as typified in the Red Sea and the Jordan
The Red Sea
We are all too apt to settle down with that which merely stays the craving of the conscience, and satisfies our own sense of what our sins deserve from God's hand; and this to the great impairing, not only of His glory, but also of our peace, instead of endeavouring to rise to the enjoyment of the full portion we have given us in the gospel.
This appears always in every part of the truth of God, and it will be made manifest here, I trust clearly, to the children of God, by that which certainly ought to be the known portion of all belonging to Christ. For I am not now going to speak of what might be safely unknown by any Christian. I am only going to treat of the common heritage of all that belong to Christ. I propose to speak, not of the whole even that by grace pertains to us from the very starting-place of our career, but of that part of our blessing which God has given us in redemption, by the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Christians are too apt to settle down with this — that they have been awakened and feel their sins, and that they have found a blessed refuge and resource in the blood of Christ.
They are quite right as far as they go. God forbid that one should enfeeble the sense of the preciousness of Christ's blood. To enter into our full portion enhances the value of His blood, and brings out the grace of God in its own fulness, not in any way shadowing even that which souls are apt to make their goal, but giving them to enjoy it richly, which they are too apt to content themselves without.
In general you will find that what souls are content to rest in is the answer in the New Testament to the type of the Passover.
No soul that is awakened of the Holy Ghost could find the smallest possible hope for his guilty soul save in the blood of the Lord Jesus. To Him pointed, as we know, the Passover lamb that was killed, the blood of which was sprinkled on the doorposts of Israel in the land of Egypt. It is plain that all God's children must necessarily be sooner or later driven to find their shelter within the blood-sprinkled doors; there alone they are safely sheltered from judgment.
But they are apt to satisfy themselves with something short of what God has given. The paschal lamb's blood is not really all that God has given to us, even from the starting-place of the Christian.
The children of Israel, as you may see by the historical circumstances, were not yet redeemed out of Egypt, even after the blood was sprinkled. There was another need and a different action of God, following up the first, no doubt, but still another dealing of grace necessary to show the deliverance that Christ has really secured for the believer.
The truth of death and resurrection alone gives the believer the measure of the blessing which Christ has really procured; just as in the circumstances here, the Red Sea itself was necessary to give the Israelite his deliverance from the house of bondage.
The New Testament fully teaches this. Take for instance, the First Epistle of Peter. There we find that we "are redeemed, not with corruptible things, as silver and gold, … but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot"; but that is not all. The Spirit of God shows that by Him we believe in God, who raised Him up from the dead, and gave Him glory, that our faith and hope might be in God.
There you have our Red Sea. The death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus — the putting the people through the Red Sea answering to it as the type in the Old Testament — was necessary to complete the deliverance which God pledged the blood of the lamb to perform.
And so you find it also in the Epistle to the Romans. In Rom. 3 we have the blood of Jesus; in Rom. 4 we have the death and resurrection: the Red Sea being the type of the latter, as the Passover is of the former. We have Jesus shedding His blood in Rom. 3; Jesus raised again for our justification in Rom. 4; and then in the commencement of Rom. 5, we read — "Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
The Holy Ghost does not say we have peace until we have the result of the death and resurrection of Christ, as well as of His blood, applied to our souls. I am not in the least denying that a soul may be filled with great joy without such knowledge. The attractive grace of Christ continually wins souls, leading them to rejoice before God; but joy and peace are very different things.
You never can have solid peace without knowing that all that is against you is judged of God. He would have me to look at what I have done and to feel what I am; nay, He would use means to bring a due sense of sin, and not only of my sins, before my soul — to judge self both in what I have done, and in what I am.
In the face of all, then, have you perfect peace? What could give you this? Not merely the blood of Christ. Without that precious blood there could be no peace; but the blood of Christ, whilst of infinite price, does not give the full measure of the blessing into which your soul is brought, even as a groundwork before God. He has made peace through the blood of His cross, no doubt; but still the way He brings me into the enjoyment of it is by showing Himself raised from the dead for our justification; and more than this, by showing us ourselves, dead unto sin, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Accordingly, then, we have this fully discussed in the Epistle to the Romans, and upon this I must dwell for a little.
First of all the apostle looks at our guilt in the sight of God — our actual sins; and, after this has been fully discussed, the other question which so often troubles the believer is taken up. I have been pardoned, and may be happy in redemption. I am enabled to look to God with a certainty that I am reconciled to Him; but there remains this that so shocks me — to find that, in spite of all, I have pride, foolishness, carnality, self-will, and a continual tendency to turn away from Him. All this surprises me so much the more that God has shown me such exceeding favour. Is there nothing to meet it? What is God's way of dealing with this sense of evil within, that we feel the more deeply because we are brought to God? Are we merely to comfort ourselves with the thought of Christ's love, or that He shed His blood? Nay, there is more. Accordingly the apostle Paul deals with this more particularly in chapters 6, 7, 8 of Romans.
In Romans 6 the point is sin and our continuing in sin. Now he shows that this is altogether judged and met by the nature of the blessing that God has brought us into. It is not merely that I am to be consistent, or that I have got a motive in either the love or the blood of Christ. That is not all. What he says is, "How shall we that died to sin live any longer therein?" It is not "How shall we that are living now?" or "How shall we that have been brought to believe in Christ?" Not so. Quite another thought. Neither is it because we are washed with His blood, but "How shall we that died to sin live any longer therein?"
There is many a soul in this world striving to be dead to sin, and there is hardly anything that more tries Christian people. They are not surprised, before they are converted to God, that they should have sin; but, after they have been brought to Him, to feel within them the workings of sin alarms them indeed.
He does not meet this by turning them back to look at the cross, and by showing them the blood of Christ that was shed for them. The blood of Christ effaces the sins, but it does not meet the question of sin that is working in the believer after he is brought to God. What does? You died to sin, with Christ; and you ought to know and act on it.
There are a great many who do not know this; and an immense loss it is to them, because the effect of one's not knowing this is, that he strives to become dead, instead of believing that he is.
This is at the bottom of all the legal efforts you find yourself and so many making. Ignorance of it led to nunneries, monasteries, and other similar devices in early days as now. But the same thing is found among Protestants. I do not mean they use these precise methods, but efforts to the same end. This led to all the schools of mystics and pietists, because the same condition is found amongst all until they get hold of the great truth that the Christian is dead with Christ.
Don't you know your baptism? He says (in Romans 6). Don't you know what God gave you at the beginning of your career? Don't you know what was meant in that first rite? Of course it is not the sign that could give a real blessing. Now, baptism with water is not at all the sign of the bloodshedding of Christ; therefore we hear nothing about it in chapter 3. It means a great deal more than bloodshedding. It sets forth our death to sin, and not merely that Christ died for our sins. In short, it sets forth the Red Sea, and not the Passover. That is, it shows me Christ's death applied to my nature — a condition that is so often the stumbling-block to the children of God, and the means of harassing them. Satan knows well how to work by it for the purpose of producing despair on the one hand, or of tempting to license on the other.
Christianity denies both. It dispels despair and delivers from license. It is the application of what God has wrought in the Lord Jesus to all of us — not merely to our sins, but to our sin, to that root of evil within; and just as He has shown me the blood blotting out my sins, so He brings me to see that I am dead to sin. If He had not given me this, I were equally lost. It was true from the first, and accordingly in the very baptism of a Christian the Scripture sets forth this great fact. "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized unto Jesus Christ were baptized unto his death?"
Such is what baptism signifies. It is not the sign of life-giving but of death-giving so to speak — that is to say, it brings the believer into this place of death with Christ. It is the outward expression that if I have got Christ at all, the Christ I have is a Christ that died and rose again; and when I am baptized, I am "baptized unto his death."
This is immense comfort. "So many of us as were baptized unto Christ Jesus were baptized unto his death. Therefore we are buried with him by baptism unto death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also [in the likeness] of [his] resurrection."
Now the reason why we look onward to this is, because we know "that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." Why? "For he that died is freed (or, "justified," as the margin says,) from sin." It is not a question of being justified from sins, but from sin. It means that you in that very act confessed what has brought you out of your condition, out of that death where you lay as a sinful child of Adam. "He that died is justified from sin."
Then we have the present consequence: "Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God, in (or, through) Christ Jesus." And then comes a practical consequence, "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body." That is, the sin is supposed to be there, but it is not to reign: and the reason is, because I am dead to sin. To every Christian, to every person to whom his baptism is a sign of a great reality by and with Christ, this is so.
It is not therefore a question of striving to be different, or seeking to feel this or that, but of believing what God has done for me in the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. If we look at the Red Sea, we can understand how this applies.
After the Passover the children of Israel came into the greatest pressure of trouble. All they felt in Egypt was a little thing compared with what stared them in the face. They had left that land after the blood of the paschal lamb was sprinkled on their doors, but so hard pressed were they that there was nothing but death before their eyes. They had never, so far as their feelings were concerned, been so shut up to death as then.
On all sides there were obstacles they could not surmount. Behind them the army of their foes, and before them only more certain death. But that which seemed to them merely the waters of death was precisely what God was about to make the path of life; and Moses, at the word of God, lifted up his rod — that same rod of God which had brought judgment upon the Egyptians, which had plagued them often before. That rod was lifted up over the sea, and at once the waters of death rise up on either side as walls, and the children of Israel passed through protected; so much the more because it was evident that God was for them.
Not so on the night of the Passover. God, no doubt, did not permit the destroyer to touch them, but the blood of the lamb, instead of showing God for them, was merely a protection that God should not be against them.
It was not yet God for them. There was no communion. He was outside of where they were. The blood interposed between Him and them. How could a soul be at ease and at peace with God when that is the case? What I want is to be able to look up into the face of my God. What I want is that He should be with me, and that I should rest in His presence. But merely to have that which comes between myself and God would never give me solid comfort before God, and, indeed, it ought not. Accordingly the subsequent circumstances proved the condition into which the children of Israel had fallen — a condition of anxiety, and dread, and danger, worse than they had ever known before.
And it is frequently so with the Christian. After the soul has been directed to Christ, there is often a coming into deeper waters than ever, and a deeper realisation of one's own sinfulness than ever. The sense of sin after we have looked to Christ is far more acute and intense than when we fled for refuge at the beginning. There was then a path of life through death. God was for them; but that was not all, He was against the Egyptians. And so when the Israelites had passed over, the Red Sea closes upon their enemies and all are dead; then Israel was saved, and it is remarkable that here for the first time God uses the term salvation. He does not say salvation on the night of the paschal lamb, but when they have passed through the sea. Salvation is a great deal more than being kept safe. Salvation means that complete clearance from all our foes — that bringing us out of the house of bondage, and setting us free and clean before God, to be His manifest people in the world. It was only pronounced when God brought them out of Egypt into the wilderness; it was when their foes were completely judged, and when they were so saved as never to pass under that kind of dread again.
Is it so with the Christian? Yes, surely. For what was the question then? The point then was, the prince of this world seeking to use and to turn God's righteous judgment against His own people — the prince of this world seeking to retain the people of God because of their sins; and what God shows is the complete judgment of their enemies — the destruction that fell upon all claim as against the people of God. God Himself publicly espoused their cause and acted on their behalf, so that they never returned to the house of bondage.
At the Red Sea it was the rod of judgment that was lifted up over the waters — it was that rod that smote the Egyptians with all plagues. So it is in the Epistle to the Romans. It is always righteousness. It is a question of turning righteousness against the people of God; but Christ has come, and by His blood He has cleansed them, and by death and resurrection He has brought them out of the place over which judgment hung — completely outside. There is no judgment any more. They see their sin, as well as their sins, completely gone in consequence of Christ's having undergone God's judgment. Therefore chapter 6 of Romans is the first place where sin in our walk is discussed; and in dealing with this question the apostle shows that we died to sin, and that the gift of God now is eternal life. Sin cannot touch the believer, for he is dead to it.
The next point is law. That, he shows, cannot touch the believer either, and for this reason, that I have "been made dead to the law." So in Romans 7, "we have been made dead to the law by the body of Christ" It is not some fresh means, but it is the application of that which is true already, to the law, even supposing I had been a Jew. That is, it is the death of Christ, applied to both sin and law, that gives the believer his clearance. And now we are "married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead." So it is as wrong for a believer still to have a thought of being "under the law" as for a woman to have two husbands at once. We are dead to the law that we should belong to another.
In Romans 8 we have it very fully. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus." And he explains this in two ways. How could you condemn them? "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death." How could you condemn what is perfectly good? That which God has given me in the Spirit of life in Christ. But there is another reason. God has condemned sin already. There is a reason founded upon the character of the new life, that God will never condemn what is good. But, moreover, God has condemned the bad life already: "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh." He has already judged my nature. It is not a question of forgiveness. I do not want my nature to be forgiven; I do not forgive it myself.
It is a great comfort that God in the Lord Jesus Christ has dealt with sin in the flesh. It was not enough that Christ by His own perfect purity condemned sin in the flesh, for that would have made me worse than ever; but after Christ in His life showed me a pattern of all purity, He became a sacrifice for sin, and then God condemned sin in the flesh — this nature that troubled me. Accordingly, if God has given me a new nature found in Christ risen from the dead, and also has condemned my old nature, it is very evident there can be no condemnation to those in Christ. You see in every point of view there is no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus. Their walking after the Spirit is the consequence — the effect — of it; and the more I know I am delivered, the more happy my soul will be, and the stronger I will be in walking after the Spirit.
Although the believer is supposed to be perfectly brought out of this state of condemnation — out of the evil condition in which he was — yet for all that, he is in the wilderness; and so truly is this the case, that in this eighth of Romans, however happy, he is groaning, he is only "saved in hope." He is still in the wilderness, and so completely is this the case, that the Holy Ghost becomes the power of his groaning in the wilderness. So the analogy is perfect between the Christian and the Israelites, who were brought out of Egypt, but who never returned to it.
After they came out, they raise the song of triumph. There is no singing in Egypt. Here we find them singing on the other side of the Red Sea; but for all that, they are travelling through the wilderness — they are only going on to the rest of God — they are still toiling through the scene of trial, where, if there is not dependence on God, they perish. I speak now, of course, not in application to the Christian as a question of eternal life, but of practical experience. The wilderness is the place where flesh dies, and where all hangs on the simplicity of dependence on the love of God.
Joshua 3, 4
It is evident that the Jordan is a type similar in its character to that of the Red Sea. I need not say that, whether in the type of the Red Sea or the Jordan, it is what grace has given the believer.
But then there is a most sensible difference, at the Jordan there is no such thing as a rod. It is another symbol altogether. The ark of the covenant of Jehovah, borne by the priests, goes right down into the Jordan; and from the moment the priests' feet approach the water, the waters fail on one side and rise up in a heap on the other; and so, while the ark remains in the bed of the river, the children of Israel pass clean over.
And when all is done, we find another remarkable point; that is to say, we have a memorial. It is not Egyptians destroyed. There is no question of judgment. The point is neither the justification of the people of God on the one hand, nor the judgment of enemies on the other. This is the great question of the Red Sea. At the Jordan God was bringing forth His people into His own land. Accordingly it sets forth One, a divine Person, who goes down into the waters of death and there alone stayed the proud waters till thus the people are brought through.
How does this apply to Christ? I answer, The Jordan finds its counterpart not in Romans but in Ephesians. In Ephesians, accordingly, there is no discussion of justification. Search it through and through, and you will fail to find in it the righteousness of God. If God accomplishes the great work that was before His mind (even before there was a world to be spoiled), if He intended to have a people who should have a nature capable of communion with Himself, a nature that never could be satisfied without being in heaven, that delights in His mind and love; if God intended, I say, to have such a people, and to have them, too, in the nearest possible relation to Himself, to have them as His own children in His own presence, how could justifying come in there? It is evident God does not need to justify such a work as this. I can understand when a person has got wrong, or when we think of the ungodly, that this should be told us. It is an infinite mercy that God has His own blessed way of justifying the ungodly; but there is no notion of justifying that which is perfectly according to God.
Hence in the Epistle to the Ephesians we never have the subject of justification. It is not that the apostle does not look into the state into which those that are the objects of God's mercy had got; for the second chapter is as plain as Romans 3 about the dreadful condition of those that were brought into that relationship. But in Romans we have, in the fullest manner, their sins proved and brought home to the conscience. We have their evil ways all traced fully, and yet God justifies. We have also their evil condition; and yet God takes them out of that condition, and gives them a new place. In Ephesians it is another aspect. The first thought the apostle dwells on is the purpose of God.
It is God's righteousness that justifies, as in Romans; not His mercy. There is not the smallest hint, therefore, of straining a point.
We know a king may, in order to forgive, pardon a person altogether guilty. I do not say the temper of the world would admit it, still less do I say that man is capable of using such a prerogative as God's grace. But it remains equally true, that it is not merely mercy, but righteousness which justifies, and the believer is the only one that owns his unworthiness and feels his sins according to God.
But in Ephesians another thing appears; God is there purposing from Himself and for Himself; it is God that delights in His own counsel. He means not to be alone in heaven. He means to surround Himself with men thoroughly happy. He means to give them that which would be capable of answering to His own mind and ways, and accordingly in a relationship suitable to it. This is what He does. But what, after all, is their state, when taken up by grace? Dead in trespasses and sins. And this makes it the more remarkable, that there is not a word about justification. But Christ goes down into that death where they lay, goes down underneath their condition, so to speak; and this is the only way in which it is handled in Ephesians. He by grace went down there, and God raised Him up, and set Him at His own right hand in heavenly places. The point in Jordan is, not bringing the people out of slavery, but bringing them into the land, "into heavenly places in Christ."
Will you say, That is when we die? When Israel crossed the Jordan, they entered on a scene of conflict, I ask, When we die and go to heaven shall we have to fight there? No. Well then, if so, it is wrong to make it our dying and going to heaven. The passing of the Jordan means, the bringing the believer into "heavenly places" in such a way that he shall fight and win the victory too. This is the meaning of it. How can a Christian be brought into heavenly places while here? This is what the Epistle to the Ephesians tells us.
You will see how different this is from what was found in crossing the Red Sea. Hence the style of doctrine in Ephesians is different from that of Romans; that is the reason why in Ephesians, it is "heavenly places" that are spoken of. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ."
Yet all this is true to faith now. Of course when we actually go to heaven we shall not lose this place of blessing, but the point that Paul insists on is, that God has already blessed us thus and there in Christ.
The end of the first chapter shows that God raised up Christ from the dead, and set Him in heavenly places; and the beginning of the second chapter shows that in doing this God laid the foundation for our being put in the very same place before God. "God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us even when we were dead in trespasses, quickened us together with Christ, … and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus." We have already then crossed the Jordan. It is not that we are to cross it, but that we have crossed it now.
Is Christ "in the heavenly places"? Am I united to Christ now, or am I only going to be united when I die? Am I now in this very place before God, raised up together with Christ, and so "in the heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus?" It is quite evident that the doctrine of the Epistle to the Ephesians is, that we are so; it is notorious that the doctrine of most Christians is, that we cannot be so till we die.
Now, why is it that people do not enter into this truth? The reason is, you cannot be both a prosperous earthly man, entering into that which occupies men here below, and a heavenly man too; but the natural mind would like to make the best of this world, and the best of the next too. The truth is, I must cross the Jordan now as a Christian; nay, I have crossed it in Christ, if I am a Christian. So you will observe I am not going to point out to you what you have to do, but I wish to make plain what God has done for you, if you are Christians. How blessed it is that Christianity does not hold out what I must attain to in order to be saved, but is a revelation of what God has given me in Christ!
God gives me, and you that believe, a salvation so full, that it not only means that we have been brought across the Red Sea (thus made pilgrims and strangers), but that we have been brought across the Jordan into heavenly places, and blessed with all spiritual blessings there. You say, perhaps, it is mysticism. No such thing. It is the very negation of mysticism. For this turns the eye to Christ, and God's work in Christ; whereas mysticism occupies the heart with its feelings about Him. If Christ is my life, and Christ is seated there, it is evident that I have, by the Spirit of God who dwells in me, and who has been sent by that Christ, a divine link with Him who has entered in there. It is thus that God speaks of us according to that which is true of Christ. That is, Christ being there and He being the life of the believer, and the Holy Spirit the power of that life, we are spoken of according to the place that Christ has entered.
The grand point of the Red Sea is what Christ brings us out of, and that of the Jordan is what Christ brings us into. It is quite evident that what God sets forth by this type is the sweet and blessed truth, that Christ having entered into the very place where God means the Christian to be, God would form us according to Him in that which is to be our true home. Our proper home is not this world, nay, not even in the millennial state. Our hope is not any change that will ever take place in this world, but the "Father's house," where Christ is dwelling. God means that where He is we shall be. It is not merely that Christ will come and bless us where we are (like Israel by and by), but that He will come and take us to where He is; this is what we are waiting for; but meanwhile we are viewed and treated as one with Him to whom we are united there.
I do not mean that we can do without the Epistle to the Romans. The Christian who gets so full of Ephesian truth that he can do without Romans (or, I would add, Hebrews), is on dangerous ground; while he that thinks he can do without Ephesians is flying in the face of God, and the glory of His grace. If He has given us a full cup of blessing in Christ, our wisdom is to seek to understand what our portion is; and the great practical business of the Christian is to live according to the place wherein he is set by God.
If God has brought me out of the house of bondage, He has also put me in heavenly places in Christ. It is not a question of what I see or feel. It is all very well we should appreciate what we are, but we must believe first; and when we take in the completeness of the deliverance out of Egypt, then we see in type what we are delivered from; and when we believe our portion in heavenly places, what can we do but bless Him who has so blessed us?
The First Epistle to the Corinthians, though by no means so full of this as that to the Ephesians, brings before us the principle of this truth: "As is the heavenly such are they also that are heavenly; and as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." The first thought is, that we are heavenly now; and the second is, that though we are heavenly, we do not yet bear the image of the heavenly, but we shall. What a deliverance from mysticism! Mysticism is merely the craving of the heart to feel within what it would desire to have; but faith avoids this occupation with self, and enters into the truth of God. It may be a mystery; but it is one unveiled, and which God makes to be most real and intelligible by the power of the Holy Ghost, for God, of His own grace, has counselled, done, and given it all to us in Christ.
Thus you see the passage of the Jordan differs essentially from the crossing of the Red Sea. Even for the children of Israel at the Red Sea, there was the rod, the judicial rod of power; which for the Egyptians brought destruction. Besides, there was no lasting memorial set up. When you come to the Jordan, there was a double memorial. Twelve stones were placed in the bed of the river, where the feet of the priests rested; and other twelve were taken out of it and were brought to Gilgal.
This reminds me of another fact that gives us a beautiful link with the Epistle to the Colossians. When Israel passed through the Red Sea, circumcision was not practised — there was no sign of the mortification of the flesh — but when they passed through the Jordan they submitted to it. Circumcision means the mortification of the flesh. This furnishes another reason why the common doctrine on this point cannot be true; for when we are dead and gone to heaven there is no flesh to be mortified. Alas! it explains also why self-judgment is so feeble in the mass of those who love the Lord. They know the Lamb and His sprinkled blood; they freely realise their deliverance from Egypt into the wilderness, but not at all their position in Him above, nor consequently do they know Gilgal, where the reproach of Egypt was rolled away from the circumcised.
When the children of Israel crossed the Jordan they placed two memorials — one of death and one of resurrection, showing that in every sense death is gone. But more than that, flesh now is mortified. And there is nothing that gives the soul the sense of the end of the flesh, its being judged thoroughly, and the comfort of it, so much as the consciousness of death and resurrection as bringing us into our true place before God.
Hence, in Colossians, the Holy Ghost speaks not only of a baptism, but also says, "in whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands in the putting off of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ" (Col. 2:11).
In the next chapter we read "Mortify, therefore, your members which are on the earth." So there is this double application. According to the book of Joshua they were first circumcised; and, let them move where they might, they come back to Gilgal. This is a call to continual mortification of the flesh, on the ground that we have been once for all circumcised. Our circumcision was God's dealing with our nature in the death of Christ; but on the ground of this we have to mortify our members. If God has already judged the flesh, what I as a Christian am called to do is to take God's side against my own evil nature. I am called to cherish direct communion with God in condemning any and everything that is unlike Him. This type, you see, is full of direct instruction to the soul, and so far from being a mere theory is eminently practical. I have no doubt this is the reason why people shrink from the types of both the Red Sea and the Jordan. Many would like to know that they shall be protected from judgment, but God would put them in association with His own objects. He gives me a heavenly title that I should have my mind set on things above; for He would have my mind formed by these new and heavenly objects that are where Christ is.
And oh, beloved brethren, what a relief it is that in the common business of this world one can have one's mind and heart set upon what will never perish! Let us have our hearts occupied with what is precious in God's eyes. We can take up other things as matters of duty; but the moment we make them objects, we altogether miss the mind of God. It does not matter what the thing may be. Suppose a person at any business; it makes all the difference possible whether he is simply doing it to God as that which He has given him to do, or whether it is what he likes and takes pleasure in, his object being to be great or rich by it. Where this is the case, I am practically making this world to be the scene of my enjoyment. I am not even treating it as a wilderness, still less am I acting as associated with Christ in heavenly places. On the other hand, if I hold firmly, as from God, that even now I am a heavenly man, still, if God has given me anything to do, I do it — no matter what it may be.
Accordingly, in Ephesians 5 and Ephesians 6, you find all these earthly ties which may rightly be the relationships of heavenly men and women and children; but the only true power of walking well on earth is to remember that I am a heavenly man. It is not only that I am a delivered man, but I am put in present association with heavenly associations in Christ; and unless I bear this in mind, how can I behave myself suitably to the position I am in?
Suppose you take the case of a member of the royal family that for a time goes incognito to some other country. Though he hides his glory, he carries the sense of it in his heart. The Queen of England might travel on the continent by the title of the Duchess of Kent, yet would she have the secret consciousness that she was Sovereign of an empire on which the sun never sets. So with the Christian: the world does not know his title. The world would think it downright fanaticism to be talking about heavenly persons when here below; but we know not merely this, but that the world is under the judgment of the Lord, and it is only the breath of His mouth that is between it and everlasting judgment. We know that the Lord Jesus Christ is ready to judge the living and the dead.
Oh, on what a hair hangs the judgment of this world! but as to us who believe, judgment has passed for ever; — I mean judgment as against us on God's part. I do not mean that we shall not have all our ways manifested before the judgment-seat of Christ. We shall all appear, but shall never appear as criminals there. If Christ has brought us now into the favour of God we are not going to lose it when we are risen and glorified.
I beseech of you to hold fast this precious truth. You have passed across the Jordan as truly as you have marched through the Red Sea. You are not only to remember that you are pilgrims, but that you have a living link with heaven; be sure you regard it as your own proper home. The wilderness is merely a place of sojourn; but the heavenly places are our only abiding place. God's purpose to have us in heaven was made before the world was. The world has become sinful, and so has become a wilderness, for there would be no wilderness if there was not sin; but God has delivered us in grace from our sins, and has also brought us in spirit through the wilderness. As a matter of fact, indeed, we have sin, and are passing through the wilderness; but in title, and as united to Christ, we are clear from both. May God in His grace give us to enter more into this truth, and to live in the power of it!