The function of the Prophet has almost invariably been that of recovery. That implies that his business related to something lost. That something being absolutely essential to God's full satisfaction, the dominant note of the Prophet was one of dissatisfaction. And, there being the additional factor that, for obvious reasons, the people were not disposed to go the costly way of God's full purpose, the Prophet was usually an unpopular person. But his unpopularity was no proof of his being wrong or unnecessary, for every Prophet was eventually vindicated, though with very great suffering and shame to the people. If it be true that prophetic ministry is related to the need for the recovery of God's full thought as to His people, surely this is a time of such need! Few honest and thoughtful people will contend that things are all well with the Church of Christ today. A brief comparison with the first years of the Church's life will bring out a vivid contrast between then and the centuries since.
You and I must come to the place where, in faith’s obedience, with a very small instrument, with something very insignificant from this world’s standpoint, we trust God, where God is the great factor and asset, and not the other resource which we have at our command. This is the way of usefulness. Can we trust God in a very difficult situation, when we have nothing with which to meet it, whatever it may be? Gideon came to the place where he really trusted the Lord even when what he had in the eyes of men was perfectly ridiculous, utterly inadequate. Oh, for such faith that will move out in spite of overwhelming odds which are against us on the human level, because we trust the Lord. It is the way of usefulness. T. Austin-Sparks
"In the second and third chapters of the Book of the Revelation we have the Lord's survey of the seven churches. As those eyes that are as a flame of fire peer into the inner spiritual state and lay bare the condition - analyse, dissect, separate, place on the two sides of debit and credit, and form and pass their final verdict - we see one thing to be at issue with regard to them all. There may be particular differences in them; the aspects may vary; the elements may be very different: yet when all has been surveyed and gathered together it is to establish but one fact, namely, the presence or absence of that which, from the Lord's standpoint, constitutes justification in the continuance of the Lord's full committal to anything which claims to represent Him. The issue for every one of these churches was whether they could remain as true witnesses, and whether they could continue as really representing Him." T. Austin-Sparks
The following messages are a free translation of a series of addresses held at our Motherhouse in October 1935 by T. Austin-Sparks. We are very thankful for the rich blessing, brought to wider circles of the Lord’s people, through the ministry of our brother. Our great desire, in presenting these addresses in printed form, is that the Lord may place them into the hands of those whose heart is set upon Christ that He may become their All. We have sought to retain, as much as possible, the original form of the messages — spoken in English — which we ask our readers to bear in mind where certain ways of expression are used. May this little volume contribute, according to the desire of the apostle, “to present every man perfect in Christ.”
We will confine ourselves to the third chapter of John for the present, and that which is brought before us in this chapter is undoubtedly the life of the new creation, and that life is Christ. The concern of Nicodemus is evidently the concern about the kingdom of God. He does not use the phrase, nor mention the kingdom so far as is recorded, but the Lord Jesus quite clearly saw what Nicodemus was interested in, and that was the kingdom of God, as would be the case with every true Israelite. So the Lord Jesus, reading his heart, and knowing his mind, immediately took up the whole question of seeing and entering the kingdom of God, and proceeded to point out to Nicodemus that this was not a kingdom into which anyone could be born by nature, not even though he were of the stock of Israel, and a ruler in Israel at that.
As we contemplate the state of things in the world to-day, we are very deeply impressed and oppressed with the prevailing malady of spiritual blindness. It is the root malady of the time. We should not be far wrong if we said that most, if not all, of the troubles from which the world is suffering, are traceable to that root, namely, blindness. The masses are blind; there is no doubt about that. In a day which is supposed to be a day of unequalled enlightenment, the masses are blind. The leaders are blind, blind leaders of the blind. But in a very large measure, the same is true of the Lord’s people. Speaking quite generally, Christians are to-day very blind. ... spiritual sight is a miracle from heaven every time, and that means that the one who really sees spiritually has a miracle right at the foundation of his life. His whole spiritual life springs out of a miracle ... That is just where the spiritual life begins, just where the Christian life has its commencement: it is in seeing.
There is a book sealed, and no one is found, not even in heaven, worthy to take the book and open it. Something more than the very purity of angels and archangels is required, some features, some elements, which an archangel does not possess are necessary for this, and there is weeping that no one is found worthy to unseal the book. The Lamb is introduced as possessing the qualities which give Him the right to open the book and the seals thereof. It is the book of judgments, the judgment of the world, and only the Lamb has the right, by reason of qualification, to undertake the judgment of the world.
"We are become partners with Christ if we hold fast the beginning of our confidence firm unto the end." We are become partners with Christ, that is the true rendering. The correct understanding and apprehension of what is here is very important, because it is strictly in keeping with the whole object of this letter. The letter has as its object partnership with Christ. The object is intimated at the beginning of the letter by such words as "Son" and "heir"-"God... hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in his Son... whom he appointed heir of all things..." The words "Son" and "heir" are key words to the whole letter. Follow on from that point and ... you find a quotation from the Psalms: "For not unto angels did he subject the inhabited earth to come, whereof we speak... What is man, that thou makest mention of him? or the son of man, that thou puttest him in charge? (literally) ...And didst set him over the works of thy hands: thou didst put all things in subjection under his feet."
The overcomer is of considerable significance to the Lord. The seven-fold repetition of that word in the opening chapters of the Revelation makes that perfectly clear. The overcomer only comes into view in a day of decadence and declension ... It is when things are not as the Lord desires them to be, and has fully provided that they should be, are altogether otherwise in a general way, that the overcomer is brought to our notice. That is always so wherever you find that which answers to the meaning of the overcomer, though the term itself be not mentioned. The name does not matter so very much: it is what is signified that matters, and this you will find scattered right through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and it always appears at a time when things have fallen from the Divine standard. Remember that! Therefore the overcomer is set over against, not general evil, not a general state of sin, not a general bad condition, but the failure of God's people in particular.
When we view and come into touch with the situation as it is today amongst the Lord's own people, and seek to diagnose the position, and to reach the point where we see and know what the need above all others is, I think we are not far from the truth when we say that the matter of preeminent importance is that of LIFE. Everything, I feel, can be gathered up into that. It governs all other matters. It touches all other situations. When all has been said and done in relation to Christ, and His work, in relation to doctrine, in relation to the Christian life, in relation to the whole work of God, the point upon which everything rests and revolves, and that which determines its practical and abiding value, is life. ...it is possible to have a tremendous amount of Christian activity or work for the Lord, and for it all to be lacking in real effectiveness, because it is without the life.
I have been very much occupied of late with this matter of sonship in the House of God, and am led to the conclusion that something of this is to be the Lord's message at this time. There are many aspects of this spiritual house. How many of them we shall be able to consider must remain to be seen. It is quite certain that this matter is very relevant to what is happening at this present time on the earth. In particular, there is a very real and living message in it for the Lord's people, and I trust that we shall seek to adjust ourselves to that fact and not regard this as just some further measure of Bible teaching which may be more or less familiar.
In this matter of the world need, everything can be gathered up in one word, "life." It does not matter where we look we find that that is the need. There is the witness to the fact in the realm of the ungodly. Upon that we need not dwell very much, but it is quite patent that the world outside of Christ is showing in a new way, with a new strength, its desire for life, its need of life. It has its own ideas of how that need is going to be met, and its quest for life takes its own peculiar forms, the forms peculiar to the world's own blindness, darkness and ignorance. Nevertheless it is manifest that the world is seeking life. We do not mean by that that it is seeking its life in God. We do not mean by that that it is seeking what we understand by life, Divine life, spiritual life, eternal life, but it is seeking what it would call "life." Life is the thing which it desires.
Now, beloved, as you are aware, we are being led these days to consider the Cross and the Overcoming Life and one wants right at the very beginning to tell you something in order to settle you, and this is — not any one of you will ever be an overcomer. You may take that as the key to the Conference, in the sense in which for many years many of us have thought of being overcomers. Of course I know that wants a lot of explaining, but I simply say that because it is necessary to settle it once and for all that we, in ourselves, will never be overcomers, and that opens the way for the whole of this theme and its reality of meaning to come from the Lord to us. There is only one Overcomer in the universe, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and if there are ever any other overcomers, they will not be others at all, they will simply be the extension of His overcoming — the expansion of His victory.
The foundation is Christ, and the structure must be Christ. The foundation is not our decision, our beliefs, our attainments spiritually; not our accuracy, not our works, not the measure of our knowledge, not our spiritual ability, not our measure of strength, not our mind or our will, not our activities for the Lord, and not our persistence. It is nothing of ourselves, it is Christ ... The Lord would teach us that the ground of assurance is not in our having decided for Christ, nor that we persist in the Christian life, nor that we feel strong, nor that we have certain ability as Christians and are able to do this or that. It is not the measure of our activity in the work of the Lord, nor any one of these things which constitutes our Christian life. These are simply the outworkings. The thing which constitutes us is that Christ is the foundation, and that we are inseparably linked with Him by faith. Everything else can be suspended as a secondary consideration until that is settled.
There is no phrase or formula which occurs with greater frequency in the New Testament than this, “in Christ.” It sometimes varies in translations when “by” and “through” and “with” are used, and sometimes in the original text it changes in form, e.g. “in Christ Jesus,” “in him,” etc., but in all the two hundred times of its occurrence the principle is the same. In the whole range of Christian dogma there is nothing more expensive, and yet nothing less understood and appreciated. In one consummate declaration we are told that God has purposed to sum up all things in Christ (Eph. 1:10) and that outside of Him there is nothing which has any place in the eternal purpose and intention of God. The plan, the method, the resources, the times, the eternities, are "Christospheric." T.A-S
God has written over the whole course of history the meaning of the Cross in this way, that the only answer that He can give to sin, to evil, to disobedience, and to all the fruit and results thereof, is travail, despair and death. And yet, withal, He is the God of Hope. He is saying that travail, passion, despair and death are the only way of hope. That is written in the whole history of God's dealings with men. Ever since Adam's sin, and (in him) the race's fall, God has had to work on the basis of the Cross of Christ. The Cross has been implicit in all God's dealings with men, and not only in general, but with His own people in particular. ...The Cross has always been God's way of salvation, God's remedy. It is a very drastic, a very terrible remedy, but it is God's remedy. And if it is an effective remedy, then it produces hope; it is something with hope - new hope - as its issue.
“Who shall ascend ...?” (Ps. 24:3) “And I saw, and behold, the Lamb standing on the mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty and four thousand ... These are they that follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were purchased from among men, to be the firstfruits unto God and unto the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no lie: they are without blemish” (Rev. 14:1-5). You will, I think, recognize that these two passages constitute question and answer. “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Who shall stand in his holy place?” The answer — “I saw the Lamb standing on the mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty and four thousand.” The beginning and the end; the anticipation, the realization; the question, the answer.
The Lord save us from becoming exclusive, shut in, tied up with limits that He does not put upon things! Christ is so great. We need never fear that we shall out-measure Christ, especially if we live in and walk by the Spirit. We shall not find that the Spirit's way is cramping, closing in. The Spirit's way is unto Jerusalem, Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth, the fullest bounds of Divine grace. And our testimony - it is only another word for ministry ... We think of the ministry as being that of some special body of people. Call it “testimony,” and then we are all in it. Our testimony will be effective, will be released when we are ourselves delivered from what we are naturally. ... Oh, the terrible limitations there are in our natures and temperaments! We are all made in one way or another, and there are terrible limitations in our make-up. The Holy Spirit can lift us free of ourselves and our natural make-up, and enlarge us with the enlargement of Christ.
Most of our troubles are due to our smallness. Paul recognized that enlargement was the solution to those very great problems at Corinth, and you know what the problems were and the difficulties which confronted him. ...It is true so often that the collapse of things in different realms has been because there was no one big enough to cope with them. If only there had been someone of adequate measure to grapple with it, the situation would have been saved. This is a day when all sorts of maladies are troubling the Church and upsetting Christianity. We need not mention them, for we are conscious of them, but they are mainly due to a lack of spiritual greatness, or, to put it again the other way, they are due to pettiness and smallness. The only way out is enlargement, a new horizon, and a new sense of the greatness of that into which we, as Christians, are brought.
As we contemplate the great ministry of prayer, I think it would be most helpful if at the outset we were reminded of the Divine basis of all acceptable prayer. Before we come to what may be more technical we must recognize the spiritual foundation of prayer, and that has to do with the ingredients and the sacredness of the incense which was to be burnt upon the golden altar referred to in Exodus 30, verse 34 onwards. It is not my intention to take up these ingredients for exposition, but simply to note that the Lord stipulated certain things for the sweet spices, and then made a very strong statement in relation to them ... As we know, the sweet spices, the ingredients of the incense, typify the moral excellencies of the Lord Jesus: His graces, virtues, merits and worthiness. The incense is ... the merit and worthiness of the Lord Jesus put into the prayers, mingled with the prayers, and becoming that which brings the prayers in effectiveness and acceptance to the presence of God.
When this message was first published, the Lord was holding very strongly to the particular emphasis which it represents - the fuller meaning of the Cross. We have never departed from that basic position, but as the years have passed we have been led to the superstructure and the issue of all. Thus the Church in its fuller meaning followed in true spiritual sequence, as the House is through the Altar. While still emphasizing the essential and full meaning of that through which the Lord reaches His end - namely, the Cross and the Church - we have in the steady process of Divine leading and dealings come to our present supreme emphasis - the Fullness of Christ, and God's Eternal Purpose concerning His Son. This is inclusive, but we trust that we shall abide in the way of progress in seeing more and more of what that fullness means. As the Cross remains basic and operative to keep the way clear of all that spells death ... we are sure that more than ever we have yet seen will be shown.
Both in the Old Testament in type, and in the New Testament in reality, this thing is made very clear, namely, that the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is meant by God to lead immediately and directly to the Church, and that, when the Cross and the Church are really brought spiritually into view, then an intense state of conflict is set up. In the thought of God, the Cross of the Lord Jesus is meant to lead immediately and directly to the Church. Any apprehension or teaching of the Cross which does not lead directly to the Church is either a misapprehension or only a partial apprehension, and it will inevitably result in a limited spiritual life and a limited spiritual service! The Cross, in God's intention, is never an end in itself. It is a way, it is a means, it is a basis, it is intended to lead to something else.
The longer one lives and the more one thinks about things, the surer one becomes that the supreme issue which governs everything between God and man is that of life. Our Scripture says here that life is a law, and it further says that that life is in the hands of the Holy Spirit - "the law of the Spirit of life...". A law is a fixed and established principle. It has potentialities. It means that, if you are adjusted to it and governed by it, certain results are inevitable; that the potentialities which it contains will most surely find expression when that law is established. So that, what we have here is, that the mark of things being of God the Holy Spirit is life. If anything is of God the Holy Spirit, it will live; its chief characteristic will be life. That is a law, an established principle. What is according to God lives, having God's own life in it, and that is, as a principle, a rule of guidance. It is a principle for the direction of the people of God.
We have inherited with and in Christ; not by earning, by working - it is the inheritance of faith in Christ Jesus and goes far, far beyond anything that we have yet imagined. We have only sensed that there is very much more, that it is a land of far distances. It is ours. But there is a difference between having an inheritance and enjoying it; having wealth secured unto you as yours, and experiencing all that it can bring and all that it means. So we begin at this time by reminding ourselves that in our coming into the Lord Jesus and receiving Him, we have been introduced into an inheritance far, far beyond our present knowledge and experience; and it is not only to be entered into hereafter. Do not immediately mentally relate it to the hereafter. If our Christian lives are not characterized by a continuous apprehension of greater fulnesses in Christ, there is something very seriously wrong with us. The inheritance is to be known now.
1 Tim. 1:11 Eph. 1:13-14 Eph. 6:18-19 Those passages ... are written very near the end of the life of the Apostle, when he is in possession of a very full revelation which has been growing through the whole of his life as a servant of the Lord. To the initial vision there has been added revelation, an enlargement of spiritual knowledge - added, sometimes in especial ways and also in the normal course of his continuous walk with the Lord; and here he is writing when that revelation, so far as his earthly course is concerned, is practically full, and out of that these words occur - "the gospel of the glory of... God"; "the gospel of your salvation"; "the mystery of the gospel" ... the gospel of your salvation, and the mystery of the gospel. They are not the gospel divided into two. They are one gospel, and they are both gathered into that other fragment - "the gospel of the glory of... God". What I desire to indicate is that the gospel is a much profounder thing than is generally recognised.
I am well aware that what will be said will represent for multitudes of Christians today no less an upheaval and revolution than that which was presented at the beginning by the transition from Judaism to a fully-fledged Christianity as presented by the Apostles when they were through that transition and interpreted the significance of Christ. If it should cause or result in as violent a reaction and hostility, it will be no surprise. There are two causes for comfort in such a case: one is the deep sense of Divine urge and commission to write, "whether they will hear or whether they will forbear"; and the other, the knowledge that for a long time and in an ever deepening way there has been a growing realization on the part of many that all is not well with Christendom, even with evangelical Christianity. With the exception of two classes of Christians, there is an increasing concern over the actual or comparative weakness and ineffectiveness of the spiritual life and witness of Christians and the churches.
I feel that there is one big question which it is imperative that the Lord's people should face in these days, and if we can answer that question in a living way and enter livingly into the answer, very great spiritual values will be secured. The question is this -What has God revealed as His supreme objective resultant from the Cross of Christ? The question which springs out of that is - how has God revealed that the objective shall be secured and expressed? Probably it will be that subsidiary question which will occupy us largely in these meditations, leading to the answer to the main question. ...have we got the objective, that is, God's full objective, in the Cross of Christ? ... when we have them all - salvation, soul-winning, sanctification, education - does it end there? Are any, or all, of these the end? Will that satisfy God? Will that fill up His desire and expectation and be an adequate outcome of Calvary? Well, that is what we are going to look at, as the Lord enables.
If the Lord had been only interested in getting a people to the point where they gave Him some simple gesture of trust in His salvation from the world, its master and its tyranny, its bondage and its conditions, to become His people by desire, then there is no reason at all why He should not have transported them by the short route, the direct course, and have landed them in eleven days in the place which He had already chosen for them. The Lord could do that sort of thing if it were all objective or outward. If today He presented to us the values of the blood of His chosen Lamb and called for that simple gesture of faith in that blood which appropriates its efficacy, and we in our hearts thereby signified that we desired to be the Lord’s people; if that were all, then we could enter tomorrow into everything that He had designed for us, everything in His purpose, we could go straight in.
I have it on my heart, beloved, that theses days before us we shall in the will of God, be occupied with “That which is born of the Spirit,” or “The New Creation in Christ Jesus”; and this morning, for a little while, we want to set the object in its place, or in His place, and see exactly what it is toward which the Lord is moving; what we might call the pattern in the heavens. We are familiar with that phrase, we know to what it relates in the Old Testament, and I think by now we know that that pattern in the heavens, according to which all things were made in relation to the tabernacle of old, was but a revelation of Jesus Christ, and that tabernacle was the Lord Jesus in His many-sidedness, right to the very last detail; an expression of the mind of God. We know that in the Letter to the Hebrews that is taken up again, but there this difference is made that, whereas in the Old Testament it was a pattern of things in the heavens, here it is the very things themselves.
Our object is to see that because Jerusalem is so closely related to God, indeed has been brought into being by Him, her values must be pre-eminently spiritual and divine. Back of her history there lie those elements which are not of this world, nor are they merely of time, but are heavenly and eternal. Before we can consider the city particularly we must view the land as a whole, because very largely the city is the concentration of the features of the land. We note that in Hebrews 11 the city which hath foundations is closely related to the heavenly country (verses 10, 16), so that the city is but the concentration of the country. That is an important thing to bear in mind as we go on.
For those who, like the New Testament writers, have a real burden and sense of responsibility for the spiritual life of God's people, one of the most heart-breaking things is the way in which so many who gave promise of going right on with the Lord are caught in some side-track and turn to something other or less than He meant for them. Not necessarily to sin or to the world, but to something which, while it brings them a great deal of gratification for a time, eventually proves to be a diversion resulting in arrested spiritual growth, and they are found in a backwater, a cul-de-sac, occupied with an alternative to "the whole counsel of God.” Their “new discovery,” or “light,” or “guidance,” as they speak of it, by reason of the let-up of some tension, solution to some problems, promise of release into self-realization, and escape from pressure, when the novelty and glamour have worn off is found to have been "deceitful waters,” producing Jericho's fruits which fall before they are ripe.
“The promise of the Father” was a long-standing promise, and therefore, a long-standing hope. The point, of course, which is so impressive, is this, that ... all the meaning and value of Christ, in every respect, was only made effective here by the coming of the Holy Spirit... If He “did not go away, the Spirit would not come”; it was “expedient that He should go away” for that very reason, surely indicating and implying that all that He had come to do, and did, waited for its practical effectiveness in the coming of the Spirit. Christ’s life, Christ’s work, and Christ’s power as Son of Man here, was dependent entirely upon the anointing. He fulfilled all His ministry in dependence upon the anointing, by all that the anointing meant. It was true in His case, and the Word of God bears that out abundantly, it must be all the more true, certainly equally true, in the case of the church; that the church’s life and work, ministry and power rest solely upon the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
The Second Letter to the Corinthians is very largely gathered up into the words at the beginning of chapter 4: "Therefore seeing we have this ministry..." As you know, this letter is occupied with the personal manifestation of Christ as being the nature of true ministry. It shows that ministry is really that which is born of personal experience, and not just the impartation of static truth. In a new way this was realised by the Apostle because of a combination of elements which had brought him afresh to an end of himself. As you read these chapters you see that there are, so to speak, parallel columns. On the one side there are the sufferings, and on the other side the fruits of the sufferings. We are occupied with the matter of ministry, both personal and corporate ministry ... Their ministry is the result of personal experience, and the nature of the ministry is the personal manifestation of Christ as born out of personal experience, and that mainly known in suffering.
Part I: There has been an increasing urge to renew this message, and not a small factor in this urge has been the very definite movement, observable all over the world, toward a reconsideration of the whole testimony of the Church. There is a deep and growing dissatisfaction and disappointment with the spiritual state and impact of the Church. The rumblings of this are heard everywhere, and many conferences are being held and books written in relation to this matter. There is a strong feeling in many quarters that God must act again and do “a new thing.” The tremendous emphasis upon “Revival” is only one aspect of this. Part II is the substance of a more recent conference on ministry and concerns the inner spiritual life which is the nature and object of all God’s reactions. The book is intended to be, neither critical nor censorious, but, if at all possible, a contribution to the “building up of the body of Christ, till we all attain unto... the measure of... the fullness of Christ.”
I say, the established title, "The Acts," is limiting, and, to some extent, misleading for this reason - that it puts all the emphasis upon activity, and in so doing obscures the nature of the activity, the real character of what had been brought in, the very essence of things; that is, it very largely obscures the fact that this new dispensation is absolutely spiritual in every sense. We know how "the baptism of the Spirit," "the filling of the Spirit," all that is meant by the use of the word "Pentecost", has been taken up by men and interpreted in terms of manifestations, things that can be outwardly noted - activities, works, done in a certain kind of heat and enthusiasm and strength and assertiveness. ...At once our minds leap to certain forms of manifestation. But that is not the basic thing. The basic fact is that something has changed altogether, and there is a new character given to the new age; and that is that, for this age, everything is essentially and absolutely spiritual.
I have found the Lord putting it into my heart quite strongly to say something about the service of God; and I think we can gather it under that first clause - “Behold, my servant.” Of course, here the words are prophetically related to the Lord Jesus. There is no doubt about that, because they are actually quoted ... “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying, Behold, my servant whom I have chosen; my beloved in whom my soul is well pleased”; and there are other passages in the New Testament which are a repetition, in part of these very words. ...He, the Lord Jesus, became the great, inclusive, model servant of the Lord, fulfilled the service, and then passed it on to the Church. There is a very real and quite true sense in which Christ and His Body, the Church, now is the servant of the Lord, so, that it can be said - or should be able to be said - of Christ in the Church “Behold, my servant”; that is, as to Divine principle and purpose.
After long and very deep exercise of heart and weighing things solemnly before the Lord, I am led quite strongly to the conclusion that His message for us at this time, and not for us only, but for His whole Church, is concerning Overcomer Testimony. The definition will wait upon all that we have to say; I do not stay to try to explain that in any preliminary word. You will notice that I leave out the article and just say “Overcomer Testimony”, not something new in itself perhaps to any of us, but I believe in the intention of God, new in emphasis. We begin by reminding ourselves of the fact of overcomers throughout the whole history recorded in the Scriptures, the fact of Overcomers in Divine history.
"In the face of Jesus Christ"! In that phrase I see everything that relates to God's eternal purpose and to the Divine intention, both as to man and the universe. It embraces the counsels of the Godhead before the world was — it embraces the creation; it embraces redemption; it embraces the final glory. All that is in the face of Jesus Christ. Indeed, there is nothing which concerns us, as creatures related to God and eternity, which is not to be found in the face of Jesus Christ. God comes to us in the face of Jesus Christ, and all that ever we shall or can know of God is to be found in the face of Jesus Christ. The face is the human medium of communication. The face is the medium of personality. The personality is the character formed in secret, the sum of all secret history, and it embraces itself in the face ... If all that is of God is in the face of Jesus Christ, there has to be given revelation in our hearts, as well as in His face. We have to be able to see the face of Jesus Christ.
We are going to be occupied with the meaning of Christ ... (but) there are a few preliminary words that I want to say, and they have to do with something of which we are all conscious, a matter which is troubling the majority of real Christians. It is the matter of the lost impact of Christ, of the Gospel, of Christianity. We are suffering from a handicap, and that handicap is tradition. Christianity has become that - a tradition so largely something handed down from generation to generation. It has become a theology, a set of doctrines, of statements about God, about Christ, about the Holy Spirit, and many other things, and as such it has passed very largely into the mental realm - a thing to be worked out in thought, a matter of reason. It has also become a great mystical cult. It has passed into the realm of art, and music, so that you can accept Christianity on that basis and be a Christian along that line, and yet that it shall stand completely out of relation to your inner life.
What is the mystery of Christ? The mystery of Christ is God veiled in this Representative. You say, A representative of God, and yet God veiled? - a contradiction! No, no contradiction; not necessarily veiled, for a New Testament or a Scriptural mystery is not something which cannot be known, but something which, for certain reasons, has not been known but can be known. When those reasons are set aside, this which has been a mystery, a hidden thing, is a mystery no longer, but it remains a mystery while those things obtain. You can see it in the days of His flesh. Here is God in representation, but how many saw Him? "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father". But I think that word "seen" means something very much more than just looking upon Him as a man. "He that hath seen me..." "Whom do men say that I am?" Some said this and some said that. Peter said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." ... That is what it means to see; it is by revelation. It is that which is the mystery.