The Horizon of Christ

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 4 - Christ's Temptation and Victory

Christ as God's Eternal Horizon of all His interests and activities - we began these meditations by noting that the Bible focuses everything upon a primal rift and rupture in heaven and then on earth - before the creation of this world, and then after the creation. We do not get far into our Bibles before we are confronted with that situation. First, there is an antagonism in the universe, and then that antagonism is introduced into this world. From that point, the Bible opens up and pursues its course to the end where all that is seen to have been dealt with and settled and removed and all in Christ.

We are shown that the cause of that universal rupture in heaven and on earth was insubordination to the will of God; a will rising and opposing itself to the will of God: "I will exalt myself" - independent action, breaking away from the government of God alone. All issuing, we are told, from a desire for superiority, for preeminence, for ascendancy, for power. All these things, which we find all through the Bible, and through history, are the evil brood of pride, arrogance and conceit; first found in the great archenemy, and then man poisoned by him with the same things. After seeing that, we noted exactly what it was that happened when that revolt took place, when that course of insubordination and independence was adopted both in heaven and on earth.

What happened was that those concerned in it, involved in it, implicated, a party to it, victimized by it, fell out of their place in God. Up till then, originally, there was but one realm: one realm of unity, of harmony, of concord. From that time there became two realms and God brought forward at that point His Horizon. The Horizon within which the full restoration was to be made, in which the original harmony and glory was to be found, in which all that evil was to be destroyed, and that Horizon was His Son. His Son, He became that bound, and mark, and demarcation between what is in God and what is not in God, what is of God and what is not of God, what is like God and what is unlike God. God established that Horizon in His Son. Everything henceforth of God and for God, was to be Horizoned by Christ. That we have seen.

His Son, then, being what the horizon is to this earth in the natural, was made the measure, the range, the scope, and the limit of God's interests. And, moreover, His Son was made the character, the nature, the constitution of all that which was eventually to be the range of God's eternal presence. Before we go a step further, it might be as well if we indicated something of the significance of that for ourselves.

We are all familiar with, aware of, convinced of there being a rift in this universe, a rupture in relationship between heaven and earth, between God and the devil, and the two systems and orders that they respectively represent. We know that this is not something objective only, but it is all about us; it is everywhere, but we know that it is within ourselves. The more we know of our own human hearts, the more we know there is an inborn antagonism. It only needs to be given sufficient occasion to show itself.

Perhaps, first of all, in the simple form of its beginning in the Bible, it is a question about God, just a question. And from the entertaining of the question, the development of this whole system of complexities, until antagonism, enmity, shows itself that it goes on. But it is already there in the nature, in the race of Adam. I say we are aware of it, but have we recognized sufficiently, have we really grasped other than mentally, the great implicates of that for our time? I do not mean for the moment in the world; it is there so patent, so obvious there. Oh, the futility, the heartbreak, the exhaustion of all in this world, apart from Christ, to try and harmonize this universe and bring about a state of complete accord. There is no more desperate and heartbreaking business, one feels infinitely sorry for the men whose lives are given in that work. They are destined, and doomed to failure. Every bit of machinery set up for that, breaks down and becomes a contradiction in its very name. United Nations, what a misnomer - disunited nations, and so on. But that is not what I am thinking about.

Have we really, dear friends, grasped within our very beings, the significance, the real meaning of the Church of God, the Body of Christ? For many Christians, it is but a teaching in the New Testament: very interesting, maybe fascinating. But this that we have in the New Testament about the Church, about the Body of Christ, meets right back with that primal rupture in this universe, that division. And this Church, the Body of Christ, is chosen of God, intended by God, to embody His Son in the destruction of that.

Hence, immediately you get really, truly - not mentally, not doctrinally, theologically - but truly onto Church ground, Body ground, you are in the conflict of the ages, beyond any other kind of conflict, this is the conflict. And this same one who brought about the rift in heaven amongst the angels, and then brought about the same rift on earth between God and man, is set on this thing as on nothing else, to deny that in Jesus Christ that work is undone and that mischief is repaired.

Hence, the battle of fellowship. And whenever the enemy can succeed, succeed, (and I think that he succeeds as much by getting people to adopt Church truth mentally, and then violate it spiritually) he laughs, he laughs at Calvary. He laughs at the Christ. He laughs at the Church. He congratulates himself that his original work was not so much in vain. It's like that.

Oh, we are involved and we ought to recognize that when the revelation of the Church comes in through the apostle Paul, and is documented in the greatest document that has ever been given to humanity, you find yourself right there in the conflict with principalities and powers, hosts of wicked spirits, concerning the Church. That ought to enlighten us, it ought to set us on our feet, it ought to be a great warning to us! We are not in a teaching. We are not in a doctrine, though it be a very great doctrine and teaching and truth. We are in the desperate battle of all the ages. It is a matter of God having appointed His Son to be the Horizon within which all that primal revolt and rift and rupture is finally to be undone. You and I were to abide in Christ, and we are not to get out into the natural man, though it be a more glorious testimony to the truth of Christ as Head and His members as His Body.

Are you tired of Church truth, tired of doctrine about the Body of Christ? You say you know all about that, but God have mercy upon you. The enemy will play havoc with you if you have not in your heart recognized that that thing which happened in heaven and on earth is here present today as the battleground. The battleground.

Well, that being the setting of everything we have seen, then there follows that two-fold work of God right through, right through from the beginning. On the one side, God's discipline unto undoing. Whenever God got hold of anyone in line with His ultimate purpose in His Son, that started up in that life or in that people, the discipline: the discipline of undoing. Undoing! And I can offer you on that side, no happier prospect, dear friends, than this: that if you really do come into line with God's purpose, on one side of your being you are going to be undone and utterly undone. You will cry, the time will come when you will cry, "Woe is me! for I am undone... Oh wretched man that I am!" That is one side. The discipline of God must mean that. The undoing of that in which there is an antagonism to the will of God, independence of life and action - a contradiction of the absolute oneness and harmony of Christ in His Body. That is one side.

The other side is, and thank God there is the other side, the reconstituting on the Divine basis according to the Divine nature. These two things go on in any true Christian life. On the one side: weakening, emptying, undoing, bringing down, making more and more aware of helplessness and impotence. That, yes. On the other side: Christ becoming more and more the Life, the Strength, the Wisdom, the Everything - horizoned by Christ.

Now, this is foreshadowed. This is all foreshadowed in God's choice of Israel and His dealings with Israel as His chosen people. You must study the Old Testament in the light of Israel from that standpoint. They foreshadowed of this, how God did discipline, did break, did undo, did bring down, did humble that people. On the other side, how He sought to bring in that which is according to His own mind. We have referred to some of these men like Abraham, Moses, and David. We should refer to David again; these two things are so apparent in his case: very human, very human with all the weaknesses of the poorest humanity in himself. Yet, God could say of that man - the marvel of it is ever astonishing - "I have found David... a man after Mine own heart, who shall do all My will."

Well, you see the two things in his life as an example and representative of the whole nation in God's thought. On the one side, a man broken, a man broken, humbled, down with his face before his God. A man who even when he is guilty of the saddest and most tragic defections, goes down before God in penance. Those psalms of penance; those cries from a broken heart, there they are - they're terrible psalms, those psalms, of a man broken before God because of his own sin. "My sin is ever before me... My sin is ever before me... Create in me a clean heart, O God; renew a right spirit within me" and so on. On the one side, that essential side, discipline, discipline and self-emptying. On the other side, what a lot of Christ we find in other psalms. They are just full of Christ, aren't they? His great prophetic, messianic psalm, coming out of his own heart. He has entered into the experience of Christ very deeply. The very words that the Lord Jesus used in His passion came from David first, came through that broken heart. "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?"

There is so much of Christ that comes to us through David after all. And that is just it, breaking to make room for Christ. Christ is God's Horizon, and on the basis of Christ, on the line of Christ, God works in the life of every committed child of His. Every committed child, He may not be able to do what He wants to in many lives because they are not committed. But this is what happens when we are: "In the fullness of the time... God sent forth His Son." The full embodiment of all this history, and the full embodiment of all that is to be universal in kind, in nature, in constitution, when God reaches His end. Notice certain very distinct features of the earthly life of Christ. The first is so clear. His life in God, His life in the Father - absolute committal and absolute subordination. From the beginning, from the very beginning He takes up this undoing work of all that mischief. It is in His Person that He does it, this perfect subjection to the will of the Father. In other words, He is in the Father, He is in God, and He abides in Him.

Another thing that is so clear as you read His life here, is the lifelong and many-sided effort of the adversary to get Him out of His place in God. To get Him out of that position which He had and get Him as the Last Adam, where he got the first Adam: out of God's Horizon. Out of God. I say, everything was concentrated upon that by the adversary and evil powers, getting Him to move out of His right sphere in God. You will see that in a moment as an example.

But the third thing is also very clear, that is His full victory by His uttermost, bottom-most yielding to the will of God in the Cross, of the infinite cost of Calvary. Which cost, you and I however much we come to understand through years here, which cost we shall never know until eternity reveals it, what Calvary meant as cost to the Son of God. But by that infinite cost, His complete victory.

His Complete Victory

It is written by the apostle that "the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil" and so often, if we have given it any thought at all, we have thought of Him doing something objective. We must remember that whatever there was in the objective realm, it was done in His own nature, it was done in His own heart. It was done in His character - He destroyed the works of the devil in Adam. He destroyed the works of the devil in heaven in the rupture, in this completeness, this perfection of heart for the will of God! No divided heart, no divided heart, and because His heart is whole and His heart is one, and it is kept one through every form of testing and trial and adversity and temptation - maintaining oneness to the last breath, "Father, into Thy hands I commit My Spirit." He has undone in Himself the works of the devil in His own person!

Now, that leads us to the next step in His earthly life for a little while on the temptations of the Lord. Yesterday, we were occupied with His birth and its connection with the primal thing. And then to His baptism with the same connection. And I say it's very important that you do not just take these as incidents in the life of Christ on the earth, but that you relate them all to one supreme thing. So they are, really. And then we come to His temptation in the wilderness and that these are all of a piece of one thing in their meaning and relationship.

You have to see how closely connected the temptation in the wilderness was with His baptism. With His baptism; these are part and counterpart, two sides to one thing. In His baptism, coming up out of the water the heaven was opened and the Spirit, the Spirit lighted upon Him. And the voice out of heaven said, "This is My Beloved Son." The Spirit first of all: the anointing, the anointing, that was the basis and the dynamic upon which, from that moment of committal to the will of God in His baptism, He was going to live and build His work, walk, and do everything: in and by the Spirit.

But what was the significance here of the Spirit coming upon Him at that time, resting upon Him and taking up His abode in Him? Was it not the establishment of this very link with the Father as Man, as the Servant of God, the Son of Man? He has accepted a basis of dependence, accepted a law of submission, and the Holy Spirit came and established that link, that union in the Son of Man with the Father. The Spirit formed that union, created that union, established that union. It is a matter of being joined to the Father in the Spirit, not now in His Deity as the Eternal Son, but now as Son of Man in His mission, His work for our redemption. The attestation of sonship coming upon that, the Spirit forming the link, establishing the union; and then the attestation: "My Son. My Son."

At once, you must throw your eyes right back to that universal rift; it goes right back. His baptism and His temptation take us right back there: the Son established and appointed as God's Horizon for the undoing and for the doing in this universe. "My Son," the One eternally appointed and designated to be this sphere of Divine activity. It goes right back there, and it goes right on progressively in time and consummately in eternity, reaches right on to the ultimate nature and relationship with God of the redeemed, the children of God, sons of God, by the operation of the Holy Spirit beginning in new birth. Now, that is perhaps the most glorious truth that ever a mortal could know. That ought to be the most glorious thing which you and I know: "In Christ," as sons of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, with all that is bound up with that from eternity to eternity.

But dear friends, that is the most terrifying thing to the adversary. That is the most disconcerting thing for the adversary. There is nothing of which he is more afraid of and in terror of, nothing that rouses his ire, his animos, more than that. He sees in that relationship, that relationship sealed by the Holy Spirit with the Father, of the Son and the many sons whom He is going to bring to glory accordingly, he sees in that the final undoing of all his work at the beginning and through the ages. In that union it is all undone. If that goes on, then - hopelessness, futility, frustration is written large over all that Satan's done before the world was, in heaven and in earth, and after creation and has been doing and is doing now, through the ages. It is all undone if this, if this relationship between the Son of Man and the Father becomes the relationship between a whole race, a redeemed race and God, on the basis of sonship through the Eternal Spirit. Hm, no wonder then, there is conflict on this ground. It is good to be able to pinpoint, put your finger upon the meaning of things.

And so you come to:

This Temptation in the Wilderness

It is impressive, it is only Mark who really does give us the full force of what happened. Matthew and Luke tell us that Jesus was led of the Spirit into the wilderness. Mark, who is more original than the others as you know, more original, and we believe that Peter had a lot to do with the writing of the Gospel which bears Mark's name. And Peter was one of the most intimate associates with Christ and this story of the temptation could only have come from Christ Himself, for no one else was there. And He must have given it, therefore, to His most intimate associates. And, coming like this to the most original of the records, Mark says, "Then was Jesus driven of the Spirit into the wilderness." Driven to be tempted of the devil. The Spirit Who had come upon Him in anointing, now girded Him and compelled Him to move to the wilderness to be subjected to this universal trial. Universal, because it is sonship which is at the heart of it. "If Thou be the Son... If Thou be the Son."

You see, what the enemy in those temptations was trying to do was to thrust a wedge between Christ and His Father - to put this Last Adam outside of God's horizon as he had done with the first Adam; to get Christ to move, to act, to proceed in independence, without reference to the Father, and without deference to the Father - to get Him to act of Himself. That is the root of the temptation, to get Him out of God. Out of God, you see, that is it. And if you don't understand that, well, you have much spiritual experience yet, you will if you do not understand that all the activity of the enemy is to get in between us and God - is it not? Some how... some how to get in between us and the Lord; to thrust the thin edge of the wedge in and then drive it home until we are away from the Lord - apart from the Lord. That is what he is doing and that is what he tried here in the wilderness. It was this whole matter of abiding in God. Abiding in God! That was the battleground: living in God - living out from God - and not, not even using God-given powers for personal ends. It was a long test. A long test.

Evidently the Lord, for forty days and forty nights, was going over all that was implied by the step that He had taken, the vision that He had received. He had committed Himself in His baptism, committed Himself to the will of God: to be utter for God. He had there seen by the Spirit the vision of what that meant in the end. He understood the meaning of sonship.

Now then, now then, the vision was going to be subjected to great testing, and He apparently for this whole period of forty days and forty nights, was giving deepest consideration to what was involved, what His step meant, that step of commitment. It was not, mark you, until the end of the forty days and the forty nights that the devil came to Him. "Then, Satan came." What has been happening all that time? Well, I can only conclude, He has committed Himself to something and this wants facing up. This needs to be understood. There needs to be a real apprehension of what it means.

You know, dear friends, it is true to the Christian life, if you take any step of committal to the Lord, if you are given any vision of the Lord's great purpose, and you commit yourself to it, it is not long before you are subjected to the most terrible testing on your vision. On your vision! We shall see in another connection how that applied to others, but here it is Christ. "Then, came the devil." A long drawn-out consideration, contemplation, weighing-up, and of course, abiding by His undertaking, but alone. Alone. No one else here, no one else near. A sense of consciousness of evil about... evil. Perhaps, perhaps a sense of God being far away, "then cometh the devil..." then cometh the devil!

And we have these temptations. I am not going to dwell upon the first, we know it so well. In His hunger and exhaustion, His weakness of body, "If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." That is where it begins: 'Use your own God-given powers for your own selfish ends, for your own salvation, for your own good.' Quite a right thing to do; quite legitimate: save your life. Save your own life. You hear the Lord Jesus later saying, "He that saveth his life shall lose it." 'Save your life! It is the right thing to do. Why throw your life away?' Well, ask any truly, committed and consecrated servant of God, who have gone out, perhaps to distant lands, and laid down their lives - why? And not only that, anywhere, if this is the cost of the great purpose of God: the undoing of the work of the enemy, "He that saveth his life shall lose it: he that loses it for My sake shall find it." 'Save your life, it is the most legitimate, proper thing to do. Why waste your life?'

The question is, does the Lord want us to lay down our lives? Not what reason says, not what men say, not what the devil says, but does the Father ask us to pour out our lives? To let go our life. Is not that the great principle? The basic principle of this ultimate universe of people, people who let go their lives, who counted not their lives dear unto themselves, but poured out their lives in the will of God. It does not argue for any foolhardy, presumptuous actions, but this must come in the way of our relationship with the Lord.

The second temptation, and it has to be so hurried, and I think, dear friends, the only way to rightly and adequately measure the force of the second temptation is to read a part of Scripture. The second temptation, "Then the devil taketh Him up to the pinnacle of the temple, and says, 'If Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down.'" And then, the subtlety of it all, "It is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning Thee; to keep Thee in all Thy ways." He quotes Scripture to back up his temptation from the Bible.

What did this mean? I say, the only way to understand it adequately and rightly is to read something. I'll tell you, I'll read it from the new translation, I think it makes it a little more vivid. Here it is:

Then they led Jesus away to the High Priest's house, where the chief priests, elders, and doctors of the law were all assembling. Peter followed Him at a distance right into the High Priest's courtyard; and there he remained, sitting among the attendants, warming himself by the fire.

The chief priests and the whole Council tried to find some evidence against Jesus to warrant a death-sentence, but failed to find any. Many gave false evidence against Him, but their statements did not tally. Some stood up and gave this false evidence against Him: 'We heard Him say, "I will throw down this temple, made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands."' But even on this point their evidence did not agree.

Then the High Priest stood up in his place and questioned Jesus: 'Have You no answer to the charges that these witnesses bring against You?' But He kept silence; He made no reply.

Again the High Priest questioned Him: 'Are You the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?' Jesus said, 'I AM; and you will see the Son of Man seated on the right hand of God, and coming with the clouds of heaven.' Then the High Priest tore his robes and said, 'Need we call further witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy. What is your opinion?' Their judgment was unanimous: that He was guilty and should be put to death.

Some began to spit on Him, blindfolded Him, and struck Him with their fists, crying out, 'Prophesy!' And the High Priest's men set upon Him with blows. Meanwhile Peter was still in the courtyard downstairs. One of the High Priest's serving-maids came by and saw him there warming himself. She looked into his face and said, 'You were there too, with this Man from Nazareth, this Jesus.' But he denied it: 'I know nothing,' he said; 'I do not understand what you mean.' Then he went outside into the porch; and the maid saw him there again and began to say to the bystanders, 'He is one of them' ; And again he denied it.

Again, a little later the bystanders said to Peter, 'Surely you are one of them. You must be; you are a Galilean.' At this he broke out into curses, and with an oath he said, 'I do not know this Man you speak of.' Then the cock crew a second time; and Peter remembered how Jesus had said, 'Before the cock crows twice you will disown Me three times.' And he burst into tears.

When the morning came, the chief priests having made their plans with the elders and lawyers and all the council, put Jesus in chains; then they led Him away and handed Him over to Pilate. Pilate asked Him, 'Are You the King of the Jews?' He replied, 'The words are yours.' The chief priests brought many charges against Him. Pilate questioned Him again, 'Have You nothing to say in Your defense? You see how many charges they are bringing against You.' But, to Pilate's astonishment, Jesus made no further reply.

At the festival season the Governor used to release one prisoner at the people's request. As it happened, the man known as Barabbas was then in custody with the rebels who had committed murder in a rising. When the crowd appeared asking for the usual favour, Pilate replied, 'Do you wish me to release for you the King of the Jews?' For he knew it was out of spite that they had brought Jesus before him. But the chief priest incited the crowd to ask him to release Barabbas rather than Jesus. Pilate spoke to them again: 'Then what shall I do with the Man you call King of the Jews?' They shouted back, 'Crucify Him!' 'Why, what harm has He done?' Pilate asked; but they shouted all the louder, 'Crucify Him!' So Pilate, in his desire to satisfy the mob, released Barabbas to them; and he had Jesus flogged and handed Him over to be crucified.

Then the soldiers took Him inside the courtyard and called together the whole company. They dressed Him in purple, and having plaited a crown of thorns, placed it on His head. Then they began to salute Him with, 'Hail, King of the Jews!' They beat Him about the head and spat upon Him, and then knelt and paid mock homage to Him. When they had finished their mockery, they stripped Him of the purple and dressed Him in His own clothes. Then they took Him out to crucify Him.

We need not go further. 'Cast Thyself down on the pinnacle and what will happen? You will avoid all that. You will find acceptance in your nations. You will become the popular speaker of the times. You will gain a great following! No Cross will come Your way. You can have it all without paying that cost.' Did Jesus know what was coming? We have many evidences that He knew what was coming to Him. He knew the Bible. He knew the Old Testament described all this. He knew it. He knew what was coming His way. Oh, the temptation... the effort to get in between Him and the Father's will, for eventually He says, "The cup which My Father giveth Me, shall I not drink it?"

"My Father's will..." What does it mean? Well, in the balances on the one side: popular acceptance, and on the other side: complete rejection. On the one side: a cheap, a cheap and easy way, and on the other side: the most costly path. On the one side: a reputation amongst men, and on the other side: despised, despised and rejected of men. On the one side: the temporal - position, status, acceptance, and emoluments, and on the other side: with the loss of all that is the eternal fullness. On the one side: Himself, just by Himself, and on the other side: the world. He could save Himself, but what about the world? What about the world? That temptation was just for His own personal interest. The refusal of it was for the sake of the world. From the local on the one side, to the universal. 'Compromise!' says the devil. 'Compromise for success! Compromise and you can have it.' Isn't it strange how when anybody refuses the cost of going on with the Lord in His full way and purpose, and chooses the less, the devil gives them a lot! Do you notice that? They get on in this world, it's the other people who have a difficult time, the people utter for God. The devil just gives them quite a lot: prosperous... if only, if only you will serve him and go his way. For the time being he will pay you well, but God help you in eternity! That was what confronted the Lord Jesus.

The third temptation, I dare not stay to speak about, I have gone on too long, but mind you, he showed Him all the kingdoms of this world and said, "All this I will give Thee, if Thou wilt but worship me." Oh, it is out now! The cosmic secret is out, that is what he is after. That is what he's after, what he was after in the great rift; to win everything over to himself, to worship him in the place of God. That has been the thing all the way through. Now it is out. The devil is in desperation, he has betrayed himself; he has let out the ultimate secret.

The principle, we repeat, in every message of the ultimate fullness of God is the principle of self-renunciation. The renunciation of this world, of this life, of all self-interest and self-position - for the Lord. For the Lord! Always have that positive objective for the Lord, in the will of God. Go to many a monastery, and they will tell you that they are living on the basis of renunciation of the world. But it is negative, the whole thing is negative; it is not for the Lord. But that is the principle: in the will of God. No compromise, no letting go of ground, no acting on independent ground, but standing firm by God's help, standing firm on the ground of our union in the Holy Spirit with the will of God. That is an abrupt end, but you can see far beyond what I have said.

In keeping with T. Austin-Sparks' wishes that what was freely received should be freely given and not sold for profit, and that his messages be reproduced word for word, we ask if you choose to share these messages with others, to please respect his wishes and offer them freely - free of any changes, free of any charge (except necessary distribution costs) and with this statement included.