The Perils Of The Objective Apprehension
But there are perils associated even with that blessed truth, because it is only one side of the truth. It is the first side; it is the thing which must come first, but it is only one side, and therefore it is just possible to make salvation one-sided by putting all the emphasis upon that and not giving due place to the other side.
1. The Peril Of Shallowness
What are some of the perils? Well, we begin with the simplest, the peril of superficiality, of shallowness. What Christ has done for us may be a matter of very great joy and rejoicing and satisfaction; but contentment in that realm and with that side alone may just prevent that deep work which is necessary, which comes by the complementary side of the truth of Christ’s work, the subjective. Thus it is found that many people, who are rejoicing to the full in the finality of their salvation IN CHRIST, are living very much upon the surface, and not learning a very great deal about the deeper realities and fuller meaning of Christ. That is the first and perhaps the simplest form of peril.
2. The Peril Of Delayed Maturity
Closely related to this is the peril of making the Christian life static, settled, where it has reached the point of accepting all the objective truth by faith and staying there, and not going on beyond that in spiritual experience. The truth is there, but it is objective, external, although there is great joy, and assurance in the heart; but the Christian life has stopped with that, it has settled down. That is a very real peril, and you find it marking a great many of the Lord’s people. Their attitude is, “I am saved, nothing has to be added or can be added to my salvation; I need have no more doubt of my salvation, I am accepted IN CHRIST, and I am perfect in Him; what more do I need? I just rest upon that and enjoy that day by day.” Well, that is very good, but you see it can bring a check, so that you live on one side of things, and the whole of the Christian life stops there.
3. The Peril Of Contradiction
There is a further peril into which some fall who have apprehended in a very true and blessed way the greatness of the salvation which Christ has accomplished as theirs. Because they know that the question of salvation is eternally settled, and there is no room whatever for any doubts or fears, and nothing can ever alter the fact; and that their salvation does not rest for a moment upon anything that they are or do, but upon what He is and has done, – all of which is undeniably true; nevertheless, because they are perfectly sure and have no doubts whatever, there is found a lack of sympathy and they become hard, cold, and legal. Sometimes they become cruel, and too often inconsistencies arise in the life; that is, their attitude says in effect, “I am saved, it does not matter what I do, I shall never be lost.” They would never dream of saying that in so many words and yet very often it works out that way, that their very certainty of salvation opens the door for inconsistencies and contradictions in their lives which never reach their conscience, simply because they say they have no more conscience of sin, that the conscience has been once purged, and so one should never be troubled with conscience again; salvation is absolute, nothing can touch it. Subtly, imperceptibly, without their reasoning or thinking, that attitude does creep in and you find with some that if you bring home to them certain things in their lives which you see to be glaring inconsistencies they will hardly believe them, they will possibly repudiate them, or simply say, “well, nothing alters the fact of my salvation.” Life is thus thrown into an unbalanced state, and the peril comes right in with the very fact of the fullness and finality of salvation.
4. The Peril Of Truth Taking The Place Of Life
There is another peril; it is that of making progress a matter of truth rather than of life. Progress, of course, is recognized as necessary. No true believer would sit down and say, “Well, now there is no more progress to be made.” But for many who have so strongly taken up the position upon the objective work of the Lord Jesus in its perfection, the matter of progress is not a matter of life, it is rather a matter of truth; that is, to know more rather than to become more. Thus you find that a very great many who are in that position have advanced tremendously in their knowledge of truth, but they know a great deal more than they are, and somehow or other their own spiritual growth in Christlikeness has not kept pace by any means or in any proper proportion to their progress in the knowledge of things about Christ. That is a danger which comes in with this very thing of which we are speaking.
5. The Peril Of Missing The Prize
Then this further peril – that of giving less importance to the prize than should be given to it. Salvation is not the prize. Salvation never was a prize. You can never win or earn salvation; it is a free gift. But to settle down with salvation in its fullness and its finality means for a great many a failure to recognize that there is a prize – that of which the Apostle Paul spoke when he said: “I press on towards the goal unto the prize of the upward calling…” (Phil. 3:14). There is something more than salvation, something related to the Lord’s full purpose in glory, something related to the ultimate full manifestation of the Lord in His people; and that is not simply that they are saved people, but that they have ATTAINED (and Paul uses that word) unto something. Paul was never in fear of losing his salvation. When he said: “Lest… after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected” (I Cor. 9:27), he was not thinking of losing his salvation, but he was aware that there was something that he could miss; he could fall short of something, that which he called “the prize”; and he related to its attainment a growth in his spiritual life: “Not that I… am already made PERFECT.” If we settle down in the attitude that says, “My salvation is perfect, complete, and final in Christ. Nothing can be added to it and I rejoice in that” – this may well mean that we give less importance to the prize than we ought to give.
So you see there are perils which come in with what is perhaps the greatest of the blessings.
THE SUBJECTIVE SIDE
That does not cover all the ground [about the objective side of salvation truth], but it must be enough on that side for the moment. We turn just for a moment to the other side – Christ in us, or the subjective work of Christ. What does Christ in us mean? We know from the Word that it means conformity to the image of Christ. Paul uses the phrase: “Until Christ be (fully) formed in you” (Gal. 4:19). In salvation we have everything as to our own perfection in Him. When we receive Christ we receive within us potentially all that is in Him as to His present character – not only His position but His character, mark you. It is not WHERE He is but WHAT He is. It is not now what He possesses but what He IS. He possesses our salvation, but we know what He is, and “when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is” (I John 3:2). So that all that He has given to us potentially when we believed is there to be developed; and, as Paul says, Christ is to be fully formed in us, and we are to be conformed to the image of God’s Son. That is a very wonderful thing. It is: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Christ in us means that eventually we shall be like Him to the full. But this is not the FACT of our being saved, this is the OBJECT of our being saved. This is not salvation in its fundamental and initial meaning; this is salvation in its outworking to its full meaning, the image of Christ, God’s Son.
Identification With Christ
How do we accept that? We accept that by recognizing the second side of Calvary’s work. The one side – the objective – is what Christ has done for us, apart from us, in His own Person. We accept this other side of conformity to His image – the subjective by accepting that Christ not only did that FOR us but AS us, that is, representatively. We come to Romans 6 and recognize that when Christ died we died, when Christ was buried we were buried, when Christ was raised we were raised. That is His representative work. Now we accept all that in simple faith at the beginning; but, mark you, that does not become operative in any full measure until the objective side has been settled. There must be a settlement, definitely, positively, finally, that our salvation in Christ is perfect and complete, before there can be any full measure of the out-working of Christ in our hearts. The Lord must have that basis upon which to work.
This is where the danger comes in with a great blessing. Oh! it is a great revelation, a wonderful unveiling, that God has chosen to make us like Christ – not only to save us with a perfect salvation so that the question of sin and condemnation is answered finally and for ever, but to conform us to the image of His Son; what a revelation, what a blessing! Yes, but God cannot do that second thing until the first thing is settled, because it is in that realm that there is unspeakable peril. What is the peril? It is this.
The Peril Of The Subjective Apprehension
If the Lord were to get to work to empty us of ourselves in order to make room for the Lord Jesus; to show us ourselves in order to show us the Lord Jesus; to make us to know what we are in ourselves in order to make us know what Christ is in us; to make us know our weakness in order to make Christ’s strength perfect in it; to make us know our foolishness in order to make Christ as our wisdom, perfect in us; if He were to start to do that and the question of our salvation were not settled, the devil would jump in at once and use God’s very work against us, and when the Lord was dealing with us to make room for His Son, the devil would begin to say: “You are under condemnation, God is against you, these very dealings of God with you are proofs that your salvation is not certain.” And so it is with a great many in whom the Lord begins to work out things. They allow the enemy to jump in and take hold of the very work of God and turn it against God, by bringing up doubts in their hearts as to their salvation.
Do you see that? So often that is done, and the peril is there, running right alongside of the greatest blessing all the time. It is thus that the enemy tries to use God’s truth against God.
Now the subjective side of God’s work demands for its effective outworking that we are settled once and for all as to our salvation; that comes first! If you have only the one side; the objective, and all your emphasis is upon that, you may be shallow and you may not grow spiritually. If you dwell only on the subjective, you become introspective and begin to doubt your salvation; your eyes are always turned in upon yourself, and the result is that you begin to look for something in yourself that can commend itself to God; and therein lies a denial of the perfect work of salvation accomplished by the Lord Jesus. You see it is an undermining and undercutting of the whole of the work of Calvary. These two things must go together. On the one hand – fully and finally in Christ we are as perfect in the hour when we believe as ever we shall be. On the other hand – all that is in Christ is going to be made, not THEORETICALLY true, but ACTUALLY true in us by the Holy Spirit. But the second demands the first, and we must keep the balance. We must rejoice always in the fact that our names are written in heaven, that we are saved with a perfect salvation; but, on the other hand, we must remember that there is something that the Lord wants to do – not to make salvation true, but to make the image of Christ an inward thing. That is the outworking of salvation.
So this balance is necessary, and we must give equal emphasis. If we over-emphasize the subjective we take something from the glory of Christ. If we over-emphasize the objective we take something from God’s purpose. It is a matter of the work of God in Christ, and the purpose of God in Christ: and these two things must both have their place.
May the Lord give us understanding, so that we come into a place of rest and are delivered from the perils which lurk in the vicinity of every Divine blessing.
Part 2 of 2
This article is courtesy of http//www.austin-sparks.net. “THEODORE AUSTIN-SPARKS (1888-1971) left behind a treasury of writings filled with the Wisdom, Life and Revelation of Christ. He felt that whatever was given by the One Spirit of God should be freely shared with the One Body of Christ – what belongs to the One, belongs to all… Having greatly appreciated his writings ourselves, we offer them here on the web for the further establishing and strengthening of the Body, that in all things CHRIST might have the preeminence.”
Notes on the use of terms: “Objective” refers to what Christ has done for us; “subjective” refers to what He does in and through us. -JBW
ELCmatters.net re-posted a short film on the believer’s new identity. See it here.