The Holy Spirit in Relation to the Glorified Christ

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 3 - The Supreme Matter of a Life in the Spirit

Reading: Acts 19:1-7 R.V.

We have been occupied with the necessity of the Holy Spirit and of His ministry in relation to the glorified Christ. Now in pursuing this matter further we shall cover a fairly wide area, with a few comprehensive observations as to what the Lord has to say to us in this matter, in a number of connections.

In meditating on this matter in the Word, I have been impressed by the striking absence in the New Testament in the nature of a declaration that the Holy Spirit is indispensable. I find very little indeed in the New Testament of definite statement that the Holy Spirit is indispensable. It appears strange, but it is all so much in the nature of assumption; it is taken for granted. The Lord Jesus began to give definite teaching of the coming of the Holy Spirit. He speaks in this manner, "It is expedient for you... if I go not... the Comforter will not come", the rejoinder might have been, "We would sooner have You. We are quite satisfied; why should we have another?" You see in this declaration of the Lord the supreme importance that the Holy Spirit should come, and that He was coming. He did not say positively and definitely, "You cannot do without the Holy Spirit", He took that for granted. In Acts 19:2 Paul asked, "Did ye receive the Holy Spirit?" It was taken for granted as being the natural course of things. He assumed that the life of believers was the life of the Spirit.

The question was manifestly prompted by the fact that that life was not there, and what ought to be was absent. This attitude of the New Testament in not declaring the necessity and not giving a definite statement, but assuming the gift of the Holy Spirit, surely implies one or two things. That the promise of the Holy Spirit issues must have been well known among the Jews; as far as they were concerned the knowledge must have been created in them by the Old Testament that the Holy Spirit would one day come with indispensable life, as their essential life. This would lead us back to the study of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. It also implies that the matter must have been definite teaching among the Gentiles, it takes it for granted; and this other thing must have been the general rule to be brought before Gentiles. It must imply that to bring before the Gentiles the Christian life is that it is a life in the Holy Spirit, and that Christian life falls far short in its real meaning if the Holy Spirit is not there and in evidence. To both Jews and Gentiles the Christian life is clearly represented in the New Testament as life in the Spirit, and anything else is clearly not the Christian life. In Corinthians and Romans the contrast is presented of believers walking in the Spirit, and others walking in the flesh. It is made perfectly clear that walking in the flesh is not the Christian life. The Christian life is Christ's life and Christ's life is life in the Spirit, and anything else is NOT Christ's life.

Having our foundation, we will look at a few things of primary character and importance made very clear in connection with the Holy Spirit in relation to the believer and the church. The most important is that the measure in which Christ will be known and glorified is the measure in which the Holy Spirit is in possession and operation. It is the measure in which He is made known as glorified. In our individual lives and in the church there is no more heavenly fact of Christ manifested and glorified than the measure in which the Holy Spirit is in control.

It is the Holy Spirit's purpose to express in the believer and in the church what is in heaven so far as the Lord Jesus is concerned. He is glorified, and the Holy Spirit cannot make Him more glorious than He is. The Holy Spirit has come to manifest that Christ is glorified in believers, and in the church. The day of Pentecost just saw the great fact of Christ being glorified in the church.

What took place 50 days after the deliverance from Egypt? The law and the pattern of the tabernacle were given at Sinai, but when every bit of the tabernacle was completed and ready, it was not until the Shekinah glory descended and the place was filled that it began to function. The counterpart was that 50 days after the resurrection, the Holy Spirit came and that which had been prepared became throbbing with life. When the Shekinah glory had filled the tabernacle all that remained was a cloud, and the Israelites had to walk by faith, for they could not see. On occasions that glory was manifested at the door in judgment, judgment because sin had crept in; that is a very terrible thing. For the greater part of the time the people had to walk by faith, believing that the glory WAS inside, that the glory was concealed, and for the greater part of this dispensation we have to move in faith, a faith by which we know the glory.

The presence of the Holy Spirit, even in power, does not always mean we are taken off the plane of faith. The teaching of the church is such that many are asking the question, "How and when can I receive the Holy Spirit?" It has been about a long time, "What about a manifestation in power and results?" but very often that may not be known, there is no consciousness of it. But perhaps years after it is found that mighty things, revolutionary things had been done then in lives by the power of the Holy Spirit and we knew absolutely nothing about it.

How am I to know if l have the Holy Spirit or not? I want to bring home to you the absolute necessity for our lives to be controlled, to be completely governed by the Holy Spirit and what that means, what the basis is. We must see that we stand on the Lord's ground in this matter.

First, the all pre-eminent fact which is brought into view in the New Testament is that Christ in glory will only be expressed in us in the measure in which the Holy Spirit is in possession and has free operation in our lives.

Second, the Holy Spirit's function of illumination by which all essential truth becomes clear and living. The Lord Jesus said quite clearly that such would be the case when the Holy Spirit came. It is of very great importance that all essential truth should be made clear in our hearts and lives and be living truth, that is the function of the Holy Spirit, we shall not go far without Him. One result is to bring us into oneness of mind in all vital matters. In spite of diversity of mind, opinions, circumstances, etc., and in spite of all that would make for contradictory opinions, when the Holy Spirit is absolutely dominant, there will be absolute unity. Where He is in control and operation there will be oneness of mind on all vital truth. We shall see eye to eye; that is necessary for a distinctive and definite testimony, and the Holy Spirit will see to it, for He is in charge of the testimony.

Today one of the greatest weaknesses of Christendom is diversity of opinion on vital matters; it is broken up into innumerable fragments on things of vital importance. That means that the Holy Spirit has not got the absolute sway and government. We can do nothing to remedy this, we are not under any illusions that what we can say can clear up world situations and problems, but if you and I are under the complete domination and government of the Holy Spirit, we shall be of one mind in all things of vital importance and we shall be in oneness. There will be a definiteness of testimony which cannot be otherwise; the Holy Spirit alone will do it. If He is in charge, the erroneous will go and the right remain, and we shall be all of one mind, in absolute unity, and it is no small thing. We do not know the value of the apostles being all of one mind; it had its impact on the spiritual realm and not only in that of men. In the spiritual realm there is a registration of something done by the Holy Spirit. Spiritual oneness of mind means spiritual power. If you get a dozen who come to oneness that may lack impact; but when the Holy Spirit does such a thing, He brings God in, and there is a mighty impact. God is in it.

You cannot say, "I agree to such and such terms, doctrines and things"; oneness must come in by the Holy Spirit or power will be lacking. Unless He comes in, there will always be something lacking; the use of terms and language may be the same, but different, there will be a hole in the bag and a leakage of power.

Ask the Lord that so far as vital truth is concerned you may be absolutely under the control of the Holy Spirit. That will count for the Lord and then you will be in oneness with others under the Holy Spirit's control. This is what is represented as the Holy Spirit's function in making us of one mind in all matters, it is the result of lives being completely possessed and controlled, as was made manifest in the New Testament. In Acts we see that when the Holy Spirit got hold of men and women who comprised the church, they were elevated, were lifted up above all the natural elements, the human elements of unsaved men and women. That elevation was unaffected by all differences of nation, character, or any other difficulties, or by persecution, threats, death, or any other thing.

Where the natural prejudices of the Jews could not tolerate Gentiles and the differences in the whole make-up of these peoples - their likes and dislikes, etcetera - the Holy Spirit transcended all, and Jews loved Gentiles, and Gentiles loved Jews, for they were in a realm unaffected by these things or by any of the human natural elements. If they went to a place that was utterly hostile, or where they naturally would have been hostile, they were above it, they did not descend to that level, did not reply to it. If there broke on them persecution and threats and they were made to suffer, they were still above it, they never retaliated or went back to the old plane, but persevered. They were after one definite object and they passed all this, for that object necessitated their ignoring it. If they had taken it on as a hostile Gentile city that hated Jews, what hope would there have been for their witness? But they were entirely above that realm, and were able to overcome and go right on without being affected by the operation of the natural elements in unsaved man. This operates today when the love of God shed abroad in a heart causes one to go to a country where all the religion and the natural state would be loathsome, different, and such a one is unaffected by it, not unconscious of it, and when attacked will not allow the natural features to rise up and come through. If we are going to take on natural differences there will be no glory for the Lord, and no progress.

It is necessary that as Christians we should know something of this moral elevation; the work of the Holy Spirit is a marvellous thing. I have been abroad and have known Christian workers refuse to go to meetings, "It's only the Englishman". The Holy Spirit rises above all these natural prejudices, and we need continually the coming in of spiritual power that we keep on top of all that, that we be lifted above all that, else we make no progress. It is necessary to have the energising of the Holy Spirit to rise above things as we see was the case in New Testament times; we find those people were lifted on to a level where the natural human elements did not touch or react on them. "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but spiritual." What is that? A mighty energy, a weapon. The enemy tries to get us down, to meet things on the level of the flesh, and the result of doing so is defeat every time. But when we remain in the Spirit and meet them there, what a marvellous weapon that is: elevation by the Holy Spirit above what is natural, above that which is in man. This is necessary if we are to be over the enemy and meet him in all directions; it was a mark of the church at the beginning.

May the Lord bring in a mighty inflow of His Spirit in us to that end, to the glory of the Lord in that way. A mighty inflow of the Spirit will result in a spiritual unity of believers. You will never have any unity in a concrete way than by spiritual elevation only in so far as the Holy Spirit has full possession and government. The chief glory in that lifting above unregenerate humanity is that the Holy Spirit reconstitutes human relationships, He disposes of one relationship where all is clash, strife, and friction in all that which is in human nature and He reconstitutes it on the basis of fellowship, love, and brotherhood, as compared with that human relationship which is so selfish and individualistic in interest and competitive in action. The Holy Spirit takes all relationships and reconstitutes them on the basis of love and fellowship and that constitutes the chief glory of the relationship.

It amounts to this, that when the Holy Spirit has His way in us, He brings about a holy, glorious, family love and family life, where what is terminal is ruled out, what is individualistic goes, and what is selfish is ruled out, and that is what we find in Acts. What a company! Look at the end of Paul's letters and note the names, and the different nationalities, outlook, temperament, and constitution, yet a marvellous family spirit. A wonderful display of family life is seen in the early part of Acts. It would be interesting to hear the history of all those who had all things in common, how far it would have come without the Holy Spirit in operation. A good many have tried it, but it always breaks down, here it happened and you have it with no conference, discussion or arrangement. You simply have it by one Divine act. The Holy Spirit does it; it is His work and this has to be recovered; then the Lord has got a display of His glory and triumph, a manifestation of His cross. He has done that which no man can bring about, the evidence or our being IN Christ, and we are led definitely by the Holy Spirit.

All this is said for you to give the Lord no rest until our lives are governed utterly by the Holy Spirit, and no rest until your case is before God, not striving and stretching out for some great manifestation, but that you may hold on to the Lord, and have an understanding with the Lord that all your life shall be dominated and controlled by the Holy Spirit.

There are two marks of the Holy Spirit being within the individual and the Church. As to the individual one of the marks is assurance of God's acceptance and sonship; that is simple and essential. A basic work of the Holy Spirit is to bring about assurance and a knowledge of sealing as to our acceptance. So many lack that settled assurance and the knowledge that they are sealed and God has borne testimony in their hearts to their sonship. All weakness is due to this lack. The Holy Spirit would do that in us if we would have a definite transaction with the Lord about it in faith. Something is wrong, the Holy Spirit has been set aside, put out of place, quenched, grieved, or something has happened if the child of God has not that assurance of the sealing of God's Spirit. He is the witness to our acceptance as sons of God. "He hath sent forth His Spirit that we may cry: Abba Father". It is the uprising of the Holy Spirit out of the heart if we call Him Father, and it is a great thing.

We can have a mental acceptance, sing about the Fatherhood of God, recite prayers and move in that realm religiously, but it is the coming out of our hearts that is the real experience of the Father. There is something mighty in that. You hear the cry from the Lord Jesus on the cross. What a mighty triumph was that "Father" as uttered by Him then! He had just passed through the full judgment of sin, He had gone out into the wilderness, had gone out from the presence of God, was excluded and God-forsaken. He had experienced all the terrors of the lost. He had tasted and drunk the dregs of the cup of God's wrath. And then there broke from the depths of His heart, "Father" in triumph and strength; that was a marvellous and matchless cry.

In exactly the same realm "No man can call Him 'Lord', save by the Holy Spirit". We can say, "Lord Jesus", but this is something more, it is saying it as He said, "Father", there is something of the Holy Spirit in this kind, it is more than all religious doctrine, and the Holy Spirit would establish within us that assurance of our acceptance and sonship. That is His work for the individual. That is yours. Don't wonder about it. It is done for you; possess that which is yours. Stand into it. He has come to do that for you.

As to the church, the Holy Spirit meant for the church its qualification and equipment, and power for world ministry. The Holy Spirit meant that for the church. We will leave that.

But now about the other thing. It is what has been said many times: the Holy Spirit always moves in closest relation to the cross. For our present purpose we see that means that none can be true, and we can have none, only on the ground that the cross represents the position in which we stand. The cross does represent to us an end, our end - that we are dead in Christ, and we must really accept that position and face all that it means. It is "no longer I". And until we realise the great many sided "I" as an end, until then nothing we have said of the Holy Spirit means anything. He is not there. If assurance is not there, the Holy Spirit is set aside. The Holy Spirit must have the cross as a basis of every activity.

What is the water in John 3:5? The testimony to your sharing the grave with the Lord Jesus - sharing His tomb first, and then His Spirit. Baptismal regeneration is not going into water, but going spiritually into what it represents, "Planted together in the likeness of his death". The Holy Spirit works on that. Baptismal regeneration identifies us with His death and burial, the Holy Spirit is always subsequent to that, though He is last, He is the indispensable One.

You may struggle after the Holy Spirit in all His ways, but you must first come to the basic point and accept fully your position. Accept this by faith and accept that there is a stake driven right through your old life. We may wriggle but something has happened, you know it has been struck a final blow, you cannot do as you did, you are not free and able as before, when you touch that realm you find the smiting again and you are glad to flee from that ground of Adamic life. Something has happened; the sword of God has gone clean through that. You must have an understanding with the Lord about it, then the Holy Spirit can take up His work. He can act on that and make us sensitive to what is of the Lord and what is of ourselves.

It is an amazing thing that so many do not recognise what is of the Lord and what is not. I am amazed at the problem of why so many of the Lord's people do not see this. And so many accept lies. They could not accept a lie if they lived in the Holy Spirit and under His control, without knowing it for a false report. It would be "that against one of Mine Own". Would to God we had more of it! Do ask the Lord to bring you to the place where the Holy Spirit has full dominion and where you cannot move without knowing truth, or move in any way contrary without knowing it. It is an ideal, yet aspire to it. You know it a little. But He says, "Prove it first; there's another side to it. Don't just take that report." If you know it that far, you will surely go further still. Let us ask that this life of the Spirit may be ours. There was never anything more practical, and I doubt if ever anything was more important. The glory of the Lord is bound up with it, that is the supreme thing and it will work.

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