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Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Cross and the Holy Spirit # 4

4. The Meaning of Grace

There is yet another theme in this letter which would repay our study: it is the meaning of grace. That is a great thing in the Letter to the Galatians. Grace puts us on to an entirely new basis. All the ritual, all the forms, all the demands of the law, only served to accentuate the evil conscience. Paul makes that so clear. As we know, this Letter to the Galatians was written before the Letter to the Romans: probably Paul, when he had written to the Galatians, said to himself, 'I must write something more about this,' and so took the opportunity of enlarging upon it when writing to the Romans. But the point is that the whole thing related to this matter of conscience. "I had not known sin ... except the law had said, Thou shalt not ..." (Romans 7:7). "The very saying of that thing only gave me a bad conscience: this whole system was only keeping my conscience alive - it was not saving me from an evil conscience . But grace has done that; grace has put me on to an altogether new and different basis, where the evil conscience is dealt with.' Yes, grace deals with the conscience. It is a wonderful word over against a bad conscience: "The Grace of God."

5. The Meaning of the Holy Spirit

Lastly, Paul discovered the meaning of the Holy Spirit. What does Paul say preeminently about the Holy Spirit here? "Because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba, Father' " (Galatians 4:6). "Ye received the Spirit of sonship, whereby we cry, 'Abba, Father' " (Romans 8:15). Paul sets that over against servanthood. And there he gets right to the heart of the matter. For if we recognize, as it is easy to do, the difference between a servant and a son, we have the secret of everything.

A servant is one who simply has to do what he is told: he is told that he must or he must not, and whether he like it or not, whether he agrees with it or not, it is for him to obey, that is all. Whatever may be his own reactions, he cannot help himself: he is merely a servant. Inwardly he may be in positive revolt against the whole thing, but he can do nothing about it. I am speaking, of course, about a servant of those days. A servant of the present day would just give up his job and go - that is how it is in our time. But you could not do it there in the Roman Empire in Paul's day. A bondslave had no power of choice whatever; he could not say" 'I am resigning; I am gong to find another master' - he just could not do it. He was bought, body, soul and spirit; and, though he might be in revolt with every fiber of his being, there was nothing he could do about it. He just was the bond slave of this law.

The Spirit of Sonship

That is a servant, a slave. What is a son? Well, if he is a son in the true meaning of Christian sonship, his service is a delight to him. There is in him the dynamic of love: he delights to do those things that please his Father, and hat love gives him the incentive and the power to do them. He has another spirit, the Spirit of Sonship, working in him, making it possible for him to respond to every requirement: for that is the meaning of the Holy Spirit - an inward power, and that of love, which makes everything possible. As we all know, if we have a mighty love for something, nothing is impossible! Would that we had more of this love - the love that does not irk, that does not wait to have things pointed out, to have its attention drawn to them, but is all the time on the alert, anxious and keen, watching to see what needs to be done. We need that spirit, do we not?

That is something that is so impressive in certain companies know to us in the Far East. It is referred to here by way of condemnation or criticism of others. One great meeting hall, for instance, with its internal capacity of 1,600, and provision all the way around for up to 3,000 more, and with its 1,000 panes of glass, needs, as you can guess, a lot of looking after - what with the cleaning, the care of all the electrical installations, the amplifiers, and so on. There is so much connected with even one center like that. After every meeting you see an army of men and women, prepared, and getting down to it, sweeping and cleaning and mopping up, adjusting and seeing to things, so that everything i clean and wholesome and in its place, for the next meeting. As you look at these people doing these jobs, perhaps you ask about someone, busily working away in his old clothes: 'Who is that brother?' 'Oh, that is Major-General So-and-So!' You see another younger man getting down to it, really getting down to a dirty job: 'Who is that young brother?' 'He's the Managing Director of the biggest textile factory on this island!' And so you go on - General, Colonel, Director - but they are all 'going to it.' One of these high officers has made it his business to clean those one-thousand panes of glass once every week!

How do they go about it? Well, before they start on their work, they all meet together and pray and sing. They pray altogether, this great army of workers; then they have a good sing; and then they get down to the work. It is all done in a spirit of joy like that. That is the spirit of sonship! That is not bond-slavery; it is the true spirit of sonship. We need far more of that! That is the meaning of the Holy Spirit. You are not surprised that these people are radiant, and you are not surprised that the question is answered in their case: "To whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" It is indeed revealed there. Suffer the illustration; it is very wholesome to have seen these thing really working. They can work; they really can work.

This, then, is the meaning of the Spirit, the meaning of Christ: the real spirit of sonship. That is what Paul is saying here. satan just hates that. He will try to break it up; he will try to spoil it, at all costs. That was the battle that Paul was in. He was not just contending with the Judaizers, but with the direct antagonism of the great enemy against a testimony of that kind - against the real fruit of the Cross.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 5 - "Freedom From Law Means Government By The Spirit")

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