Head over all things to the Church, which is His Body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all." - Eph. 1:17-23.
This is the ONE unto whom our eyes are. Faith is thus exercised and enables us in the very midst of pressure and contradictory circumstances to rise upward and stand in Christ Jesus in the position He has given us, "seated together with Him in the heavenlies." "Ye are made full in Him in Whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead in bodily form." - Col. 2:9.
So through trial, the establishing work is done; it is the manifestation of His Victory over all the power and pressure of the enemy, "God who giveth us The Victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." - 1 Cor. 15:57. Yes, it is HIS victory, a life that has conquered death - 1 Cor. 15:54.
The City of God is being built, and its very nature is Eternal life, indestructible life, this holds when we break down. He abides faithful. He still holds on because He is Eternal, unchangeable. There is that with us that persists, that goes through, "in all these things things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us" - Rom. 8:37. It is the same with service; the conflict so great, the experiences through which we pass so strange and weird, so inexplicable, everything seems upside down, promises do not seem to be taking effect.
Abraham in the land... yet the very promises given him of God seeming to be denied. Was Abraham mistaken? Are we not sometimes bewildered with the Lord, and are not His ways past finding out? It all looks such a muddle, but as faith holds on, one day we shall praise Him, as we see the reason for it all afterwards; "the path of the just... shineth more and more unto the perfect day." - Prov. 4:18. Note "PATH" not things! These mysteries of the way contain some secret mystery of God; and are they not another opportunity to show forth His wisdom and power? When all seems gone, the conflict so great, the experience so strange and there is no key to the situation; we are tempted to question whether the promises were even of God; everything is so contrary to what we expected, we begin to wonder if we are all wrong! Just then, is the time for us to stand fast in the Lord and maintain that stand in faith.
After all, our experiences are very much alike. There is perplexity, there is apparent contradiction, there is conflict; the forms of experience may vary, but it comes to all of us in some way or another - still "He abideth faithful".
How does this establish us? By the very helplessness of the situation, and ourselves, which causes us to cast ourselves upon Him, and it is then we prove Him. You are coming to the place where you know the mystery of God, and it is a glorious opportunity for Him to show His wisdom and so you are established. It is all a matter of endurance.