J. N. Darby.
(Notes and Comments Vol. 5.)
The whole force of 2 Corinthians 5 is the power of life in Christ manifested in resurrection, and complete in glory, founded on death so as to put a total end to the first man and to sin (He having been made sin), and hence an entrance as out of the first into the new creation where all things are of God. As to this, it is a most comprehensive statement. I would show the principle of this briefly. Beside death and judgment, we have it applied to our course here. All were dead since Christ died for all - they have to live to Him who died for them and rose again. But this goes very far, because Christ Himself, in so far as He came connecting Himself with men in the flesh, disappears. He came under law - Son of David - a minister of the circumcision - of whom according to the flesh Christ came. All this is gone. He died as to this, and died for all - all were dead. Hence the Christian knows no one after the flesh in his new nature; risen in Christ, he has nothing, no connection with the world of Adam the other side of death. That belonged to the life of flesh, and the link is broken in the death of Christ, and the life in which he lives does not belong to it. He is entered into, as risen, and is of the new Creation - the old things are wholly passed away, he is dead, and has no more to say to them. The life he lives belongs to another order of things, and he is entered into them in that life, having died out of the others, or holding himself for dead - Christ having died to and out of it - and risen up from this in a new life, Christ. In this new Creation all things are of God (we the firstfruits of it), all entirely new. Two things are attached to this: we are reconciled to God - we are made the righteousness of God. But how entirely new all this is!
Note, the point of connection between the beginning and end of the chapter is, that the love of Christ being in his heart, the thought of the terror of the Lord urged him to persuade men. Then this love of Christ, i.e., the way it showed itself, brought out the great truth of men's state and their bringing into a wholly new Creation which identifies itself with that power of life with which the chapter begins, while all is grounded, as to righteousness, on Christ being made sin for us. In the beginning, the power of this life, as to death and as to judgment, is remarkably brought out. On the whole, the deliverance is astonishingly developed in this chapter. It is a wonderful chapter.
100 Note further in 2 Corinthians 5, after, as already noted, speaking of our direct positive condition as flowing from divine power in life, bringing us into glory, death being wholly annihilated, he contemplates death for us, as having this life, and it is of course gain. Here oneself (not in an evil sense) is brought in. And this, note, is the motive for our seeking to be acceptable to Him, knowing we shall be with Him in glory, and even our souls, if we die before the glory come. We like to be agreeable to One we love when with Him, besides there is the solemnity as well as the joy of the Lord's presence. But then, in taking up the second part of man's lot - the judgment - we get a distinct difference of the great principle, and the effect, where Christ's love is truly known. In the latter case, a person does not think of himself at all - the love of Christ constrains him, and he thinks of others. Thus responsibility and being manifested before the judgment-seat, and receiving the things done, is kept as solid ground of warning before the soul. And there is the active toil of grace to be acceptable and pleasing to Him. But when judgment comes as terror before his mind as it is, the Apostle only thinks of others through the constraining love of Christ. Perhaps Paul had been accused of being beside himself, but at any rate he distinguishes between his own joy and blessing in rising up to God by the power of the Holy Ghost, and the sober judgment of what was suitable. I apprehend he spoke of his condition as in chapter 4, and even in chapter I, for their sakes, still his doing it thus brought him to the point of responsibility and view of the judgment. But the effect of this on himself, as we have seen, was to urge his love to others. This love in Christ being in the death of Christ had a double effect. He did not know Christ as a living Messiah before His death any more. He was now not his own at all, but Christ's. So if any man were in Christ, he was of and in a new Creation, of which Christ was the first fruits in resurrection, where all things are of God who has reconciled us to Himself by that work. The whole of that is then set out, verses 19-21.
So, how very different the character (also noticed) of Philippians 2 and 3 - the subduedness, readiness to suffer, watchfulness for God's presence and character in the midst of this world, in the first; and the spiritual energy which looks forward to the next, and glory in it, Christ in glory being before his mind to win in the latter. I do not know but the first is the deepest. In the second we win Christ and glory - blessed thing surely - but it is more what we get. In the former, we are like Him, and His love and character are more thought of, and we living in and according to them to His glory. But both are perfect in their place. So most gracious, divine affections come out in chapter 2, but earnest zeal against evil, inconsistent with the glory, in professors in chapter 3. Still, in love, weeping; still chapter 2:17, 30, enters far more into saintly feelings. We are among the chasidim (saints) on the earth, not thinking with weeping of those who slight the glory.
101 In sum, we have in 2 Corinthians 5, the proper condition of the Christian. First, looking, God having wrought him for it, to having, according to what was divine power in life, what was mortal swallowed up of life. Death had wholly lost its power. Next, if he died, being so wrought, and having the earnest, being absent from the body and present with the Lord, these were his living, active motives as to his walk. Thirdly, as the judgment-seat of Christ was there, the effect of this on him was (and could not be with what went before, that he was wrought for glory), not to make him look on to being manifested, but his being now manifested to God. He was in the light really, walking in it in respect of that judgment, so that all was manifested to God now, before whom he walked, in the glory (for when we appear before the judgment-seat, we shall be in the glory, and glorified, and our hearts judge everything according to the glory - so by faith, now). Then if he did think of the terror he thought of others; it woke up in his heart that love of Christ which had been shown in that which had brought him into that state, and proved all not brought in to be dead, turning it thus downward towards those who had no part in it. A blessed state - upwards, in power over death, to God, all in perfect light - or, according to Christ's own love, downward to sinners! What a chasid (saint) the Christian is, as to his position, by Christ! Nor do I at all say that this latter part is in any way inferior to the other. It takes more out of self into God's own nature. As I have noted as to Philippians 2 and 3, this leads more to God, that to glory delivering from the world. Still he would win Christ. It may be a lowly thing to work out our salvation, but it is in view of God's character, and God works in us. So we are sons of God, followers of His in nature and character. So, in Psalm 16, it is Christ's taking the place of humiliation with the saints, by which he finds Jehovah's presence fulness of joy. Psalm 17 is righteousness, and glory in waking up. So, in Philippians 3, not character but righteousness. But Philippians hardly goes on to the presence of God.
102 Note too the character of experiences in Philippians and 2 Corinthians, and what is practically such in 1 Corinthians. I have already spoken of Philippians, but I return to it here to compare it with the others. It is as walking in the Spirit, and filled with it, being above all that Resh could suggest. Flesh and sin are not at all recognised, thought of, or named, save as once saying "no confidence in flesh," and that is religiously. Hence we find he is not insensible to trial, but, by the wings of faith above it, all distress turns to his salvation. Self is so gone, and he so blessed he does not, for self, know whether to choose life or death, only as it is better for the Church he shall stay, deciding by faith his own trial for life. Careful for nothing, only doing one thing, pressing onward to win Christ and the prize of His calling, rejoicing in the Lord always, able to do all things through Him who strengthens him. Such is experience when laid by in the power of the Spirit. It was not his present engagement in the active service in the conflict, but his rising in the power of the Spirit above it all. In 1 Corinthians we have the Christian at the other extremity. They were going on, as we know, very badly. Paul would not even go there, and deals in earnest warning and reproof. But what is his own position as to them? Confidence in God. "Ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." God is faithful, by whom ye were called into the fellowship (knowledge) of our Lord Jesus Christ, who also shall confirm you to the end that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. From this point he can deal with them as connected with Christ. There is a reality in being a Christian, even when going on badly, though that is never allowed. So in Galatians, where he stood even more in doubt of them because it touched doctrine, "I have confidence in you through the Lord."
Now in 2 Corinthians we have experimental exercised faith in the conflict; not going on badly, yet one trusting in grace for those who did, not rising on the wings of faith above all the trials, but exercise of heart finding God in them; and this too is very precious. The trials are of various kinds. First, violent persecution, so as to despair of life. He had the sentence of death in himself (this is the secret of force in trial) not to trust in self but God who raises the dead; two things, carrying the sentence of death, the Cross on self, God sending it practically, so he says further on, but it is God meeting the man in the putting down of self. This is brought out beautifully in chapter 4: troubled man, not distressed - God is there; persecuted man, not forsaken - God there; perplexed man, not in despair - God there; cast down man, not destroyed - God there. Now this is the whole matter, and then follows the spiritual mind as to it, already quoted.
103 Then anxieties for the Church, could not go to Corinth, could not stay at Troas, no Titus. In Macedonia, without fighting, within fears - doubted as to having sent the Epistle. God comforts those that are cast down. Poor vessel, but rich grace!
Then positive danger from flesh. He goes to the third heaven - a man in Christ there, he can glory, but flesh would glory too - a thorn comes. This he would have taken away, but looks to the Lord. It hindered his work, made his bodily presence weak, speech contemptible, tended to his being despised in preaching. But the Lord was there - flesh, self, was put down, and Christ, strength and grace came in, and he glories in the infirmity. Now all this is power in weakness - weakness felt as to the vessel, which we need, but therein God most blessedly and graciously meeting us, and making Himself better known. It is very instructive and sweet to the soul. How gracious of God, and wonderful!
But further, in 2 Corinthians 5, in turning, after the full positive condition of the Christian, to meet the natural portion of man by the same truth of life in Christ glorified, note that death is spoken of because a Christian may die. Death is not in itself set aside; it is a gain. Judgment is not, as to the Christian, at all. We must all be manifested there to receive the things done in the body. He knows the terror of the Lord, but the only action of this on his mind is to lead him to persuade others. We are always confident if we think of death, because we are formed for the glory into which Christ has entered in the power of life, and have the earnest of the Spirit - it is, if we die, going from the burdening body and being present with the Lord. But judgment we shall never come into. We persuade others because of it - we are manifested to God, that is its present practical effect.
104 In the experiences of 2 Corinthians as in Philippians we see how the fellowship and love of the saints are ministered to, and here connected with a difference in respect of ministry - in Philippians not so, as the Apostle was shut up; a difference interesting in its character. There, "Work out your own salvation, for it is God who worketh in you" - a word important in these days; here, "Death worketh in us, but life in you." Yet still there is the eventual working of grace, and all things, the Apostle himself, are for the Church's, the saints' sake.
I go back to point out that in 1 Corinthians 1, man is put down in himself. The power of God and wisdom of God is in what is foolishness for man. God's folly is wiser than man, and things that are not bring to nought things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. Then the new thing is brought in. "We are of God in Christ Jesus," and all that clothes us and brings us into blessing is in Christ too. "Of him are ye," i.e., of God, "in Christ Jesus," and "He is, of God, made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification." It is in life and competency for blessing, and entering into all - Christ - the new thing. In chapter 2 he will know nothing else but Christ in his ministry, and that in the way it was folly to men, but in this, flesh must be put down. When a great work was to be done, he was in weakness, and fear, and much trembling, and his speech was not with persuasive words of men, but in demonstration of the Spirit, and in power.
Note also in 2 Corinthians 3 and 4 there is the having received this ministry (the glory of God in the face of Jesus), we use great plainness of speech. Having received this ministry, we faint not. The revelation of the glory, so that righteousness is in grace for us, and the glory its known place - the glory of God is in righteousness, bringing us then into it gives a ministry as open as the unveiling of the glory. But then it is in a power which, overcoming death and setting Man in glory, hinders fainting, though the vessel be an earthen one. The heart, on the contrary, carries death in this, that the power and glory may be itself, or themselves, alone.
In chapter 4, death, as the utter setting aside of man (as well as atonement in Christ) has a far more important character than we are apt to think. It judges, of course, the flesh as hopelessly bad, but it ends it. It declares, as Christ's death, that no link could be formed with man. Divine, infinite love came down, and, while divine, suited itself to every want and sorrow of man; His whole condition, because the children were in flesh and blood, "he also likewise took part of the same," but remained alone till death. Thus, His death was the solemn declaration that there could be no link between grace and flesh. Hence, as His disciple, we must hate our father, mother, wife, life - all that is a link here - to follow Him; forsake all we have. It may be outwardly, always as regards the new life. It is not in the old relationships, though it respects them as formed of God, and all God's ordinances, but in it we reckon ourselves dead, crucified with Christ - our life only a life which is of Him as risen; He, as risen, is our Life. But having taken our sins and died, they are gone, passed away with the life He laid down. Then, if we are dead with Him, we have not the nature, as in Him, which had to do with sin, the world, law - I am not alive in it at all - I am in Christ, alive by Him as a quickening Spirit. I eat His flesh, drink His blood, realise His death, non-existence as to this world, and so abide in Him, live dia auton (through, by reason of, Him) as He lived dia ton patera (through, by reason of, the Father). How completely this sets aside the old thing! I am dead and gone as to flesh and all it had to say to. Yet, because I am alive, and this only is Christianity, I have to seek to realise it, may at first see only forgiveness by it. But except I eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, I have no life in me. If I do, I am alive in, and by reason of, and for Him. But it is death to all that was connected with nature, because of nature. No doubt it will contend against us, but we are not in it now at all. How immense and total a change is Christ's death to us! Then we have to seek, "always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal body.'?
105 I have spoken of chapter 4 as giving the realisation of Romans, our being dead to sin, and so partly of Colossians, only it goes further; but we find the Ephesians and the other half of Colossians, as to our previous state, too, in chapter 5:14. All were dead, or Christ need not have gone there. It is still practical, but not new position, but here also consequent duty. It does refer, in general terms, and necessarily, to the new Creation, but the point insisted on is the claim of Christ's death - that we should live to Him who died and rose again for us. This is analogous to Romans 6, not as dead with, indeed, and afterwards to live to God as alive in Him, but, as I have said, Christ's claim by death. We were dead, had all died - if we live (which is then a new creation) we are to live to Him who died and rose again. Still it is only life, not "quickened together with him." But it takes up the previous state, as Ephesians, and part Colossians, we were dead - not we have to die, i.e., have died to the old man, in Christ, but it puts us into the sphere of the new Creation, as a man in Christ, but it is not here, any more than Romans, "risen with Christ," and God is referred to as in Romans 6, "All things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself" - a new nature and state of things. Remark too how very clearly, in Colossians, the state and ground of it is laid before the walk, in each case. We are dead and risen - "Be not therefore subject," etc., and "Set your affections on things above." "Ye are dead, and your life hid," etc. - "Therefore mortify your members." "Do not lie, for ye have put off the old man with his deeds, and put on the new," etc. "Put on … as the elect of God, holy and beloved." It is a recognised principle, but the ground work of exhortation comes out singularly clearly here.
106 Chapter 5 is interesting too in this way: after giving the full effect of the new power of divine life in Christ, reaching to mortality being swallowed up in life, it turns and meets the whole case of the full effect of the old thing, death and judgment; death (we having life) is "absent from the body, and present with the Lord" - judgment makes us, knowing the terror of the Lord, anxious to persuade others, the love of Christ constraining us; compare John 5:24, and Hebrews 9:27. The power is in "God who raiseth the dead," or has risen, and given us Christ risen, in this power, as Life. It is founded on His being made sin for us, we the righteousness of God in Him; the practical result is, knowing no man after the flesh - living to Him who died and rose for us, and seeking in all to be agreeable to Him. But it meets Hebrews 9:27, wholly and exactly.
Finally, note well the effect of the full operation of grace, in setting one in a new position, in the power of life in Christ, is to bring one to God. It is not natural conscience or law, but what suits God's presence which is then in question. This gives us, mark, the true sanctifying character of grace - the effect of the full unclouded light of God on the conscience. Hence the Apostle speaks of the terror of the Lord, but note the effect - he persuades men. Any alarm to him is out of the question; he has got there, being always confident by a share with Christ in the glory which is found there. But he sees its effect on man, and persuades them (he sees it, because he has a man's conscience, salutarily, even for himself, as to walk under the influence of this presence) but it has a wholesome and salutary effect upon him, not of uncertainty - he is made manifest unto God; most wholesome and preserving truth! The grace then which has perfectly saved us, and brought us to God Himself, makes the presence and light of God, of Him who is Light, the measure of conscience and of right and wrong for him who is brought to be in it, and know it by grace. Nothing can be a greater proof of the perfectness of his position than that the effect of God's presence, of the terror of the Lord, was to push him to persuade others, the love of Christ constraining him; for this was the true result of all - that he was possessed of this love. God's presence, we have seen, his place by grace, and in holiness, according to glory into which he was brought; but, as to man, it told another tale. The manner of coming there, what was clear to his soul, had passed sentence of death upon all that man was, viewed in the first Adam, for the Christ of his affections, whose love he knew, had died and risen again. If he had known a Christ in association with living men, yet it had been shown there was no possible link between them. He had died for all (borne the sin which made union in the flesh impossible; when the truth had come out - what had been to his mind a Messiah, crowning joy of man in the flesh, was a dying Messiah for what was altogether dead in sin). Now he could only know Him thus - men belonged to Him, if at all, as dead and risen. They belonged to a new Creation, of which He was Head as risen. Old things were gone, all things new, all things of God who had reconciled them to Himself by Christ. Hence he knew these two things - Christ down here, not the culminating blessing of man in the flesh, and the Glory of Israel, but God in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and as Man, He who knew no sin made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. We know then God as Love, in Christ, towards us as sinners. That is the way we know Him, active in love, and, if the question of righteousness be raised, we are the righteousness of God in Him. Wondrous result of Christ's death! God known only as Love - ourselves God's righteousness in Christ! God in Christ Love - man in Christ God's righteousness! It is a wondrous salvation, a divine work and wisdom.
108 Returning for a moment to Philippians 3, the more I read it the more clear the setting aside of the first or old man becomes. The Cross being the point of division, the resurrection, the beginning of the new, identified with the acceptance of the atonement. Knowing no man after the flesh is identified with this. Man had, with every advantage, both seen and hated both Christ and His Father - the world was judged - the Son of Man lifted up. This puts the Church too in a peculiar position, because the Man of God's counsels, the Son is not revealed till He come, "The Son of Man be come," "I will raise him up at the last day." Even if received then, this was the portion of him who did so; and the whole statement is connected with eating His flesh, and drinking His blood. Hence, too, the Cross is our portion, if we suffer with Him, for nothing is fulfilled, as yet, save the foundation work and the coming of the Holy Ghost; we are in a suspended time. But the Cross lays the basis of all. Every question of good and evil has come to an issue in it. But the first man is condemned in it - condemned but gone, for faith that is - crucified with Christ. There is an end of man morally, in every sense; judgment not executed. The second Man must take His power for that - Son of God and Son of Man; but morally man's history is closed. It was the "end of the ages." Not only "he that believeth not is condemned already," but he is found to be "dead in sins," and it is a new creation beyond death, sins, Satan's power, judgment, through redemption and a new life. Not merely quickened by Christ, but quickened together with Him out of death, where we were lying, and He came down. The basis is what God is, and God Himself, "All things of God." The Law assumed the first, living, responsible Adam. See Colossians 2 and 2 Corinthians 5:17. There is the difference of the bringing in of death, man being looked at as living in the old man, which is in the Cross, and seeing we were dead in sins, and a new creation. Romans fully develops the former. It is found also in Colossians 2; 2 Corinthians 5:14, et seq.; and Ephesians 2 and Colossians 2:14, the latter. [1874.]