The Intervention of God in Christ

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 6 - In Fatherhood and Sonship

Features of the Gospel by John

The Divine intervention in the history of this world in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ, as revealed in the gospel by John, is in the terms of Father, with the desired result of constituting His family and believers becoming His children, His sons.

It is a wonderful thing to think of and to contemplate, that God has broken through into the history of this world and of man, with this great object and all that it means. Looking back over these four aspects of the intervention of God in Christ, we see that these are not watertight or self-contained, but they are but aspects of one relationship.

The subject to the King is not something apart from the servant to the Master, or the saved to the Saviour, neither are any of these things other than, or apart from, the child to the Father. If the idea of a Kingdom and a Sovereign and a government is brought into view, then it is a royal household, and the service is the service not of vassals to a despot, but of devoted children to a Father. It is all of a piece, as we have pointed out already, but of necessity these things have to be viewed in this order.

First of all there has to be a recognition of the absolute sovereign rights of God in this universe. When that has been accepted, and gladly accepted, then the possibility of serving the Lord is introduced, and if the possibility of serving the Lord is introduced it must not be upon the basis of compulsion, even by a King or a Lord, but it must be the outgoing of a heart conscious of its need, the outgoing of a life which glories in having been saved. This King is Master, and this Master is Saviour, but the relationship goes deeper than that, and in the gospel by John we have the very deepest, closest and most inward revelation of God's attitude towards man, and of His desired relationship of man with Himself. Here that revelation is in the terms of Father and Son.

The Nature of the Intervention of God in Christ

We think, in the first place, of the intervention in Christ. God's way of breaking in and showing all this is not in a narrative, not in a treatise, not in a manual; it is in a Person, the Person of His own Son. God has spoken to us at the end of these times Son-wise. This gospel by John is full of one thing: it is that Christ Himself reveals the Father.

Think of the language of this gospel, in chapter 8 there is a specimen. The very language expressed which fails to get outside of this form of expression, this mind of God as to His wanted relationship with us and with the world, when you think that in this gospel the word "Father" itself occurs some one hundred and twenty times, you are conscious that must signify something as to the theme of the gospel as to the mind of God, if the Holy Spirit is responsible for this. That in itself is fairly substantial evidence of Divine intervention. Say it to yourself one hundred and twenty times or more, and see what effect it has upon you. By the time you have exhausted the occurrences of the word in this gospel alone you will say: "Well, evidently that is the theme of the gospel!" and you will be very much alive to the impression which the Holy Spirit has sought to make.

Or take another method. Just go through the gospel and put a thick blue or red line under every one of these occurrences of the word "Father", and when you have done it go through the gospel page by page and see what your book looks like. Then proceed again along another line with the word "Son", and while you will not have so many occurrences, you will have something like fifty, quite enough to make an impression, and quite enough to indicate as to what it is all about. There are other words also which come within the same realm, such as "love".

This is just to point out that the language of the gospel itself is a very strong indication of what the nature of the Divine intervention in Christ is.

Then, departing from the words themselves and following a governing idea, you will see that throughout this gospel there is kept continually in view the thought of fellowship and union and communion, of an inner relationship, not just an outward walk, but an inner relationship. The gospel is full of that. And so you arrive at your conclusion that God has come into this world in a Person, and with that Person there have come two dominating words and ideas: "Father - Son", "union - communion" in an inward way, by reason of an inward relationship.

The Purpose and Possibility of the Intervention of God in Christ

What is the purpose of this intervention? What is the possibility of it? Very simply it is this - and it is stated right at the beginning of the gospel - "But as many as received Him, to them gave He the right to become children of God" (John 1:12). That is the purpose of the intervention, and that is the possibility of the intervention.

From that point there is a growing, an enlarging unveiling of that great reality in God's thought, in God's purpose. When you reach the stage which is in our arrangement marked off by chapter three, the question of the Kingdom of God looms into view. That is the realm in which God, and God only, God utterly, rules and has dominion - the realm of God's reign and government. The question is: how can a man come into that Kingdom? How is it possible for a man to be in the Kingdom where God, and God only, and God utterly, rules and reigns and has dominion, and has everything according to His own mind? That is the grand question.

The Lord Jesus, who is God's revelation of that, explains that it is a Kingdom of born ones. It is only possible to be in that Kingdom by being born into that Kingdom. There is no other way. Ah, but there is a deeper factor in that, and we are referred back again to what that birth is: "Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (verse 13). If you want to be in the Kingdom where God is King, then you have to be a son in that Kingdom by birth. That is the great possibility, and that is what we meant when we said that it is not just a family, but it is a Royal family. It is a Kingdom where God has utter and absolute dominion, is Sovereign, is King, and then He begets the subjects of that Kingdom, and all the subjects are royal children. That is the purpose and the possibility of this intervention of God in Christ. It is a good thing for us, in all that which seems to contradict these great facts, to see that we are of the most wonderful family that the world has ever known.

The Nature and Basis of this Union

We have said that it is by birth, it is sonship. How? On what basis? The statement right at the commencement, as a foundational statement, is: "as many as received Him, to them gave He the right to become children of God". Chapter 8 shows us just what is the opposite of that, and you notice that it raises the question of parenthood.

Here is the Lord Jesus, on the one side speaking about God as His Father, and then saying of them: "Ye are of your father the devil..." (verse 44). The thing which determined that difference of parenthood was simply the question of receiving or rejecting the Son, and that chapter is a ponderous thing levelled against them because they would not receive the Son. They would not receive. In what way would they not receive? What was the ground or the background of their refusing to receive Him? They would not have Him because they would not believe Him. If we do not believe the Lord Jesus, how can we receive Him?

There are different grades of believing or disbelieving the Lord Jesus. There is that extreme form of chapter 8, where they would not consent in any way to anything which He said. But there are other forms in which that same thing can be existing. If the Lord Jesus has said certain things to you and to me and we do not receive them in a practical way and go and act upon them, we are really not believing and we are certainly not receiving Him. It is just possible for us to give an assent to every statement contained in the Word that ever the Lord Jesus said, either Himself or by His Spirit through the apostles, and say, "Yes, I agree to that, I believe that, I assent to that!" and we might be far removed from saying, "I do not believe it, I will not have it!" and yet we might give an assent to it and still be in the awful place of not having received the Lord Jesus.

Why? Because we really have not believed what He has said. We have given a kind of mental assent to it, but it is with the heart that man believes, not with the head. How do you believe with your heart? When your heart really gets into operation, most other things have to give way. When the heart begins to take things in hand it is not long before you begin to be active, you do something. That is just the romance of every love affair. When the heart has taken the reins, bolts and bars, and everything else, have to give way. Nothing can obstruct the course of a heart that has taken possession of a situation. Somehow or other when the heart gets really moving, the whole life comes into play. Very rarely can you see a person whose heart is deeply and wholly moved who can sit still and be thoroughly philosophical about it. With the heart man believes, and when the heart is won over, the life is won over. There is action, there is committing of oneself, there is the taking of a course. You cannot be cold, and simply say, "Yes, I assent, I agree to that, I believe that to be the truth", if your heart has come into the matter.

The proof that we believe the Lord Jesus is that we take a practical step in committing ourselves to Him. Anyone who says, "Yes, I believe that!" and at the same time does not go and commit himself or herself utterly to that, has not really believed it in the New Testament sense. Although they might declare a thousand times a day, "Yes, I believe that to be true!" we still have to say you do not believe it at all; you are not living on it; you are not acting upon it; you are not proceeding according to it; you have not committed yourself to it; you are not standing upon it. When it becomes a Person, it means that you have cast yourself upon Him, and you ask no more questions on that matter, you take Him at His Word. That is believing from the heart.

"But as many as received Him...". How do you receive Him? The Lord made it clear to them in that eighth chapter. He said that the refusal, the rejection was because His Word had not free course. Surely that, put round the other way, means this: that to receive the Lord there must be a heart believing of His Word. The Word not having a free way means that there is a block somewhere, there is a check, there is an arrest, there is something lying across the channel. What is it? A reservation, a doubt, a question. What is that? Unbelief. No free course! How then can you receive the Lord? The channel has to be cleared, His Word has to have a free way, and with all doubt, unbelief, and question put aside; a free way given to Him. That is how you receive Him.

And when you receive Him, you receive the right, the prerogative, to be a child of God. What is the right, the authority, the prerogative of family relationship? It is that Christ has been received. That is all elementary and simple, but it is very important. The first step to receiving is believing. Ninety-eight times in this gospel you will find the word "believe". Surely that points the way to God's end. It is new birth. Receiving the Lord Jesus means new birth. It means that He as the Son takes up residence inside and constitutes the believer at the very centre of his or her being a son with Himself, to share the Sonship. The apostle will explain that for us: "Because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts..." (Gal. 4:6). Sonship is the Spirit of His Son in our hearts.

Another note of emphasis in this gospel as to the nature and basis of this union is in the phrase:

Eternal Life.

He gives eternal life. That phrase is used some eighteen times in the gospel. The relationship again is in relation to our having received eternal Life. It is again important that you and I should know that this is no merely objective legal kind of transaction, but it is a living thing right at the inside of our being, that there is placed there something which no mortal ever had, God's very own Life: incorruptible, indestructible, therefore eternal, not only enduring through time into eternity, but something of a different character from any other life in this universe, the very Life of God Himself. It is that which constitutes this relationship. It is on that basis that God secures the end of His intervention in Christ. God has given His Son, and with Him has given us eternal Life. This Life is in His Son, and He that has the Son has Life (1 John 5:11,12).

There again this is something of which to constantly remind ourselves. While we in the realm of our humanity are going on in this world and are subject to changes, there is something somewhere which is not subject to change, and which is not the slave of time, which can never be affected by anything that may happen to us here. It is that which has come out from God in Christ, and which will go on and carry us in the deepest reality of our being right through into eternity and will be the very centre around which God will give a deathless body, sharing that Life which is His own Life. That is new birth, that is the relationship which God has projected as the great purpose and possibility of His intervention in Christ.

Let us look at one more thing as to the basis and nature. It is found in the meaning of the oft repeated word:


That word occurs seventeen times in this gospel. What does it mean to abide in Christ? Let us get all mental conceptions of this set aside. The Lord has given us the picture of Christ, but pictures and illustrations are always inadequate. We need more than the gospels to explain what is in the gospels. There we have a thing set forth in a picture, or in a symbolic form. In the Epistles we shall have the whole thing explained in a spiritual way.

The Lord has given us a picture of a vine with its branches, and there the idea is that if a branch gets separated, detached from the stem, then it dies; it ceases to be fruitful. The Lord says (using His picture, which He Himself would know quite well demanded a much fuller revelation later on by His Spirit to explain it): "Abide in Me...". What is it to abide in Christ? If the life is in the stem, if it is the stem which is the very channel, vehicle, or shall we say reservoir of the life, then abiding in Christ means this: to live continuously upon His life, to draw continuously from Him.

To abide in Christ means that we start the day with a recognition that we have no Life in ourselves, but He is our Life, and through that day we are going to draw upon Him for everything, at all times. We are not going to attempt to meet anything ourselves in our own resources, in our own energies, in our own wisdom, but always, for all things, drawing upon Him. That is abiding in Christ.

We know quite well (whatever may be the doctrinal, theological difficulty about this abiding and not abiding, a lot of people have spoiled this very chapter by raising questions which are doubtfully permitted by the chapter) in experience the fact is that unless we do continuously draw upon the Lord, we know death, defeat and failure. We know that we live upon a much lower level of energy than we need do. We know quite well that we begin to fade away, and our only way of maintaining Life at full strength is continually to draw upon Him. That is why many of us have so often stirred ourselves up to be at the place of prayer. We say, "Life will be there, the Lord will be there in Life!" We go weary and tired out, and there we receive Life, and go away renewed. We live on His Life, and we know quite well that very often, tired and wearied, and disinclined as we may feel, if we were to stay at home at that time, then we should lose something, and certainly we should not get the real gain that is available. That is abiding in Christ.

There are a good many other things that can be said about it, but the family relationship means that there must be a continuous drawing upon the Lord for Life. In other words, abiding in Christ.

You see by all this that it is something altogether different from an earthly relationship, an earthly life. This whole gospel seeks to show that it is something which is not at all understood by men. How clear it is in this gospel in such a chapter as the one to which we have referred, that men, even religious men, do not understand this thing at all.

When you remember that this narrative was continuous, it was not broken up into chapters, and you have this part marked now by chapter 8 where these people are so totally incapable of grasping, of seeing, so completely in the dark, and then you remember that immediately as Jesus went forth He saw by the roadside a man born blind and proceeded to open that man's eyes. That man came immediately into collision with these very people to whom He had been speaking and became the instrument in the Lord's hands of showing them exactly what their trouble was. Then you see how blind they were. They needed to be born with their eyes open; born again.

So the Lord says that it is a matter of a new spiritual capacity, which is something altogether different from the greatest religious capacity that a man has if he is not born again. It is a different kind of seeing; it is spiritual seeing. The man who has not walked for thirty-eight years takes up his bed and walks, and it is a new kind of walking. It is walking now in the energy which is the energy of God in Christ. That is a different kind of walking. Everything here is of a different kind. The woman had been drawing water from the well for years, and had never been finding life, and now the Lord Jesus comes and becomes her Life, and it is a different kind of life. It is heavenly, it is spiritual, and it is not understood at all. Every one of these people argued, and not until they stopped their arguing and received Him did they discover the secret. It is all heavenly, it is all Divine, it is all in Christ. That is the relationship that God has brought about.

You and I know something about that. We are enjoying this family blessing as children of God. We have come into the good of His Divine intervention as Father. It is a matter of active faith in the Lord Jesus. The great principle is: "He that will do shall know...". However much you may have assented to, however much you may think you know or believe, you do not know unless you have done. The only way of knowing livingly is to act upon, to cast yourself upon, take your position upon the Lord Jesus, and stay there. The Lord bring us all to an established place in Him.

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.