1 Corinthians 15
There are two characters of relationship into which we are brought: one is our union with Christ; and the other our relationship along with Christ to God as our Father, He being the firstborn of many brethren. “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.” This last is the result in glory, but it is founded on the great truth of “As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy, and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.” It flows from our connection with the second Man (He, Head of a spiritual race, as the first Adam was head according to the flesh).
This is a different thing from His relationship to the bride, and the headship of the body. It teaches us how the whole of the Old Testament scripture looks at our history in the first Adam, closing that history entirely, and then brings in a new One. This is not brought out until the second Man is raised from the dead. He was in Person the same before, but He was not head of a spiritual race until He was raised. “Except the corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone,” etc. It was only then that He could take such a position with His disciples as to say, “I go to my Father and your Father.” All thought of any union as man, with Christ, is wrong. He could not unite Himself with us in sin: He could shew compassion, but it was impossible there could be any connection between us in the flesh, as men in nature, and God. When Christ takes a new position, outside every position in which flesh could be taken account of, we are united to Him in spirit; but the whole history of man shews the impossibility of connection between man in nature with God. “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” “And as I said to the Jews, even so say I to you, Whither I go, ye cannot follow me now.” Flesh, corrupt and corrupting, cannot enter into glory.
True, flesh works in the believer; but Scripture goes deep and brings out this truth, “in me, that is in my flesh dwelleth no good thing.” So the apostle afterwards says, “When we were in the flesh.” I do not know whether you would be able to say that—when I was in the flesh. If we can say so, our responsibility now is to walk as men in the Spirit. A Christian is not to walk as a man, but as a Christian. There are duties of husbands, wives, children; and the relationships between man and man have to be sustained of course; but before God I am not looked at as a man in the flesh at all. The flesh tries to hinder. It comes to be a hostile power to what I have from the last Adam; but if you walk merely as men, you are lost.
Flesh shewed its weakness. The word to Adam did not provide for sin, and supposed no lust in man. In the garden of Eden lust came in, sin came in, and the separation was complete between God and man. Adam then became head of an excluded race.
Law, given afterwards, supposed men needing life, but invoked responsibility. Man left to himself became corrupt before God. The earth was filled with violence. Then a flood came. Then came the law as a trial of man. Promise was not a trial of man, but it manifested grace without a question of man. There was no promise to Adam, the promise was to the second Adam, the Seed of the woman. God cannot promise to sin. There was no question of responsibility in promise. He gave it to man and left it. Afterwards the question of righteousness is raised.
We too often may little weigh what the terms of the law imply. Were I to say, If you do this, you will get a fortune, this implies that you have not a fortune without. You cannot say, Do this and live, if you have life. When God said to man, “Do this and live,” it implied his being dead. Man did not think so, but it was the ministry of death and condemnation, because it demanded obedience, which man could not render. Law does bring out man’s guilt; he cannot be subject to the law of God.
But there was another thing that proved his guilt far more thoroughly. Will they accept God’s terms when He came to them in grace? Christ came, and in His life was the perfect manifestation of goodness. He came amongst men to do them good, healing the leper, etc. But could flesh find anything attractive in Him? He was an outcast among the people to whom He brought home the goodness and love of God.
When law was given, they were not subject to it; and when Christ came, they would not have Him. Therefore the Lord said, “Now is the prince of this world judged.” “They have both seen and hated both me and my Father.” Man, tried in every way, is proved to be bad.
In other circumstances, namely, that of the Christian, there is the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the same impossibility of its pleasing God. All flesh shews utter rejection of God Himself, and is proud of itself all the time. Before God executes judgment, man has entirely cast God off. The wonder of the cross is that He came—the sinless One came into the very place where flesh is. “He who knew no sin was made sin for us.” He finds Himself in the fully revealed position of man before God; He puts Himself there in grace and in obedience too. There was more than that: “He bore our sins in his own body on the tree.” He was “made sin,” and put it away by giving up the life in which He bore it. God deals with Him about sin, and the very life ceases in which He takes it, and then He rises up. God had dealt with it, putting an end to it entirely on the cross. There was an end of the old man; and now it is said, “Reckon yourselves to be dead,” etc. “He that is dead is freed from sin.” Christ has taken the place of the first Adam in sin. All that I was in, Christ has stepped into and borne. He rises up, and I have an entirely new position. I am now in Christ. He has closed for ever the history of the flesh (we have it as an enemy—but its history is closed for ever before God) and commenced a place for us in Himself, the second Adam. “Father, glorify thy Son.”
Christ returned to His place before God, having accomplished righteousness. He is Head of a new race, a family of His own. He has new glory as thus Head of a race. We are livingly united to Him, being in Christ. “As is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.” We are not in flesh, but before God in virtue of accomplished righteousness. All God’s dealings with man before were grounded on sin having come in; so law, promise, government, until Christ came. Now His dealings with us are founded on righteousness. God has His righteousness before Him in a man. The Son of man has glorified God on the earth, and God has glorified Him in heaven. It is as a man He is there, though He is much more to be sure.
Life I have in Him and righteousness. Life is in the Son, the second Man, and I can treat the flesh and all connected with it as an enemy. As to that, I am dead: flesh has no place now. I have life in Christ and dead as to flesh. I have nothing to say to it, no relationship with God in flesh; I have to pray against it, fight against it, read, and use all the means I can against it; but I am not in it. There may be confusion in the mind, but not in the relationship. God can have nothing to do with flesh. “Reckon yourselves dead,” for Christ has died. It is not said, Die, to the flesh. The flesh will keep itself alive as long as it can. It will try to mend itself—try to be better. There would be no sense in telling the flesh to die. But Scripture says, Ye are dead. Flesh has been judged in Christ, and therefore I am entitled to say, I am dead and am a new man. Then walk in the Spirit, walk as Christ walked, as the second Man, not as the first. You cannot get back to innocence, the uprightness of creation. True, you are upright, if in the Spirit, but more, righteous and holy. All this is equally true about sins. As surely as the first Adam was turned out of the earthly paradise and became head of a race, so He, the second Man, is Head of a race for the heavenly paradise.
Faith takes absolutely what God says. Where does it take its place? Half way, or entirely, with Christ? Flesh never can take its place before God. Faith says, I have no place before God but in Christ Himself. He is righteousness on the throne of God. Any half-saviour or half-place would not do. We grow up into His likeness: but our place before God is the same at first. Christ’s life upon earth is a perfect pattern for us, manifesting God in all His ways.
Our position before God is one of full favour. And we have the hope of glory before us. How it elevates the heart—not us! Grace humbles us, but elevates the heart. I have boldness before Him in the day of judgment. When we reach the heavenly tribunal, we shall be like Him, the heavenly One.
Grace alone does it. It enables us to discern between flesh and Spirit, not only between what is right and what is wrong; but we can say, That is flesh, or This is Spirit. It may look very fair, but if it is flesh, it comes to nothing. If all the world thinks a thing good, that is not Christ and I would not believe it. If a man walks with the Lord, the flesh is judged. There are the different growths of the babe, the young man, the father; but if we walk with Him, we discern what a thing is. The flesh is very subtle, but it will not last out when the Lord tries me; the wood, hay, and stubble will not stand. Gold is a rarer thing in the world than wood, hay, and stubble, but it lasts longer.
Can you then say, “When I was in the flesh,” with the very distinct consciousness that you are not in it now? Then you are called not to walk as if you were in it. The Spirit does not make a fair show. You may walk with Christians, but you cannot walk with Christ without the power of the life in exercise—not going to look for the power, but having it. May the Lord give us to know what it is to be in the Spirit and not in the flesh! It may try the conscience, but the end will be peace and joy.