The Spiritual Background of the Word of God
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 2 - God's Testimony and the Age-long Antagonism

From this point two things start their course:
(A) God having a specific relationship with this world and a testimony in it.
(B) The Adversary seeking to counter that.

Now these two things embrace all the Scriptures and you cannot touch the Scriptures at any point without touching them. If you pause even for a moment and reflect upon that you will see that the Scriptures in every part from Genesis to Revelation touch these two things - God having a specific relationship with this earth and a testimony in it, and the Enemy seeking to counter that. While that is true in general, there are certain things within that compass, of a specific character. These two things embrace all Scripture, and specifically four things under number one, that is, God having a specific relation to this earth and a testimony in it.

God's Basis of Relationship is the Cross

"A" (1) The basis of God's relationship. What is it? It is the cross! That is quite clear from the fall. By the altar the cross is signified as the basis of any specific relationship that the Lord has with this world, and He never has that relationship only on the ground of what is contained in the cross.

Always allow your minds to expand when you get a thing like that; cover the whole range of things, and recognise that if God is going really to have a definite and positive relationship with anything here, it is only as what the cross represents and contains is established. The cross in its spiritual meaning has got to be represented, and God does not come into relation to anything where the cross in its spiritual meaning is not truly and livingly applied and represented. The cross in its active meaning is the very first thing, the basis upon which God comes in.

What do you mean by God coming in? Well, the Holy Ghost manifesting that He is there. You take the simple and well known illustration of the Moravian Missions in the cold regions of the far North. The missionaries who went there and started work amongst the Eskimos told the stories of the earthly life of the Lord Jesus to the Eskimos, tried to attract them, interest them and win them by His works, His miracles, His kind acts, His character, and they went on and on and on and nothing happened; not a soul was saved. And they could not understand why it was that there was no soul being saved; and after some time, a long time of failure, they were sitting in their hut one evening, and they were singing a hymn together; all unconscious of what they were doing other than that they were expressing their own hearts, they sang a hymn about the cross, the death of the Lord Jesus for the sinner, His giving Himself. It was the story of Calvary in a hymn. An eskimo woman outside heard them singing, drew near and listened, and presently she came in and said: "You never told us that!" "That is something you never told us." That woman was the first one saved. God came in on that; the Holy Ghost came in on that. Just a simple illustration of a far reaching truth. The Holy Spirit, the Lord comes in on the ground of the cross. And beloved, that has got to work out to very fine details and applications.

It is not only true in the matter of salvation: it is true in the matter of God's co-operation. We have sung: "Oh, to be nothing, nothing...." Now, we have been standing on our dignity, standing up for our rights! Someone has been making nothing of us - and we have not liked it, and an impasse has arisen, a deadlock, an arrest, things have got difficult; a good deal of prayer appealing to the Lord has gone on for the clearing up of the situation between us and someone else, and the Lord makes no response, nothing happens until we crash and come down to the place where in emptying of ourselves we apologise, we repent, we take the position of a crucified one, and all that flesh is surrendered to the cross. The Lord comes in there; the Holy Spirit allies Himself with that. It is the principle of Calvary always, and as those who have spiritual responsibility it is important that we should recognise it. We come up against difficulties in the work of the Lord at home and abroad. Do we want the Lord to come in on it? In what way is it necessary for the cross to operate? When you have discovered that you have the Lord coming in.

The basis of God's specific association for every purpose, salvation, fellowship, co-operation is always the cross.

The Means of God's Testimony is the Church

(2) Secondly, what is the means of God's testimony? The Church! The Church is implied right from the beginning, and, of course, coming out in type continuously.

Take your great foundation in Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Abraham is the cross; he is the altar; the altar is with Abraham. If you want the symbol of Abraham's life it is the Altar. Isaac is the issue of the altar in resurrection. Abraham, the altar on the death side; Isaac, the issue of the altar, resurrection. Jacob, the issue of resurrection, the Church, Bethel, the Pillar. Bethel, a place outside of the world. A pillar set up and anointed, marking the place of an opened heaven, of Divine revelation and Divine communication. And then, mark you, Jacob after the flesh incapable of abiding at Bethel and having to go on into a spiritual experience of the destruction of the flesh for twenty years, and then changed from the carnal to the spiritual, coming back to Bethel where he can pour out his drink offering, and abide. His first word, in the flesh is: "How awful is this place" meaning: "I cannot stay here." His ultimate word is: "How glorious! I can stay here." In between the man of flesh has been changed for the man of the Spirit. That is the Church. Those features are the features of the Church. "I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" and you cannot divide those things. That is only an illustration which can be expanded continuously, that the means of God's testimony is the Church; it is the pillar and ground of the truth. We know pillars in tho Old Testament are always symbols of a witness. Covenants were made and pillars, obelisks were set up as monuments of a covenant, an understanding, a witness. "These stones shall witness between us."

God's Methods with Man - Emptying

(3) Thirdly, the nature and methods of God's dealing with men. Let us get the link again: God having a specific relationship with this earth and a testimony in it. The basis of God's relationship - the cross. The means of God's testimony - the Church. Now thirdly, included in that relationship and that testimony, the nature and methods of God's dealings with men within the compass of His specific relationship and testimony - emptying.

The nature and method of God's dealings with men in connection with His Own specific relationship and in connection with His specific testimony in the earth, all His dealings in that two-fold connection have been along the line of emptying. The cross, the basis of God's relationship declares it. The Church, the instrument of God's testimony declares that; it is Jacob. You can never have that true Holy Spirit association, relationship, and you can never have that true instrument of testimony, nor the testimony itself, only in so far as that emptying work has been done. It is an inseparable part of the two things - God's association and God's testimony. And the test as to whether the thing really does carry God with it and is of God, the test as to whether it is a true testimony, a true representation of the Church is as to how far that thing has been poured out unto the emptying of what is of man by nature. You cannot come into the testimony of God in a living way without coming through an awful experience of emptying, until there is nothing left in the end. "How awful is this place"; and it is! The Church is an awful place for the flesh, if it is really the House of God spiritually. It is not something to be jumped at. The testimony is not something to be grasped at. It is something to be looked at and you say: "If I mean business with God - being absolutely poured out until there is nothing of me left... if not I had better not go this way." The flesh cannot go this way. The Master says, always on that side of the cross: "Whither I go thou canst not follow Me now." After the cross - "You shall follow Me afterwards." It is only after the cross you can follow that way. It explains a very great deal. The Lord Jesus never left us in any doubt about this. He made it perfectly clear that to follow Him meant denying self. That means something much deeper than the mere phrase "self-denial." Taking up the cross daily. Into this every kind of relationship and resource is cast: father, mother, sister, brother, children, houses, lands, everything. Emptying, stripping: not always literally in those connections just mentioned, but the law of emptying so that in the end nothing of nature really remains as a factor. The Lord, and the Lord alone is the Factor, the Fulness. Well, again let your mind expand, run right through the Word of God and see if that is true. It was true with Abraham, true with Jacob, true with Joseph, true with Moses, true with David, true with Paul; true all along.

The Fundamental Factor in God's Success

(4) Fourthly, the fundamental factor in God's success. What is it? Now we come to the kernel of everything.

The fundamental factor in God's success is putting Christ into things, getting Christ into things. If you think for a minute, you will see that God aims at getting His Son into the very constitution of things, and the ultimate secret of God's success is that Christ is in it. Get Christ in and you are there; God is there, you have reached His end. Christ in you is the hope of glory, and the only hope of glory.

Now you will see how true that is when we begin on our next section. But I want you to dwell upon that, and think about it, and get as much of the force of it as you can. If only you can get Christ into that man, that woman; there may be a terrific battle, but if only you can get Him in it is all right, you have little to worry about. This is the fundamental factor in God's success. If Christ can be got into the constitution of anything He is Eternal Life. Get life into the constitution and see what it will do. But when that Life is Christ, what is He not capable of doing? It is not getting Christ before Calvary in, but it is the Christ of resurrection with all that it carries with it, the Christ of the exaltation Who said: "All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth." Get that Christ into the constitution of a thing and it is terrific in its potency. There are no limits to the possibilities when Christ is really in. You will notice God's objective is to put Christ into things.

Take the types of the Old Testament; they carry that as their central element. Christ is implied here. What is the tabernacle? It is Christ in completeness put down in the midst of a people, and when the relationships of a people are right and true, all the combined forces of this world are incapable of standing against that people. As that tabernacle passed over Jordan into the land, as that ark was carried around Jericho, it was Christ in the very constitution of things, and nothing could stand. There is your type. What was there typically and objectively in the Old Testament, in the New Testament becomes actual and subjective. Have Christ in His Church, and nothing can stand when the relationships are right and the spiritual side of things true. Whenever there is a conformity to the spiritual reality of the truth: "Christ in you," and "Christ in the midst of you," then God has got the ground of His ultimate success. You can have all sorts of substitutes for that which simply counters the ultimate issue, but once get that and you can afford to be at rest. Now you see the special value of putting this in a certain way; it carries that particular value. God, putting Christ, His Son, into the constitution of things is the fundamental factor of its success.

The Age-long Antagonism

"B." The Adversary seeking to counter that. We said that these two things embraced the whole of Scripture and specifically under "A", the four things just mentioned. Now we deal with "B." The means and methods of the Adversary's countering.

At that point we ought to stop to try and enumerate some of these; the means and methods of the Enemy's countering. The countering of God's basis of relationship; the Cross. The countering of the means of God's testimony; the Church. Countering the nature and methods of God's dealings with men; emptying. Countering the fundamental factor in God's success; putting Christ into things.

Suppose first of all you made a list of the titles of Satan, you have practically got your key to his system of working. Take some of those titles and see what they imply.

As to his method: as "Satan," he is the "Adversary"; the one set against.
"The Accuser"; his method is here given away by the title.
"The Dragon"; the devourer.
"The Lion"; the destroyer, tearer.
"The god of this age"; an object seeking worship. There he is the supplanter, the usurper.

Satan's Methods of Countering God's Purpose

The point is that if you take the titles they very largely cover the ground of his methods of countering God's purpose, but we can, I think, gather up the whole in two or three broad words. We will take six, dividing them into two.

1. Independence of God. That covers a lot of ground.
2. Substitution for God.
3. Imitating of God.

You will have difficulty in getting outside of those three dealing with his methods and means. You will have to think them out. We have not time to go through the Scripture with them, but there they are.

The second three:
1. Direct assault.
2. Subtle deception.
3. Intriguing mixture and corruption.

And it is an extraordinary thing how subtly he does work. You take the book of Numbers, chapters 23 and 24, as a very simple illustration. As you see they are occupied with the prophecies of Balaam. We know the story of Balaam being hired to curse Israel, and the Lord's intervention in turning the curse into a blessing, so that Balaam was compelled to bless when he came to curse. "And when Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel...." He had to bless under Divine compulsion, and when he had blessed to the full, Balaam returned to his place and Balak also went his way. You notice it goes on immediately: "And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab...." The whole chapter is one of ghastly tragedy and Divine judgment. Nothing is said whatever there of how it was done.

You pass immediately from a chapter of blessing into a chapter where the people are under the judgment of a curse. The blessing commanded and given by the Lord is, with apparently no interval, changed for a curse. You want your New Testament to explain that, of course. 2 Peter 2:15,16. Something which changes the whole thing from a blessing to a curse. It is that intriguing mixture and corruption of the Enemy, that when the Lord blesses right up to the hilt something just creeps in even while the blessing is there and corrupts the spirit, and the next thing is the Lord is not there. What has happened? Something was gloriously in the blessing of God and suddenly loses the marks of that blessing, seems dead and withered, and the Lord is not there. Even in the presence of blessing something creeps in underneath. Blessing is a perilous time. Some stream of the flesh flows in quietly when the Lord's blessing abounds. The Enemy takes advantage of a great time of blessing just to pour in something of the flesh. Is not that the history of the Church? Just to counter the Lord's end.

Now we must remember that over all this the object of the Adversary, the Enemy, is to circumvent that fundamental factor in God's success, that is, his object is to prevent Christ from getting into the constitution of man and things. Recognise that and your Word lies open before you.

What are his methods and his means to prevent Christ from getting into the constitution of man and things? "The god of this world hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn upon them." Now he will go from the first degree to the last, embracing everything and anything that will be suitable to his end, changing his method and his means, adapting them, so long as that ultimate thing is frustrated. By his open antagonism and fight as at Philippi or Ephesus. Here is Christ coming, and Christ must not get in here. So with open vicious antagonism he will seek to prevent Christ getting into a place or into a man. If Christ has the facilities on His side as in a Christian country where the Gospel has been preached, as differing from places where Christ is not known, his method will be a substitute for the indwelling Christ, an external Christianity. There are few things which are more terrible barriers to the Christ within than the formula of the Christian system.

Take that as a key to everything. His object is to prevent Christ from getting into the constitution. How does he do it? By what means? On the one hand with the unsaved, and on the other hand through professed instruments of God. Satan has his ministers amongst men. The test of ministry is this, the test of everything in the ministry of God's people is just this - how far does it register a blow, an effectual blow at Satan's ultimate design, keeping Christ from becoming the very life within all His Own? Put that another way, on the positive side. How far does that minister toward Christ having His place and His way within the life of His Own? You have got to know how, and how alone Christ can dwell within the heart. That can only be through new birth.

Now one of the cleverest methods of the Devil against the truth is the counterfeit of that very truth, the Christ in every man. He patronises Christ now, just to divert from the truth, and he will talk about "the Christ in all of us." The Christ in the unsaved man! "Find the Christ in him; meet the Christ in him." It is pure pantheism not regeneration. Elevation, but not regeneration. You see it is a counter, and a very successful one.

Now we see our calling, brethren, we see what our ministry is, we see what the effect of our ministry ought to be. It ought to be the exposing of the works of the Devil on the one hand, an opening of eyes, a making a way for Christ into the life, into the heart along His Own lines, on His Own terms.

We have really touched the central point in the work of the Church, in the testimony of the Church, on two sides, the for and the against; that God's objective is getting His Son into the constitution of things; the Enemy's objective is to prevent that. And even with the Lord's Own children the Enemy tries so often to get them to accept something less than the fact that Christ is in them. If he can do that he really has broken them.

There is much meditation to be done upon all that we have said.

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