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T. Austin Sparks - Messages.

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                                          Grace in Ministry and Serving The Lord

In Resurrection Life:

 "Therefore my beloved brethren, Be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord" [1 Corinthians 15:58.]

It is important to remember that this exhortation of "abounding in the work of The Lord" comes at the end of some of the most dynamic words that Paul has penned to the Corinthian Church; and the dynamic is, RESURRECTION LIFE and POWER!

This whole chapter of  1 Corinthians 15 is about the abounding Power, of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and there are many words and phrases that express this, such as:

22. "In Christ shall all be made alive"

45. "The last Adam was made a quickening spirit"

47. "The second man is The Lord from Heaven"

55-57. "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin and the strength of sin is the Law. But thanks be unto God which giveth us the Victory through our Lord Jesus Christ"

There is no doubt that "Ministry" and "Serving the Lord" can be done in self energy but,

  can only be done in,




In this matter, it is so important for us to be encouraged.

We can abound in ministry and in serving The Lord, and be busy to breaking point, but it all can be a "cloud without water" because it is a self-steering project, and not "the work of The Lord." The phrase "The work of The Lord" is self explanatory, meaning, that if it is to be the work of the Lord, then it must be done by    

Pauldid not say, "Be steadfast unmoveable always abounding in offering up service duties, and ministry for Him and doing good works for Him." No, he unfolds in ever-increasing intensity, the power of Christ's resurrection, and then says, "Be steadfast...always abounding in the work of the Lord". The picture is, The Lord is abounding and we are carried along in His mighty working, as Paul said in another place concerning teaching and ministry,  "Whereunto I also labour, striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily" [Colossians 1:29.]

The Grace of God working.

Your service and mine "for The Lord" is rejected if it's energy and propellant is from self or according to self wisdom. It is significant that in this chapter on resurrection Paul says,  "But by the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me". [1 Corinthians 15:10.] O what a need there is, for the grace of God to be with us in all we aspire, to be and do for Him. Notice that Paul says, "yet not I" - this is the same as  Galatians 2:20. "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me..." Paul did not labour, it was Grace, and neither did he live, it was Christ. How presumptuous it would have been for Paul, if he had only said, "But I laboured more abundantly than they all": How much the other apostles could have accused Paul of being "puffed up" with his own bloated self importance; but they couldn't because, Paul knew, and they knew, that it was the grace of God that worked so mightily.

Not all service and ministry is the work of The Lord.

Only all that The Lord does through us, is truly service and ministry for Him, to His Glory.

Our part is always availability!

Not conjured up but appears.

 "Let thy work appear unto thy servants and thy Glory unto their children and let the beauty of The Lord God be upon us and establish thou the work of our hands upon us, yea the work of our hands establish thou it" [Psalm 90:16-17.]


When the Lord's work "appears" then, it is the real thing, and is of God and has an impact on those around us. A good illustration of this blessing is Philip the evangelist, to whom the work of God "appeared" in a very special way. The city of Samaria turned to the Lord and the extraordinary leading of the Lord with the Ethiopian eunuch is certainly a revelation of The Glory of the Lord, that "appears". There is no way that Philip could have been  joined to this vital and precious link of the Gospel going to Ethiopia, other than by the grace of God. Such real operations of The Lord in Philips life, obviously impacted his family, with Luke recording in Acts,  [Acts 21:9.] that his four daughters prophesied. Philip's experience of "Serving the Lord" was definitely of God, there could be no mistake, God caused his work to "appear" unto Philip and thus the glory ensued.

Philip's family had a firsthand experience, of the Glory of the Lord "appearing" to them, there was reality in the home, they could "see" The Lord work in a mighty way through Philip. The four daughters saw it; they caught the "Vision of the glory of the Lord" and became, like their dad, vessels through whom The Lord could work in a real way.

In that verse from Psalm 90 there is also a request in the matter of the "work of our hands" and there is an emphasis here, that because the Work of God is so valuable and precious, there is an earnest request, that it be only the Lord that establishes such mundane involvements of our hands. How much we can be tied up, with the work of our hands dipped in the vanities of this life, and how much we should be on our faces praying this prayer of Psalm 90 "establish thou it".

His works are great and can be "sought out".

 "The Works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein" [Psalm 111:2.]

What wonderful encouragement, is found in these words, to seek Him for His wonderful working in us and through us, and what pleasure is experienced when we see the Lord's hand and the beautiful things that He can do!

   The work of God is,

               when done by

All Work has a relationship to a House.

The Greatness of a man's work will manifest it's self in the luxury of his house. His house is where, in rest and consolation, he enjoys the blessing and the fruits of his labour. The house of God is spoken of as a  "House of Rest" [1 Chronicles 28:2.].

In the great chapter, 1 Corinthians 3; Paul, answers the carnal divisions in the Church. His answer is in regards to, whom do the saints belong to, who are they under, and what their collective realities are. He sums up the scope of all God's work into two areas, and they are,  "Ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building" [1 Corinthians 3:9.].

The Church. "God's Husbandry".

The success of a "Fruitful" farm is manifest in a "Glorious House".

God is after FRUIT! Not "bubble and squeak" not "sparkle and shine" not "razza ma tazz". Fruit tastes good, cardboard can be dressed up with a spectacular finish but doesn't taste nice or provide "Life". An illustration has, been given, of the difference between a Christmas tree and a fruit tree; the Christmas tree looks spectacular with all the wrapped gifts and ribbons, tinsel and colours; and the fruit tree can look so plain and ordinary, and yet it is the fruit tree that has, and gives LIFE! The Corinthian church "came behind in no gift" and yet Paul said they  "were carnal and walk as men" [1 Corinthians 3:3.] there was more of the "works of the flesh" than "the fruit of the Spirit" and this caused Paul to write those tear stained letters. How great is the battle against the carnal tendencies of our flesh and the ONLY ANSWER against such is, as Paul said, that,  "If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." [Romans 8:13-14.] The work of the Spirit is "Fruit" the work of the flesh is "sin" and "self". Paul said,  "in me (that is in my flesh) dwelleth NO GOOD THING") [Romans 7:18.]

Paul speaks to the Corinthian church about the fact that,  "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase" [1Corinthians 3:6. Also 7-9] Such is farming talk; God is running a Farm and it is all to produce "Fruit". Jesus said,  "I am the vine and ye are the branches. He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for WITHOUT ME YE CAN DO NOTHING" [John 15:5.] The apostle John penned the words,  "but the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. And now, little children, abide in him; that when he shall appear..." [1 John 2:27-28.] Now the Holy Spirit is ALL ABOUT CHRIST! John is here saying that, this anointing abides in us and He teaches us to abide in Christ! This is born out in the next verse, which is exhorting us to abide in the one who is going to "appear". Christ is "The Vine" and as branches of the vine, it is no good abiding anywhere else! We will only "wither" and die.

We can abide in our striving for 100% "obedience", abide in striving for perfect "holiness",  abide in the counsel of ministers, abide in the programmes of the church, abide in the expectations of others, abide in consistent witness, ministry and service "for the Lord", but all will result in a lack of fruitfulness and lead to "death".

 There is only one place to abide and that is....

As a believer abides in Christ, there is the urgency and "dynamo" of "obedience" and the true purity of "holiness", because it is....

In this "husbandry" or "farm", all work is for "Fruit" and nothing else or the business becomes bankrupt! In addition, if the business becomes bankrupt, the manager's house becomes a "poor house". The Church is bankrupt if there is no fruit! This fruit can ONLY BE BY THE SPIRIT. Clear are the words of Paul, that faith to remove mountains, speech to rival the angels, profits NOTHING without Charity or Love, which is the fruit of the Spirit.  [1 Corinthians 13:1-3.]

The imperative is, that for ALL MINISTRY to yield fruit that will "remain"; the operative principle must be, all being done,  BY THE SPIRIT, as the Lord said to Zerubbabel,  "Not by might nor by Power but by my Spirit sayeth The Lord of hosts" [Zechariah 4:6.] Such is the straight advice and requirements from The Lord about the re-building of the Temple, and of course, the same applies to the New Testament Husbandry and the house of God.

Wherever here is mentioned "by the Spirit of God" and "The grace of God", both terms are synonymous. Wherever man is involved, and what happens "by the spirit of God" in blessing and goodness, has all been "by the grace of God".

If a ministry or work does not begin and continue by "Grace" then it is not "the work of God".

The Church: "God's Building":

Though we are talking here, of "serving the Lord" and "Ministry", and all that by "Grace", it is good to recall that the house of God is for Him! Peter says,  "Ye are a spiritual house, an holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ". [1 Peter 2:5.] Ultimately, the direction of all ministry is meant to be, to the Lord; in everything a local church is meant to  "grow up into Him in all things, which is the head even Christ." [Ephesians 4:15.]

Universal Church:

Jesus said,  "I will build MY church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." [Matthew 16:18.]

Praise the Lord, the church is being, built up in Christ. The gates of hell have come against this worldwide "body of Christ", with much hurt and suffering being, inflicted upon the saints over the centuries, yet the church has triumphed gloriously! Believers may suffer many difficulties, temptations and varying degrees of opposition depending upon their geographical and cultural location and political opposition and yet there can be powerful spiritual growth. There can be much also to endure as an Individual in a local church, depending upon the spiritual condition of things within that local assembly of believers.

 An individual Christian can wonderfully grow in Christ as they maintain their relationship with the Lord REGARDLESS of what is happening within their geographical and church situation. Remember that the message of the Lord to the churches in Revelation was to individuals,  "To him that overcometh" [Revelation 2:7/11/17. 3:5/12. etc.] The problems arise, and can become numerous when a believer begins to associate with the "spiritual position" of those around them, whether it be "political" in the community or "spiritual" within the local church.

The Lord is very concerned with what a believer gets involved with, because that can mean the difference between them "serving" the Lord, self or men, and in the case of serving self or men, the result will be great spiritual loss. This reality brings us to the GREAT IMPORTANCE OF THE LOCAL CHURCH. Who is in control and what is the spiritual direction? Is ministry in this church by man and for man or is it from the Lord and for his glory? The importance of this issue brings us then to the all-important matter of the LOCAL CHURCH FUNCTION.

Local (Church) Building:

To be "God's building" in the local and practical sense it needs to be God that is doing the "building". Every Christian is part of "God's Building" and yet in spiritual and practical terms the "building" can be in shambles, just as a believer can personally be, in that same state!

The  church depicted in the book of Revelation, was in spiritual shambles with the Lord on the outside, graciously offering great blessing if only they would open up to Him. Someone else was doing the building, and it was clear that their love for material prosperity and accommodation of self and the world had reduced the church to spiritual poverty.

In the passage under consideration Paul says,  "ACCORDING TO THE GRACE OF GOD GIVEN UNTO ME, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man TAKE HEED HOW he buildeth thereupon." [1 Corinthians 3:10.]

Notice the mention by Paul once again of the "grace of God": How marvellous is the word of God, to parallel such precious truth for our notice. 1 Corinthians 3 contains the same breath of God as with Zerubbabel and the re-building of the Temple, and concerning GRACE, the Lord says,  "he (that is, Zerubbabel) shall bring forth the HEADSTONE CRYING GRACE, GRACE UNTO IT."

David said concerning the house of the Lord, "and the house that is to be builded for the Lord, must be EXCEEDING MAGNIFICAL, of fame and of Glory throughout ALL COUNTRIES." [1 Chronicles 22:5.]

The Lord grip our hearts with this great urgency about the church, that it contains "the earnest" of this "EXCEEDING MAGNIFICAL" because "the church" is "the body of Christ" and The lord help us as in the text above, to take heed how we build on this foundation of the house of God, which is Jesus Christ.

Further, Paul warns that if we put our hand to "the work" to build, then every man's work will be "tried by fire" and to take heed that the only material to be used in such precious construction is Gold, Silver and precious stones.

A Church, built up by the Grace of God, will be, built with the following material.

Gold is the Will and Grace of God. (Gold represents "deity" or "divine will" in the word of God)

Silver is all that, is part of Redemption. (Silver, was used in the sockets of the boards of the perimeter of the tabernacle of God's presence in the wilderness) The riches that believers have in the redemption of Christ should be the whole extent of activity in the body of Christ. What was, used in the building of the tabernacle, was the riches that was, heaped upon the children of Israel in that redemption deliverance from Egypt.

Precious Stones speaks of The Glory and beauty of Christ in the church.

No Grace involved in the following Material.

Wood, Hay and Stubble, is representative of human effort and the flesh in operation in the church, and all such service and ministry will be, burnt up on that day.

The Lord Reveal Himself more to you and me, that we might taste that He is 

And so Grow ourselves in the knowledge of the Lord, whereby, "unto Him be Glory in the church, by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." [Ephesians 3:21.]

Jesus, Loves you.

 God Bless