It would be a great mistake to suppose, as some seem to think, that the world in which we are is ordered by the Father. The language of the apostle settles this question. "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." Satan indeed is the god of this world; and hence if we desire to know what the Father's world is we must look for it in such a scripture, for example, as that placed at the head of this paper. Let us then consider it, and in three ways:
1. The way it is reached.
2. Our fitness for it.
3. What characterizes it.
1. Nothing surely can be of greater interest to the Christian than to know that the Father has a world outside the present order of things in which we find ourselves. This "present evil world" has rejected the One whom the Father sent into it. But "the Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand," and at the present moment He adorns the Father's throne, and is the centre of the Father's world.
It must be a wonderful scene that the "Son of His love" fills; and Scripture permits us to look into it. To do so, to make it our study, and become acquainted with it, must be a great gain, while our loss will be correspondingly great should we neglect this. Depend upon it, it is impossible to be apart from the course of things here, unless we have attractions elsewhere; and what can be so attractive to the heart that knows Him as a world where He is the centre and the sun? The kingdoms of this world can have no charm for the one who knows a kingdom pervaded by the Father's glory, and all made known in the Son.
The interest in this subject must be deepened by the knowledge that we have already been translated into this kingdom - "Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love." The point is, How has this been attained? The answer is, By redemption. "In time past," it says, "ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience." (Eph. 2:2.) In the words of Colossians we were under "the authority of darkness." We belonged therefore to the kingdom of Satan. To escape by any power or ingenuity of our own was an impossibility. Our sins shut us out from God and at the same time made us the hopeless captives of Satan.
It is important to see this, in order that we may learn the way of deliverance. Our sins, by separating us from God, left us the prey of the enemy of God. Satan knew well how to take advantage of the position. He whispers into man's ear, "God will have nothing to do with you because of your sins; I will be your god." And he knows well how to hold man in his power by ministering to his lust. This being so, if God can righteously forgive sins and bring man to Himself, at once a way of deliverance is opened to the sinner. He has so wrought that this has been effected. He would have been righteous in punishing the sinner for his sins, and this gave Satan his power; God can now be equally righteous in forgiving them. The precious blood of Christ enables Him to be this. The blood is the witness that He is righteous, that He is not indifferent to sin. The blood is the life. A spotless life - the life of Christ - has been given as a ransom. And the resurrection proves that God's power is greater than Satan's. The sinner may know now that God can righteously forgive his sins, and is willing to do so, the moment he believes in Christ. He sees that God has been glorified in the death of Christ, and he no longer fears Him, but sees with delight that he is through redemption for ever freed from Satan's power, and brought to the very God he had once so misunderstood: "Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." Redemption has been wrought out in Christ, "in whom we have redemption." He came into man's place under death, and was raised up by the glory of the Father, and God now has man, in the person of Christ, in His own presence. He is now before God occupying a place man never occupied before, and setting forth the character of the believer's place and portion. In whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins; and further, we are delivered in the grace of our God from the authority of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of the Son of His love.
2. We are now prepared to consider our fitness for this position. "Giving thanks unto the Father which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light." We have been delivered from the authority of darkness, and brought to God by redemption. A new world has opened to us. And those delivered from Satan's power have their portion there.
And what is our meetness for such a scene? It can only be, it must be, Christ. The very One who fills the Father's heart is the One in whom our meetness is found. Naught of what is of ourselves could appear there. Therefore we read, "And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight." Thus we see how everything that characterized us as in the flesh has come to an end in death - the death of Christ - and we have put off the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ. All this has been accomplished in Christ's death, and we are now in Him; the best robe is upon us. We are made meet.
For this we give thanks unto the Father. He is the source of everything, and all is for His own satisfaction. The Son has accomplished everything, so that one may be holy and unblameable and unreproveable in the Father's sight. If Satan has succeeded through the unfaithfulness of man in wrecking this scene, yet the Father, through the Son, has secured to Himself a world of bliss, where we have our happy part. And everything in that world, and we in common with it, will speak to the Father of the Son of His love, who, for the glory of the Father, became obedient unto death.
We have been made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light. God is known in all the blessedness of His being. What a contrast to our former position "under the authority of darkness" - God utterly unknown! What a wondrous thought that the Father should give us a share in His own joy! To have our place there, where the Son is, a worthy object to draw out and concentrate in Himself all the unrestrained delight of the Father's heart. The love of the divine bosom can expend itself, and we, through grace, are called to be sharers in it.
3. Let us now see what specially characterizes the Father's world. It is the domain of the Son of His love. We must not limit our ideas of it. As wide as creation itself, it includes every realm where God will ever see fit to display Himself. The farthest star is comprised in it, and all thrones and dominions above, as well as on earth, come under its sway. Alas! this earth does not yet own it. As far as we know it is the one solitary exception in the universe.
Of course we speak of what it will be in display. In the scripture before us we are occupied more with the One to whom all belongs, and our connection with Him; and the first thing we are told of Him is, "Who is the image of the invisible God." The meaning of this undoubtedly is that Christ is God's representative. He will take possession of everything for God; and all that can be known of Him by a delighted universe in a coming day will be known in Him. God Himself is invisible. (See 1 Tim. 6:16.) Christ is said to be "the brightness of God's glory, and the express image of His person." He therefore can adequately represent God.
He, "who is the image of the invisible God," is necessarily, we may say, "the firstborn of all creation." In keeping with this we read in Hebrews 1 that God has appointed Him "heir of all things." The Son has been pleased to take a place in relation to created things that the Father has not. This has been used by the great adversary to try to dim the lustre of the One who became thus subject, and to deprive Him of His true and proper glory. He was doing so at Colosse; and the Spirit of God is careful to guard the saints against it. "Firstborn" here does not necessarily mean priority in point of time, but in rank.
We are then told that "all things were created by Him, and for Him." In some passages creation is attributed to God, and in others to Christ. Hebrews 1 explains it. God made them by Christ: "by whom also He made the worlds." "Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created"; and it has been God's pleasure to give them to Christ. "All things were created by Him, and for Him."
"And He is before all things." If He has taken a place as man in relation to creation, yet it is by no means to be inferred that He came into being along with created things. Proverbs 8 assures us to the contrary. "The Lord possessed Me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was." And John 1 throws still clearer light upon His person. "In the beginning was the Word . . . and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God." And we are further told that "by Him all things consist." How little we can comprehend it. That glorious Person - God and Man - sits upon the throne of the universe, marshalling every star, bringing in night and day, and ordering the seasons, just as once on the Galilean lake He spake to the winds and waves, and said, "Peace be still."
Such He is in regard to creation and to God, and now we come to redemption. (v. 18.) These are the two grand parts to God's display of Himself. Both were necessary. Creation sets forth His power, but it needed redemption to set forth His love. What we see here is that Christ holds the first place in regard to both. But what we also see is, that through redemption the Church is brought to share in all the glory of the Head. We may well ask ourselves, What do we think of such a position? nay, rather, What do we think of the One who at such infinite cost to Himself made it possible for us to have it? From what we know of Scripture we are justified in saying that when that scene of glory first bursts upon our view it will be redemption that will evoke the loudest note of praise.