Ye Are Come to Zion
“Ye Are Come to Zion”
by T. Austin-Sparks
Chapter 1 – Our Heritage
The key phrase to our meditation at this time is in the twelfth chapter of the letter to the Hebrews, and at verse 22: “But ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable hosts of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaketh better than that of Abel”.
It is only the first clause of that sentence which is taken as covering what we have to say. Although perhaps later we shall proceed to other parts of the whole statement, the words are: “Ye are come”, and for some of the time in which we are together, I believe it is the Lord’s will that we shall be occupied with the heritage of faith.
It is understood by all who have read and considered this document called “the letter to the Hebrews”, that it is a most momentous document in the history of God’s counsels for it sees the taking up of all that is in the Old Testament (especially as to Israel) and finding its full and final meaning in Christ and in His Church. The letter (or document) covers a great deal of ground. It covers the three great sections of the Old Testament: from Genesis to Exodus – forming the first great section of the Bible; from Exodus to the end of the bock of Judges – a second great section, and from the book of Judges to the end of the Old Testament at Malachi. All those sections are taken up and are covered by this comparatively short document. And all that is found in each one of them and in all of them together, is shown to be gathered into, fulfilled, consummated, in the Person and work of Christ and transmitted to His Church. So that in Christ and by Christ we have this immense heritage – we inherit all. There could hardly be a fuller and greater content in so small a fragment of only three words: “Ye are come”.
This letter (I prefer to call it a document because such it is in very truth, a document for the Church’s inheritance containing the heritage of believers in this dispensation) this document sets us on the Divine road with God – God from eternity on the move; moving forward in purpose. Then it gives us a caravan of travellers on that road: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Melchizedek, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Barak, Samuel, David – the priests, the kings, the prophets – they’re all here in the caravan on the road of God.
It touches upon some of the things that we find on the journey, such as the tabernacle and its ordinances – all pointing onward. It says that all these who were of this great Divine caravan on the road of God from eternity to eternity were in a quest, in a pursuit of an inheritance. They looked; they not only looked, but they searched. They had left everything behind, they’re on the road in quest of an inheritance. The whole of the aspect of those ages is, “Forward”: seekers, pursuers, on trek with God.
And then this letter tells us that we are come to that which was the object of their quest through all those ages. We have the heritage for which they set out. They received not, because God had some better thing for us, that they, without us, apart from us, should not be complete. And what this letter says over all that, is that all, all that is no longer future, it is present. So far as entering into it is concerned, it is present; it is present to our apprehension. “Ye are come” – they were seeking, pursuing and coming! “Ye are come”.
God started on His road, these men joined with Him. God has reached the end of His road, and we are with Him at the end of the road. It’s a tremendous thing that is here in this document: “Ye are come”. We have arrived! The caravan has arrived, “Ye are come”. The whole of that heritage of faith – for these were all men and women of faith – the whole of that heritage of faith is now present for our entering in. “Ye are come”.
Now that needs breaking up. We take the first phase of it, for in the first place, this document corresponds to the first two chapters of Genesis. That is quite patent. How does Genesis begin? “In the beginning God…” How does Hebrews begin? “God, God who at sundry times in divers manners speaking…” “In the beginning God”. God. In that particular it corresponds to Genesis. Then, in Genesis God is revealed as the great Designer, the great Projector, the great Worker upon His design which He has projected, and the great Perfecter of His work – “and God saw everything that He had made and God said ‘It is good'”. The letter to the Hebrews corresponds to that in every particular. It begins with God. It shows God as the great Designer, the great Projector, the great Worker, and the great Perfecter. We shall see that as we proceed, but the great point is this: God completed the creation, God completed the creation then, having completed the creation, He planted a garden. That was subsequent to the whole creation. And having planted a garden, He put man into it.
Now, it does not say that God created man in the garden. It does say that God put man into the garden. Man was a part of the creation as a whole – the garden was subsequent to the whole creation and to man. Man in the garden is something within the whole. You may not see any value in that for the moment, but you’ll see before long that is not just an observation. Man was put into, firstly, a completed work; a completed world. When everything was done and everything was prepared, then, as a completed thing, it was provided for man as his heritage, his inheritance.
Let me repeat: man was put into a completed world to possess it, to exploit it, to develop it, and then to build up a family corresponding to, and suited to, the kind of world into which he had been put. It was a heritage provided by God for man; to be held and to be enjoyed through faith in God, through faith in the Divine Benefactor, for man was an heir of God – not in his own right, but by the benefaction of God.
God centred everything in man. Man was placed on a basis of potential sonship and man was destined for glory. If you could take all that, have it all before you in mind, and take it into the letter to the Hebrews, what you would find is this: that what was material and temporal and palpable in Genesis, is in every particular present in a spiritual way in this document. We could not have a more glorious message, a more heart-ravishing message, than that which comes out of a contemplation of this spiritual correspondence to God’s activities in the creation. Let us look at it again.
Everything for man’s glorious destiny is first of all wrought out by God Himself. Yes, wrought out by God in Christ. It is an accomplished thing, a perfected work. We use the phrase so lightly, “the finished work of Christ”. The finished work and the perfected Man… all, all established before man gets a look in! Man has no place. He did not have any place at all in what God was doing up to the point of God saying, “It is very good”. Man had no place and no part in it, and he never has had, and never will have! God independently took this whole matter into His own hands and did it Himself, and when the thing was an accomplished fact, the creation was there in its beauty and glory and perfection, He gave it as an inheritance to man. He put man into that. That is, dear friends, the great message of this letter. Indeed, it is the great message of the New Testament, but it’s the thing that is here so patently and so gloriously. In Christ God has wholly, fully consummated the redemption, the new creation, and you and I have no part whatever in making that, but you and I are called to inherit it: “Ye are come”!
The whole heritage is presented to faith. Would to God that we, the Lord’s people, more thoroughly apprehended this. There’s nothing to add to it, nothing to add to it; God has done it. Everything, (let me repeat) for man’s glorious destiny, a destiny which was determined before man was made, has been wrought out by God in Christ before man comes on the scene. God completed this heritage for man – glorious, perfect, potential – that is, containing unspeakably wonderful and great possibilities, eternal, a heritage of Light, of Life, of Rest, of Peace, of Power, of Victory. All those things are implicit in the first creation and then they are taken up in a spiritual way, and offered to us, to our faith – not as something still to be done, but something done. God did speak Light, and God hasgiven Light. And what is true of that is true in every other respect. I do want you to get hold of this.
If I were to introduce a parenthesis here, by way of giving emphasis to the importance of this matter, I should say again that as we approach the end of the dispensation, which we are doing most certainly and most rapidly, God will seek to come back to His full thought concerning a people and to bring a people back to His full thought, that He will finish the dispensation consummately. If that is true, then a word like this is apropos of the time that you and I, first of all, and the Lord’s people wherever they are, whosoever will, shall enter into the wonderful rest, and peace, and assurance, and power, and victory – light and life and liberty and glory of the fact, the simple, basic, inclusive fact that God has in Christ compassed all that is bound up with man’s glorious destiny, and has offered it to faith – wholly undercutting all this straining on the part of Christians to try to add something to what God has done, to try to make effectual what God has made effective, to try in some way to do this thing, to make it good. We have got to get adjusted over this matter. The matter of our responsibility comes out presently, but it does not and will not for one moment take away from this: that what was true in the creation of this world, that God did it all right off His own hand independently and self-sufficiently, and then gave it as a heritage to man simply on the basis of faith in Him as the great Benefactor. What is true in that connection is here in the Word shown to be exactly true in the much higher realm than the material and the temporal, in the spiritual and the eternal. God has done that. That is all gathered into this, this (we dare not call it “little”) phrase: “Ye are come”.
You note the turn of everything at that point on the little word “but”. But! Oh, up to that point everything was a quest, everything was a search, everything was a longing, an aspiration, an effort. From the point of that “but”, the whole thing turns and says, “It’s here!” all that is here present in the Person, and work of the Lord Jesus, offered to you as a completed thing. The whole thing is wrapped up and offered to you like an object with all its meaning and potentiality. It is offered to us through faith.
Man was the heir of all God’s work, and this letter says “heirs… heirs of God”.
Then, what was true of the man then is spiritually true of the believer now. The believer as the new creation man in Christ is placed, is placed, in the heritage. “You did not choose Me, but I chose you”. I’m not going now to launch out into all that there is in the Word to show that it was not of our choosing, or of our running, or of our deciding at all; any decision that ever we made regarding Christ and His work did not take its rise in ourselves. It came from God. Faith itself is the gift of God, and if we are the Lord’s, if we are the Lord’s it is not because at one time the whole thing had its commencement in what we call “deciding for Christ”. Where did the deciding come from? That was not the beginning. There was something behind the deciding, and we well know it. Placed in the heritage, we may have come by various ways and various means, the history of our coming may be as diverse and varied as the number of people who have come, but behind all there was the action of sovereign grace. And we have to say today that we are not where we are because we determined to be, because we chose, but because there was a moving on God’s part, the initiative was with Him: He pursued us, He apprehended us, Hehas placed us in His Son. It is a wonderful thing to know that God has put us into Christ. “Created in Christ Jesus”, that’s the phrase: “created in Christ Jesus. Man was placed in the heritage.
Then the garden became significant of several things. The garden signifies firstly the defining –
The Defining of Man’s Existence.
That wants explaining. What I mean is (and this is a throwback upon what I said a little while ago about the garden being subsequent to the whole creation) the garden represents or signifies the narrowing down of everything to man’s personal life and responsibility. That is, man was not just a kind of general person roaming about the world. It was not just a general idea, a man… a kind of freelance in the creation. No, God definitely defined something which is called a garden. In the midst of the whole creation, He marks this out, He hedges this about, and He puts man inside of that hedge, inside of those gates, and so defines man’s life, narrows the whole matter of man’s life down to something quite concrete, quite definite, taking it away from generalities and putting it there right at the centre. So that everything became immediate and personal where man was concerned.
See, all this that God had done, all this wonderful work that had been completed by God and had God’s blessing and approval upon it, had to be made something very concrete where the man was concerned. It’s all very well to put him into that wonderful world and let him just wander about and live out his life in some indefinite way, in a kind of general line of things, but no, God says, “All this must be focused, and the man must come into a personal, definite, immediate responsibility to what I have done”. And the garden represents that something very immediate and concrete of the relationship between the heritage and the man. Do you grasp that?
Perhaps if we follow that on with the spiritual application, it will become more clear. You see, what God really said when He put man in the garden right at the centre and heart of the creation was, “This is your personal matter. This is your personal matter, this all has to do with you, and you have to do personally with this whole matter”. So it is, you see, with Christ and His work. In Christ personally and by Christ vocationally or officially, God has perfected the new creation. God has completed everything and entered into His rest, and we know concerning His Son, He has pronounced His verdict: “Very good”. “My beloved… in whom I am well pleased”. God has reached His end and His rest, it is all finished, but now God says, “Look here, that is not something of a general doctrine and teaching, that’s something that relates to you personally and individually in an immediate way. It is something that you have got to take hold of as your personal heritage“.
The whole question of responsibility comes in there, you see. It comes down upon the matter: “All this God has done; what have I done with it? What attitude have I taken toward it?” Now, dear friends, this is more meaningful and important than perhaps you are grasping. And for the moment the point may be this: you believe in what is called “the finished work of Christ” – that’s a phrase which lies at the very root and foundation of your Christian faith: the finished work of Christ. You agree with all that I have said about God independently doing this thing right out from Himself. You agree that the new creation in Christ personally has the approval of God upon it; the expression of His perfect satisfaction. Then why look so miserable? Why all the time be going about with (forgive the phrase) that “hang-dog” expression about your salvation… whether you will ever arrive and get through and come to glory?
I mean this: when Adam was put in that garden and looked round and said, “Is all this for me? Does all this belong to me, is this mine?” there was a man full of amazement, full of wonder, full of thankfulness, full of worship! And probably the one expression every day was, “Isn’t it wonderful? Isn’t it wonderful? Just look! Look at this!” Is it less so in Christ? Is it less so in the new creation? Is it less so in the spiritual than in the temporal? There is something defective about our apprehension, about our faith, about our faith. You see, this document is the document of faith from first to last. There is something defective about our faith’s apprehension of all this.
Yes, we rebuke our hearts, we are ashamed, and well we should be. There ought, dear friends, to be more of the wonder of it all, more of the worship, we ought to be people who know more of the rest of faith. So God did not leave this thing in any kind of general terms, He reduced it, the whole new creation, He reduced to a very practical proposition when He made or planted a garden and put man into that and said “Now look here, this all has to do with you! All this has to do with you and you have to do with all this”. Wonderful! So it is with Christ and His work.
That was the first significance of the garden as a garden. That’s why, after the creation, God proceeded to plant a garden. And then to put man, not in the whole thing in general, but to reduce it to concrete practical terms, and say, “Look here, this is not some abstract, wide world, remote sort of thing, this is something that comes very near to you”.
The second significance of the garden was that it was to be man’s home.
What a home it would have been if man had made it his home. He had to be turned out; he lost his home. What is “home”? What is home? Well, home, to justify its name, to be true to its real meaning, means, to begin with, it’s the place of rest. The place of Rest. See, Christ is our Paradise! Christ is God’s way of making this great universe redeemed, concrete, practical, presenting to us. And Christ is our home.
We are keeping true to the text of the letter. This whole matter of entering into rest is one which the writer dwells upon very strongly and very fully: entering into rest. God entered into His rest. God entered into His rest and He put man right into the heart of that which was His own rest and made that man’s home, or made man’s home at the heart of that – rest. “Come unto Me, all ye that labour…” to Me! “…And are heavy laden, I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me… and you shall find rest unto your souls”. That’s only saying in other words: He’s our home, we have come home. Our wanderings, our wanderings are circumvented – he might have been a wanderer in the great world, but he was given a home – instead of being a wanderer he was given a home. Yes, God has done a great thing, but He has not just left us to wander about in His great thing. He has brought us to His Son that His Son shall be our Home in terms of rest. He is our rest because He is God’s rest.
Home, if it is what it is meant to be, true to the word, is the place of man’s pleasure. He has pleasure, he has pleasure there. All of his pleasant thoughts are bound up with his home, his joy. Well, these things need not take much time in their spiritual application. If Christ has really become our home in terms of rest, has He not become the very centre and sphere of our delight, of our pleasure? You know how true that is in the natural when a new home is being set up. Why, everything else, everything else is put up with, got through as quickly as possible, in order to get that home, make that home. Thedominating thought and pleasure is that home. Such should be, such should be our attitude toward Christ in Person and Christ’s work: our pleasure, our delight. A home is not a lodging, a home is an abiding place.
The Lord Jesus in the days of His flesh, of course, spoke much parabolically, and I cannot think other than when He said, “In my Father’s house are many abiding places”- ‘mansions’, the old version says, He was speaking in spiritual terms. Literally mansions don’t interest some of us a little bit, but to come to the place where we can abide forever and go no more out and find eternal satisfaction and rest, that does appeal to us. And where, in all God’s universe will that be if it is not in Christ? He is our abiding place, and therefore the writer does introduce into this letter, over against the instability of these Jewish believers, over against their variableness: “Jesus Christ the same yesterday and today, and for ever”. It’s a contrasting statement you see, for they, they were not the same. They had professed and moved away from their profession. They had taken a position and let it go. They had been drawn away, persuaded away, argued away, they were not settled, but “Jesus Christ”, says the Apostle, “the same…”, the same. And isn’t that something to rejoice in, that He is not moving, changing His position, variable? He has the attributes of God with Whom there is no variableness, “neither shadow cast by turning”. What a pregnant phrase. How many shadows come into life by the unreliableness of people… you can never be sure of them. “Neither shadow cast by turning”. The place of abiding. More of that comes out later as we go on.
So Christ should be all this to us, because He is all this to God. God has come to rest. God has come to settlement and to certainty in the Person and work of His Son. God finds all His pleasure in Him and all His interest in Him. All that. And God has given Him in all these terms and senses to us as a heritage. It is a challenge to faith isn’t it? Is Christ to us rest, our delight and pleasure, our abiding place, our one absorbing interest? That was what the garden was to Adam to begin with, all that, and it foreshadowed Christ. He is our Paradise.
The garden next signified man’s vocation.
God gave it to man as a heritage and told him to look after it, to develop its potentialities, to realise all its possibilities – made it his life work. The first man (now some of you, don’t pat yourself on the back) the first man was a gardener. The first vocation in this world was gardening. It was man’s life work. It was the avenue of his self-expression. That phrase could be used perfectly safely then in those situations at that time in unfallen man: self-expression, because God was his one interest. It’s perfectly safe to express yourself if the Lord is everything inside to be expressed. The way of his self-expression, the way of his own development… for, while things were perfect as to nature, they were not complete as to possibility, either in man or in the creation. Perfect, yet to be perfected in the sense of brought to full stature. And a garden was the sphere and means of man’s coming to full development himself and bringing out all that was there potentially of the work of God.
What a field that opens, dear friends, where we and Christ are concerned. Christ is our vocation! Christ is the occasion of our expression of all that is in us! Christ is the means of our enlargement, our growth, by exercise upon Christ. You see, the principles are all there. That is what is being said here in this letter in other language, in other ways and forms, but it is all here in substance, and meaning, and principle. This is the meaning of our being in Christ. He is our vocation; our vocation, our life work, our supreme interest, our means of our own spiritual development and enlargement.
And for the present I must close with this one other word. The garden was:
The scene and sphere and occasion of his testing and his proving… here responsibility is introduced. But note the focal point of responsibility; responsibility was not to do anythingfor his own salvation, to provide anything to make up his glorious heritage, it was all complete. He was put into it as a completed, perfected thing, and then he was made responsible. But what was the focal point of responsibility? Into what did the whole matter of responsibility become gathered? Just one thing: faith. Faith. Everything stood or fell as to his faith attitude toward the great Benefactor – whether he believed God, whether he trusted God – and trusted and believed Him so utterly that no other voice, no other voice could turn him aside. It was the test of his faith in the One Who had given him this heritage.
Responsibility all comes to that. Isn’t that the argument of the letter to the Hebrews from first to last? The great word of this letter is “faith”, isn’t it? The great finale, the summing up of everything at the end, is faith, faith, faith. But it has been faith all the way through from the beginning, the great letter of faith. Tremendous things are said in this letter about responsibility. And when you focus this whole matter of responsibility down and say, “Well, what does it amount to? Believing God? Believing God? Having faith in God?” Faith of that kind, of that kind that shuts you up and into God. It’s a very energetic thing, the faith that is in this letter, isn’t it? It’s the faith that repudiates, faith that forsakes, faith that leaves a whole world.
Look at what it says about the faith of those men on this road. Moses alone is an example. Moses’ great faith… what did it do for him? “By faith he forsook…”, he forsook. And why did he forsake Egypt? Because God’s purpose was not there, that’s all. And faith drew him in the direction of God’s purpose, and he forsook. By faith, by faith… much more. It is a tremendous thing, this faith, but everything hangs upon that. Everything hangs upon that.
Responsibility, dear friends, is not that we have got in some way to make our salvation, to save ourselves, to perfect ourselves. Not at all. God is the author and the perfecter of faith, it says here. But how is it going to be done? Believe God! That’s what it comes back, after all, to this. Is it, is this really true? Is this true? Is this true, that this whole thing, right on to glorification, is an accomplished fact so far as God is concerned? It lies now in the perfect tense: “Whom He justified, them He also glorified” – the perfect tense? Is it true that the whole thing, so far as God is concerned, is finished and offered to Him as a finished thing? Oh, if only I could grasp that, what relief! What comfort! What relaxing of strain and tension! What rest, what joy! What strength to go out, for that’s what follows, to “go out with Him without the camp, bearing His reproach”. You’ll never be able to do it, or any of the other things that we are bidden to do in this letter, unless, unless you have come to that settled assurance: “It’s all right! There is no question, no hazard, no risk at all in this. It is settled and finished! All that remains is for me by faith to take it, believe it, grasp it, and hold on to it, and go on with it.” “Let us go on…“.
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