It is of the utmost importance for the growth, development, and establishment of our souls in our relations with God that we have a clear and well-founded apprehension of what His mind is for those who are to be in eternal blessing with Himself. If we have failed in our apprehension of this, we are sure to be haunted with a vague uncertainty with relation to all our movements, which will hinder our spiritual advancement, cripple us in service for the Master, obscure our spiritual vision, so that we shall fail to discover the path He would have us tread, and our testimony for Him will be of a very vague and indefinite character. The end to which God is working, and to which all His ways are tending, we require to be well acquainted with, if we are to walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing (Col. 1:9-10). If God is working to one end and we to another, we shall be at cross-purposes with Him, and certainly this can be but detrimental to all spiritual progress, grieving to His Holy Spirit, and leaving us without His approval and support.
The advent of Christ into this world was the resistless proof that man was a lost creature, and that he had, under the trial to which he had been subjected, proved himself to be so. Had there been any strength in man to effect his own recovery, there had been no necessity for a deliverer. Therefore our Divine Redeemer says, “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost” (Luke 19:10). Man is a lost creature, and apart from the intervention of God he would have been lost eternally.
But not only is this so, but the cross of Christ is the witness that man cannot be recovered as a mere child of Adam. It was not enough that God should be propitiated on account of our sins; for if that were all, or if it could have been all, and man on the foundation thus laid, forgiven—a forgiven sinner with a nature at enmity with God he would have forever remained, and that would neither have met God’s requirement, nor the need of the creature. The Adam life, or life of flesh, was in its nature corrupt and rebellious, and therefore was a new life necessary for man if he was to be saved. This life is in the last Adam the Son of God.
But if man was to be a partaker of this life, it was necessary that the old life and nature, as well as the sins, the fruit of that life and nature, should come under the judgment of God. Hence not only were our sins atoned for, but “our old man has been crucified with Him.” The old nature, that could not be mended, has judicially been ended. Therefore in resurrection Christ can righteously take the place of life-giving Head toward all, and can quicken, with that life that is in Himself, the believer. He is the last Adam and Head of a new race, which have been brought into being by His quickening power.
Therefore the apostles preached Christ, “Whom we preached” (Col. 2:28). Righteousness, life, and salvation, were in Him for every sinner, and all who believed the Gospel possessed these blessings by possessing Him, for He Himself is the blessing. It is not only that I have every blessing through Him, I have every, blessing in Him. In Him I am “of God” (1 Cor. 1:30). As in Him I derive my moral and spiritual existence from God: I am born of God: I am a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). What I am as in Adam forms no part of that which I am in Christ “Old things have passed away behold, all things have become new.”
Now the One in whom I have found acceptance with God, and the One who is my life, has been down here among men, and during His sojourn here below set forth all that was pleasing to the heart of God. All that is not of that order, though it may be tolerated in the patience of God, must eventually find rejection with Him. In Him I see the great thought of God for man. The first Adam was not that, the last Adam is. And the last Adam is the Adam of divine purpose. The Son becoming man, accomplishing redemption, and having a race of men after His own order, was not a mere redressment of our fallen condition; our fallen condition but gave occasion for the bringing in of the original thought and purpose of God for man. Now that the Christ has come, Adam is seen only to be a figure of Him (Rom. 5:14).
Of this Person, the second Man and last Adam, two things are true: one is, that in Him the perfect revelation of God has come to pass, the Father has come to light in the Son. And second, He is the only order of man that can stand in the light of that revelation. The first man was as perfect a man as God could make after that order. He was of the earth, made of dust, and the light in which he as a living soul stood in relationship with his Maker was all that was needful for His perfect happiness, indeed more light he would not have been able to take in.
But the last Adam stands in the light of God perfectly revealed. No other man, that is, no other order of man, could stand there. The light that the sun in the heavens gives us is perfectly suitable to our physical condition. Our eyes want all the light it gives, but they would very soon be made blind were the suit’s rays a little more powerful. The Son’s place is in the full light of God, and all that are of His order, that is, who derive from Himself as having His life, have their place there also. But they are there as having His life, and they are there in the power of the Holy Spirit of God. This is really their own native element, for they are born of God, know God, and are heavenly in life and nature.
This life, which is the life of the last Adam, the Son of God, has been manifested here below; and before the eyes of men all its heavenly and Divine characteristics were brought to light, and brought to light in Him without any admixture of the frailties and imperfections that belong to the old order, now fallen and under sin’s dominion. It is the life of God, the Divine nature exhibiting itself in flesh and blood; on the one hand revealing the invisible God, and on the other bringing to light the life that God had promised for man before the world was. There are these two sides to that life: perfect man under the eye of the blessed God, and God before the eye of the erring creature. Man here doing the will of God, obedient unto death, and that the death of the cross. Never once calling into question either the wisdom or the love of the Lord of heaven and earth. Not only not calling these into question, but finding His delight in contemplating, and submitting to the ways of God, however they might seem to militate against His happiness. In prospect of the cross, and the drinking of the bitter cup, His sorrow knew no bounds, and yet His heart was glad, and His glory rejoiced, for in the end He knew His justification was certain. The path marked out for Him was the path of death, for it led there; but it was the pathway of the will of God, and therefore the path of life, for He knew that through resurrection it would end in the presence of God, where there was fullness of joy, and to His right hand, where there were pleasures for evermore (Ps. 16). His devotedness to the Father’s glory was infinite, and His confidence in the Father’s love was just as infinite. His sorrow knew no bounds, for the darkness of Golgotha meant the abandonment of God, but the joy of doing the Father’s will was as boundless as the sorrow.
Here we behold God come down into death in grace and love for the deliverance of man, and Man gone down into death for the glory of God. And both these wondrous truths seen in the one work and in the one Person. Alas, the heart of fallen man is also exhibited in its hatred of all that is of God. Here at the cross is a light above the brightness of the sun, revealing the heart of God, the heart of Christ, and the heart of fallen man The heart of God in love to His erring creature, the heart of Christ in love to the Father, and the heart of fallen man in hatred against Both Only in Christ we have exhibited a love upward and a love downward. The love upward is the love to the Father, and it was this that brought Him to the cross. I use the term upward as referring to the place that He took in Manhood (Ps. 16:2; John 14:28), for in the Godhead the three Persons are one, but as to the relative places taken by Them in the work of redemption there is a difference. His love to the Father brought Him to the cross, and this was the most powerful spring of all His actions down here. But there was His love to His own. Paul says, “He loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). He also loved the church, and gave Himself for it (Eph. 5:25). In the work of the cross, as in everything else, the Father and the Son are of one mind.
We have to learn Christ both in the revelation of God in His Person, and in His setting forth of man according to the thought of God. Everything is learned by us as we learn Him. He is the Saviour, and He is also the Lawgiver. Therefore is He not only preached as Saviour to sinners, He is also taught to those who profess His name; for whoever says that he abides in Him is responsible to walk, as He walked (1 John 2:6). He left us an example, that we should follow His steps (1 Peter 2:21). Nothing else will do for God, and when we get even a little acquainted with the moral excellencies that everywhere shone forth in Him, nothing else will do for us. But these excellencies do not break all at once upon our mental vision. We are glad, in the first instance, to have Him as a means of escape from the judgment that we know awaits the soul who has to appear before God in his sins. It is only when this question has been gone into and settled, so that we have peace with God, knowing that we are justified by faith, that the light of that heavenly life of our Saviour begins to dawn upon our renewed hearts and minds, and only then, and that by the Word and Spirit, are we able to enter into the great truth, that God has taken us up to conform us to His Son’s image; and only then are we able to sit down in the presence of God, and contemplate the heavenly characteristics that shone out in His adorable Person, and that made Him the object of our hearts, as He ever was the object of the heart of God. Everything and everyone becomes eclipsed by the moral glories of the Son of God.
Moses gave a law to Israel, which had they kept it would have been the law of all the nations of the earth, as it will yet be when once that law becomes written upon the hearts of that people. But that law was not set forth in Moses, for Moses was only a sinner like the rest of us. Whatever made him to differ from others was the grace that was bestowed upon him of God, it was not anything that he was by nature. But the law that he gave to Israel was written upon two tables of stone, which were placed in the ark, typical of Him who could say “Thy law is within My heart.”
But something even greater was within the heart of Christ. The law of Moses was only that which man as a child of Adam should be, but it was not the measure of what the last Adam was. The law given by Christ is the law that regulates the conduct of one walking in the light of God perfectly revealed. It is in that light the believer walks, and his walk is in the power of the Holy Spirit, by whom he is able to keep the cross upon the old Adam nature, that is so ready to assert itself, and by whom also Christ is kept before the vision of his soul; and the effect of this is that we become changed into His image (2 Cor. 3:18).
The Epistles of the New Testament set the truth of Christianity before our souls, as God has been pleased to give it. The Gospels portray that glorious Person, the Son of God, in His pathway of humiliation, and as the faithful and true Witness, in the midst of a world hostile to the light that shone out in His ways, words, and works. In the Psalms we have the inward exercises and sorrows of the Saviour more in detail than anywhere else, along with His confidence in Jehovah, and His faithfulness at all times to the trust committed to Him.
We have His life. We have His Spirit. We have His Word. We have His example. And to Him we are going to be conformed. In the meantime we are left here to reproduce Him in our ways amongst men, and in doing this be lights in the midst of the surrounding darkness, hated, perhaps, by the men who are about us, but well-pleasing to the heart of God, and letting men see, if only in a little, that which shall characterize in the coming day the whole redeemed creation.