AND SOWING TO THE SPIRIT
Alistair M Brown
Colossians 3: 9-11
Galatians 6: 7-9
I want to convey a simple thought about these injunctions from the apostle as to things that we have to do. We have to put off the old man with his deeds; we have to put on the new; and we have to sow to the Spirit. These are all very practical matters. The old man with his deeds relates to the flesh. We have to learn that the flesh has no part in what is for God. It has to be put off: it is not reformed or modified, nor is it renewed: it has to be put off. God would teach us that important lesson. He may take different ways to teach you and me, but He desires to bring us through to the conclusion that the only way to make progress for those who love Christ is to put off what is according to the flesh - not to modify it or improve it, but to put it off. There is a whole line of behaviour, activities and attitudes, and all the things that go with it - indeed a whole life and character of things - that has to be put off. But it does not stop there. The putting off is so that something else can be put on. The scripture speaks of it in this sequence for a reason. There is a moral sequence. You find in the scriptures that there is a moral sequence in which things are put forward. The old man with his deeds has to be put off with a view to what is new being put on. “Having put on the new, renewed into full knowledge according to the image of him that has created him”, the apostle says. Without putting off the old there cannot be any putting on of the new, and without the putting on of the new we cannot come into the knowledge of God - “according to the image of him that has created him”.
Now what is in view is full knowledge of that blessed One. As we read this passage, we see that there is what is characteristic of the old man that has to be put off, but then what is characteristic of Christ is formed, what is spoken of as “the new”. It is the features of Christ. It is not an abstract concept; it is not an outline. It is tangible, substantial and real features, seen fully and perfectly in Christ. It is all there for God in Him, and the injunction to us is to put on these features.
Our brother has been speaking about the reality of divine things, and the importance of us seeing the reality of them. “Putting on the new” is real: it speaks of putting on the features of manhood that were seen in Christ. They were infinitely pleasing to God and He looks to see them over again in His people. You might say, ’He cannot possibly see all the features of Christ in me’. No, but if He sees a feature, or some features, of Christ, God takes account of that. Remember too that this is really a collective matter. When all the saints, ourselves among them, come out in display, all these features of Christ in individuals who have “put on the new” will be seen together in myriads, and then there will be a complete counterpart, a complete answer to Christ. All these features will be seen gloriously together. That is what God has in mind. He will bring to pass unerringly what He has in mind. You and I, and every other true believer, will be part of that. But God’s grand concepts, which He brings about in moral substantiality, require an answer in me. That requires me to put off all these old things, all these deeds - how obnoxious they are - and to put on the new.
I can only do that by the Holy Spirit and that is what we get in Galatians. We have already been considering the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit speaks of the result of the activity of the Spirit. That fruit has one source; the source is the Spirit. It is one fruit, one blessed moral whole. That fruit is the result of sowing to the Spirit. One thing to say about sowing to the Spirit is that a seed is a very small thing, and what grows is much larger than the seed was. If we make room for the Spirit perhaps by reading, by contemplating, by prayer, and by thinking about the Lord Jesus, it may not seem very much, but the result of sowing to the Spirit is wonderful. It says “he … shall reap eternal life”. There will be the enjoyment together of a whole scene of things of which Christ is the centre and God is over all. The Spirit is the power for us to come in and enjoy that scene fully. We are able to enjoy a tremendous harvest of fruit from sowing to the Spirit. If we enjoy something of what the Spirit would do, then – as is often said - God is enjoying that in us, in you and in me. These are real things. Our brother has been speaking about what is real. When we sow to the Spirit and we reap the fruit of that, we reap eternal life. These are things that are eternal, they come from God, and they are blessed. They are not affected by death nor are they terminated by death; they are not tarnished by what goes on in this world, because they proceed from the heart of God Himself. They are wonderful things and real things. They are also simple. The way into them is made accessible to us by sowing to the Spirit and, as doing so, reaping eternal life. That speaks of great blessing enjoyed together with the saints and in the power of the Spirit in freshness, vigour and vitality that will never end. These matters are laid out before us as being in God’s mind for us. We come in to the experience and enjoyment of them through exercise and desire.
I would encourage myself and each one of us to do so, for His Name’s sake.
23rd July 2013