The Holy Spirit, the Church, and the Nations (Transcript)

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 2 - The Spirit of Christ's Character

[The Holy Spirit] is, particularly, the Spirit of Christ. In the old dispensation, the Spirit of God, in the more general sense. You have only to turn over the pages of your New Testament to see how often that association and connection is noted. "Because ye are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts". "The Spirit of Jesus"; "the Spirit of the Christ". He, the Holy Spirit was given to the Son for His mission in and throughout this dispensation. Jesus was anointed of the Holy Spirit for the particular work that He had been chosen by the Father to do, and especially in this dispensation.

That work, that mission, did not end when He left this earth. There is a very true sense in which it only began when He left this earth - not altogether, but in a fuller way, a much fuller way, He began His real mission when He ascended to the right hand of the Majesty in the Heavens. It is an impressive thing to note how the Holy Spirit is always related to Jesus.

The preaching, at the beginning, was undoubtedly in the power of the Holy Spirit. They were filled with the Spirit, and then immediately they preached. There is no doubt about it that they preached by the Holy Spirit - it was the Holy Spirit who was inspiring them to preach, inspiring the preaching. What did they preach? It was all about the Lord Jesus! It was all about the Lord Jesus, they were preaching about Him; the Holy Spirit inspired them to preach the Lord Jesus.

The Holy Spirit was in those acts which are strewn throughout the early record. The 'Acts' were truly the acts of the Holy Spirit. Many, many forms of His activities - and not only in the miracles that were performed, but an apostle essays to take his way in a certain direction, and the record says: "The Spirit of Jesus suffered them not" - "the Spirit of Jesus suffered them not". The same apostle, writing to a church, said that he, he trusted that through their prayers and "the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ"; and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ - and that supply was for the accomplishment of his mission.

The Holy Spirit was in and behind all the teaching, fulfilling the promise of the Lord Jesus: "When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all the truth". The truth that we have in the New Testament is wholly Spirit-provided truth; but it all relates to the Lord Jesus. And the conformity of believers to the image of the Son of God is the work of the Holy Spirit: He is the transforming and conforming Spirit, but His model is Christ. The Holy Spirit is wholly and utterly committed to the Lord Jesus. We may say that the inclusive and the many-sided, but the inclusive work of the Holy Spirit is firstly to secure the place of the Lord Jesus wherever He can.

We must remember that, we must not put it in other ways; we must not think of it in other terms: "The Holy Spirit will do this and that". Yes, He will: but 'this and that' and perhaps a hundred or a thousand things and aspects, are all related to one thing; they are not things in themselves. We must emphasize this here very, very strongly.

The Holy Spirit may give light; the Holy Spirit may give leading; the Holy Spirit may do quite a lot of 'things'; but do remember that everything that the Holy Spirit does is included in one object, it is all to one end. And that in the first place is to secure Christ's place in this universe - in men in this world, to secure the place of the Lord Jesus.

Our way of speaking may mislead us very often. We would say: "The work of the Holy Spirit is to save souls". Yes, quite - why? Why? Just to have them saved? No, in order that the Lord Jesus may have His place. Those souls are to be the residences of the Lord Jesus. The Holy Spirit may instruct believers and build them up - what for? Just that they shall be mature Christians? Not at all; but that the Lord Jesus shall have a larger place. No matter what the Holy Spirit does, He has but one all-inclusive object and end: the glorifying of the Lord Jesus. That is, the giving of the Lord Jesus His place, and then filling all things with Christ. Filling all things with Christ, do not think of the 'being filled with the Spirit', of the 'fulness of the Spirit', in any other way than this: that the Holy Spirit's filling is intended to be filling all things with Christ!

See, we can get these ideas - 'Oh, to be filled with the Spirit! Then, then!" What? What will happen? "Well, we'll have such a good time! We'll have ecstasies, we'll have enjoyment; there will be power in our life and...' see, all those things. We think about being filled with the Spirit: "Oh, that's a wonderful idea!" But do remember, dear friends, that the filling with the Spirit is in line with that eternal purpose of God, that eternal thought: that He, the Son, shall fill all things. And you can have these experiences, and these ecstasies, and these emotions, and all these things, and yet - and yet - be sadly lacking in the Lord Jesus! You can have all the teaching and the truth, and yet and yet... the measure of the Lord Jesus to be so small, so small.

It is terribly sad to go about the world and meet Christians who would lay down their life for the doctrine of the Holy Spirit - "I believe in the Holy Ghost, and the Person of the Holy Spirit" and so on, and yet you don't meet the Lord, you meet them. You come up against something that is themselves, you are hurt by 'them'. Yes, it can be like that. No, simply, but essentially, the Holy Spirit is committed to one end, and one end only - to fill all things with Christ. And if you want to know what it means here: "they were filled with the Holy Spirit", you see by the effect: they simply talked about the Lord Jesus, they preached Christ. Everywhere they went, it was Christ; they were bringing Christ with them wherever they went! And as far as they were allowed to, as far as consent was given and openness of heart was provided they, so to speak, filled people with Christ, and filled places with Christ, and filled companies with Christ. That was the work of the Holy Spirit.

And, unto that, the Holy Spirit is always seeking a transformation in believers because we, naturally, are not a bit like Christ, and naturally we do not give very much place to Christ. The work of the Holy Spirit is to transform us into the image of Christ. It is Christ, only Christ - "the beginning and the end".

Now, in that connection, the great governing truth is that:

The Nature of Christ is the Foundation of the Work of Christ.

The character of Christ is the foundation of the work of Christ, of the work of the Holy Spirit. The measure of Christ is the measure of the Spirit. You cannot have more of the Holy Spirit than you have of Christ. And it is the character of Christ. These two things are so painfully overlooked: the detaching of the Holy Spirit from Christly character, and thinking of it as something in itself: the Holy Spirit, the work of the Holy Spirit, the power of the Spirit, the works of the Spirit, working for the Lord - they are things in themselves so often in the thoughtless mentality of so many. But the Holy Spirit is not thoughtless about this - He's not a bit thoughtless about this. The Holy Spirit only commits Himself to the Christ. Make no mistake about that. He will not commit Himself to you or to me, or to any institution or 'thing'; He only commits Himself to Christ. And it is according to the degree of Christ that the Holy Spirit commits Himself. And when we say the degree of Christ, we mean the character of Christ.

For the whole Bible comes down powerfully and mightily upon that truth. All the types and figures of the Old Testament about the Holy Spirit, the anointing oil and so on, you look more closely and you will find that a certain provision is always prescribed by God for that symbol. You take the oil alone: "that oil shall not come upon man's flesh". The anointing requires garments that cover man's flesh; requires certain provisions and prescriptions of God, before that anointing oil DARE be applied! We could extend the symbolism further afield, but there it is. And when you understand, you see that that prescription of God - whether it be the garments, or whatever it may be as the basis required by God for the oil to come upon that person, you will find that that prescription is something relating to the character of Christ; the character of Christ!

And it is therefore foreshown that the Holy Spirit is only given to the Lord Jesus. And He will only be given to you and to me, as the Lord Jesus has His place and in proportion to the measure in which He has His place. You say, "More of the Spirit, more of the Spirit - a greater fulness of the Spirit!" Very well! You are asking for the Holy Spirit to displace you, and all that is of you; and you are going to have a bad time.

"You'll have a wonderful, marvelous time of ecstasy if only you'll get filled with the Spirit!" Don't make any mistake about it. That may be one side of it, but it may be that you will have to be taken through the fire and through the mill to come there. It depends on how much resistance there is to Christ. The clearer the way, the more selfless the motive, the quicker it can be done. But the principle, the principle is that these two things go together: the work of the Spirit and the character of Christ. You won't get away from that. The character of Christ is the foundation of the work of the Holy Spirit.

That, of course, brings us face to face with the fact that Christ is an altogether different creation from what we are.

He is a Different Creation

When He was here, He was a stranger in this world, He was a stranger. It is written: "The world knew Him not" and, while of course that applies specifically to His Deity, it also applies to His unique humanity. The world did not know Him, in the sense that it could not understand His mentality, He was different; His ways, His standards - they did not understand that by which His course and conduct were governed. The world doesn't do it like that! The world doesn't do it like that... for one thing, the world does not act on principle - the world acts on policy. And Jesus absolutely refused, from beginning to end, to be governed by policies, what is politic.

No, it is a strange person from another world who doesn't do that in some way or other. No, the world knew Him not; He is a special and different kind of person, a different creation from what we are.

That was the real explanation of what a difficult time He had in this world. He was differently constituted. You see, He was a Holy Spirit-constituted Being - He was begotten of the Holy Ghost - He was Holy Spirit constituted by birth, and by anointing, in His mission. And being so different in His constitution, upon that basis He was tested and perfected, in a contrary world. If you can get hold of the significance of that, it will explain a lot. You see, when you and I are born anew, we are born of the Holy Spirit, begotten of God, born of the Holy Spirit, and in the deepest reality of our being, there is a difference of constitution. If that is not true of anybody who bears the name of 'Christian', they are not a Christian. A Christian, born anew, has in the innermost part of their being another constitution introduced. It may be in its elementary form, as of babyhood, but it's something different; altogether different. It's the difference that Christ is from all other people.

Now then, the whole of our life under the Holy Spirit is the testing and the trying of that other constitution in a contrary world. We are in a world now as born anew believers, which is contrary to our nature, contrary to our constitution; and that constitutes our difficulty, our suffering, our trial, our testing and the basis of our perfecting. You know quite well, that anything, anything in creation that does not become subjected to adverse forces, never becomes anything with any stamina or endurance in it. Is that true? Hothouse plants can't stand up to anything - you have got to nurse them all the time! Anything that you protect from adversity will suffer, suffer terribly, it will come really to nothing that abides, can stand up to anything. The law, the law of God is that stamina, endurance, strength, maturity, the abiding - comes out of test, trying, and adversity.

It may explain a lot why the Lord allows the winds to blow so cold and fiercely against His Church, and His people. But there it is. What is the Lord doing? Well, here is His own Son in this world, with another constitution, being tested, tried, and perfected by the very difference of the world in which He was placed; the difference to His own constitution. He was "made perfect through sufferings", and the suffering was of this kind: the conflict of two constitutions - the one in the world and the one in Himself. You and I are supposed to have this heavenly constitution, and it is an awful thing to live in this world with a heavenly constitution, and it ought to become more and more awful. If you can settle down and become at ease, comfortable and happy in this world, you have abandoned the very constitution of Heaven. If it is true, that more and more it is difficult for you to endure this world as being what it is, then that's a good sign, it's a good sign.

Now, that's exactly what happened to the Lord Jesus. He was of a different order, and His suffering came along the line of testing and trying by reason of another constitution in the midst of which He had to live. And this heavenly constitution had to triumph, He had to triumph over the other that was all about Him and pressing upon Him; and thus He was made perfect, through suffering. There is no other way for you and for me. It explains a lot.

In the end, in the end if we abide faithful, if we do not 'cast away our confidence', if our faith does not give way because of the difficulty, the hardness of this spiritual conflict, we do not let go, we shall emerge a 'full-grown man' spiritually; the stature will increase 'unto the stature of Christ'. Well, that's the history of the Church, and that's the history of believers.

Now, where does the Holy Spirit come in in this? Well, you see, the Holy Spirit came from Heaven when that question had been fully answered in the Lord Jesus.

I will put it in this way - whether it's sound doctrine or not I don't know, but there was a question all the time through the earthly life of the Lord Jesus. Really there was no doubt - but there was a question. A battle was going on; and when there is a battle, there is always a question as to the issue: whether this Heavenly thing was going to gain the ascendency, or whether this earthly thing under satan's power was going to gain the ascendency. It was a big battle on this one question. A heavenly Kingdom here opposed to an earthly kingdom, the Kingdom of God opposed to the kingdom of satan - and the other way, this conflict; and it all focused upon and centred on the soul of this one Man. The battle rages, right to the end, right to the end to the last moment of the Cross: who is going to prevail? Which side is going to win? The whole thing is: Is the heavenly nature going to triumph over this diabolical nature?

And when that question was fully and finally answered, mark you, it was answered when He reached Heaven. His being "received up" - that's the right way to talk about the ascension: being 'received', getting a 'reception' in Heaven - means that the question is finally answered. The Heavenly Man has triumphed in His constitution, in a world, in a world so utterly different in its constitution. The question is answered, the whole thing is settled, and when that is settled, the Holy Spirit comes. And what does He come to do? He comes to bring the heavenly nature of that Man into believers - and then the battle starts up again!

And that's the battle that you and I are in. After all, it is not a battle of outward things, it is a battle of spiritual things. That's what it comes to, isn't it? The battle may take up many forms, and many things: people, and situations, and circumstances; but, after all, it focuses upon our spirit, upon our heavenly life, upon our heavenly constitution. That's the centre of it all; that's the battleground. Are we going to yield to the Devil and is his constitution going to get the upper hand in that irritability, in that bad temper, in that loss of good faith, and all that? Is he going to, or this other: faith in God, the love of the Spirit, the patience of Jesus Christ - is this going to triumph? That's the form of the battle.

The Holy Spirit has come to bring into us another constitution, and then so to work, as to completely develop us according to that new constitution, until we too are perfected in Christ.

This comes back, doesn't it, all the time, to the measure of Christ. There is no, I said this afternoon, there is no substitute for the Holy Spirit. No substitute for the Holy Spirit. That opens the door at once to that whole terrible change which came about so early after the apostles, even before they had gone, again, after they had gone - the substitutes for the Holy Spirit. There they are: the crystallization of Christianity into an earthly, man-made system; the composing of creeds of Christian doctrine, to become the legal forms of government; the forms, vestments, and orders; clericalism and what-not - all came in so early. Organisations? Yes. All substitutes for the Holy Spirit moving away from the spiritual to the ecclesiastical, the sacramental. The result? The world triumphed - and the devil laughs. A vitiated, emasculated church, a changed Christianity, which cannot stand up to the forces that are at work in this universe.

Well now, let's come to one thing. We are talking about what the Holy Spirit is and He is inclusively, we have said, the Spirit of Jesus, the Spirit of the Christ. And we have further said, that that means the character of Christ. We'll just look at one thing this evening about the character of Christ, as taken up by the Holy Spirit in His own nature, and therefore in His own work.

The Holy Spirit was called by the Lord Jesus: "the Spirit of truth".

The Spirit of Truth

Now, there is a very large place given by God to 'truth'. He is the God of Truth. He is very jealous over the truth. He desires "truth in the inward parts". He holds lies as an abomination. He has consigned all liars to the lake of fire, says the Word. He excludes from the New Jerusalem everything that makes a lie. Jesus called Himself the Truth - "I am... the truth" and He is called "The faithful and true witness". On the other hand, satan is called the liar, and the father of lies.

Now, note: the whole structure of creation collapsed when the lie entered in. Satan injected a lie into man; man accepted it, and received it. The result was that the whole structure of creation collapsed, and man himself became, and remains, a falsehood. He is not the man that God made him or intended him to be: he is a deceived creature. There is a lie in the very constitution and nature of man as he is. He is not the true man that God intended; he is a misrepresentation of the man that God spoke of when He said: "Let us make man in our own image, and after our own likeness".

There is a lie in the work of man, and in all his works. He hopes and believes and works and strives, and it comes to vanity in the end - it is in vain and disappointment awaits him at the end of all his strivings and all his works. He thinks and argues that he is free - but he is a prisoner. He thinks and believes that he knows; he proves to be a fool. He thinks that he can do, and he does many, many great and seemingly wonderful things: but all his doings lead to greater problems to be solved, and the greatest problem of all is satisfaction, is rest, is joy, is peace.

No; man is building, not on rock, but on sand. His world is run by lies. I know this is a terrible thing to say, but how rare downright honesty is in this world! What a lot of misrepresentation and deception, and pretence, and mixture, and exaggeration, and appearance has to be drawn into the running of this world. Isn't it true? Many a well-meaning man, who in his own soul revolts against it, will tell you that it's not possible to be successful in a world like this if you're going to be honest, absolutely honest. And the lie has got into religion. The indictment of our Lord of the Pharisees and the Scribes was: "Hypocrites" - pretending! Yes, because it is true, this creation is shot through and through with a lying deception, man cannot stand. A false world is bound to collapse.

If there is anything that is not absolutely true according to God in Christianity, it will go to pieces. It will go to pieces! Anything, anything, that has in it an element of untruth, has in it the seeds of its own ruin. The Holy Spirit, therefore, is called 'the Spirit of Truth'. Jesus is 'the Truth'. Eternal values, the values which are eternal, are those which are absolutely true according to the standards of God. The value of the Gospel is that it is the truth of the Gospel - the truth of the gospel. The eternal certainty of Christ is that He is the Truth.

Now this is a very challenging thing. It separates and discriminates between, not the black lie always and the transparent truth - but between the beautiful lie, the soulish lie, the sentimental lie, the formal lie, the religious lie. John the Baptist said about the Lord Jesus that He would 'lay the axe to the root', and that His 'fan was in His hand, and He would thoroughly purge His threshing-floor'. What's the axe? What's the winnowing fan? It is the truth!

And so He looked on the temple in Jerusalem, and He looked on the temple at Mount Gerizim in Samaria, and then to the woman that thought that one or the other, especially this one that she was attached to in Samaria, was the true thing, He said: "Believe Me, woman, the hour cometh, when the true worshippers shall worship God in spirit and truth... God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. The hour cometh when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem, shall men worship God". He is discriminating between the formal, the traditional, the historical - the symbolic, if you like, at best - and the real, the true! And He is saying: "Only that which is spiritual, after the very essence of the Divine nature, is true. Therefore this temple and that temple will collapse - not one stone will be left upon another. They are not the truth. It's false. It is false." The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth.

It is, dear friends, very, very important, solemnly important, that our position is a true position. You and I have got continually to look at our position, and say: "Is my position a true one? Is it second-hand? What is it? What is it? The position in which I stand - how did I come to this position? What is it that puts me in this position? Is it to me so true as to be absolutely a matter of life or death?" If it is like that, true like that, you can't resign from it, you can't give it up, you can't withdraw from it - it's your very self. To do so would be to commit spiritual suicide. It's so true! That's the Lord Jesus. Go through His life again, and hear Him speaking. Oh, this Man has not just come to perform something, and to give some teaching, and that sort of thing objectively; this Man is this thing! He is going to that cross to shed the last drop of His Blood because it is so real, so true - His position is that - it is Himself.

Our position must be true, or we'll not stand, we'll collapse, we'll go to pieces. If there is a lie, we will disintegrate, as the creation did when the lie entered in. Our life must be true: our life must be true. Our conduct must be true; our walk before others must be true; our walk before God must be true. Our life must be true. It is going to be an agony, mark you, for it to be so. It's got to be true. Our testimony and our teaching must be true. Is it truth?

Our fellowship must be true - no feigned love! No pretence at fellowship; no trying to make believe, no merely outward thing. Our fellowship must be true. The Holy Ghost will be satisfied with nothing less than the truth in the matter of fellowship. He will say: "Look here, look here, you are trying to make believe in that matter of fellowship with that person; you are trying to bolster up something; you are trying not to let something collapse: but it's not true!" He will take you down deep until it is true.

Our church must be true - it must be the true church. We could say much about that, couldn't we?

Our business must be true. Oh, do, do take this matter of the Holy Spirit into your business. Is your business really true, is your manner of business really true? When you are going to pay for something, are you quite sure that you are paying all that you ought to pay for that, that you are not getting it to your own advantage, and someone is going to suffer in this transaction? Is that true? You see, even John the Baptist raised questions like that at the Jordan, about exacting more than should be. Yes, in business we must be true; we can't have one order of things in Christianity and another one in the world. It is true in business.

Our spirit must be true. Well, we must never be less than we profess, God help us. We must never be more than we profess - God help us! He is the 'Spirit of Truth', that, you see, is the character of the Lord Jesus. To be 'filled with the Spirit' is a very, very exacting thing. Ananias and Sapphira tried to steal a march on the Holy Spirit: but oh, no, He is not being taken advantage of like that! You cannot hoodwink the Holy Spirit, you cannot. Now, this is very solemn. But what do you, what do you think of, and mean when you talk about being 'filled with the Spirit'? We should all want to be filled with the Spirit, we all do! We hear the command: "Be filled with the Spirit", and we want to be filled with the Spirit. But understand that the Spirit is the character of Jesus Christ. He is the Spirit of Jesus Christ and in this one respect, He is the Spirit of Truth.

To be 'filled with the Spirit' means that everything has got to be true, exact, right, real: no lie, no falsehood, no hypocrisy, no make-believe, no pretence, no exaggeration, no imitation; everything is true, genuine. Oh, God make us like His Son in this and then the Holy Spirit will do things. The Holy Spirit will do things in a church like that, through a people like that, and through lives like that. He will, you will not have to try and get it done - He will do it.

See, that brings us right back to the point of this afternoon - why things changed, when at the beginning they were so spontaneous... so spontaneous, so mighty, so wonderful. He was present as the Spirit of Truth, and when He came up against something that was untrue, it was dealt with; it was dealt with and not tolerated. It was fierce of Peter, I know, but he is jealous with the jealousy of the Holy Spirit, for the truth: he sees that the church can be wrecked and ruined if there is a lie getting in - satan is seeking to bring it in, "Why has satan filled thy heart?"

Well, I don't want you to go away oppressed and heavy, but we started of by saying that we are concerned about this matter of a life of fulness and of powerful witness in the world, and troubled because that impact upon the world is not as it was in the beginning. You see, it ought to be: the Holy Spirit has not changed. God has not changed. Christ is the same - then why? If it is true that the Holy Spirit commits Himself to the Lord Jesus, then once more, the answer is: we need more of the Lord Jesus. And when we say that, we need Him in His character. We're only beginning with this matter of the Truth - His character is much more than that; but truth is the foundation of everything.

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