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THE SCHOOL OF CHRIST
By T. Austin Sparks
AN OPEN HEAVEN
THE MARK OF A LIFE ANOINTED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT
Now, what is, then, the mark of a life anointed by the Holy Spirit? You remember when Paul went to Ephesus, he found certain disciples and, without giving us any explanation of the reason for his question, he immediately said, "Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed?" Their reply was, "We did not so much as hear whether the Holy Spirit was". Then Paul's next question is full of significance, taking us back to Jordan. "Into what then were ye baptized?" 'Baptism is bound up with this vital reality.
If you do not know the Holy Spirit, what can your baptism have meant?' Oh, we were baptized with John's baptism; Oh, I see: well, "John baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him that should come after him, that is, on Jesus." Then when they heard that, they were baptized into the Name of the Lord Jesus, they were baptized into Christ, and the Holy Spirit came upon them. Thus they came into the School of Christ; and the mark of a life anointed by the Spirit is that you know Christ in this living and ever-growing way.
Oh, listen to this, this is not so elementary and unnecessary as it may seem. Some of us, of course, are very poor scholars, and we take such a long time to learn. It took decades in my case to come to a true realization of this. We know so much, and we discover that our real personal knowledge of Christ is a poor thing. We are constantly brought up against that. At last, sooner or later, you and I are going to come to the place where we exclaim, 'Oh, it is not doctrines and truths and themes and subjects and Scripture as mere matter that I need to know!'
It is all very wonderful when you are taken up with it; but let a man come into the fires, into deep trial, into trouble and perplexity and then what about all your doctrines and all your themes, and all your Bible study? What is the value of it? It does not really solve your problem, it does not get you through. This is a tragedy.
It is true of many of us who have got certain doctrines, who have gone through the doctrines of the Bible and worked them out, and who know what is in the Bible on these things; regeneration, redemption, atonement, righteousness by faith, sanctification, and so on; it is true that after we have gone through them all, and have got them all well worked out, and we come into a terrible spiritual experience, the whole thing counts for nothing, and we come to the place where, but for the Lord, we could easily throw the whole thing over and say, This Christianity does not work!
Yes, for those who have known the Lord for years, so far as the accumulation of truth is concerned, that is about the value of it in an hour of the deepest spiritual distress. The only thing then that can help you is not your beautiful notebooks full of doctrines, but, What do I know of the Lord personally and livingly in my own heart? What has the Holy Spirit revealed in me and to me, and made a part of me, of Christ? Sooner or later, that is where we are coming to. We are going to be brought back to the living, spiritual knowledge of the Lord; for He alone personally, as revealed in our very being by the Holy Ghost, can save us in the deepest hour.
The day will come when we will be stripped of everything but what is spiritually, inwardly known of Christ; stripped of all our mental and intellectual knowledge. Many of those who have been giants in teaching and in doctrine have had a very, very dark hour at the end of their lives, a very dark hour indeed. How they have got through has depended upon the inward knowledge of the Lord as over against mere intellectual knowledge. How can I explain what I mean by that?
Well, for example, you discover something in the realm of food that really does help you. You have gone all round trying everything, all that the food people can provide to help you in a specific malady or weakness, and nothing has helped you. Then suddenly you discover something that really does help you, and the next time you are put to the test you take some of that and find you can go through on that. It is in you, something that gets you through your ordeal.
That is what I mean, with reference to this question of how and what Christ is to be to us. He is to be in us, that upon which we can rest back in confidence and assurance, and, doing so, He gets us through. We are to know Him in that way. That is the only way in which to learn Christ, and that is experimental. "Ye shall see the heaven opened." The Holy Spirit has come to make for us an altogether new order of things, so that Christ is being revealed in us as our very life.
Ye shall see when the Spirit comes: that is the mark of an anointed life. Ye shall see! And those are great moments when we do see. Some of us have had those great moments in specific connections, and some of us have seen others have their great moments in specific connections. Yet we have known that they knew all about the thing, and have been taught it, and have had it drummed into them for years; and then after years suddenly it has broken upon them, and they have said, Look here, I am now beginning to see what has been said all this time!
I remember a man brought up in a most saintly family, whose father I always used to liken to Charles G. Finney. He was like Charles G. Finney in spirit, soul and body; and one of his sons brought up in that most godly home was a great friend of mine for years. We had real fellowship together, always talking about the things of the Lord. One day -I can see it now right at the corner of Newington Green-I was going to meet him, and as I came toward Newington Green I saw him in the distance.
I saw him smile, and we met and shook hands. He was one big smile. Do you know, I have made a discovery, he said. I said, What is your discovery? I have discovered that Christ is in me! "Christ in you, the hope of glory", has become a reality to me. Well, I said, I could have told you that years ago. Ah, that is the difference, he said: I see it now, I know it now.
You see what I mean. It is just that. Oh, that the world were full of Christians like that! Is this not the need? But inasmuch as this was said to Nathanael, it must be for us all. It was not said to Peter, James and John up on the Mount of Transfiguration: it was said to Nathanael, one of the general circle. It is for all; and if that wants strengthening, proving, notice what the Lord Jesus said-"Ye shall see the heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man." What has happened?
A tremendous transition has taken place in the course of a few sentences. Behold, an Israelite indeed! That is for Israel; for Jacob, yes, the father of Israel; for sons of Jacob, the earthly Israel. Ah, yes, but that is purely within the limitation of earth, purely within the limitation of a people here amongst the nations, and within the limitation of types. Yes, but now for the tremendous transition. The Lord has cancelled out something Nathanael said. "Thou art King of Israel", said he.
King of Israel? That is nothing. Thou shalt see greater things than these. Thou shalt see the heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man! That is something vastly greater than Israel. Son of Man! That is racial, that is universal; that is for all men who will come in, not just for Israel. Thou shalt see greater things! Heaven opened-and for whom? Not just for Israel, but for all men in Christ. The Son of Man!
That title, Son of Man, simply represents God's thought concerning man. Oh, the great, great thought and intention of God concerning man. The open heaven is for man when he comes into God's thought in Christ. The open heaven is for man: God revealing Himself to man in the Man. It is for all of us. Let no one think that this open heaven, this anointing, is for a certain few. Oh no, it is for everyone. God's desire, God's thought, is that you and I, the most simple, foolish, weak amongst men, the most limited naturally, with the least capacity naturally, should find that our very birthright is an open heaven.
In other words, you and I may, in Christ, know this wonderful work of the Holy Spirit in an inward revelation of Christ in ever-growing fullness. That is for us, every one of us. May the most advanced Christian have a new movement toward the Lord in this matter, and all of us really come to this first crisis where the dome over us is cleft, and we know an open heaven, the Spirit revealing Christ in our hearts, for His glory.