The Exceeding Greatness of His Power

The title of this series of messages is derived from Ephesians 1:19.

A word on revelation

In this series of messages T. Austin-Sparks tries to give an answer to a weak Christianity, people of God being unable to be like shining stars in the midst of darkness. The secret of power, says brother Sparks, is an inward revelation of Jesus Christ, which is “not something in the mind; it is a happening in the life.” But what is this revelation?

In the Bible the word revelation is used in various ways. In the portion of Scripture from which these messages have been derived, Ephesians 1:15-23, we read about Paul praying that God would give to the Ephesian believers the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. Why would Paul pray the Holy Spirit be given
to believers, as they have received Him already and are even exemplary in their faith in the Lord Jesus and their love toward all the saints? In the context of the whole letter we see that by this “knowledge of Him” Paul means a full experimental knowing of God the Father, which is expressed in a very practical daily walk, worthy of Him, worthy of a believer’s calling, a life characterized by the glory of God in the virtues of Christ, by the resurrection power of God, persevering against hostile attacks, serving to help the Body of Christ grow unto spiritual maturity. This is exactly what T. Austin-Sparks means by revelation: knowing God experimentally, knowing how to relate and apply the features of Christ to our daily lives.

We should not confuse this revelation with what Paul mentions in Ephesians 3:3, that which God had kept hidden from man for centuries, but has now been revealed by the Spirit to His apostles and prophets. It is in fact the Gospel of Jesus Christ, including God’s eternal purpose to have a people for Himself to be co-heirs with His Son, a people that consists of both Jewish and Gentile believers. It is a misunderstanding that believers need revelation to understand what God has already revealed in His Word and it is even dangerous to think like that. Paul says, “
When you read, you may understand” (Eph. 3:4).

It was God’s sovereign act to reveal the mysteries of His Kingdom to Jesus’ disciples and later to the apostles and prophets. It was “a gift of grace,” Paul says, realizing that he has nothing to boast in but God’s mercy and power. Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, because their hearts were not ready to receive His message. His disciples were not any better, but God had sovereignly chosen them to become the first messengers of the Gospel. “But blessed are your eyes,” says Jesus, “for they see: and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them” (Matt. 13:17). It was a special privilege for the disciples to have the parables explained to them by the Lord Jesus, with a special purpose, related to God’s intervention in history at that point. This implies that the message of the parables to them then must be the same message for us now. There is no room for us to allegorize or spiritualize the parables, neither do we have authority to make our own New Testament applications of Old Testament Scripture. We cannot combine a verse here and a verse there, make a “message” out of it and then call it revelation. We cannot do so if that “message” has nothing to do with the true meaning of the verses in their context. The Bible means to say what it means to say. It has no deeper or hidden layers. God has revealed in His Word everything He wanted to reveal to humanity. “When I am speaking about revelation of Jesus Christ,” says brother Sparks, “do not for one moment think that I am suggesting something extra to the revelation which we have in the Word of God.”

The Spirit of wisdom and revelation Paul prays God the Father to give to the Ephesian believers is the Spirit who teaches them to get more and more acquainted with their heavenly Father, with what it means to be “accepted in the beloved” (1:6), to become more and more acquainted with the new life in Christ, a totally different life from the natural life, a life that is not dominated by the laws of fallen nature, nor by the law of Moses, but a life that is dominated by the One who is Head over all things. It is to walk — empowered by the Holy Spirit — worthy of its vocation, to be to the praise of God’s glory. That is the revelation we need. And we need it continuously. “Be filled with the Spirit,” is Paul’s command (Eph. 5:18), using the verb “fill” in the sense of always, continuously being filled. That kind of revelation is the essence of the Christian life. It is the essence of our gatherings, to encourage one another to keep on walking in faith and remind one another of our new reality in Christ, our new, heavenly position in Him and that everything in our lives is related to God’s “plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph. 1:10, ESV).

April 2017,
On behalf of The Golden Candlestick team,
Hugo de Jong, Twello, the Netherlands