F. H. B.
Christian Friend vol. 18, 1891, p. 229.
We get three things in this scripture.
(1) Christ presented in His death, as meeting and removing every thing on our side that was obnoxious to God, all that would have prevented the exercise of His grace toward us, and all that would have hindered our being before Him as the happy recipients of His grace.
(2) What God the Father has given us in His Son, as the One who has come out of death and ascended as Son of man up where He was before with the Father, thus opening a door for us into all that the grace of the Father had purposed for us in Him from eternity.
(3) The presence of the Holy Spirit in us, the witness of this grace to us, and making it good to us, so that we have the conscious knowledge and enjoyment of what the Father has given us in His Son.
It is impossible for anyone to enjoy eternal life in the Son, unless the conscience is in perfect peace before God, in the knowledge that every question as to sin has been met according to the glory of God, and to His entire satisfaction, and for ever removed out of His sight, so that He has for ever done with it as regards the believer.
Now there are two ways in which the conscience must take account of sin. First, as guilt, in connection with what I have done: "All have sinned," and all alike are guilty before God. Secondly, in connection with what I am, my state, as born of Adam, in a nature characterized by sin: "By one man's disobedience the many were constituted sinners." "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me." The truth of this must be learnt experimentally. The discovery of it in the presence of God is what leads a man to exclaim, "Behold, I am vile," and to abhor himself. It is a painful discovery to find that there is not any spring of good in me. I am altogether sinful and utterly weak, so that the more I try to improve myself the worse I seem to be; and the more I look for some good in or of myself the more I am discouraged at finding none. Such is my state as a child of Adam, alive to sin, but dead toward God, nothing in me that in any way answers to God, no power to receive or understand, or enjoy anything of God; a state of spiritual death through sin and in sin. The answer to these two aspects of sin which my conscience takes account of - that is my guilt, and my state - is found in the blood and water that came from the pierced side of a dead Christ. The blood and the water express the virtue of His death. It justifies and it cleanses. The blood in making atonement, or expiation according to the just claims of God, has laid the basis of all blessing for sinful man. The effect applied to the individual believer is justifying, and judicial cleansing from every sin, being "justified by His blood," etc. (Rom. 5:9.) "The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin." (1 John 1:7.) The water is a symbol of death, as that which alone can cleanse a sinful man. It is not simply cleansing from my sins, but from the whole state of sin in which I was by nature. I am cleansed, not the old man made clean, which is impossible. The old man is condemned, put to death in Christ dying for me, and I am alive to God in Christ, in the life of the last Adam, and thus I am clean. Thus for faith Christ's death is the end of all that I was as born of Adam, the end of my history as a natural man, and in Christ risen I have begun a new life altogether. This is the beginning of my history as a saint, in a new creation, old things having passed away, and all things having become new. I have put off the old man, and put on the new, where Christ is all. This is not what I find experimentally in myself, but what is true for faith in Christ.
But we must consider more what is signified by the water; that is, cleansing by death. We have it set forth in type in the cleansing of Naaman the leper. Leprosy was a disease that was deeper than the skin. It was in the blood. It affected the whole life of the man, and therefore was utterly beyond the power of man, as the king of Israel said, "Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy?" In this the leprosy was a true type of sin, not in its outward manifestation, but as that which characterizes the very nature of man and vitiates his whole being, working death in him. When Naaman came to the prophet, he told him to wash in Jordan seven times, and he would be clean. There must be the complete application of death to the whole man - nothing less than death could cleanse him. Typically he must go through death to enter upon a new life out of death. He washed and was clean.
Now remark that when he went into the river Jordan he was a leper; but when he came out of Jordan he was not a leper. After dipping seven times in Jordan his flesh came again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. Though he retained his individuality, his state was changed. The old man, the leper, was left behind in Jordan. He was typically a new man. It was in figure a new creation. So it is with the believer through faith in Christ. My personality remains, but my state is changed; so that my personality, instead of being identified with sin and with the first Adam, is now identified with Christ. For faith the old man, the sinful man, is condemned and left behind in the cross, and I am a new man in Christ. "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." (Gal. 2:20.)
We get the water as a type of the cleansing power of death in connection with the consecration of the priests and the cleansing of the leper. The priest, when first consecrated, was bathed all over in water. This was never repeated; but whenever he went to minister in the holy place he washed his hands and feet. To this probably the Lord alluded when He said to Peter, "He that is washed" (or bathed) "needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit." The believer is cleansed once and for ever as to his person, but needs daily cleansing as to his walk down here. This is practical sanctification through the Word through faith, and in virtue of the work of Christ. The heart is sprinkled from an evil conscience, and the body washed with pure water. (Heb. 10:22.) The conscience is purged, and the person s clean. Thus it is that the Lord can say of every believer that he is clean every whit - he is perfectly clean in the sight of God and in a new life. Thus the water is the answer to that which the conscience takes account of as to sin in me; that is, my sinful state. I am cleared from it by the death of Christ. This does not alter the experimental fact that I have still sin remaining in me. "If we say that we have no sir, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." But in the sight of God I am no longer identified with sin, I am not now on that ground as to my relationship with God. I am nevertheless responsible for its activity, and if it act, in thought, word, or deed, I have to judge myself for allowing it; that is, I judge in myself what God has already judged for me in Christ's death. When I understand the blood and water, I see how every question as to sin has been for ever settled to the glory of God, and my conscience is in perfect and unbroken peace before God.
Now I am free to enjoy what God in His grace has been pleased to give me in His Son; that is, eternal life. Christ as a man in this world, walking in the unclouded light of His Father's love, ever dwelling in the bosom of the Father, and outside of everything of man and this world, enjoying the fullest communion with the Father, was the expression of this heavenly life. It is a life characterized by the knowledge of the Father. The Father manifested Himself in this relationship in connection with Christ as a man. It need scarcely be added that the Son was ever in this relationship from eternity, but now it has been manifested in connection with manhood. Only until His death He was alone in this life. He could not share it with others. But having died and accomplished redemption, He is no longer alone. He says, "Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God." His brethren are one with Him in this blessed life; and, moreover, He communicates life from Himself in the power of the Spirit, which enables us to enjoy the relationship in which we are one with Him. We can, therefore, say, "Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ" This life is connected with a divine and eternal order of things, outside of everything of the natural man and this world; so that we enjoy it by faith now, until we are with the Son in the Father's house, when we shall see face to face, and know even as we are known. This life is given to us in the Son, revealed as a risen Man out of death, having left death and sin, and all that came in by it behind for ever. The Spirit is the witness that He is risen and glorified. The Spirit could not be given till Jesus was glorified. Clearly having life in Him puts me on resurrection ground beyond sin; and all that pertained to my state as a sinful man, death and judgment, are left behind. But more, it puts me in the Son's place and relationship and acceptance before God His Father. "As He is, so are we in this world." "At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you." Where this is known, we understand the meaning of the Lord's word, "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." (John 8:36.) We are in the house as sons. It is impossible that God could have conferred greater grace upon us. He could not do more than give us the Son's place and portion before Himself for ever.
"He that believeth hath the witness in himself." God the Father has not only thus blessed us, but He has given us His Spirit to make the truth of it all good in our hearts for our present enjoyment, that we might not only know as a doctrine or fact that we have eternal life, but that we might have the inward consciousness of it. We know it as that which by the Spirit we enjoy; we realize the blessedness of this life; we not only have this life, but we live this life by faith, and in communion with the Father and the Son. The Spirit is the power of this life. If the Spirit is ungrieved He occupies us not with our own feelings or with any experience wrought in us, but with the things of the Father and the Son, with that which feeds and sustains this life. He conducts us into the actual enjoyment of heavenly things in communion with the Father and with the Son. He reveals to us the Father's delight in the Son, His purposes for the glory of His Son, His love to us in the Son. He leads us to participate with the Son in His joys, in His knowledge of the Father; makes us conscious how we are one with Him in His place and relationship with the Father, as object of the Father's love, and heir of all that the Father has given to Him. He leads our hearts onward to the time when we shall be with Him in the Father's house, and when moreover we shall be manifested with Him in glory as the sons of God, when the world will know that the Father has loved us as He has loved the Son. Thus by the Spirit the life is formed and sustained in us.
May God grant that we may all thus go on to know more and more of this blessed life in the actual living of it, knowing the Son better and His joys in His own place. F. H. B.