1 Corinthians 15:45-49.
Scripture is more exact in its use of language than most suppose. It would, for example, be a great mistake to conclude that the two terms in this passage "the last Adam," and the "second Man" - are employed interchangeably as meaning one and the same thing. There is indeed a most significant difference. The "last Adam," as applied to our blessed Lord, points Him out as the Head of a new, the new race, in contrast with the first Adam as the head of the sinful race of men. This is developed in connection with the truth of the resurrection, and the condition of the resurrection body, and for this reason: It was not until after Adam had fallen that he became the head of a race of mortal men; and it was not until after His resurrection, although He was in His incarnation the Man of God's counsels, that our Lord became the Head of the new race. Therein too lies the significance of the contrast in verse 45, "The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam a quickening Spirit." But this leads on to the difference shown in verse 47 between the first man and the second Man. The term "second Man" relates to the condition into which the new race will be ultimately brought; whereas, as we have seen, the last Adam has to do with headship. We say, "The condition into which the new race will be ultimately brought"; but this requires further explanation. The last Adam, although He ever quickened as the Son of God in all ages, is a quickening Spirit, and hence quickens after His own order, or according to His new condition, as the Second Man. The consequence is, that the life believers possess now is heavenly in its character; and it ensures, or rather the Lord Himself ensures, for those on whom He bestows life, the resurrection of the body after the pattern of His own glorified body. (See John 6:40.) "As is the heavenly" - as Christ is as the heavenly Man - "such are they also that are heavenly," those who are of His race and order; and hence the apostle proceeds, "As we have borne the image of the earthy" - of the first man, who is of the earth, earthy - "we shall also," in resurrection, "bear the image of the heavenly," of Christ in His glorified body. (See Philippians 3:20, 21.) It is a great thing for the soul to apprehend what is involved in these terms, both as to Christ Himself and as to those that are His. It is only thus that we can learn how completely we are dissevered from the first man, his condition and his home, and how that, as to the present character of our true life, as to our hopes and our future condition, we are a heavenly people. To understand what Christ is as the last Adam and the second Man is to understand what Christianity is, and what Christians are, and will be, according to God's eternal counsels.
2 Corinthians 2:14-17.
There is no question that verse 14 should run, "Now thanks be unto God, who always leads us in triumph" (not "causeth us to triumph") "in Christ," etc. From the context it is to be gathered that the apostle had been somewhat interrupted in his labours by the state of things at Corinth. "Out of much affliction and anguish of heart" he had written to them, "with many tears," concerning the sin in their midst, and had sent the letter by the hand of Titus. In the meanwhile, he had gone to Troas to preach the gospel, and had hoped to meet Titus there; but not finding him, Paul, although a door was opened to him of the Lord, had no rest in his spirit, could not settle down to his work, because of his anxiety for tidings from the Corinthian assembly. He accordingly left Troas and went to Macedonia, where he was comforted by the coming of Titus, and by the tidings which he brought. (2 Cor. 7:6, 7.) But the "thought of having left Troas affected him, for, in fact, it is a serious thing, and painful to the heart, to miss an opportunity of preaching Christ, and the more so when people are disposed to receive Him, or, at least, to hear of Him." It is in this state of mind that Paul finds his consolation in the fact that, whatever his own failures in service, he could yet thank God, who always led him and his companions in triumph in Christ, and made manifest the savour of His knowledge in every place. God had His way, and accomplished His purposes in the apostle's preaching wherever he went; Christ was everywhere proclaimed, and the savour of His knowledge thus went forth continually. In what follows, Paul alludes to the ancient triumphal processions after successful campaigns. The conqueror's chariot was followed by the captives taken in the war, and the aromatic perfumes burnt in honour of the successful general were a savour of life unto life to those who might be spared, and of death unto death to those who might be doomed to execution. The application is easy, "For we" (as led of God in triumph), says the apostle, "are unto God a sweet savour of Christ," that is, in preaching Christ, "in them that are saved and in them that perish." The proclamation of the gospel delights the heart of God; and this sweet odour, which goes up so acceptably to Him, becomes to those who receive the gospel and are saved, "the savour of life unto life; but to those that refuse it, those that perish, "the savour of death unto death." Fragrant, therefore, as the setting forth of Christ in the gospel is to the heart of God, it is yet a solemn thing when considered in the light of its tremendous issues for those to whom it is preached. It is this which leads the apostle to exclaim, "And who is sufficient for these things?" The answer to this question is found in the next chapter. (v. 5.)
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In Luke 17 the Lord teaches that there is to be no limit to our forgiveness of an erring brother. But faith is required for the exercise of forgiveness, and the smallest degree of faith - even as a grain of mustard seed - will remove the greatest difficulty out of the way of the one who will tread in this blessed path. Walking, however, in it, we are ever to remember - for we are wholly dependent on grace, and ever fall short of our perfect Example - that we are unprofitable servants.