by T. Austin-Sparks
Continuing in the way of our earlier meditation, we will read this evening from the gospel by Luke, chapter 3, verses 21 and 22: "Now it came to pass, when all the people were baptized, that, Jesus also having been baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily form, as a dove, upon Him, and a voice came out of heaven, Thou art My beloved Son; in Thee I am well pleased".
Chapter 4: "Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness during forty days, being tempted of the devil. And He did eat nothing in those days. When they were completed He hungered. The devil said unto Him, 'If Thou art the Son of God, command this stone that it become a loaf.' And Jesus answered unto him, 'It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone.' And he led Him up, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. The devil said unto Him: 'To thee will I give all this authority and the glory of them, for it hath been delivered unto me and to whomsoever I will, I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship before me, it will all be thine.' Jesus answered and said unto him, 'It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.' He led Him to Jerusalem and left Him on the pinnacle of the temple and said unto him, 'If Thou art the Son of God, cast Thyself down from from hence; for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning thee, to guard thee: and, On their hands they shall bear thee up, lest haply thou dash thy foot against a stone'. Jesus answering said unto him, 'It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.' When the devil had completed every temptation, he departed from Him for a season. And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirt into Galilee. The fame went out concerning Him through all the regions round about." Verse 18: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me".
So we continue our consideration as we trust with the Lord's help, this matter of the Divine anointing. Jesus spent six weeks in the wilderness fasting. We are not told what He was doing all through those more than one thousand hours. While no doubt much of the time was spent in prayer, there must have been much thought, meditation, and adjustment to what was involved in that anointing. We might spend a little while in trying to get inside of that tremendously significant event and time; surmising perhaps, deducing... and I think we shall not be far from the truth in the conclusions to which we may come.
We begin by recognising that there was a background consciousness in Christ of being here in this world as a Man of destiny - as one with whom tremendous issues were bound up in the purpose and counsels of God. He had a peculiar sense in Him of His relationship with God as His Father that had been with Him, it seems, from at least boyhood. And there was in Him a Spirit of purpose, of a mission, and, as I have said, of destiny; a tremendous destiny. Strange and uncommon forces had been at work in His spirit through His life, an urge and an urgency, a deep-down sense of mighty things being bound up with His being in this world. That was the background consciousness of this particular time in the wilderness.
Then there arrived the day when He knew in His spirit, by the
same urge and constraint, that a crisic step had to be taken. That
movement of the Spirit sent Him to the Jordan. Undoubtedly He was
being guided by the Spirit in His movements, for one reason,
because those movements so exactly corresponded with many
Scriptures of the Old Testament which had to be fulfilled. His
movements had in them many prophecies. We know how Matthew
was able to discern that. How frequently Matthew said: "that the
Scripture might be fulfilled... that the Scripture might be
fulfilled... it was written in the Scriptures". And here he is, so
to speak, marking off, ticking off the Scriptures that were being
fulfilled in these various movements, and activities, and
utterances of the Lord Jesus. For we are quite on safe ground when
we say that the Spirit who had given those Scriptures was guiding
Him into those Scriptures for their fulfillment, and that
His movements were all according to plan, all according to the
programme, all according to the Word. Here in the wilderness it
comes out so clearly that it is the Word that is
governing. He is moving in accordance with the Word, the
fulfilment of the Scriptures.
In that consciousness of this day having arrived to take the great, precipitate step, He went to Jordan, brushed aside John's demure and insisted upon being baptized. This had as its main context the Cross; there's no doubt about it, baptism implied the great context of the Cross. So that, undoubtedly with that larger context of the background consciousness, the fulfillment of the Word of God, obedient to it in every step and movement, and in this capitulation to what His baptism implied and involved - the Cross, the Cross... all its significance, undoubtedly, with that full, comprehensive, and deep-meaning context, the Holy Spirit came upon Him. It was heaven's attesting and seal. And then what might we have expected immediately? Well, whatever we should have expected, the next thing is not according to our expectation at all; it's the wilderness. All that was a background; mighty consciousness of destiny and mission, absolute and meticulous obedience to the Word, and a complete, undeniable capitulation to the way of God. Heaven answers that. The Spirit breaks through the cleft heaven, and comes upon Him. With all that: the wilderness. The wilderness... that's not what you expect. You've gone as far as that; you've got all that as your foundation, you don't expect the next thing to be the wilderness. Whether you expect it or not, very often it is. And now He is in the wilderness.
And what we note here is:
The Focal Point of Satan's Attack.
Satan focused his attack upon the question of sonship - there's no mistaking that. Varying his methods and his means of attack, coming along different lines, the one, the one thing that is present every time is: "If Thou be the Son...". "If what was said there at Jordan were true... if Thou be the Son..." that's the focal point of every kind of satanic attack. Make no mistake about that, what he's after; that's the thing that matters. But, when we have said that, it is not just the fact of Sonship that satan is attacking. It is the significance of Sonship - what Sonship implies, signifies and involves. What sonship involved and implied: personal and family inheritance, and heirship! That consciousness of the Lord Jesus was a consciousness which was not just a feeling, just a sense; it was a mighty knowledge, a mighty intelligence. Read later and you have a phrase like this: "Jesus, knowing that His hour was come and that the Father had delivered all things into His hands". And that, "All these things will I give thee" - all things. All things!Paul, with that amazing revelation and insight, tells us the full story of the counsels of God from eternity, "to sum up all things in Christ". "By Him, through Him, unto Him were all things created." That's the Word. Sonship, yes, what it implies for Himself personally, as the Heir of all things: "Whom He appointed heir of all things". But not only for Himself, but for this Family which we were speaking of this afternoon, this Family which God by Christ as Father was reconstituting, this Divine family, the family of which the Word quite definitely says: "Ye are heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ" - we! This inheritance, this heirship which is signified by that word "Son" - that, that's the focal point. It is not just the position, or the office, or the title, it's what this is going to lead to, if in some way it is not subverted. It's tremendous!
Well, let us leave it there for a moment, and go back to Jordan. The Jordan meant that that, that destiny, that destiny for Himself, and for His fellow-heirs, and all this Divinely intended purpose, was only to be reached by way of the Cross. That's what Jordan meant. And He knew it, and accepted it, and was committed to it, but that was no small committal. That way, that way He knew quite well, in all its meaning and implications, that way in its spiritual and moral significance, would be the most devastating way to His humanity. It would mean that His soul would be "exceeding sorrowful, even unto death". It would mean that He would be in a great anguish, "sweating, as it were, great drops of blood down to the ground". It would lead to being "forsaken of God" for one terrible, unmanning, eternal moment - a moment like an awful eternity in despair and outer darkness. That was involved: He was human, He was a man, and He could shrink... shrink from all that and cry, cry out of His humanity: "Is there no way out? Is there no other way? Oh, that it might not be necessary... that this cup might pass from Me." Not going back upon His commitment, but the awful battle of that commitment, and all that it involved now in full force breaking upon Him. The baptism meant that! The great end would only be reached along that line, by the way of the Cross.
Was that what He was fighting out in the wilderness? Was it? Was
that the great battle that brought Him to physical and mental
exhaustion, over those many, many long-drawn-out hours of day and
night? Was that it? Was He facing it all? If we are right in our
surmise that it was that, then, then we can understand the
diabolical and cruel attack of the enemy: "There is another
way... You need not go that way; You can have it all without the
cross!" Are we right? I feel that that uncovers the whole thing.
Yes, that was the battle, that was the meaning of the wilderness. Satan was saying in other ways and words: "It need not be! There are other ways for you to reach Your end, and realise Your destiny. Use Your Divine power to save Yourself!" That was a sting of the serpent, wasn't it, when He was actually on the cross: "Save Thyself!" From beginning to end of this great, great conflict it is: "The way, the way out, the way through, is 'Save Yourself', You need not go that way!" Or, do something to make an impression on men, by some trick: "Cast Thyself down! Suddenly appear among the crowd as out from Heaven. Make a tremendous impression - You will capture them! You will not have to argue that You came from heaven; there it is! Patent!" Or, failing that, "Cede to me some right of world-dominion; acknowledge me as the prince of this world, and come alongside of me in my government of this world. You'll get it all!" And all that in the hour of physical exhaustion and weakness. You have only got to know something of a tremendously exhausting time, over some soul, over some spiritual interest, over some tremendous emergency in the things of God, and be at the point of fainting with weariness, to know how cruel and diabolical the devil can be - and so it was - "Well, you can have it all without the Cross..." that's the point, "You need not go that way". What, what a value he gave to the Cross, if that is what he meant! So, I think the meaning of it all is divulged.
He won! He won that fundamental battle. Although the time will come when its desperate and terrible reality will break upon Him again, the foundation of His victory is laid in the wilderness. He will be able to say in the day of the most terrible ordeal: "The prince of this world cometh to Me, but hath nothing in Me"; "That was settled in the wilderness, I got through all that then. I accepted the Cross in principle and meaning then." He won the fundamental battle and came from the wilderness, strengthened by the Spirit and by angels.
Now what do we come to? No wonder there was such authority in His steps, in His Spirit, and in His ministry. You see, the whole issue, dear friends, is that of authority.
The way of authority, the way of Divine power, the way of the anointing (which is only another way of saying the same thing) the anointing operating in power and authority! And you see from that time, He is a Man in authority, straight to Nazareth: "The Spirit of the Lord God Jehovah is upon Me". He is not a weakling, a man defeated, with a question. And onward - He has everything in His hands - it's amazing how everything was in His hands, right into the Judgment Hall! The authority was not with the high priests, the authority was not with Pilate - they are like pawns in His hands - it's with Him! He is able to say, concerning His life: "No man taketh it from Me; I have authority to lay it down, and take it again, and this authority I receive from My Father." Yes, the very beginning, this kind of authority - and oh, how we need it - springs out of a settling of major issues fundamentally, leaving no place for a divided mind or heart. The man or the woman who has a question has no authority; ever and always pulled between two ways... a divided heart. There's no power in that life, no authority in that life, there's no impact coming from that life; it does not register. Here is One who knows where He's going, and knows where He stands, and knows what He's after. He has got to settle some things. We have got to settle some things, as far as possible, once and for all, in principle, if there's going to be power, if there's going to be authority.
And when I use that word "authority" I do want you to recognise that in His life here, in His life here on this earth, it was not official authority at all, it was moral and spiritual. And it's like that with us: we have no office, no place, no position, no recognition amongst men, no official authority. But! There's a greater than the official, there is a spiritual. That man, that woman, young or old, knows - that's all there is to it - they know where they stand. They know the way they're taking, they know what they mean. They have settled certain fundamental issues and which has delivered them from a divided mind and a divided heart. That brings in tremendous moral strength and moral authority. It's not the fierceness or forcefulness of a strong natural mind, it's the settledness of a heart in God. That, I believe, lies behind this: "He came from the wilderness in the power of the Spirit" - in the power of the Spirit!
All this speaks to us because, dear friends, we have already said that in so, so very much of what was true of the Lord Jesus, we are involved. There are only a very few things in His case in which we have no place. We have no place in Deity, which was His. We have no place in atonement, which He wrought, thank God! There are very few things though, in which He is unique. In most of the things which were true of Him we have a place. And at this present time we are occupied with this one thing that Paul speaks of, that we have been anointed in Him. The anointing which was His, was His as Head for and of the Body, and we inherit that anointing, when we are baptised in one Spirit into one Body. We come into the anointing. But you see how the anointing works. You see what the anointing has as its goal; the anointing has as its goal no less a thing than this: "joint-heirs with Christ" to the "all things of God", and dominion with Him in reigning forever and ever. That's tremendous, it's what we are called to! But, but... while it may be true that the atoning aspect of His Cross is His and His alone and not ours, there is such a thing as "filling up that which is behind of the sufferings of Christ for His Body's sake, which is the church". It is only another way of saying that there are aspects of the Cross in which we have fellowship with Him in His sufferings. The way to this great destiny is this way, and there is no getting out of it except! There is a way, there is an exception: satan's way of compromise, "Come down! Come down... save thyself" and all this other. We are left with only those two alternatives.
What was satan trying to do in that wilderness? First of all then, he was seeking persistently to bring the Spirit of Sonship into question. That is satan, but oh, do recognise that that is one of the things in which we are involved with Christ. I don't know whether you have any exercise about that matter, but I make this confession to you: in the consciousness of the intensifying conflict, stress, and pressure, and suffering, I have feared how I might finish up and have found myself praying many times that my faith might hold out to the end, and that I should not at the end come under a cloud of doubting my sonship. That's an issue that is a very living one. I don't want to frighten you, or make things difficult, but dear friends, that is what the Lord's people have had to face so often right at the end: the dark cloud of physical exhaustion, mental exhaustion, through suffering... creeps over the mind, the light of God seems to fade out and the great question of sonship is raised. It's a terrible issue! Well, if that sounds too terrible and for young people especially, it makes things look very difficult, let me remind of this: you have got the Holy Spirit! That's the point. It brings me right back to why, why we are speaking about this at all - the tremendous importance about the unspeakable value of having the Holy Spirit within. That John, to Christians in a time of terrible persecution and suffering, when all the questions of faith were rising, he said: "The anointing which you have received abideth in you" abideth in you! Oh, it's a tremendous thing for the conflict to have the anointing. We cannot make too much of the importance of the Holy Spirit dwelling within. So, rather than be frightened by what I have said, remember that the Spirit of Sonship Himself is in you and rest you upon Him... stay you upon Him... count you upon Him... believe you in Him.
This is not, let me say, this is not a matter of being a very clever person, or a very intelligent person, or a very gifted and able person; this is something for the "nothings" and the nobody's. And I say that with a tremendous background of the Word of God, that the anointing will never, never function while your self-importance is on the throne. The very functioning of the anointing Spirit requires that we ourselves are at a discount. It was at the point of exhaustion and weakness that Christ came out triumphant, because the Spirit and heaven ministered to Him in His weakness. Go back to your Old Testament. Remember when the spies went over to the land and came back with their majority report, they said: "We were in their eyes as grasshoppers, and so we were in our own eyes." All right, that's not such a terrible thing! That's really not a bad thing at all! If Joshua is really a type of the energies of the Holy Spirit, then he made the grasshoppers drive out seven nations mightier than themselves. Grasshoppers... yes! Do you feel like that, like grasshoppers? There's a famous football club in America who win some wonderful victories, and they have named themselves, "The Grasshoppers". Alright, be a grasshopper if you are winning the victory! You see, it's the Holy Spirit, not ourselves at all, the Holy Spirit in us and through us Who is the mighty energy - "Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world". That's a tremendous saying.
The first thing, then, that satan was trying to do, was to bring
the Spirit of Sonship into question. Oh, be guarded on that
The second thing that he was trying to do was to sabotage the supreme issue of sonship, that is: spiritual authority. That's the supreme issue of sonship: spiritual authority.
And lastly, he was trying to nullify the inherent potentiality of sonship: heirship, the inheritance, possessing the kingdom. That is what he was trying to do; he is always trying to do that, always trying to do that.
But again I come back and say if Jesus had not been anointed at the Jordan, it would have gone ill with Him in the wilderness. But "ye have an anointing" - "ye have an unction" if you really, really have come into the meaning, the true meaning of being a child of God, you have the Spirit. I know the various theories and interpretations of this whole matter, the doctrine of the Spirit, whether everybody who is born again really has the Spirit. I'm not careful to try and argue that out tonight, I simply say this, that no new birth can take place without the Holy Spirit. And if the new birth is an inward thing, the Spirit does it inside, and with the new birth the consciousness of a new inward government is established. And that is no other than the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Some of us, years after we were saved, came into a new experience of the Spirit, a fuller experience of the Spirit, but we knew in those days before, when we were doing many, many things that today we are horrified at ever having done, we knew even in those days that working within that we never had before we were the Lord's: that throne of judgment, that adjudicating on matters, that troubling of us at certain times. We learned much before we ever came into a greater understanding by the very fact of the Spirit, the fact of the Spirit. Now, you can go away if you like, and become involved in all these contentions about the doctrine of the Spirit, but let us rest back on this, that if we are children of God, the Spirit of God is in us, "The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit that we are children of God". That's where we begin the Christian life. We learn much as we go on. But oh dear friends, I say this to you, that the point upon which so much of the trouble and confusion and misunderstanding rests and turns is just this: that it is a matter of the measure of the Spirit's liberty and way in us more than anything else. And if any of us have at any time had a crisis, come into some fuller knowledge of the anointing (as we truly have, and a very big crisis it has been) it wasn't, it wasn't because of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, it was because the Cross was allowed to do some more drastic work in us, to make way for the Spirit. The Cross always does that.
The measure then, of the Spirit's power in our lives, the measure of the functioning of the anointing, the measure, therefore, of our victory over the enemy, and of our coming to that end for which we have been born by the Spirit, the measure will be the measure in which, like our Master, we have faced the meaning of the Cross, and accepted it, capitulated to it, fought out its issues if necessary where this world is concerned, and our own interests are concerned, and every other question, and have no divided mind about these things. The Lord help us.