Editor's Letters

by T. Austin-Sparks

November-December 1940

Beloved of God,

I am writing this letter to you in the midst of the most acute situation. Whether it reaches you is wholly with the Lord, but I have a strong sense of urge and life to go on with it.

The question of the possibility of continuing our ministry was raised in the last letter, and some friends interpreted it as a notice of discontinuance. We did not mean it as such, however, and we intend to go on so long as there is any way left open. A very great deal of Christian activity in its more outward forms is being brought to a standstill, or an end; and that, in many parts of the world. It has now become difficult in many places - even in London - for the Lord's people to meet together as they have been accustomed to do. Indeed, for a year past for various reasons, companies of believers have been scattered; first by evacuations in connection with schools, hospitals, and businesses; and now by destruction and assault. From one point of view, the situation is grim and dark, and we find ourselves in the company of many of the Lord's people in different ages who were scattered, driven literally underground, and deprived of many an accustomed "means of grace". But are we to call this "calamity", "disaster", "catastrophe"? It depends on standpoint, and standpoint depends upon position, and position depends upon fellowship with God. The question arises everywhere, What does it mean? What does the Lord mean by it? The danger is to allow the suggestion to gain access that evil is just taking its course; that the Lord is just holding His hand and standing back. If we fall into that snare we are finished. Paralysis will take hold of us with an icy hand.

It is good to be in a position to be able to give the explanation with certainty and settled assurance, and although the language and wording may be difficult to understand, we essay to communicate to you what we verily believe to be the Divine meaning of what is being allowed on the earth. It is no emergency purpose. That is to say, it is not something which has just come out of the Divine mind for a day such as this. Rather is it only the intensifying and pressing home by these conditions of what has been the first and pre-eminent thought of God since His Son came. It is just the very object and nature of the Divine purpose as bound up with this whole dispensation. One of the earliest recorded statements of Christ when here is "The hour cometh and now is when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth... God is Spirit, and they that worship him must worship in spirit" (John 4:23, 24). That phrase "the hour... now is" signified a new dispensation, and the nature of the change of dispensation is indicated in the context by the other statement - "The hour cometh... when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall ye worship the Father". The thought for this dispensation is that relationship with God, whether it be personal or corporate, individual or Church, shall not be a matter of places, buildings, forms, etc., but spiritual, a matter of "he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit".

The one and inclusive thought of God for this age, then, is that everything in relation to Himself shall be spiritual, and spirituality is the key-word to the dispensation. This is why it is the dispensation of the Holy Spirit in a special sense. This is why men must be born of the Spirit. This is why the one concern of such born-anew ones is spiritual growth. The beginning of the true Christian life is a spiritual birth. The course of such a life is spiritual increase, growth. The goal is spiritual maturity, full growth. The education is spiritual. The consummation of this life is a spiritual body. The aim of the Holy Spirit is not now firstly or primarily to do things on the earth (that was in the last dispensation) but to make spiritual people, and to develop spirituality to fulness.

Spirituality is not an abstract element, but a kind of being, a constitution. It is an organism with peculiar faculties for what is of God. When we speak of a "Kingdom" we do not mean just a sphere or realm, but a kind of being in such a realm. There are the "animal", the "vegetable", the "mineral" and the "human" kingdoms. So "the Kingdom of God" and "the Kingdom of heaven" are realms in which only what is of God and of heaven obtains. There is no passing from one "Kingdom" to another without being reconstituted according to the nature of that kingdom. Thus the true child of God is said to be a "spiritual" man.

We could say very much about this whole matter of spirituality, but this is a letter just to help at a certain point, and the rest must wait. The persistent course of man has been to bring things down to earth, to make something of temporal power, reputation, glory, appearance. One result of this has been so to associate Christian life with outward customs, forms, places and activities as entirely to confuse spirituality with these things. Two things must always be taken into account. One is that God only blesses things as they really serve spiritual ends. He has no interest in them as things in themselves. Then the measure of spiritual result is the measure of God's countenancing. Means are comparative things with God, and His mind is to reach spiritual ends as immediately and directly as possible; the means being as simple, unobtrusive, and unimportant as can possibly be. So it comes that, sooner or later, God will test the situation with His people to discover the real measure of their spirituality; the measure of real, inward, living, experimental knowledge of Himself; just how much they can stand up to through that knowledge, and what it will carry them through. We have no question at all but that this is the meaning of all such times as the present, and the coming days in the permissive and sovereign will of God. Places, meetings, "fellowship", addresses, etc., may be set aside, and without all these things, under deep suffering, the test will be made as to how much of the Lord we really have, and as to how much we really know Him. It will be just the measure of Christ in us that will decide the issue. So the nature of the dispensation is bound to be brought in clear definition at its end. Thank God, Christ is to us all that is needed.

"In Him dwelleth all God's fulness,
In Him we are made complete."

May none of us find ourselves in the hour of darkness like the foolish virgins, with insufficient spirituality, so that the door of His fulness is closed to us. Spirituality cannot be obtained in an hour of emergency, it is only proved then. Let us see to it that we are not resting on things, be they most devout; but rather learning to know the Lord.

Beloved, our spiritual fellowship remains and will be of great value when earthly communications are suspended, and all things here are under eclipse.

Our love in Christ to you all,

Yours in His eternal bonds,

In keeping with T. Austin-Sparks' wishes that what was freely received should be freely given and not sold for profit, and that his messages be reproduced word for word, we ask if you choose to share these messages with others, to please respect his wishes and offer them freely - free of any changes, free of any charge (except necessary distribution costs) and with this statement included.