By T. Austin-Sparks
Paul was continually growing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, but it was a comprehensive knowledge or revelation which took him immediately away into Arabia for an extended period, that he might be occupied with its implications, and when he came back it is quite clear he had grasped the significance of that revelation, he had seen what Jesus meant in God's thought.
One of the things that had happened was that, with that revelation, he had gone back over the whole of the history of the people with whom he was joined by birth, right back over Jewish history, right back over his own relationship with Judaism; and he had seen very clearly that the Lord Jesus was the center of all that in the thought of God, that He took up all the spiritual values into His own Person, and that Judaism as a religious system - traditional, historical - no longer obtained in the thought of God, but what did exist in the place of it was Jesus Christ in heaven. All that Judaism meant which was of spiritual value was centered in a living Person and no longer to be had in a system, in a tradition, in an outward order of things - all of which was lifeless, ineffective, incapable of bringing about heart satisfaction and the realization of heart longing, deliverance from sin, and the quietening forever of conscience. What Paul had now come to see was that all that to which Judaism pointed, but which it was incapable of realizing or fulfilling, was to be had... and that he had it... in the living risen Person - in Jesus Christ.
That is only one thing which Paul saw, but that had a tremendous effect upon him. It did what nothing else in all this universe could have done. It absolutely delivered Saul of Tarsus, the rabid, vehement Jew, from his Judaism. It emancipated him from the whole of that system as an earthly system, although it had been given of God for a purpose. Nothing could have delivered Saul of Tarsus from that but a revelation of Jesus Christ.
It is always futile and dangerous to advise people to leave one thing until they have a revelation of the fuller, and only such a revelation will accomplish the true emancipation. It may not be applicable to many of us, but the principle is what I want you to recognize. You may not need to be emancipated from anything like Judaism or legalism, but the principle is this, that for all increase, progress, enlargement, growth, maturity, it is essential that there should be in the heart a continuous unveiling of Jesus Christ: and you and I will never get to the end of that unveiling. It is possible for some of us to say with truth that this year we have seen more of the meaning of the Lord Jesus than in all the previous years of our lives. Can you say that?
It is the most blessed and most wonderful thing to be able to recognize that there is a growing revelation of Jesus Christ within. You see more and more of what He means from God's standpoint; and as that is so, there comes this increase of the Lord Jesus, the fruit of the Spirit - love. An increase of the revelation of Jesus Christ in the heart is an increase of the love of the Lord Jesus, the fruit of the Spirit. You are conscious that your heart is coming more and more under the constraint of His love and that unloveliness is becoming subordinate to His love. There is more joy in the Lord Jesus today than ever, because you are seeing more of what He is. It is practical. That is Spiritual growth: "It pleased God... to reveal his Son in me...."
It is so important that there should be this continual, living unveiling of Christ in the heart if we are to reach God's full end.
Paul came to that revelation right at the beginning. It was initial, but also a directive revelation continuously. It was the basis of the direction of his life. "When," he said, "it pleased God... to reveal His Son in me... immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood, neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me...." Why did he not do that? If he had accepted a system of teaching, he would have gone to discuss it with other people who were interested and who were in that system of teaching, to see if he had grasped it aright. He would have compared notes and said: "Now, look here, I have accepted this teaching. You are interested in it, and I want to know whether I have been right in my understanding of this teaching. Is this what it means?"
That would be conferring with flesh and blood. He would have sought out the authorities at headquarters on the matter. But no: "I conferred not with flesh and blood, neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me...." Here is a movement which is not a wrong kind of independence but is the true movement of a personal knowledge of the Lord Jesus. It is directive throughout his life. He speaks of going up by revelation of Jesus Christ - a revelation of Jesus Christ was given to direct his movements. Mark you, it was not a revelation which took the form of a dictation: Paul, you go here, you go there, you go somewhere else. It was a revelation of a Person.
All the movements of the Spirit of God are in some way bound up with the Person of the Lord Jesus. They are an expression of Christ in some way. He is continuing His doing and His speaking; He is going on with His work to the end of the dispensation. He has not abandoned the field - not left the scene of activities and withdrawn... and given it to us to go on. He is going on.
He is the chief Worker, the One who has all in His hands. But what He has in His hands is not a multitude of things that He is doing; it is an expression of Himself in some way. The Lord Jesus is putting Himself into things and bringing things into relation with Himself. You look to God's end and you find that Jesus Christ is to be expressed in a spiritual way universally. What He is will at some future time fill this universe, and you need to know what the Lord Jesus is in order to have your life directed. You need to be governed by what He is; you need a revelation of Him.
We can take an illustration from the Tabernacle in the wilderness. That Tabernacle is a comprehensive expression in type of the Person of Jesus Christ; and if we look at it at any point, whether of its constitution or of its operation, we see something of the Lord Jesus Christ. If we look at a pin of the Tabernacle, we shall see something of Him expressed. So that the Tabernacle becomes a great spiritual system, and Christ is that. Christ is not only a Person; Christ is - in effect, in outworking - a great heavenly, spiritual system. When we come into Christ, we come into a heavenly order. That is not some manual of instructions, but a living Person.
If the Holy Spirit gets a real hold upon you and me, so that we are moving by the Holy Spirit, all our movements, on the one hand, will in some way be an expression of Christ, and, on the other hand, a bringing of things into relation to Christ, so that Christ becomes raised up in them. The question is not: Shall I go here? Shall go there? Shall I do this, or shall I do that? The question is: Is Christ going to express Himself in some way? Is He going there? Is He going to manifest Himself there? Then I go with Him to be His instrument - His vessel. It is a matter of the Person, not of a lot of things to be done.
Now that is a very difficult thing to explain, but Paul does make it clear that his life was governed by revelation of Jesus Christ. He recognized in the spirit that Christ was on the move in a certain direction - for a certain purpose. That was revealed to him, and so he moved by the Spirit because it was a case of the goings of Christ.
That is how life is to be governed. Our prayer must not be: Lord, shall I do this, and shall I do the other? Shall I go here, or shall I go there? Our prayer is: Lord, art Thou going there? Art Thou going to do this or that? Dost Thou want me for Thy purpose here and there?
It is all related to a living Person. Otherwise you build up a great system of activities which we say are for Christ, instead of its being the direct, pure work of Christ. There is real value and meaning in that. It is a governing factor. What was initial in the life of the Apostle was continuous; that is, his whole life from beginning to end was governed and actuated by a revelation of Jesus Christ.
It all amounted to this - that Christ had become everything for him. It was not a new religion, and it was not a new lifework. It was not a new mission on the earth. If you have not got these already, you will... if you go on with the Lord long enough... come to the place where you do not want any more life missions or lifework or any more commissions. You will come to the place of such utter weakness and dependence and helplessness and self-emptiness that your whole attitude will be: Oh, Lord, do save me from ever attempting anything unless Thou art going to do it. Lord, if Thou art not going to do that, then in mercy keep me from putting my hand to it.
Paul was not out in some new enterprise: Paul was bound up with the Person of Jesus Christ... and he says, "...that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith - the faith which is in the Son of God...." Christ and His Life actuates the Apostle. It is Christ's mission, Christ's purpose - not his. It is what the Lord is doing... and not what he is doing for the Lord.
That is what it means: Christ becoming everything. So that for this we have no life apart from Christ - no strength, no wisdom, no knowledge; we have nothing, not even ability to live apart from Christ, to say nothing of ability to do... all natural energies and resources reduced by the sovereign act of the Lord, so that it shall be no longer I - but Christ - to live and to do.