The Intervention of God in Christ

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 5 - As Saviour unto Salvation

Features of the Gospel by Luke

"And the angel said unto them... there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:10,11). A Saviour which is Christ the Lord! You will find that everywhere in Luke's gospel, with peculiar clearness and strength.

As we have considered these matters in the other connections mentioned, we have taken up a good deal of detail by way of getting at the heart of the message; detail as to the writer, and detail as to his writing. But while there is perhaps a greater mass of such detail in the gospel by Luke than in either of the other two, it is not our purpose to follow that line again. It would take far too much time for this present occasion, and so we want, as the Lord enables, to seek to gather up the whole of this gospel by Luke within the compass of one or two comprehensive words.

First of all let us remind ourselves of the scope, the range, the direction of Luke's intention. We saw that in the case of Matthew there was a taking up of the whole of the past Jewish history and bringing it into immediate relationship with the Lord Jesus, so that the object of Matthew's gospel was (in the first place at least) connected with the Jews, with Israel.

Then we saw in the case of Mark that the particular connection was with the Romans. Mark wrote with a Roman atmosphere and mentality, and the narrative which he penned is marked by those features of action, energy, precision - which are characteristics of the Roman make-up.

Now when we come to Luke we get beyond the Roman and beyond the Jew, and, while he wrote to a Greek, and while the Greek mentality very largely governs his writing, he really moves into a larger sphere even than the great Greek world to which he wrote. His thought and object is clearly to touch the whole race. His word is:


The great key phrase of this gospel is: "The Son of Man", and in the genealogy of the Lord Jesus Luke does not stop where Matthew stopped, he presses things back still further until he reaches Adam (Luke 3:38). With Luke the Lord Jesus is taken up from Adam, and thus he means that the Lord Jesus is comprehensive in the racial sense, that He bounds the whole course of human history. And as to detail it is not with any one section or department, but with the whole race of men; he brings the Lord Jesus into that relationship. It is true that John's gospel will go even beyond that, will have even a wider range than that of Luke, but Luke covers the whole ground of human history and links Christ with man from the beginning.

When you recollect that the keynote is, "A Saviour, which is Christ the Lord", you are immediately made aware that He is the Saviour of all men from Adam onward. There are no partialities, there are no preferences, there are no favourites, but all men, from the first man to the last, are embraced in this intervention of God in Christ as a Saviour.

That gives us our ground of movement in this gospel. The whole gospel can, therefore, be gathered up into two thoughts: (1) Comprehensiveness or universality, and (2) Grace. Another word, which is but defining grace, is gratuitousness, what is universally free, what is free for all. That is the essence of Luke's message concerning the Son of Man - grace in Christ for all men of every time and place. If any man can take his place in the category of the lost, then Luke says: "The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10); and, for our part you cannot put any man outside of that compass. Whether all men recognise it or not, that compass embraces all men. Lost! It is grace, free, gratuitous grace for all men which is brought by this intervention of God in Christ, according to this third unveiling.

Now you want to go through the gospel chapter by chapter with that statement as your interpreter and you will find that the gospel lies open before you. We cannot go through the gospel at this point, but we will take what may be an illustration of the whole gospel as found in one fragment of it in chapter 4.

Grace Declared

"To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord" (Luke 4:19). Why the word acceptable should have been put there I do not know, because it is the word grace, and the accurate translation would be: "To proclaim the Lord's year of grace" or, "To proclaim the year of grace of the Lord"! The Lord Jesus said: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to proclaim the year of grace of the Lord!" That clearly brings us back to the beginning, that there is a Divine intervention. God has broken in in Christ at a point in the history of this world with this included in His fourfold object: to proclaim the year of grace of the Lord. If He has broken in in Christ to declare Himself as Sovereign King, if He has broken in in Christ to declare Himself as Lord and Master, He has broken in in Christ to declare the year of grace, and that as Saviour for the sinner.

Grace Demonstrated

This chapter very well illustrates that. "And He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down: and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fastened on Him. And He began to say unto them, Today hath this scripture been fulfilled in your ears. And all bare Him witness, and wondered at the words of grace which proceeded out of His mouth: and they said, Is not this Joseph's son? And He said unto them, Doubtless ye will say unto Me this parable, Physician, heal Thyself: whatsoever we have heard done at Capernaum, do also here in Thine own country. And He said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is acceptable in his own country. But of a truth I say unto you, There were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land; and unto none of them was Elijah sent, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian" (verses 20-27).

Do you see the meaning of grace? Within the pale of Israel, merit was the ground upon which men stood. Israel would take the position that they had a right to these advantages and benefits which would come from God through the prophets. The prophets were theirs, therefore the prophets, in all that they could bring from God to men, belonged to Israel, and Israel stood upon the ground of right, of merit.

Elijah? Yes, "there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah... and unto none of them was Elijah sent, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon", outside of Israel, to a woman. That is grace: going outside of those recognised bounds of merit, of considered right. It is the Lord breaking out into a new realm to meet need beyond. It was a daring thing for the Lord Jesus to say this at Nazareth, and it was a daring thing for Luke to write it down.

Pursue that further. Unto Zarephath! What happened in Zarephath with that woman? You remember the meal and the oil, and you know how the Lord through Elijah intervened for the woman so that the meal and the oil did not fail, but increased unto the salvation of her and hers; and we know from the typology what that meal and that oil represent.

The meal in the Old Testament represented none other than Christ Himself. The meal offering is the Lord Jesus. The meal is Christ, the very life of man. The oil is the Spirit. So that here you have offered to Gentiles, offered outside of the limits of Israel, Christ in the Spirit, Christ as the life, and the Spirit as the life, to save from death. The woman was, so to speak, on her last legs. She had but a little, a morsel, and she said she was going to eat it and then die with her son, and the prophet came in with the meal and the oil and she did not die. That is a very simple illustration.

The Lord Jesus in applying it here, is speaking parabolically that He is the Life for the world, not just for Israel, but for all dying men and women outside of the covenant of Israel; Life to the ends of the earth, free. The woman had no claim, no rights, she was an "outsider". Ah, but that is grace. Grace does not act on the ground of our having rights and claims. Grace comes to us when we have no ground at all to stand upon. We are sinners, doomed to die, for whom there is no hope unless God intervenes. But He did intervene in Christ for a lost and dying world, and He gave His Son in the power of the Eternal Spirit to be the life of that dying and doomed world, outside of all realms of considered favour and right and merit.

"And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian." Naaman the Syrian is outside of the covenant, but Naaman had to go to the Jordan, and bury himself in the Jordan, and he had to rise out of the Jordan to be a new man.

The grace of the Lord Jesus operates in that way for all, not just in Israel, but for all men. Here is Calvary's grace typified in Jordan, cleansing a leper doomed to die, who has no covenant ground to stand upon at all. And was that not brought home to him by Elisha? When he came in a patronising way with his great retinue, stood some yards away from Elisha's tent, waited for Elisha to come out and take account of his greatness, came in a patronising way, the prophet did not so much as look outside of his tent to see what sort of a man this was, but sent a messenger to tell him to go and dip himself seven times in the Jordan. That added insult to injury.

Naaman was working the wrong way round. "Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the Lord had given victory unto Syria: he was also a mighty man of valour, but he was a leper" (2 Kings 5:1). The Holy Spirit never makes mistakes in the way in which He puts things, but Naaman rather put things the other way round. Naaman the leper, "But I am a great man!" The Lord put him right: "Yes, a great man, but a leper! And what is the good of your greatness when you are a leper? You are a doomed man!" Naaman had to be brought to the place where he recognised that all this world's pomp and glory is nothing if the sentence of death is in him. He must accept the fact of doom, judgement and death, and go into Jordan and acknowledge it.

But Naaman comes within the compass of the Divine operation, and the Lord will not refuse a Naaman, though he may have to humble a man of the world to get him to the place where he recognises his need. Nevertheless, when once he yields, the grace of God comes out to him. There is no one outside of the range of Divine grace. Grace is universal, and grace is free for all who will recognise their need of the Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

Grace Rejected

Thus we have grace unfolded, grace represented and illustrated in Zarephath and in Naaman. Then we read, "And they were all filled with wrath..." (Luke 4:28). Grace declared, the year of grace of the Lord, grace demonstrated, and now: grace rejected. "And they were all filled with wrath... and they rose up, and cast Him forth out of the city, and led Him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might throw Him down headlong" (verse 29). That is what they will do with grace.

How this flesh of man revolts against the idea that it is doomed and smitten, and is full of leprosy, and how the flesh, the natural life of man, revolts against the idea that it must accept the Cross and die; there is no good in it! God has sentenced it to death. Do you revolt? Are you angry? Are you filled with wrath when that is said to you? It is so with many. God save us from putting ourselves outside of the range of grace.

Grace Triumphant

Blessed be God, the chapter does not finish there. "But He passing through the midst of them went His way. And He came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And He was teaching them on the sabbath day: and they were astonished at His teaching; for His word was with authority. And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil; and he cried out with a loud voice... and Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the devil had thrown him down in the midst, he came out of him... and amazement came upon all... and there went forth a rumour concerning Him into every place of the region round about... And when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick with divers diseases brought them unto Him; and He laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them. And when it was day, He came out and went into a desert place: and the multitudes sought after Him, and came unto Him, and would have stayed Him, that He should not go from them. But He said unto them, I must preach the good tidings of the kingdom of God to the other cities also: for therefore was I sent" (verses 30-43). That is grace triumphant.

This is what we might call a cameo of Luke's gospel. You put your hand on it here and there, and feel the throb of this same heartbeat of the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Oh, hear again that story of the lost sheep. It is grace which says, "Yes, I know I have ninety-nine, but one has gone astray!" Anything but grace would have said, "Well, what does it matter about one? You have ninety-nine!" Grace says, "One is astray, and I must go and find the one!" And he goes after that one until he finds it. That is grace!

The story of the prodigal (so-called) was grace, was it not? What would the law do with him? Read the story in the light of the law, and you will have to put a great deal out. You will hear this man talking in that realm of the law, "Father I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son, make me as one of thy hired servants!" The law would say, "Yes, my boy, that is all you deserve, and from today that is all you get!" But the prodigal could not get those words out; they were stifled with the love of the father; "This my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found". Grace covers a multitude of sins, "Grace there is my every debt to pay".

So we could go through this gospel. We have said enough. We glory in hearing the story recounted. We are never tired of hearing this story of the grace of God, God's intervention in Christ in the terms of Saviourhood - grace free and universal for all who will recognise their need of it.

It may be that this message has for some, a note of peculiar meaning and value, because they are deeply and terribly conscious of the need of this grace. Oh, beloved, God has no favourites; never talk as though God were partial in His love and grace. Never say: "Oh, that may be for you, but never for me!" God has no favourites. He has intervened, He has broken into this world at a given point in the Person of His Son to declare that His grace is for all men: a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. He has illustrated His grace and demonstrated it outside of Israel, to a poor widow woman about to die outside of the covenant of Israel, and grace visits her and saves her. He has illustrated His grace and demonstrated it in the poor man Naaman, great in this world, but wretched and miserable before God, and grace reaches unto him where he is really before God, with no claims nor rights, and grace embraces him and enables him to pass from death to life. The grace of God: free, universal, comes to you, reaches even unto you, miserable as you may be, wretched as you may be, despairing as you may be, having put yourself a hundred times outside of the pale of God's mercy.

"The Son of Man is come...". Not the Messiah of Israel only, the Son of Man is come. That goes outside of Israel. All men find Him linked with them, in that great, that magnificent designation. He has come to seek. Do you know that you are miserable? It is because He is seeking.

The day when you should begin to despair is the day when you cease to be miserable about sin. Your worst state will be when you no longer care. He has come to seek and to save that which is lost.

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.