A Living Hope

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 1 - A New Hope

In the first letter of Peter, and the first chapter, at verse 3: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy begat us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, unto an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who by the power of God are guarded through faith."

"A living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ...".

In the letter to the Colossians chapter 1, here again we must read a whole section. At verse 24: "I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and fill up on my part that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body's sake, which is the church; whereof I was made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which was given to you-ward, to fulfil the word of God, even the mystery which has been hid from all ages and generations, but now hath it been manifested to His saints, to whom God was pleased to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the nations, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory; whom we proclaim, admonishing every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ."

"This mystery among the nations, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory".

A Living Hope - the Hope of Glory

We have to put these two fragments together to understand the real meaning of the 'hope' referred to. To Peter, the resurrection of the Lord Jesus was an experience which opened for him an entirely new prospect. The context of that clause, 'a living hope', gives us just a little of the prospect that the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead had brought to Peter: "An inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, that fadeth not away" - that is what opened up for him with the resurrection of Christ. To Paul, the resurrection of Christ was the very heart of the mystery which had been hid from all generations, but is now revealed.

We look first at Peter in this connection. As Peter sits down to write this letter to the "elect scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia" he finds himself caught up at once in a doxology: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath begotten us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." And perhaps of all men, Peter had cause for a doxology over the resurrection of Jesus!

But we take Peter as representative of all those who had become followers of the Lord Jesus in the days of His flesh; not only of the twelve, but evidently quite a large number beyond the twelve. There were the seventy and, beyond the seventy, many more who followed Jesus and had some attachment to Him. Peter can be taken as, in a very real sense, representative of them all.

We are thinking at this moment particularly of the effect of the Cross upon him, and upon them all; the utter devastation, and then the despair, that the Cross of the Lord Jesus brought upon them all. For we are told that they were "all scattered abroad". And we know how, even before the Cross became an actuality, any reference to it brought a terrible reaction. From time to time the Lord did just make some mention of the coming death, and, as He did so, many went away and "followed no more with Him". Then again, others said, "This is a hard saying; who can hear it?" Apparently off they went as well. The very thought and prospect of the Cross was impossible of acceptance. When it came to Peter, as the very centre of that whole company, he is found most vehemently denying any association with Christ, just because of the Cross. A terrible denial and they all shared that, if not in word and in the same form of expression, for it says, "they all forsook Him and fled". And He had said to them: "You will all leave Me, you will all leave Me" and it became true.

Then we meet them after His crucifixion. We meet those two on the Emmaus road, the very embodiment of despair. For them, everything had gone and was shattered. All their hopes, and their hope, were eclipsed - "We, we had trusted...", or "We had hoped that it had been He that should redeem Israel." Now, everything was gone, and the hope laid in His grave. We meet Thomas, from time to time and we know what Thomas thought about the Cross. He again was in the grip of an awful despair and hopelessness: loss of faith and loss of assurance.

As we move through those forty days after the resurrection, we find the Lord repeatedly having to upbraid them because of their unbelief; rebuke them. "They believed not," it says, "Some doubted". We can see what a shock the Cross had been. And I have not used too strong a word when I have said that the Cross was nothing less than a devastation for every follower of the Lord Jesus. And right at the heart of them all was Peter; we could say that it was all concentrated in him; it must have been in view of what he had done. Put yourself in his place if you can, and see whether you would have any more hope for anything, or for yourself. No!

Now, that is where it all is. But forty days, forty days of appearances, and disappearances; coming and going; a build-up, steady, of the fact that He was arisen; overcoming day by day that despair and that unbelief, building up a new hope. But even after forty days of that kind of thing, the most vital thing is still lacking. You might think, 'Well, given all that, given all that, they've enough, they have enough to go on'. But no. The most vital thing, even at that point, is still lacking. What is it? It is Christ within! All that, yes, but not Christ within yet. Hence the restraint: "Tarry ye in Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high... Don't move yet. You really have not yet got the vital thing, the essential thing with all that you have. The thing is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Christ in you!"

And that, dear friends, is why the apostles were so particular, so particular as to converts receiving the Holy Spirit before ever they felt assurance about their conversion. Yes, there were all the reports, no reason to believe that they were false reports, mere rumours, things happening in Samaria. Had not the Lord said that they should be witnesses unto Him in Samaria? The report comes back of things happening, of people turning to the Lord, real conversions taking place in large numbers. Why not be satisfied with the report? It is a good report, and there is surely no reason to doubt it. But no, the apostles are not just satisfied with that. They sent down from Jerusalem, and when they were come down, they laid their hands upon them that "they might receive the Holy Spirit". You see again and again that happened. For them, things were not really settled until they were sure that Christ was on the inside, that Christ was in them, which is saying the same thing as 'receiving the Holy Spirit', the Spirit of Jesus. And that, I say, is why the Lord said, "Tarry; don't move yet", that is why the apostles were so meticulous on this matter of receiving the Holy Spirit.

And again, that is why the Holy Spirit gave evidences in those times, that He had come within. We believe that this book of the Acts, is a book of fundamental principles for the dispensation. And when principles are being laid down in the first instance, God always bears them out with mighty evidences that they are true principles and these are governing things for all time. God puts His seal upon them. So, when they received the Spirit, there were the evidences of the Spirit. They spake with tongues; mighty things happened. It was clear to all without any doubt whatever that the Spirit was on the inside, Christ had entered in. That universal Christ transcending all human language, that Christ of Heaven transcending all earthly things; He'd come in, the evidences were given.

There is no mistaking it, no mistaking it, this matter of Christ within is the fundamental essential of Christianity. You may have the mightiest facts - the mightiest facts of His birth, His marvellous life, His death, His resurrection. I say these are the mightiest of facts, you may have them all, and they may all be impotent, until He is inside! That's a tremendous statement, but it's borne out, you see, by at least this threefold truth: Tarry - don't move yet, the essential has not taken place after all! Make sure, leave nothing to chance, let it not just be an emotional revival in Samaria! Whatever there may seem to be on the outside to prove that something has happened, make sure that it has got inside! Make sure that Christ is in, the Holy Spirit is in! Make sure. For you may have so much, as we are going to see as we go on, you may have so much, and then, that vital thing being lacking, there is nothing; calamity, as with them.

This mighty hope, dear friends, does not rest just upon historic ground - that is, the ground of the historic Jesus. This mighty hope rests upon inward reality: Christ in you! That's super-historic! That's where we have to go to Paul for the full, full meaning, the "mystery which hath been hid from all generations". It's been there for all generations! The mystery has been hid from all generations but is now made known, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Now, what we have said is but a general approach to the matter. It has to be broken up. And so again, we will take Peter and the others whom he undoubtedly represents.

Firstly, then, the hopelessness, ultimately, of a merely outward association with Christ, however sincere. There is no question about the sincerity of Peter or of any of these followers. They were sincere; there was a devotion to Jesus, their motives could not be called into question, it was all well-meant. There's no doubt about it. They had left all and followed Him. And to follow Jesus of Nazareth in those days involved them in a considerable amount of trouble, at least with the high-up people, and the prevailing system. There was something in their association with Him that undoubtedly meant something.

And look, while perhaps they were not able to see and understand, while they were not in the full light of who He was, the fact of who He was, was present with them. For instance, there is the fact of the incarnation: the fact of it that this One amongst them was God incarnate, was the Son of God, was God come down from heaven to dwell in human form. There's the fact, and they were in closest touch with that fact every day of their lives.

Then, there was the fact of His Personality; and there is no avoiding this, that that was a Personality! I mean, there was a presence where He was that was different, that made itself felt, that registered. He was a very impressive presence, beyond perhaps anyone else with whom they had any association, or of whom they had any other knowledge. There's a mystery about this Man: you cannot fathom Him; you cannot explain Him; you cannot comprehend Him. He is more; He's different. And wherever He comes, His presence has an effect, and a tremendous effect. The fact of His Personality!

And then, although we do not know how far it went, there was the fact of Mary and her secret. We don't know to how many she spoke of her secret; we are told that she "hid all these things in her heart". But it is difficult to believe that no one, no one knew anything about it. We do know that some did know about it. We know that she told the whole thing to Elisabeth, Elisabeth knew it. The father of John the Baptist knew it, John the Baptist knew it, Mary's secret. And she was there with them all the time. There's the fact of Mary and her secret without pressing that too much, but it's there.

Then there is the fact of the miracles. You can't very well get away from them. Miracles in the realm of the elements - the sea and the wind; in the realm of nature. As our hymn says: 'It was spring-time when He took the loaves, and harvest when He brake'. In the realm of nature, in the realm of sickness and disease and death: He is healing and He is raising - the son of the widow of Nain. Yes, these are facts. And then, in the realm of the powers of evil - muzzling demons and casting them out and delivering the demon-possessed. These were all facts present with them. A tremendous accumulation of things.

Further, the fact of the teaching. The teaching that, without special education, He bewildered, confounded and defeated the authorities of His time: all the men of information and knowledge, the scribes, the lawyers, the best representatives of the intellect of Jewry. And they picked out on occasion their best intellects to go and try and catch Him in His words; and these very men had to ask the question: "Whence has this man this, having never learned?". There was His teaching.

Well now, there's a build-up for you. Quite a tremendous situation. They had all that, they had all that, and how much more that embraces, and yet, dear friends, with all that, that whole mass of mighty facts and realities about Him, and they were in the closest association with Him, and with all that, with all of that, we have the havoc and the despair of the Cross!

I venture to say that you, you would think that, if you had only a bit of that, you'd be safe for ever and never have any reason whatever to doubt your salvation, or question Christianity. And they had it all, and here we have them after the Cross in abject despair. I have not exaggerated, I don't think one could exaggerate in this matter. And yet, dear friends, when it came to the supreme test, all that did not save them. There was lacking the one essential to make it all vital, to make it the very triumph in the trying hour. And that one essential is Christ, that Christ, in you.

With all that still as objective on the outside, and you being in the closest association with it, with it all and that, there's something lacking. And that lack may still spell disaster, for it did with them.

By the resurrection a new hope was born. By the resurrection a new power came into the world and human life. By the resurrection the way was opened for that Christ to change His position from heaven - from outside - into the inner life of the believer. Short of that, you'll never be sure. Never be sure! It has all got to be 'Christ in you, the hope of glory'. You see, this is just the essential nature of this dispensation in which we live.

In the former dispensation, the Spirit moved from the outside upon. Jesus said: "When He is come, He shall be in you, He shall be in you". That's the change of dispensation; that is the character of this present dispensation: the Spirit within.

What is the secret of the church's power? What is the secret of the believer's life, strength, persistence, endurance, triumph against all hell and the world? What is the secret of ultimate glory? It is Christ in you. Christ in you - that you have really and definitely received the Holy Spirit. It's only saying the same thing in other words. Oh, how important this is - that you and I shall know, shall know that our Christianity, our faith, does not rest upon even the greatest historic fact, but we know that Christ is inside! We know that we have received the Holy Spirit. That's the secret of everything. It is, dear friends.

Let us carry this then a little further, and take this next thing.

The Hopelessness of Work for Christ Without Christ Within

"He called unto Himself the twelve, and He called, He chose seventy and He sent them forth and He gave them power over unclean spirits over all manner of diseases and they went forth and they returned with great joy, saying, even the demons are subject unto us in Thy name". Tremendous! Heal the sick, yes, raise the dead, cast out demons; freely ye have received, freely give. And they returned with great joy - it was done; they had seen it! And you have this picture after the Cross of these same people, same people: devastated! You say: Is that possible? Is that real? If you know your own heart, you will know it is possible. Well, what's the meaning of this?

You see, in the case of the twelve and the seventy, we have set forth a strange, wonderful, and almost frightening fact. It is that within the vast scope of the sovereign rule of God (which is only another definition of the 'kingdom of God' the sovereign rule of God) many things obtain which only express that sovereignty. They are not of the essential and permanent essence of God Himself as in the nature of things; they are the works of God. I say within that vast scope of His rule and His reign, there are many, many things like that. They are official, they are providential. God has numerous, we might say countless instruments of His sovereignty which He just uses in His sovereignty in relation to His end.

There's a purpose to be served, an end to be reached, concerning His Son, Jesus Christ. That is, it has got to be made known in this world that the kingdom of God has drawn near, and that Jesus Christ is the centre of that kingdom. It's got to be known. And, to make that known, God will employ sovereignly even the devil himself! His sovereignty gathers into it many, many things which are not essentially of the nature of God. Do you understand that?

You have been amazed sometimes, and perplexed and bewildered, why God should use that, and that, and that, and such and such persons. You say: "In principle it is all contrary to what I believe as to be necessary to God for His work. I see that the Bible says that instruments have got to be according to God's mind in order to be used." But history doesn't bear that out. I say He has used the devil, and the devil is not according to God's mind. There's a sovereignty of God spread over in relation to His end.

But when you have said that, dear friends, it's a frightening fact when you come to the work of God in this: that we may be working for God, and doing many mighty things, employed, employed as employees of the kingdom of God, the rule of God, and in the end, be cast away! In the end, we ourselves might just go to pieces.

Well, here it is, you see, this strange, strange thing, that these men went out, twelve and seventy, and had this delegated authority - this delegated authority - and exercised it, and mighty things resulted. And then these people are found, after the Cross, with their faith shattered and nothing to rest upon. What does it say?

Oh, thank God, the book of the Acts transforms the whole situation because the book of the Acts brings in this, this mighty thing: that Christ, who had delegated authority, is now indwelling as the authority Himself. And the works now are mighty works, but they are not just works for the Lord; they are the works of the Lord. But I've only used that.

Again, it's self-evident, self-evidenced. You, have you not been amazed, amazed at men who could go out like that and be used like that: see the demons being subject unto them, the sick healed, all this wonderful work. These men should all deny Him? All should flee from Him, forsake Him and be found in a state like that? Yes. We might well be bewildered at such a possibility if we hadn't got the secret.

Dear friends, it all goes to prove this tremendous necessity: it is Christ in you that is the indispensable necessity for life and for work. It's like that: Christ in you. You can see in the beginning that all that they had in their association with Him, and then all that they were allowed to do by His delegated authority, all that fell short of something to make them triumphant in the hour of the deepest testing. And that's something.

Well, Paul put his finger upon it when he got to Ephesus, you remember, he said: "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" It was ever their question, and ever their quest. They knew, they knew afterward, if they knew anything at all, that nothing, nothing will stand up to anything, but the Christ Himself indwelling.

Now, we can, of course, take that both ways. The negative; I say it's an almost frightening possibility that there should be all that, all that and then disaster at the end. But let us take it positively: what a marvellous thing it is that we are in the dispensation when the one thing, above all others, that God will make true, is "Christ in you"!

Christ in You

No wonder Peter burst forth with his doxology: "Blessed, blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who... has begotten us again... to a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." You want to be Peter to be able to speak like that, as he spoke; to have gone through the awful shattering, into that unspeakable depth of despair and loss of hope, to be able to say: "a living hope" - a living hope! And what is it? "Christ in you, the hope of glory".

I wonder what you're thinking, trying to read you as I speak, what are you thinking, what are you feeling about this... am I depressing you? Am I making things difficult again? Well, dear friends, if you really would think again, think again in the light of all this, I am quite sure you would agree that this is an important word and a very necessary word. I'm not saying it to you because I think that you need it and I don't; God only knows. There's more to say about this yet, and I'm quite sure presently you will be more convinced still of the vital necessity of this word and of this reality.

If you forget all that has been drawn in to prove the point, get hold of the point itself: there's no hope for us individually; there is no hope for our companies, our churches, our assemblies, there is no hope for Christianity only here, that the living Christ, with all the tremendous significance of His coming into this world, of His life here, of His Cross, of His resurrection, has come by the Holy Spirit on to the inside of things, of people, and churches; that it's Christ in you! All the other may be there: the creed, the teaching; you may, with all sincerity and honesty, state it: "I believe in God the Father..." and so on, and so on, and so on. It may all be there, and yet there may be disaster where that thing is most frequently declared.

It's the impact of Christ that matters. We have said He could not be present without it being known; and that's the thing that you and I need; that's the secret of the church's power. It's the presence of Christ on the inside of you and of me, and of us as people together: this mystery among the nations, among the nations, which is Christ in you. You are among the nations, you're among the nations, and the deepest, profoundest, most inexplicable thing is Christ in you as you're amongst the nations: "The hope of glory".

Oh, bare your heart to the message, not to the form of its presentation, or to the one who tries to give it, but listen. It's a question of hope. It can be touched by a deep and terrible despair; it can see disintegration and disruption, but what we need is a mighty, mighty hope, a living hope, and that is: Christ, Christ risen, Christ Himself! And I want to get beyond even the resurrection to something and say: it's Christ present, what Christ means as within us. Shall we pray?

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