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By: T. Austin Sparks
Union with Christ is the heart or centre of all that has been revealed of God's thought concerning man and of mans' relationship to God. Union with Christ is like the hub of a mighty wheel. There are many spokes to that wheel election, creation, redemption, salvation, sanctification, glorification; and then, like a series of subsidiary spokes repentance, faith, justification, conversion, regeneration, and so on. These are the spokes of the wheel, but they all centre in Christ and radiate from Christ and reach the rim, which is God. They unite us in Christ with God.
To give all this its true and full value, it is necessary to contemplate or have revealed to us the meaning of Christ, to see what an immense thing has taken place by the Son of God becoming the Son of man, by God becoming incarnate. It is a question of our being taken, not into Godhead or Deity, but into God's Son incarnate.
Now, the first preachers of the Christ evangel preached Christ. They did not, in the first place, preach salvation or sanctification or forgiveness, or judment or heaven. That does not mean that they did not preach those things: they did; but not in the first place. They preached Christ, and all those things were included in the preaching of Christ; Christ as inclusive of all and as transcending all; for, after all, such things as salvation and sanctification, forgiveness, justification, are subsidiaries, they come afterward. Christ was before them all and Christ will be after them all. They are inside of Christ, but He vastly outstrips them all.
From: Union with Christ.
By: T. Austin-Sparks
Union with Christ is a crisis, a definite act, instantly giving a sense of This is the answer to everything: all my questions are answered, not in my brain but in my heart; to everything that I have tried to understand and grasp and comprehend I have the answer inside. It is like that. Yet note this. The receiving of the Holy Spirit, while bringing that immediately "The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:16,17) while that is true at the inception of the Christian life in union with Christ, note this: that a life in the Spirit and with the Spirit is a continuous course, or succession, of proofs of election.
Perhaps you have never thought of that. If we do really walk with the Holy Spirit, we find that He is leading us into things that we never thought of, never intended but, as He does it, we have to say, This is not something that has just arisen, this is something that was intended by God; I am just coming into a programme; the Lord has not shown me the whole programme, but this is like item after item on the programme. Is that not the story of the book of Acts? The Holy Spirit has a programme. He has not revealed it, but as they move in the Spirit, how the whole thing is a mosaic. How wonderful it is! This thing was ordained from eternity. You could not avoid it. God is working to it and holding us to it. " We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10).
You look back on your life. You may be disappointed in many ways with your part in the business. You may be able to see many falterings and blunderings and mistakes that you on your side made. You may have sometimes felt that you were not the person for that job; God had made a mistake. Some of us have felt like that. And yet, as we look more deeply into God's ways with us and know God's principles, we see a wonderful logic in it all. You and I are called for something, laid hold of by God for something, put by God into something, and we feel, God has made a mistake: I am not the person for this, I ought never to have come into this, I have no qualifications for this, I am altogether the wrong peg here! And yet, somehow or other, God does it. He enables you, He carries you through, He accomplishes the work to your own surprise and wonder. As you lay hold of the Holy Spirit, it is done that is, if you do not sink down into yourself and give up and draw out because of what you are but you lay hold of the Holy Spirit and you get through and marvel that you have got through, that the Lord has done this thing through you, through me.
That is very consistent with God's principles, that is no contradiction. It is most consistent with the deepest principles of God. No flesh shall glory in His presence. It is all coming back to Him. God mark you elected "the foolish things of the world the weak things the things that are not" (I Cor. 1:27, 28). It is the same word; He has elected. It is quite consistent.
Yes, His ways are past finding out. "God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform", but He is consistent with His principles. A life in the Spirit is one succession of confirmations that God is working out a plan.
From: Union with Christ.
By: T. Austin-Sparks
Becoming a Christian is something far more than adopting a set of doctrines and teachings and theories and ideas, practices and forms. It is coming into a new world, a strange, to us faraway, world, for which we have naturally no capacities at all. They all have to be given to us, and we have to start all over again, learning new ideas.
Well, that may sound simple, but it is not simple in practice. We stumble scores of times every day over that. Christ offends us and He alone knows how we offend Him. It is like that every day. That is the Christian life being transformed. It begins with this new creation, this union, this coming into, not the second Adam, but the last Adam. Everything is finished in Him, there will not be a third, there will not be any more. This is final.
We pass from Adam as type to Christ the Antitype, and then to ourselves in Christ. Adam was constituted pre-eminently with capacity for Divine relationship. Union with God in Christ is spiritual. The medium of union with God in Christ is the human spirit. Man was constituted with a spirit because God is Spirit, and the human spirit was that which made it possible for man to have union and communion with God. The link between the human spirit and God the Father, in the Son, is the Holy Spirit. Union with Christ is all a spiritual matter. That is why we have become a new spiritual being. In the last Adam, in Christ, the union with the Father and the communion with the Father were perfect, but this was by reason of His human spirit I am speaking of Him now in incarnation-by reason of His human spirit and the link of the Holy Spirit: so that His union with the Father was a perfect union. He lived, walked, spoke, acted and laid down His life, in perfect oneness with the Father. Everything was received by Him from the Father: He even had to obtain from His Father authority to lay down His own life. The oneness was complete, but it was wholly spiritual.
Now, in our coming into Christ, into the new creation-our human spirit being quickened and renewed and restored to its place, and we receiving the Holy Spirit to be the link between our renewed spirit and Christ relationship with God is immediately established. All that sense of God's remoteness has gone. One of the blessings of conversion or regeneration, of coming into Christ and receiving the Holy Spirit, is that the sense of God being far off, remote, inaccessible, has all gone. He is near, very near, very real. Union has been established.
And then by an established spiritual union-that is, a renewed spirit linked with the Lord by the Holy Spirit-becomes the basis of an entirely new world, that world being Christ: a new world, a new creation, a spiritual world, a spiritual cosmos, where we begin again to learn, to Yearn, to learn from infancy everything as new. Much harm is done to the spiritual life by not recognizing that. Christianity has become such a system, such a way. "Get saved; get busy!" and that is Christianity, and much of our phraseology has taken the meaning of an earthly system. For instance, "Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" has become a bit of liturgy, and its meaning as heaven's way of doing God's will has been lost to view. The Holy Spirit, if He had His way, would be causing us to act as we would not act naturally, and speak as we would never speak naturally, and think as we would never think naturally, as though in another world altogether-often to our own amazement that we should ever talk or think like that. That is not the way we are made. Yes, but we are being made all over again; it is another world, this creation which is in Christ Jesus. Everything is now spiritual.
From: Union with Christ.
By: T. Austin-Sparks
It is very important to recognize a truth upon which Christ laid considerable emphasis, that is, that in a sense, He never intended to be out of this world again during the age, after having once come into it as His rightful heritage. He came to redeem it, to secure the judicial right to sovereignty in it, and to initiate, continue, and complete the restoration of it to His own dominion. This is all to be done by His own presence in it in one or other of the forms of His manifestation. While He said much about going away, and returning to the Father, He also made His abiding very clear in the words, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the consummation of the age." Paul later said that the central feature or reality of "the mystery hid from the ages is "Christ in you, the hope of glory."
The personal physical presence of Christ in the world was firstly to manifest the nature, method, means, laws, purpose, and power of His abiding presence beyond the days of His flesh; and secondly to make this possible and actual by the work of His Cross. He Who was born out from God shows what is the necessity for and the nature of being "born of the Spirit" if the will of God is to be done on the earth as it is done in the heavens. Then right at the commencement of His ministry He puts the Cross in the figure of baptism. From that time all that He said and did was in the light and power of the Cross. The teaching of Christ can never be effectual, and the works of Christ can never be continued, unless the Cross is the basis. To try to propagate "the teaching of Jesus" or to effect the work of Jesus without having as the basis all that He meant by His Cross, is to labour in vain and without the acceptance of the Father. It will be necessary to return to this connection again at a later stage. So far, however, it leads us to the point where we see that, having in His personal physical presence established the basis and nature of His permanent work, He by the Cross effected that which made possible the bringing of men on to the same plane or into the same realm, and then changed the separate and individual presence for the corporate and universal. Thus "the church, which is His body" was brought into being as the abiding instrument of His world-incarnation. This is the only kind of "church'' which He recognizes, made up of those who have been "joined unto the Lord one spirit." The nature of this joining remains also for later consideration. The word or term "Body" is not mere metaphor. The members of His Body stand in relation to Christ just as our physical bodies stand in relation to our own selves-the means of manifestation, expression, and transaction. This truth is very discriminating, and goes to the root of all matters of life and service. "Working for the Lord," "praying to the Lord," etc., will be seen to have a deeper law which governs their effectiveness.
We cannot take up work for Christ plan, scheme, devise, organize or enter upon Christian enterprise and so command the Divine seal and blessing. We cannot pray as we incline, even though it be to the extent of passion and tears, and so secure the Divine response. Failure to recognize this is bringing multitudes of people to despair because of no seal upon their ardent labours, and no answer to their prayers. In the unfolding of the laws of His own effective life the Master put tremendous emphasis upon the fact that the words that He spoke, and the works that He did, were not of (out from) Himself; it was the Father both speaking the words and doing the works. A thorough study of the Gospel by John will convince that this was so. Said Christ, "The Son can do nothing out from himself, but what he seeth the Father doing and this knowledge of the transactions of the Father as to what, how, and when all most important was, as He made clear, because He abode in the Father. So for all the future of His work He prayed that His disciples might abide in Him. Thus the law of effective and fruitful life, service, prayer, etc., is that there shall be such a oneness that we only do-but surely do-what He is doing. We must know in our spirit just what Christ is doing, how He is doing it, the means which He will use, and His time for it. Moreover, our prayers must be the prayers of the Lord Himself prayed in us and through us by the Holy Spirit. This is surely made very clear as being the realm in which the Church in apostolic times lived. This will demand a considerable sifting of all undertakings in the name of Jesus, and will require that nothing is done until the mind of the Lord has been made known. For the practical purposes of God in this age Christ is the One Body holding fast the Head, and the business of every member is to realize more and more fully the meaning of this incorporation and oneness of identity.
From: In Christ.
By: T. Austin-Sparks
To be a Christian is not just to change the direction of our interests to turn all our faculties, abilities, energies, resources, emotions, acumen, enthusiasms, etc., over from self or the world to the account of Christianity, religion, the gospel or the kingdom of God.
In the realm of the life and things of God there are two words uttered over the natural man by God, "Nothing" and "Cannot." To fail to recognize the significance of these two words is to come into the hopeless, heart-breaking, barren realm of Rom. 7. Fruitless struggle will result if there be any genuine spiritual aspiration; and whether there be such or not (the notion in the latter event being merely that of the natural man directed toward Christian enterprise) the service will be ineffective in all true spiritual attainment. No flesh shall glory in His presence, and the religious flesh is no more acceptable than the irreligious. How many there are who are seeking either to attain unto a standard of spiritual satisfaction, or to do God's service, with their own resources of intellect, will, emotion-reason, energy, passion. Hence all the unapostolic organization, machinery, advertisement.
No! For acceptance and service there must be a new man, and this new man has a new life, a new mind, a new spirit, a new way, a new capacity, a new consciousness, in fact "all things are become new." The one concerned comes more and more to realize how differently God does things from the way men do them; yes, and what different things God does. The aims of God, the methods of God, the means used by God, the times of God, are an education and often a discipline to this man in Christ. Until the "old man" is well crucified, God's ways and means and times and aims are a sore trial to him and he will either revolt and break away in himself or he will go down into the depths; but he will come anyway to see that in the intention of God, he the natural man must go to the Cross, where God put him conclusively in the representative man Jesus, the Christ. The touch of the natural man upon the things of the Spirit is death and desolation; hence the Lord is always taking precautions against this natural life in His own children and passing them through that which brings them very low and puts them, on their natural side, out of action. He drove a stake through Paul's flesh as a precaution against the uprising of his soulish life into exaltation; in order, further, that there might be no arrest, but rather an increase of spiritual usefulness. We have a very limited knowledge of our own natural springs the motives, the nature of our desires, even for spiritual blessing; the personal interests in the kingdom of God; the craving to possess, to be satisfied, to have influence, recognition, freedom; and a multitude of other constitutional elements. The Lord knows how all our sources of life and expression are poisoned and tainted. He would not have us introspective and self-analyzing, but He would tell us His own verdict upon the "natural man," and ask us to accept the Divine requirements that he should be crucified.
From: In Christ.