"By My Spirit"

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 7 - Two Features of the Vessel of Testimony

Reading: Zech. 3:1-5; Hag. 2:13-14; Rev. 1:5-6; 5:10; 20:6.

Now we come in the course of our meditations to the fourth of the great issues which arise from the Word of God. The first and all-governing is the Divine testimony, which is the glory of God. The second, the vessel of that testimony; firstly, man as originally intended; then, after his failure, a chain of individuals; then Israel; then the church; then, inasmuch as all these have failed in the final full sense, the testimony is consummated in the overcomer, the vessel of the glory of God. In our previous meditation, we were occupied with the third, the people of the testimony.

Now we go on to number four: the two features and functions of the people of the testimony - the double anointing. In Zechariah 4 we have the candlestick all of gold, typifying this testimony of God, the glory of God. And we have around it the house, the vessel of testimony. Then concerned with it, forty-two thousand, three hundred and sixty out of the millions of the Lord's people which went into exile, a small company came back, letting go everything for the Lord's interests - a people of the testimony of God.

Priesthood and Government

Now we have to consider these two representative men: Joshua the high priest, and Zerubbabel the governor, who speak in figure of the two functions of the people of the testimony, that is, priestliness and princeliness. Priesthood and government are two things which are ever coupled together in the Word of God. A Moses and an Aaron, a governor and a priest. And of course, all that is contained in that connection is gathered up in the Lord Jesus. Then we come on to those words which we read in Revelation - "made us a kingdom and priests" - two things always found together as the outworking of the anointing. We have to see something of what this means as to the people of the testimony of the glory of God, or, in other words, how these things relate to that supreme consequence, the glory of God. It is a far bigger matter than we shall be able to compass, but indications can be given and one or two things of immediate consequence and value can be said.

We see quite clearly that all this about priesthood and kingliness is intended by the Spirit of God to point to the Lord Jesus. That is not a difficult thing for anyone to see or to accept, that He does answer to these things as He answers to all other things in the Scriptures.

But then, to follow that, we see that we receive these things. I say 'we': I mean those who are the vessel of this testimony of God, they receive these things from Christ or are constituted by Christ according to these principles. They are made priests and kings unto our God and Father; and then follows "to Him be the glory". You see, it is all unto the testimony of God, the glory of God. Just as we have seen in the matter of the vessel of the testimony, the church, it comes out in the great words of the apostle - "Unto Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations of the ages of the ages" (Eph. 3:21), glory in the church unto all ages for ever and ever. The church is an eternal thing for the glory of God, so the priesthood and the kingship of believers is related to the testimony of God, the glory of God.

The Nature and Meaning of the Priesthood

But we want to understand in the first place something of the nature and meaning of this priesthood. I am going to say some things which may startle you, I mean they may make you think hard and pause a bit before you accept them, but I am quite sure you will give them very sympathetic and open-hearted consideration in the light of the full truth. We have not yet fully or sufficiently grasped the distinction between the priesthood of Aaron and the priesthood of Melchizedek. It is in that distinction that we find the truth and full meaning of priesthood.

The priesthood of Christ transcends the priesthood of Aaron. What was the priesthood of Aaron? It was a necessary parenthesis. It came in because of a necessity which had arisen, and was therefore of a special kind to meet, shall we say, an emergency. But we are told in the Word that the priesthood of Melchizedek is something which swallows up the priesthood of Aaron and goes beyond it, both backwards and forwards, it is before it and after it. It is as though there was a priesthood (and there was) before ever the Aaronic priesthood came into being; then in brackets as a parenthesis, the priesthood of Aaron, and then that completed and this other priesthood going on again, the greater priesthood than that of Aaron.

The feature of the Aaronic priesthood was its expiatory nature, expiation for sin. The other priesthood is not that; the other priesthood is outside of the sin question altogether. Melchizedek sacrifices are not blood sacrifices at all. So the priesthood of Christ - for He is a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek - the priesthood of Christ transcends that of Aaron while it includes it. It embodies it, yet it swallows it up, and His priesthood, while it is expiatory, is not only expiatory, it is something more than that. It has to do with an endless life. Aaron's priesthood sees something coming in to interfere with the endless life and deals with that something and gets it out of the way. The priesthood of Melchizedek holds that endless life and is after the power of an endless life (Heb. 7:16), and transcends the priesthood, the sacrifice, which has to do with an interference with that endless life. "Made like unto the Son of God" (Heb. 7:3) "after the power of an endless life", and that is not something which just comes in in time to meet an emergency.

One of the things that I am going to say which I said may startle you, is this: that the priesthood of the Lord Jesus is not primarily redemptive. Now that wants thinking about, because we have always thought that His priestly work had to do supremely with redemption. All our ideas, our mentality about His priestly work in offering Himself, in the shedding of His Blood, the altar of His Cross, it all conclusively and exclusively had to do with redemption. I say again, the priesthood of the Lord Jesus has not primarily to do with redemption. It has to do with redemption, but not primarily.

You are wondering why I am saying this. Well, it is in order to get at the very thing with which we are concerned in these days, and the very thing which I trust we are seeing is the supreme concern of God. The priesthood of the Lord Jesus undoubtedly has to do with redemption, but again redemption is a parenthesis, redemption is an emergency measure, redemption is because something has come in and has to be dealt with and got out of the way in order that that which was and is to be, may be perfected, may be realized.

The Supreme Purpose of Priesthood

What then, is the primary and supreme feature and nature and purpose of the priesthood of the Lord Jesus, if it is not redemption? It is the glory of God. You remember familiar words: "Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body didst thou prepare for me; in whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hadst no pleasure: then said I, Lo, I am come (In the roll of the book it is written of Me) to do Thy will, O God" (Heb. 10:5-7).

"Sacrifice and offering and whole burnt offering for sin Thou hast no pleasure in". That is a dark chapter in the history of this universe. God looks upon that with sorrow and grief, with a shadow over His face. "That phase of things must be, but I have no pleasure in that! What is My pleasure? In what is My pleasure? My pleasure is when I have men wholly devoted to My will, when I have an offering which is not only and just a matter of putting wrong right, but positively and altogether right without any wrong in it at all, where the dark sin question does not arise, but where I can say, 'In Him is my delight!'"

The Lord Jesus, in the days of His flesh, fulfilled in spirit a priesthood which was not the priesthood of Aaron; and in the dark hour of the Cross He fulfilled the Aaronic priesthood and everything was dark then. But while He was walking on the line of Melchizedek during the thirty-three years and a little more, He was doing the will of His Father and the Father was able to say, "In Him is My delight!" He had a man who was wholly unto Himself, an instant sacrifice to God's pleasure without the sin question coming up at all. There is no dark moment because of sin in those thirty-three years, and it was priestly. He was offering Himself, He was offering the sacrifice of Himself, doing the Father's will, and the Father's pleasure was perfect in Him. In the hour of the Cross when He was made sin, the sin question came in, and the Father had to turn His face away - no pleasure, no delight, from that side, the sin side. It was a necessary thing; yes, God accepted the sacrifice, but it is dealing with something else. It is a dark phase of things, an awful phase of things, but that finished, that Aaronic parenthesis was completed. The other is resumed and taken up in even greater fulness and the power of an endless life. The glory of God comes upon Him; He has done the will of God. Yes, He did it in the Cross, but He had been doing it every day of His life. "I do always the things that are pleasing to Him" (John 8:29). "I am come to do Thy will, O God."

Do you see the distinction between these priesthoods and see the greater? That is the force of Hebrews 7: the greater priesthood of Melchizedek. "Consider how great this man was"; the greater than Abraham, and what is the greater? The greater is that which directly and immediately relates, not to the dark chapter of man's sin, important and necessary as that is, but immediately and directly relates to the glory of God.

The priesthood that we have received is not an Aaronic priesthood. When He makes us priests and kings unto His God and Father, He does not make us Aaronic priests. You and I cannot fulfil the Aaronic priesthood, it is all fulfilled.

We stand in the value and virtue of it. We draw from it all its good, the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, all the values of the Blood. Yes, we take all that up, but we have come on to other ground. There is no need for us to offer those blood sacrifices again; that is once and for all accomplished.

We are in Romans 12:1-2: "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service" (spiritual worship).

That is not a blood sacrifice. You are alive from the dead, you are risen in Christ. Now your priesthood is to offer yourself to the glory of God. Another way in which Romans 12:1-2 could be put is, "Now then, having derived all the values of Christ's mediatorial work according to the Aaronic priesthood and sacrifice, now come on to this other ground where, alive in Christ, you are abandoned wholly for the glory of God; present your bodies a living sacrifice. 'Be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.'"

My point is this, that priesthood, while it in Christ touches vitally the matter of redemption, pre-eminently and supremely has to do with the glory of God, the testimony of God. So you see that that feature always comes in with priesthood, it is always associated with priesthood. When the priests are in the condition in which they ought to be and functioning as they should function, the glory of God is there in the house, in the temple. It has to do with glory.

What is the practical meaning and value of this right here and now? Well, priesthood is firstly unto God and priesthood was there before ever man sinned. Before sin entered, before it was necessary for another form of priestly activity to come in and offer blood sacrifices for expiation, atonement, propitiation, priesthood was there in principle. Adam, in his very being, his very nature and constitution, was a priest, a priest in this way: that he was made for the glory of God and was to hold everything for the glory of God, to seek to bring back everything for the Divine satisfaction. He stood there in the earth in order that God might have His satisfaction, and that is the very essence of priesthood.

Priesthood and Dominion Dependent on Organic Oneness

Now do you notice that that responsibility and that royalty, that dominion which was given to Adam was given to him in an organic sense? I am going now at once to step over to this other feature and function of dominion and bring them both in together. This priestliness and this dominion vested in Adam at the beginning as God's representative here was vested in him in a corporate and organic way. What do we mean by that? Well, let us read Gen. 1:28 - "And God blessed them" (not him): "and God said unto them... have dominion... And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb". This dominion is on an organic basis, that is, on the ground of being fruitful, multiplying, replenishing, subduing. It is not individualistic, it is corporate; that is, the whole race was crowned in that first pair. It is organic. The perfect, organic oneness of the race is essential to the dominion and the glory of God. The dominion, the lordship, the priesthood which brings everything to the glory of God is dependent upon the absolute organic oneness of the race. And priesthood and dominion mean the holding of that Divine idea of organic oneness for the glory of God.

Perhaps I can help you to grasp that better when I jump straight away from Gen. 1:28 to the Gospel. We call John 17 the High Priestly prayer of the Lord Jesus, and it is. He stands there as high priest, but He also stands there in the place of the crowned One, the Lord, the Son. "Glorify Thou Me with Thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was" (v.5). What is this that we find in John 17? We find priesthood functioning, and it is functioning now along the line of intercession, one of the functions of priesthood. And what is the burden of that priestly functioning? "That they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us" (v.21). You see, priesthood and dominion hold the organic oneness of things for the glory of God, and priesthood and dominion are constituted upon that basis of organic oneness.

Satan's Efforts to Divide

Now I am saying a difficult thing, but I am most anxious to get it through to you. Why has Satan ever and always sought to destroy the organic oneness of that which is of God? In order to get the dominion and the priesthood into his own hands, that is, to take the glory and the power to himself. Oh, what a lot of history lies behind that!

Now, here is a vessel for the testimony of God, the glory of God, nothing less than that, the glory of God by priestly dominion. If that vessel is to function effectively and triumphantly, that vessel has to stand for, and demonstrate the absolute organic oneness of that which is of God. And any vessel which has been brought in for that purpose - the glory of God through organic oneness - will be ever and always the object of Satan's most intense endeavours and efforts to split it up, to destroy its organic oneness. Oh yes, there are many tragedies now coming into view. Behind everything in the deepest and most solemn and tremendous way, organic oneness is essential to the glory of God.

That is the essential meaning of the Body of Christ. The Body is one; it is the oneness that is particularly emphasized by the Body idea of the people of God. The Body is one, but has many members. "Many members, but one body" (1 Cor. 12:20). That is the vessel for the testimony of the glory of God. "Unto Him be the glory in the church" (Eph. 3:21).

Now, to rob that vessel of its power with God, to rob that vessel of its dominion, to rob that vessel of its very Divine purpose and intention, the glory of God, Satan concentrates to divide. The whole terrible story of schism and division amongst the Lord's people is the story of Satan's persistent blows at the testimony of God, the glory of God. There is nothing more dishonouring to God, more veiling of His glory, than the divisions amongst the Lord's people.

Now, we say we are devoted to the glory of God. That is very practical, that is very immediate. It comes right home at once to the question of division between two believers, not the great sectarian divisions, but just divisions between two believers, spiritual schism in our hearts. Then the glory of God is touched, it is a work of the devil, and our priesthood is smitten and our dominion is destroyed. What is true from the most limited measure of "two of you agreeing", synchronizing, is to become true of the whole of that Body and vessel for the testimony of God. The overthrow of Satan will be by the priesthood of the church and that priesthood means the custodianship of the testimony of God, His glory, and for that testimony everything personal has got to go.

"They loved not their lives even unto death" (Rev. 12:11). That testimony and that kind of spirit has got to come into our personal relationships as the Lord's people. You know, beloved, if that really came upon us as something more than words, more than doctrine, if it fell upon us with the power of the Holy Spirit conviction, we would be going round putting it right with everybody amongst the Lord's people with whom we are wrong. I heard Dr. Meyer say that at a certain conference the Spirit of God was so strongly felt in conviction along the line of believers putting wrongs right in order to give the Lord a full way in their lives for His glory, that immediately after that meeting the local Post Office was so besieged with people buying postal orders to meet their debts that they could not meet the demand. It is very practical; that is how it will work out. It will work out in an instant seeking to put right those things which we see now are not just human grievances, misunderstandings, but works out from hell against the testimony of God, the glory of God. Oh, if you get a company of people like that, with that conception, that conviction, that spirit, that heart, you have a priestly company, and you have something which does delight the heart of God and it can be said, "There the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore" (Psa. 133:3). You see brethren dwelling together in unity like the precious oil, and there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore. That is all priestly; it is the Aaronic oil dealing with divisions and making for oneness, dwelling together, and the Lord blesses, and it issues in life for evermore. That is priesthood.

I do not want to spoil it by adding much more. There is a lot more, but I do want you to get the central thing. Oh, that we could say this to all the Lord's people; if only it could be said to all the Lord's people but said by someone who was able to say it under such a mighty anointing that it would come home with the necessary conviction.

Do you see what God is after? Do you see what we are talking about? It is not teaching, not abstract ideas. What is before us at this time in this Conference, by the Lord's ordering I believe, is that He is really in the midst of His people seeking a people to be to Him the testimony of His glory. Whereas the main body have failed Him again, there is an overcomer body to be found in the midst of the main body who will form for Him that upon which His heart has ever been set from eternity, a vessel for His glory in the fullest sense. He is after that, and that will be a priestly thing which in its supreme value will bring satisfaction to Him, be something offered to Him for His delight, in which He has His delight.

And then it will be a mighty thing, a mighty spiritual power, having dominion. Satan will meet the registration of the impact of the glory of God there, and that is not so general as our mentality might imagine. You see, it does just work like that, when you have really got down to one of these things which Satan has done to take from the glory of God and dealt with it - not as just some personal grievance, not as some mere human misunderstanding, but you have seen it as touching the glory of God and because your heart is concerned for the glory of God, you have dealt with it and cleared it up together, then Satan is thrown back and has met an awful rebuff. You are in a place of power and he is in a place of weakness. Satan will maintain that dislocation as long as he can because it takes from God's glory and it brings you into weakness and defeat. Every division between the Lord's people, whether it be between two or between companies, represents weakness in the realm of dealing with Satan. Organic oneness is essential to victory over Satan. It is the church that is going to do it and Satan holds the ground so long as he can keep the Lord's people apart and broken up.

I wanted to say something about that intercession for the organic oneness to be expressed, maintained; not made, but preserved as a testimony, but I have not time to say any more. The prayer of the Lord Jesus as High Priest was along that line, and if we are going to receive priesthood from Him, we are going to be tremendously concerned about the organic oneness of the Lord's people. Oh, do not talk about being concerned for the testimony if you are at loggerheads with some other child of God, that is nonsense. Your concern does not hold water, does not carry any weight at all. If you are out of fellowship with another child of God and it is in your power at all to do anything to put that right and you are not doing all that is in your power, your professing to stand for the Lord's testimony is nonsense. The Lord's testimony is not a system of truth, a form of doctrine or ideas. It is right here in personal relationships and all sorts of practical matters. Anything and everything that bears upon the glory of God is the testimony of God.

Well, I think that is enough to get on with. The Lord give us grace and bring this home to us and still enlighten our hearts as to what priesthood and kingship really mean. This is only a mere fragment of it, but it is a fragment sufficient to keep us occupied and put us on the right road.

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