The Horizon of Christ

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 1 - Christ: God's Horizon

Our meditation in these days is going to center in a concealed word in two passages in the book of the Acts; concealed because it is not literally translated in our version. In the tenth chapter of the book of the Acts, and verse 42: "And He charged us to preach unto the people and to testify that this is He which is ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead."

In chapter 17, verse 31, "Inasmuch as He hath appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness in the Man whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead."

You will have noticed that the word repeated in both of those passages is the word, "ordained." In the original language, which could hardly be translated correctly into ours, it is the Greek word 'horizo' from which we derive our English word, "horizon." So that the twofold statement here in that concealed word behind our word "ordained" is that God has made His Son, Jesus Christ, the Horizon of all His interests and activities.

We, therefore, are going to be occupied with Christ as God's Horizon.

Everything Horizoned by Christ

And everybody knows what the horizon is - the farthest limit of vision. It is the ultimate range of things. Wherever we may go in this world, on any of its sides, we are still confronted with the horizon which limits everything to itself and within which everything obtains. And here we are told in precise language that what the horizon is to this earth as the ultimate limit and range and content of everything, God has made His Son in His eternal counsels. Christ - God's full range and ultimate limit and complete content of everything.

And although that word only actually occurs twice in the New Testament, what it means, what it conveys, is found everywhere. One very inclusive and impressive fragment alone would indicate that to us from the letter to the Colossians, chapter 1, verse 16, "For in Him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through Him, and unto Him; and He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." There is the horizon, the range, the scope, the sphere, and the fullness; and Christ is that.

He, as the horizon, reaches back to the past eternity before the foundation of the world. He touches, as the horizon, the creation of all things. He reaches on unto the ages of the ages. He reaches up and embraces all heavens. He reaches down and touches all things here on earth in this creation. He is God's fixed and appointed horizon. The Bible has a great deal to say about Him as such. He is exclusive. Outside of Him, God has no eternal interests. Whatever is outside of Him, God's concern, as we shall see, is to bring it into Him; as far as it can be brought in. Ultimately, He is exclusive of all things. He is inclusive: "In Him are all things" in the appointment of God.

That is the great fact! It may not do more than make some impression upon your minds, but that will certainly not be a sufficient justification for our being here. We are here in order that the Lord may bring to our hearts something which perhaps has never come to us of what it means that Jesus is God's horizon. That is a new, and I trust, mighty apprehension and revelation in our hearts of the meaning of Jesus Christ.

And I would say here, right early in this time to all, and especially to the younger Christians, that ultimately everything for us is going to hang upon our apprehension of the Lord Jesus. We have got to refocus our hearts and minds upon Him. There are many things related to Him. The peril is ever present of making related things something in themselves.

We have a great occupation - the matter of salvation, our salvation, and the salvation of others. We cannot be too greatly concerned with that, but there's no little weakness in our evangelical concerns due to the fact that perhaps we put more emphasis upon salvation than upon the Saviour. That is, we can detach salvation and make it something in itself: a work, an interest, a concern, an enjoyment, and much more, and detach it from the Saviour.

We may be greatly concerned with the Church. We have tried hard to make it clear that the Church is, after all, but the expression of Christ, its Head. But the peril, again, is of being taken up with the Church as some thing: the teaching of the Church, the existence of the Church, the purpose of the Church - all about the Church. And the Church looms larger than the Lord Himself very often. Oh, that is the peril. It is like that. My own strong feeling is that the Lord wants to bring us back to the Person of His Son, to see all things in relation to Him and in the light of Him: for all things are horizoned by God's Son.

When we take up our Bibles, and thoughtfully read, meditate, study, we find that the Bible focuses attention upon two or three main things.

It focuses attention upon the Mind of God, before and behind the creation, and shows us that everything that God has done in the history of this world from creation, has been an expression of His own Mind; a Mind which represents a character, a nature, a kind of creation, a kind of Being - and to have that put into real, living representation and manifestation. God started His work, so far as this universe is concerned, to be an expression of His own Mind.

The Bible then focuses attention on the next phase and stage, what we may call:

The Rift and the Rupture in Heaven and Earth.

Something went wrong. We are not going to state again or go over the ground of what it was or how it was, we are going to come to what it issued in, we are all agreed on this: that things are all wrong in this world. They are all wrong! There is very little that is right in this world. We are confronted with that all the time. In ourselves things are all wrong in people, in world affairs, in creation. We say, 'This is not how it should be.' We say that about it. Something has gone wrong, resulting in a conflict, a controversy, a warfare, a strain, an antagonism of forces within ourselves and without; unrest, discontent, dissatisfaction! All this says, something is wrong, terribly wrong; things are not right.

We all agree with that and that is being forced upon us more and more as we go on in life like that. Something happened which destroyed the harmony, the unity, the beauty, that primal content which has far too short a space in the record at the beginning of the Bible. The Bible focuses upon that; the rift that took place and has persisted all down the ages and is becoming more and more manifest in this creation - a disrupted, disintegrated, and conflicting realm.

What was it that happened? Without speaking of the persons involved, and the acts which they committed which are on record, what was it that happened? And it is the answer to that which encompasses the whole Bible, and comes to its full expression in our Lord Jesus, and in Christianity, rightfully so.

What was it that happened? Man and all things were created in God, in Christ His Son. That is what the Scripture says: not only by Him, and not only for Him, but in Him. He was the horizon. He was the sphere. He was the compass. He was the range. All things were created in Him, all things were in Him. There was nothing, at one time, outside of God. That rift and that rupture, we are told, we are informed, did two things, or one thing in two realms. In heaven, in heaven a body of created beings fell out of God. Fell out of God, left their first estate, left their place, left their sphere; they broke away from their Divine horizon and sought to set up a horizon of their own. That disruption came, came down into this world, and we speak of "the fall."

And I suppose when we speak of the fall, most people think of falling into sin. That is quite true. But the fall, dear friends, was first of all a fall out of God. Out of God! The language is very picturesque, symbolic, it may be literal, that need not concern us for the moment, you need not worry yourself about going over there somewhere into the east to try and discover where the Garden of Eden was. The language pictures this: that when that thing happened, that rift took place, the horizon came between God and man. And man was outside God's horizon; he's outside. He's outside, whether it be the garden or whatever it is, the fact is, he is outside of the place where God is. He is out of God. God is inside a certain sphere, and within that sphere is God's horizon, and man has fallen out of God. An awkward way of putting it, I know, but perhaps it is the most forceful way. Man, with those other created beings, fell out of God.

Man, as we find him since then, is 'out of God.' He is out of God! He is outside. Two, two spheres altogether; he has fallen out.

Now, the Bible takes up that situation, and along one line, it shows us God at work persistently, all through the ages, giving Himself to one thing: to get man and things back into Himself. Into Himself, He is their home; their right place, the place of their adjustment, their cohesion, their peace. He is their place; just their right place. And you see all the way through the Bible, God at work trying, working to get everything, and man in particular as the key to everything, back into Himself. Into Himself!

On the other hand, the Bible is one continuous revelation of what it means to be outside of God. What a terrible thing it is to be outside of God. What forces there are at work, terrible forces in this universe, which started up this thing in that great rupture and work to keep men out of God, to hold men and things away from God, to make their horizon the horizon of men and things. That is their kingdom: the kingdom of darkness, the kingdom of death, the kingdom of sin. God is not there; that is outside of God.

But the Bible is a terrible revelation of what it means to be outside of God. And without being misunderstood, may I say that the Bible is still being written in those terms. The Bible interprets a larger history than it actually, literally covers. What we have seen in our lifetime, and are seeing today, is just what a terrible thing it is to be outside of the horizon of God, in the realm where all things are not in Him.

Now having got that broad outline, you at once, if you have been following closely and thinking, will leap to something! You will probably have already grasped the tremendous significance of a little phrase, occurring in its different forms some two hundred times in our New Testament: "in Christ," "in Christ," "in Christ Jesus." I want to say to you, (and I do trust that you are studying your Bibles) that if you are really doing Bible study, may I say to you that here is a twofold line of the most profitable reading of your Bibles, your New Testaments. First, to note how often, how many times, that phrase occurs in the New Testament. Oh, how I would like to be able to take a whole hour now with it, I'm not going to, but that's a little bit of work you can do. How often it occurs: "in the Lord," "in Christ," "in Christ Jesus." Go from book to book and search it out, gather it all up, I say you will be tremendously impressed with this. This must mean something very great; it has such a large place. And then, alongside of that, notice the manifold connection of that phrase - the many things with which it is connected. The saints are in Christ Jesus - believers, individually. The Church is in Christ Jesus. The churches are in Christ Jesus.

And so on and on it goes, with this manifold connection, "in Christ." I say again, there are few things that would be more profitable to you than that, if you will do it. That is the characteristic definition of true Christianity: "In Christ." In Christ - that is Paul's definition of Christianity. There may be a lot of things within that compass, but that defines what it is to be a Christian: "in Christ."

Now we are going to follow that, as the Lord enables us, along three lines. Firstly, that is:

A Distinguishing Definition.

The very phrase itself carries an implication of a division: that and those in Christ, and that and those not in Christ. It distinguishes; it cuts the human race in two. It cuts the human race in two, divides mankind - those in Christ and those not in Christ, outside of Christ. It is distinguishing. It makes the great divide, the great difference. "In Christ" all God's interests are centered and focused. If we are in Christ, we are in the horizon of God. We are there as the result of this age-long persistent effort of God to get this returning to Himself.

It is no small thing to be in Christ. God has been at work at that all through the ages. He is at work at that now in our time, and we come right into that reaction of God from the rift, which put man outside of Himself. And we are in Christ today because God has done it. That is what God wants, He has been working at it, we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus. His workmanship - it is the work of God to be "in Christ."

He is at work in this world in all His patience, longsuffering, forbearance, infinite patience, putting up with so much until He has come to the limit of His possible action - to bring the last one into Christ, horizoned by Christ, then the rest. The day in which He will judge the world in righteousness in the Man Whom He has horizoned for judgment - Jesus Christ. It is distinguishing, and that makes the great difference. That may sound very simple or even elementary, but I have got this in my heart at this time. The Lord wants to take account, not only of those Christians who know Him and have been on His way for a long time, but of those who are early on the road. For this one thing, dear friends, not that you should have a lot of teaching as teaching, but that you should really know your foundation, your position, of where you are, and why you are where you are, and what it means to be where you are, on which side of the horizon of God you are, and why God wants you within that Horizon of Christ. May He bear that in upon your heart very strongly. It is a distinguishing phrase and definition, "in Christ."

I say again, if you will only look at the connections of that phrase, you will take a deep breath or let out a deep breath and say, "My word! My word! All that? All that is bound up with being in Christ and on the other hand, to be lost by not being in Christ." This is the motive and dynamic of evangelism: to recognize what Christ means in the eternal appointment of God and what it means to be outside of Christ. This is the dynamic of a true Christian life. I do hope that before we get very far, we shall begin to see the nature of being "In Christ" and what that means. It is the greatness of Christ in God's eternal intention but I pass from the distinguishing definition to the descriptive definition. It divides, it distinguishes, it separates, but it describes, it explains, because "In Christ" we come into something, Someone, altogether different from any other created person or being.

Of course, most of us know that, the longer we go on in the Christian life, we in Christ are very different creatures. That is the reality of our Christian experience; how completely different our Lord is from what we are, and what we are from what He is. Have you discovered that a bit? He is unique in the creation. There is not another like Him. He is one Universal Representation of the original full thought of God for this creation, and for man, out of which thought man and the creation fell, but now He is the One in Whom that full Mind of God dwells: "In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form".

God's Mind, God's thought centered in Him. He is the Horizon of God, but He is utterly different. That does not need stressing, perhaps, we know enough; we shall know more as we go on. On the one side of our spiritual experience, there is this divide, there is this divide between what we are by nature, the natural man, and what Christ is, and what we are intended to be "In Christ."

Now, there I must go back. Leave that for the moment and enlarge our range of thought. There was a point in history when God moved again in a very definite, precise way to secure this return to Himself: into Himself. It is returning to God. I wonder if you have noticed how many of our Bible words, with which we are so familiar, begin with that little prefix "re." Re-turn. That is something for the second time, coming back to where you were. Re-pent. Re-deem. Re-concile. Re-new. And so you go on. "Re-" means for the second time; over again, coming back to where you were before; leaving the ground where you are. Re-turning, you have turned, turned again, back into God. I am saying that God took this step in the great return movement to which He had committed Himself when He fastened upon a man named Abraham.

Abraham, the first of a race, first of all to show what it means to be "In God." That is the explanation of God's choice of the Hebrew nation; to show to the universe what it means to be "In God." And so God laid His hand upon the first of that race and brought him out of his horizon, which was not God's horizon, and brought him into the horizon of God. He began and pursued His activities with the man himself and then with his seed. You know, Abraham was called "Abraham the Hebrew". The Hebrew... and perhaps you know that the word "Hebrew" means 'the man from beyond, the man from the other side.' He has come from one realm into another, from beyond, into here. And the 'here' is where God is, and where God is going to be at work. We cannot help our minds leaping on to the Lord Jesus - "I am not of this world. They are not of this world." They are "born from above" - people from beyond, "born from above" - their true character and nature.

But then you notice what God does with that race; Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and on.

What does He do? He puts every one of them into a history of deep discipline.

Deep Discipline

And what is the discipline? What is the nature of the discipline? For there is no doubt about it, these people went through discipline under the hand of God. Look at Abraham, his life was a life of discipline under the hand of God. Isaac and Jacob, there is no mistaking it; Joseph, Moses, David, and the rest, from one standpoint, it is a life of deep and continuous discipline. And what is the nature of the discipline? It's perfectly evident if you think about it, it was to undo a certain conception, and to build up an altogether different conception of life, of purpose, of vocation. Keeping to the positive side, what was the discipline of these men, and of Israel, the Hebrew race? It was to inculcate, to constitute them on the principle of service. Serving - to inculcate and develop the servant spirit for God. Man fell out of God when he sought to be something other than the servant of God. Satan fell out of God when he said, "I will be equal with the Most High" - sought to be other than the servant of God.

Servanthood is the key to the Bible: subjection, submission, consecration to the will of God, meekness, humility. Not the master: "My brethren," says the apostle, "be not many masters". Not the Law: "They lord it over you..." over God's heritage, that's not Christ, not God. Look at Abraham. God's disciplinary activities with Abraham were all along this line, to inculcate in him the spirit of service. When you come to the climax, the climax of his offering of Isaac, what is it? Complete subjection and submission to the will of God without a question - obedience unto death. "In thee, in thy seed, shall all the nations of the earth be blessed". That is what God is after, but the way, the way to that universal blessing is this way of discipline in relation to servanthood. The most difficult thing for human life since that thing, that poison of self-importance, self-sufficiency, self-aspiration and ambition, and all the aspects of self came in from Satan, the most difficult thing is a spirit of service. And I ask you: has the spirit of service almost gone out of this creation today? Who will be gladly a servant today? No, either individual or collective masterhood, supremacy, ascendancy, control; servanthood is going out, and it has been very largely lost in the Church. However, that's going well ahead.

Notice it then with these men that founded the Hebrew race and nation, then notice it in the race. "Moses My servant" that is the great title of Moses, isn't it? The servant of the Lord. "Oh, but Moses was a leader! Moses was a commander, Moses was almost a dictator." No! God says, "Moses, My servant." "Now Moses was the meekest of men..." And so all these dealings with the race, with the nation, as we see them through the Old Testament, are all bent upon this: to make them the servant nation, the servant people... to God, for the creation.

Those great chapters in Isaiah as you know, have two aspects. They do refer largely to Israel: "Jacob My servant, Israel My servant." The great servant chapters. We know that they point on to the Great Servant, but we haven't got there yet. Here it is, this is the focus: servanthood and discipline unto service, unto servanthood. Breaking down something, destroying something that has come in: the pride that came in, the selfhood that came in, the natural life which we all are and all its aspects of self. The undoing of that is God's work. God goes to infinite pains to do that.

Dear friends, this is not only Israel's history; not only the history and experience of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the rest. It is your history and mine. What concerns us most is not what happened to Abraham, but what is happening to us. What is it the Lord is doing with you and with me? What is it? What is the key to it? In general, this is it. We are going to show in particular as we go on what it is, but in general it is this: the undoing of that terrible, pernicious selfhood which came in in the great rift and put man outside of the horizon of God. The undoing of that on one side, and the building up of this other, and to be a universal blessing, a channel of universal blessing in service to God as yokefellows. A yoke is always the symbol of the humblest service. The humblest service, the service of a beast, of an animal. Subject....

Oh, what a lot of light that throws on the little, little word to Saul of Tarsus, "it is hard for you to kick against the goad". Yes, kicking against the goad - the ox under the yoke, kicking against the goad - we all kick against this goad of being servants in the yoke, in harness. It is an irk to our natures. The sooner you let go, surrender, submit, the sooner you'll come into the orbit of God, into the Horizon of Christ. For that is what is in the Horizon of Christ, just that. Read again then, your Old Testament in the light of that. Light just floods in when you see it in this way. Here is the discipline of a nation in relation to a Divine purpose: to serve, to serve God, to be the servant of God. Not with honour in this world. Not with reputation here. Not with popularity and acceptance - "despised, and rejected of men... crucified through weakness". Who in nature likes that? That is the story of the Old Testament.

Dear friends, that is where Israel as a nation broke down and went out of the Horizon of Christ. Out of the Horizon of Christ! It is a terrible thing to see Israel as a nation outside of the Horizon of Christ during these many centuries and today. Outside of the Divine Horizon. How terrible! Why? Israel broke down on this one thing: Israel assumed a position that God never meant them to have - asserted themselves as being 'the people.' Pride came into Israel.

Hear the prophets! Hear the prophets, is not this the cry, the complaint of the prophets to their countrymen: resistance, rebellion, stubbornness, the stiffnecked, the superiority, the pride, the arrogance? Out of place.

God, through the prophets, sought to call them back into Himself, to have them within His horizon. But no, the verdict of the prophets is, "Ye will not, ye will not, but ye say 'we will.'" And when it came to the final issue, when the Horizon Himself appeared, they took their position outside of the Horizon of Christ and have suffered the consequences. Israel failed because it left its great, holy vocation of servanthood and lost its sphere of Christ. It's a warning. "Abide in Me," says the Lord. "Abide in Me." "Abide in the Lord."

I must close because the morning hour is gone. I am just coming to Christ Himself as the Horizon, to see Him as defining that sphere, that realm in His Own nature. I will leave that for later, but let me close with this. Encompassing the creation, the world, humanities, the kingdom of darkness, the kingdom of darkness: "The whole world lieth in the wicked one" "The god of this age" "the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience... The prince of the power of the air..." and so on, we are all encompassed by nature, by that - pressing, pressing in all the time - these evil powers. And more so, more so surely now as the end draws nearer than ever. How busy, how active, how fierce they are, how relentless, how unresting, and within that by nature, is man, the natural man, governed by that sphere. Now within is the Horizon of Christ - "in Christ."

Dear friends, our battle, the battle of the Christian life in prayer, in watchfulness, the battle of the Christian life is not to allow a crossing over of this into that. In other words, to watch carefully the point where we in our natural life could just step over into what is of Christ, bring ourselves in there, assert ourselves in there and violate the Horizon of Christ by our, our life, our nature, what we are, intruding into the realm of Jesus Christ.

If you note your New Testament, it is all about that. Corinth is all that isn't it? And not only Corinth, in the more conspicuous and violent form of its expression, every letter has something to say about this: the crossing of the horizons of the natural man and Christ - the failure to preserve that clear distinction, definition, and demarcation. We ought to be so sensitive in spirit that if we in word, in word to one another, speak not according to Christ, we know it and have a bad time about it. Anybody who can injure and hurt another Christian and not have a bad time and have to go to the Lord about it, well, there's something very, very seriously wrong with that person.

If we are abiding in Christ, we can't do that sort of thing. We just cannot act or speak other than according to Christ without the Spirit at once making us know it, we have crossed the line. We've crossed the line, we have brought in nature, where nature has no place in Christ. To be in Christ is to be different. To be in Christ is to come under discipline in this way, the discipline which undoes something and sets it aside and builds up the other and keeps it preserved before God. Sorry to stop there, but you've enough to get on with.

The Lord hold us unto His goings.

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