We Beheld His Glory – Volume 2 by T. Austin-Sparks
READING: John 10.
At this point in the Gospel of John we find ourselves in the presence of a distinct transition. Up to this point, everything has been individual; a long series of individuals or individual cases have been in view. At this point a change takes place: we pass from what is individual to what is collective and corporate. Henceforth what will be in view will be a company. It will be collective, in the sense that all the parts represented in the first half of the Gospel will be brought together and found gathered into this company. It will be corporate, because a common life is the basis of everything.
We make a distinction between what is collective and what is corporate. Note this distinction. A congregation is not necessarily a body. It is collective, because a lot of units are brought together into one place; but a body presupposes an organic oneness, on the basis of life. Life is here clearly seen to be the basis of what is corporate: as in the case of the flock, where the members share a common life; or as in the case of the vine, which is an organism where all the many parts are made a unity by the one life. And so we find that, from this point onward, all that has hitherto been said about life as related to individuals, is now reproduced in principle in a corporate company, a corporate body, in the sense of many being one because of one life.
Chapter 10 introduces the characteristics of what is corporate, and specifically the characteristics of this corporate body or company which is in view.
Let us underline the fact of the transition. If the Holy Spirit is to be true to the Divine mind, there is bound to come a point in the history of any local company when if He is allowed to have a free way quite spontaneously things pass from what is just individual to what is corporate. It is a spontaneous and inevitable movement, because it is perfectly clear from all the Scriptures that God has purposed to realize His full design, not in separate, unrelated parts, but in a corporate whole, on the basis of life. So I repeat, if the Spirit of God is in charge, He will be consistent with the Divine mind, and, sooner or later, where He is really in charge of a company, things must inevitably pass from mere individualism to the corporate. It is not announced at this point in the Gospel that that is the nature of the change, but it is perfectly clear, and it is something that we should take account of for ourselves.
We are very fond of this chapter; we should be very sorry to lose John 10. We should also be very sorry to lose John 15. These chapters on the sheep and the vine are very precious portions of God’s Word. But let us take note that the values contained in these chapters are corporate values, and can only be enjoyed by the individual in a corporate relationship. That will be borne out as we go on.
What I am trying to emphasize and make clear at this point is that this matter is in the hands of the Holy Spirit, who is so consistent with the thought of God as to bring about quite naturally a spontaneous transition from the individual to the corporate at some point in our spiritual course. To fail to recognize that, and to fail to be in that movement of the Spirit, means to be left with just the spiritual measure that an individual can have, which is far short of what the Body can have; and I think this explains a very great deal of the limitation in literally multitudes of very devoted and earnest Christians, who are just individual Christians, living individual lives, trying to be individuals devoted to the Lord. There is limitation in that, and so, noting the movement of the Spirit of God in this matter, we should be intent upon knowing what the characteristics of that corporate life and Body are.
Another thing about the matter presented in chapter 10 is that, in common with all new beginnings of God, it contains the germs of all future development. I think you are aware of the principle that, when God takes a fresh step, in that fresh step there is inherent, in principle and in germ form, all that will eventually develop. We will not stay to illustrate this from other passages, but it can be seen here, and you will be able to follow it as we go on. Suffice it to say that all that is going to come out later on, not only in John’s Gospel but in the whole revelation of the New Testament, will be found in a few basic principles in this very chapter.