"By My Spirit"

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 8 - The Adversary of the Testimony

Reading: Zech. 3:1-5.

"And I heard a great voice in heaven, saying, Now is come the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, who accuseth them before our God day and night" (Rev. 12:10).

In the great issues with which we have been occupied in these chapters, there yet remain two we have not specifically dealt with although they have been insinuating themselves into all of our meditations. But now, in a very brief way, we shall seek grace to touch upon them more particularly. They are: the adversary of the testimony, and the all-sufficiency of the Spirit of God. You will at once recognize how impossible it is to speak in any fulness on either of those matters, but again there are points which, although very familiar, do come up and demand our very special careful attention when we are dealing with so great a matter as the testimony of God, that is, the glory of God.

When we commenced and set that matter of the testimony of God at the head of these meditations, we said that the issue of all that in which God is interested and that which He does, is His glory. That is the thing which comes out of all the activities of God. Everything that He does works out to His glory, and that is why He does it, for everything from God's side has its existence for that one purpose of bringing glory to Him. But we immediately went on to say that everything in which Satan is interested and which proceeds from him is intended to work out for the veiling of the Divine glory and the marring of it. And so we find here in these prophecies of Zechariah the testimony in the representation of the golden candlestick, the testimony of God in view, and alongside: an activity of Satan, the adversary, activity set against the testimony, against the house as the vessel of the testimony, and against the people of the testimony. And we find Satan here in the place of power and authority. He is at Joshua's right hand to be his adversary.

The Ground of the Defeat of the Adversary

If we ask how he got into the place of authority, the place of power, the answer is found in the condition of Joshua. "Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments." As we have seen, Joshua's condition is symbolic of the condition of the whole nation. Hag. 2:13-14 makes it perfectly clear - "so is this nation before Me, saith the Lord... unclean". The nation, the people therefore, are in a position of being, for the moment, unable to stand up to the adversary because of their state, their spiritual uncleanness. And in order that Satan's rebuke might become an effectual thing, an actual thing, something has got to be done. Joshua's filthy garments have got to be taken away and other garments put in their place.

That, of course, is all very simple, very elementary, but we are thinking about the glory of God. The glory of God is the complete satisfaction of God, God's perfect pleasure. The glory is where God is satisfied, where He is well-pleased, where everything answers to His mind. Given that condition, God's testimony is present in fulness.

Now, we know by the very simplest interpretation of Scripture that these garments, the garments of the priest, the garments of the saints, represent their spiritual condition, either in righteousness or unrighteousness. The garments of fine linen are the garments of righteousness; the filthy garments are the garments of unrighteousness, and "all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" (Isa. 64:6). Given that condition, Satan is in the place of power and has the right of accusing - the glory of God is veiled, there is no glory. Therefore we must, for the glory of God and the undoing of Satan, and for complete ascendancy over him, come to the place where God is perfectly satisfied, where His delight is, and be in that position. And we all know, as the very first lesson of our faith, that that provision has been made by God Himself in a righteousness which is of God through faith (Rom. 3:22). But as much as we know it - and we think we know that if we know anything about the Christian faith, we know all about justification by faith, we know all about righteousness by faith, we know all that we can be told about His righteousness for us - yet I venture to say that it is upon that very ground that the battle goes on to the end of our days, and that matter is always coming up anew in some form or another.

Somehow it is true that these hearts of ours never utterly let go to the righteousness of God by faith. They are so desperately sick that they are, unto the end, in some form or another seeking to establish their own righteousness, very often under a cover of feigned humility and deep brokenness, they are still hunting round somewhere in the dark corners and recesses for something upon which they can lay hold of assurance, of confidence, as being good. All the depressions and the discouragements and the weaknesses of an inferiority complex are only one form of trying to find something good to establish our own case, to be able in ourselves to stand up to things. In a thousand ways this thing is there in our hearts and it usually takes a long time for God to get a man or a woman to the place where on that matter Satan is in an absolutely hopeless and paralysed position. "The prince of this world cometh" and hath nothing on that score, and that is the position to which God is seeking to bring a people. For if this man child of Revelation 12 is a people, a corporate company - and I do not see how you can interpret it otherwise - "and they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb" which at last renders Satan's power absolutely exhausted and finished, and a great voice in heaven is heard saying, "Now is come the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, who accuseth them before our God day and night", if that company exhaust the power of Satan, that company is clearly and evidently a company of those who have come to the position where no longer are they on the one hand seeking to establish a righteousness of their own, but on the other hand have settled it once and for all that there is no hope along that line, but there is a righteousness which satisfies God absolutely, in which He finds His perfect pleasure and that is theirs and it is settled once and for all, and God is glorified and Satan is ousted.

That is the issue towards which God is working. He is working that in you and me, He is seeking to work it in a company in a great final triumph, for the final triumph is just that. It is not some objective, outward, mechanical casting out of Satan, bringing him down from his exalted place. It is the triumph of faith in this righteousness which is not ours, but which is God's own provision, heaven's own provision, as something which perfectly satisfies God, and the glory of God is there.

Now, the measure of the glory of God in our lives, the measure of the Divine testimony in our lives, is the measure in which that matter has been settled. The measure in which the glory of God is veiled, is hidden in us and He is not glorified before men, is the measure in which we have uncertainties and questions on this very point. The measure in which Satan is drawing the values from our lives and holding the power is the measure in which we are giving him the ground that he must ever have and which he ever seeks, the ground of a quest for righteousness somewhere other than in Christ, or a failure to apprehend this righteousness which is ours from God by faith. Oh, what bondage we can be brought into, what defeat, oh, what glory goes to the enemy and is taken from God on this point, and I say this battle never ceases.

But there has got to be the progressive weakening of Satan in this matter, there has got to be a coming more and more to the point of finality over this, where the enemy knows it is no use getting on that line. If he is going to get us, he has got to try some other line, that one is a closed line to him. He will never get that Christian along the line of unrighteous condemnation, that Christian is far too strongly settled on the matter of his righteousness in Christ.

I ask you, is it not true that there lies behind most of our spiritual worries this very issue of being well-pleasing unto Him? You say, "Yes, but there is so much about us that is not well-pleasing to Him, and there is so much in us that gives Satan ground!" And so arguing, you seem to cut the ground from under this whole thing. Now, may I say that it is the line of approach to this matter which is important. You never can defeat the enemy on this score by seeking first of all to get into a better position yourself and be a better person yourself. That is only doing the very thing that you are not to do, "If I can make myself better, if I can get into a better position, then Satan will lose power!" All right, try it! - and you struggle and struggle and it will never happen. How then are you to get to a better position? By first of all getting him out of the way. And how are you going to get him out of the way? You have got to get behind the condition to him, and Satan is got out of the way when you take God's position about yourself and not your own about yourself.

I mean this - if only you will take this position, "In Christ by faith I can never, never, though I live for eternity on earth or in heaven, I can never be more perfect than I am now! Yes, perfection is settled and finished already in Christ, and when I am in Christ I am perfect, and who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? Christ Who died? (Rom. 8:33,34). The whole question of my perfection was settled in the day that I was found in Christ."

Now then, that does not rule out the necessity for a progressive work of sanctification, but the progressive work of sanctification goes on from perfection, not unto perfection. You understand what I mean by that. You start at the end. Man came on to this earth when God had finished all His other works and, entering into the perfected works of God, became the inheritor of God's perfect works, and that is always the law. We come into the new creation at the point at which God finishes the new creation. We are working from a perfect position. God is only making good what is already true; and until we have got a firm hold of the fact that it is already true, we are giving ground to the enemy.

Now the Lord takes us in hand and begins to discipline and chasten, because there is a lot to be done, there is a lot there to be changed, but He does it and then when the Lord begins to do it and we are in the fires of trial and we are beginning to feel conscious of how much there is to be done and how poor a thing we are, immediately the enemy comes in as the accuser and says, "You see, this is because you are so bad, this is because you are so evil, so wicked, that the Lord has to deal with you in this way!" And we begin to listen to him and take it on and it is not long before what God meant for our perfecting is twisted by the devil for our undoing, whereas our attitude should be, "Look here, Satan, in Christ before God I am faultless, I am without spot; what God is doing just now is only to make that good in me, to make that actual in me: hands off! There is nothing here; the precious Blood of Jesus Christ cleanses and keeps on cleansing from all sin" (1 John 1:7). The attitude toward the enemy, the accuser, is a very necessary thing in this whole battle, it's the point from which you start.

Do you believe, beloved, that if you have walked in the light, if you have been obedient to the truth that God has given you, if your heart has been wholly towards the Lord, and then suddenly in the midst of your days or before you are threescore years and ten you are taken away, do you believe that you are awake in His likeness? "Oh, but then there was so much more to be done in me!" Yes, but if you had stayed here for a few millenniums, it would have been the same. God has taken responsibility for that. If He takes you away, He has taken full responsibility for your perfecting. The point is this, at any moment, though you were only just saved five minutes, in Christ at any moment if the Lord takes you away, your perfection is secured and you cannot do anything to add to that yourself. Your stay here is only that God should work in you that which is true in His Son and when God deals with us, it is no suggestion whatever that we are under condemnation.

The Ground on Which God is Glorified

What I am after is not the doctrine of justification by faith; it is the glory of God. A lot of the glory is out of our faces, a lot of glory is out of our tone of voice; we are perfect miseries amongst men often. The weight because of this thing is there all the time; we are lying under some kind of accusation, the enemy has got us in his grip on this very question. And the happy people, the people with the glory in their lives even under trial and in suffering and weakness, the people who nevertheless have that about them which glorifies God and you have to say though they have a hard time that the grace of God is there, there is something that is to the glory of God, those people are the people who have this thing settled against the devil. They have completely taken this whole matter right out of his hands, they have known that in Adam they wore the filthy garments, but in the Cross those garments were stripped off, in Christ risen they have the new white raiment, fine linen, the righteousness of God by faith, they have changed clothes before God. You will have to forgive this so simple word, but I know this battle and you know it, and it is constantly cropping up and the devil has some very nice angelic instruments. He transforms himself into an angel of light and comes along through Christians picking out your flaws, all the time on a negative line of what is wrong, always seeking to point out the wrong things in everything. Nice Christians, nice brothers, nice sisters, but it is a negative line - what is wrong, what you ought not to do, what you ought to do, this finesse of legalism, instead of encouraging and helping our faith.

The positive way really to get people free from the imperfections which you may see will not be to constantly strum on the string of their imperfection, but to encourage in the Lord, to be positive in constructive helpfulness. That is the best way, and Satan who is always out to veil the glory of the Lord will take up anything that he can get hold of to bring in the negative note, the accusing note, the judging note. You will find these people even in the presence of so much that is of the Lord. They always just get the thing which is the imperfection and they bring it up to eclipse all the rest, and it is death. It is Satan transforming himself into an angel of light and seeking to preach righteousness, but not the righteousness which is of God by faith, it is this legalistic righteousness. Well, beware of the angel of light.

I do not want to suggest that you are always occupied with the devil and what he is trying to do, but do realize that the testimony of God is based upon this righteousness which is ours in perfection. His priests shall be clothed with righteousness. No priest can truly be that priest who makes the enemy, the adversary, a defeated foe (and that is a function of the priest) until this whole matter is settled.

Victory in the Realm of the Spirit

Well, there is a very great deal more to be said about the overthrow of the enemy, but you notice that the casting down of the accuser is because of the word of their testimony. Now here is an interesting thing. I do not say that it relates to the same people. In Revelation 11 you have the two witnesses, called the two sons of oil, and they give their witness and then the beast rises and makes war and overcomes and kills them and their dead bodies lie in the streets three and a half days, then they rise up. The enemy has triumphed apparently, they are overcome. It says that when they have finished their testimony, the beast rises up and makes war and overcomes them. In chapter 12 we read "and they overcame him by the word of their testimony". They finished their testimony and he overcame them, and these finished their testimony and overcame him. The point is a spiritual one. I say I am not interpreting this as relating to the same thing, but there is a spiritual point. Those witnesses were not overcome by the devil at all, only their bodies were overcome. The overcoming by the devil was purely in the temporal realm of things. This company, the Man child of chapter 12, overcomes the dragon, the adversary, the devil, by the word of their testimony. He is cast down. This is spiritual. Why? "And they loved not their lives even unto death". Very probably both witnesses and the Man child company have been killed by the enemy, they loved not their lives even unto death, and they have died, and yet they have overcome. He is beaten, he is cast down.

Do you see the point? Oh yes, the enemy may do a lot against us in the temporal realm, in the physical realm. He may be able to go so far as to kill our bodies, but what is that? In the very doing of it, he may be overcome. However far the enemy may go in the realm of our temporal affairs, touching body, estate, things, touching us in this world, this life and bringing all under his power to crush it and break it and seem to triumph, in the midst of it he is overcome, can be overcome and cast out spiritually. The victory is in the realm of the spirit, not necessarily in the temporal realm at all. They overcame him even though they loved not their lives unto death. They died, perhaps under his persecution, but they overcame.

Victory is in the spirit, and oh, what I crave for myself and I crave for you is that with all the pressure that the enemy brings upon us, the crushing weight, the messengers of Satan to buffet, the thorns in the flesh and all the trials of our circumstances on the outward side, in our spirit Satan will be overcome, he will be cast down: no more place found for him because of our spirit. "O Lord, give me in my spirit to be strengthened with might in the inward man that whatever the outward may be under the pressure of Satan, he is all the time defeated in the realm that matters most, he is losing power there!" Do not listen to this as something said, this is our battle today.

The All-Sufficiency of the Spirit of God

That leads me to the other word which can be said most briefly. Here are two olive trees emptying their oil through the golden pipes into the bowls of the candlestick. It is an organic provision. These are not cisterns, reservoirs; these are living organisms. That is, there is a continuous and inexhaustible supply of the Spirit of Life by the Holy Spirit for this testimony in our spirit; the all-sufficiency of the Holy Spirit. "Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:4). Unto this the Holy Spirit is all-sufficient. That is all I need say on this matter.

"Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit." What is by My Spirit? Well, all that we have been saying; the securing and preserving and maintaining of the testimony of God, the glory of God, in this world the securing of a vessel for that testimony which corresponds to the testimony, the people of the testimony, the company to be found and secured. How shall it be, seeing how things are generally with the people of God, to find and have a people like this, in the midst; real overcomers? This meeting of the adversary of the testimony and of the vessel of the testimony, the glory of God; how shall it all be? The answer comprehensively covering all this ground is: "This is the word of Jehovah, Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts." That is sufficient.

So Paul prays that "He would grant you... to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inward man" (Eph. 3:16), and again "that He would grant you to be strengthened with might according to His glorious power unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness" (Col. 1:11). His Spirit in the inward man - the all-sufficient, the inexhaustible fulness of the Spirit - is for what? That we should do a lot of mighty things, gain great influence and prominence, come very much into view as much-used servants of God; any of that? No, not at all; it's for the glory of God. If you and I are set upon the glory of God with an utter selflessness, we have provided the Holy Spirit with the ground that He wants to see that the issue of our lives, whatever it is not, is to the glory of God. May it be so.

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