It is almost needless to remind the reader that the New Year is neither a starting-point for God nor for His people. Legality loves to begin a new period of time with new resolutions and hopes, but it soon discovers that both the one and the other are powerless for spiritual advantage and soon come to nought. The strength of the soul lies in having God's thoughts, and we therefore seize the passing opportunity to ascertain what these are as to His new commencement.
In the book of Genesis we read that "in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." For this world therefore the morning of creation was the dawn of a new day. What took place to dim its brightness is not revealed, but that something occurred to mar what God had made is evident from the statement in verse 2, that "the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep." Thereupon "the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters," but still the beginning was when God first called forth into existence the heaven and the earth. His counsels of grace, though formed in a past eternity, were not yet revealed, and indeed were only hinted at after the failure of Adam as the responsible man, in the pregnant words addressed to the serpent, "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." The first man Adam, together with the creation, the old creation which was suited to the one who had been formed out of the dust of the ground, must now, when the fulness of time should have arrived, be for ever displaced and set aside by the introduction of the Second Man out of heaven. God's new commencement must consequently be connected with Him.
In order to enter more fully into this we may pass under review the occurrence of the word "beginning" in connection with our blessed Lord. John's gospel commences thus, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." The slightest consideration will show that the words "in the beginning" cannot be the same here as in Genesis, inasmuch as they refer to the existence, the external existence, of a divine Person, for it says distinctly, "The Word was God"; and the whole verse proclaims, as often pointed out, that the blessed Person spoken of is eternal as to His being, distinct as to His person, and divine as to His nature. The beginning here is thus an expression adapted to our feeble apprehensions, which reaches back to a period before time was, and conveys the thought of eternity.
Coming now to John's first epistle, we find the phrase "from the beginning," and this evidently marks a point of time. What period then does it indicate? John states it in unmistakable language. He says, "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life (for the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us)." The closing words of this scripture make it beyond doubt that the apostle refers to our blessed Lord in incarnation (even if he include, as he surely does, His resurrection), for it was down here, after that the Word became flesh, that the only begotten Son revealed that eternal life which He had ever enjoyed in a past eternity with the Father. It was manifested unto us, John writes, that is in the circle of His disciples, to those, and to those alone, whose eyes had been opened to discern in Jesus of Nazareth the divine Son.
This was indeed a new commencement in this world, when the divine and heavenly Man brought down to earth in His own person the life of heaven; for it must never be forgotten that from His birth He was the Second Man, although it is equally true that He was not in the condition of the Second Man, nor did He take His place as such until in resurrection. But from the moment of His advent into this scene all God's thoughts and counsels for man centred in Him, and, from the fact of what and who He was, He displaced all else. Heaven's object of delight, He was also in the grace of God to become the sole object of every one who received Him, so that even His incarnation morally passed judgment upon Adam and his race. The cross made manifest what man was, and proclaimed the termination of his trial and his judicial end; but the incarnation, when the blessed eternal life was brought down to earth in the Son become man, is the "beginning" of which John writes.
If, in the next place, we turn to Colossians, we shall find yet another thing. In chapter 1:18 we read, "And He is the Head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead." From the fact that the apostle speaks of Christ here as the Head of the body, the church, it is manifest that he presents Him in His risen and glorified condition, and to remove all possible doubt, after he has termed Him the beginning, he adds, the firstborn from the dead. Christ in resurrection is thus God's new commencement; for Christ in resurrection is the revelation of God's counsels for man. It is indeed only in resurrection that Christ becomes the Head of a new and heavenly race; and Christ glorified is the expression of God's thoughts for all the heavenly people; for He has predestinated them to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. The resurrection of Christ is thus a moment of supreme importance, marking as it does God's new beginning after all the sad history of man's failure and sin, but it is a moment on which the eye of God had rested from all eternity; for while Adam, as the responsible man, came first upon the scene of this world, Christ was ever the Man of His counsels, the One in whom and through whom the whole universe will be filled with redemption glory.
Another expression in Revelation 3 demands a brief notice. There Christ terms Himself "The beginning of the creation of God." This is different from Colossians, in that our attention is directed here to the new creation of which Christ is the beginning, rather than to Himself in His new condition as defining a fresh epoch. They are connected in that both refer to Him in resurrection; but we learn from Revelation (as from other scriptures) that there is a new' creation suited to the divine and heavenly Man, and that He Himself, in His condition as risen and glorified, is the expression of it. He presents Himself thus to Laodicea because the Church ought to have been the exhibition morally of the new creation in the power of the Holy Ghost. But she has failed, failed utterly; but God's thoughts are completely realized in Christ, and the presentation of Himself in this character serves to bring out by the very contrast the awful failure of the church in responsibility as a witness-bearer for Christ.
It may however be enquired, If Christ in resurrection is God's new beginning, what is ours? One verse in Exodus will answer the question. In connection with the Passover lamb it is said, "This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you." Our new beginning is therefore when we are brought under the efficacy of the finished work of Christ, when we understand or receive in some measure God's thoughts concerning the death and resurrection of His beloved Son. Or, if we speak, according to the truth of John's gospel, it is when we pass out of death into life. (Chapter 5:24.) Does the reader know this new beginning for himself?