We never know our place rightly till we know Christ’s place. What we find in this chapter is, that we are completely associated and identified with Him. “For both he that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren.” Then God’s way is to settle our relationship with God Himself first, and then to pass us through the wilderness, till the time comes for the full accomplishment of His purpose in glory. If we do not connect our place with Christ, we do not get the key to it. He passed through the wilderness, dying for us too, and He is now crowned with glory and honour. This chapter puts Him in this place.
The wilderness is no part of God’s purpose for us at all; it is a part of His ways, not His purpose. Christ could take the thief straight to paradise without any wilderness at all, so absolute was that work of His in its efficacy. Bringing us to God and into the wilderness is the same thing. Christ’s work is complete, and the effect of redemption is to bring us into the wilderness. The Israelites began the wilderness, properly speaking, after Sinai. As soon as they had passed through the Red Sea, they could say, “Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them by thy strength unto thy holy habitation,” Ex. 15:13. At Sinai Jehovah said, “Ye have seen … how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself,” Ex. 19:4. They were brought to the wilderness and to God.
Exodus 15 goes on to shew God’s purpose: “Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance, in the place, O Jehovah, which thou hast made for thee to dwell in, in the sanctuary, O Jehovah, which thy hands have established,” Ex. 15:17. That Israel had not got, and we have not got it, but Christ has entered in, and that is the difference.
If you look at Exodus 3, you will see that the wilderness formed no part of God’s purpose: “And I am come down to deliver them, and to bring them up out of that land, unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey.” In Exodus 6 you find the same, and in Exodus 15, where faith celebrates redemption, you have the same thing. “Thou hast guided them by thy strength unto thy holy habitation.” This leaps right over the wilderness. He did bring them through the wilderness, but it was no part of His purpose for them. Redemption was accomplished when they were brought through the Red Sea. In that way the Red Sea and the Jordan coalesce: in both there was the passing on dry ground through the water that formed the barrier, the real difference of meaning being, that in the Red Sea we get Christ’s death and resurrection—not merely blood-shedding, we had that in Egypt—and in the Jordan, our death with Christ.
The blood at the passover kept God out, but the Israelites were in Egypt all the while. In Christ’s death and resurrection there was the bringing us out of the state we were in into a new one; in Christ risen we have a totally new position. Christ coming and taking our place died to that, not merely bearing our sins—though that is true too—but He was made sin for us; and now He is risen up into a new place as Man, a place that is the effect of redemption, and He is gone into glory too. This brings us into this totally new place, which forms part of the counsels of God.
The first man was the responsible man; the second Man was the man of God’s counsels. At the beginning all depended on Adam, and he totally failed: then Christ becomes Man, according to the counsels of God, and in His own Person He takes manhood into the place of God’s counsels about man. The wilderness came in by the bye, very profitable, but only by the bye.
I have got God perfectly glorified in a Man—much more than man, for He is “God over all, blessed for ever”—but still in a man. “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead,” 1 Cor. 15:21. He comes into this scene of ruin, manifests God in it, and then manifests man to God. God raises Him from death, and puts Him into His own glory as Man. In virtue of the work which has glorified God, man is at the right hand of God. “Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself [the second step down], and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name,” Phil. 2:6-9. Because of that He is in glory. As the eternal Son He was always in glory, and He could speak of Himself as “the Son of man who is in heaven.” In John 13 you find it there. “Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him,” John 13:32. He cannot wait for the kingdom and glory that are coming, but personally He glorifies Him at His own right hand.
Then, redemption having been accomplished, the people are brought out through redemption. We get in Jordan, not Christ dying for us, as at the Red Sea, but our dying with Christ; consequently there is not the smiting of the water, as at the Red Sea; there is no judgment, but the ark stood in the midst of Jordan till all the people passed over.
Canaan was a rest in the purpose of God, but instead of that the Israelites found it a place of fighting; Joshua met there the man with a drawn sword in his hand. What characterises heaven now is fighting.
Therefore there, and not till there, we get circumcision: the manna ceased, and they ate the old corn of the land. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand,” Eph. 6:12, 13.
We get the two things: the accomplishment of redemption brings us into the wilderness, and the purpose of God brings us into heavenly places. Faith realises these, redemption perfectly accomplished, and Christ sitting at the right hand of God because it is accomplished. He is not on His own throne at all; “Sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool,” Psalm 10:1.
Then the Holy Ghost comes down, and connects us with Him in that place. The believer, therefore, if he knows his place, says, “Thou hast guided them by thy strength unto thy holy habitation.” That is all settled, but we are not there, except in spirit; we are in the wilderness all the way.
“For the law having a shadow of good things to come … can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins,” Heb. 10:1, 2. “And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.” They were always at it, clearing people of sins; every sin committed required a fresh sacrifice. This is in contrast to Christianity, though people do not see it; for inasmuch as Christ is sitting down, the believer, not like the Jews, has no “more conscience of sins.” Then, as Christ is sitting there because He has finished the work, our conscience is perfect, not we: it is “once “and for all. If failure comes in, “we have an advocate with the Father”; but the Christian who knows Christ’s place has “no more conscience of sins.” “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified,” Heb. 10:14. “For ever” here is a specific word, meaning continuous, not eternal, though, of course, it is eternal. The point here is, that as Christ is always, continuously, sitting there, my conscience is continuously perfect, because it is the Person who bore my sins that is sitting there. The Christian is not in his right place till he is there—he may be on the way. “No more conscience of sins”—that is what I get in scripture. “Blessed is the man unto whom Jehovah imputeth not iniquity,” Psalm 32:2. He has not got the blessedness, if he thinks it possible that sin can be imputed to him. Such is the basis— that, and the Holy Ghost coming down from heaven—of our whole Christian place. “Without shedding of blood is no remission,” Heb. 9:22. It does not say, “without sprinkling of blood” (though the blood is sprinkled); but if anything is to be done for sin now, you must get the blood shed. “For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself,” Heb. 9:26. If we are believers, we are under the effect of the work of Christ that never changes. We shall know more of its blessedness and value, but there is no renewing of this work of Christ in any sort.
This is only the entrance into the wilderness. He does not bring us into the desert till we are out of Egypt; until Christ has met God for us, we are not brought into the desert at all. We have trials and exercises there, but it is redemption that brings us into it; our path flows from that. In telling of redemption in Egypt, there is not a word about the wilderness; but when the Israelites have gone through it, then, in Deuteronomy 8, the wilderness is reviewed. He talks of the forty years there. “And thou shalt remember all the way which Jehovah thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments or no,” Deut. 8:2. There we find all these ways of God proving the heart, yet He was watching their clothes and their feet all the time. He adds another thing— “to do thee good at thy latter end.” Redemption was at the beginning, Canaan at the latter end; the wilderness comes between the two. Through the wilderness we have God with us, and for us, not imputing anything to us, but exercising our hearts. These are the ways of God, the government of God, and so on.
He begins by leading a redeemed people to God. The force of Romans 8:9 is, that we are in a new place: “Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit.” The flesh is not your standing or place before God at all: before God you are not a child of Adam, but a redeemed child of God.
Hebrews 2 puts the world to come in connection with Christ. “For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.” We speak of a world where Christ shall reign; that is God’s purpose, and it is not come at all. “What is man that thou art mindful of him, or the son of man that thou visitest him?” Job says the same thing; he wonders why God takes such trouble about him. “What is man that thou shouldest magnify him, and that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him? and that thou shouldest visit him every morning, and try him every moment? How long wilt thou not depart from me, and let me alone till I swallow down my spittle?” Job 7:17-19. Here is the answer: “Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thine hands. But now we see not yet all things put under him, but we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour.” Christ, who is the Man of God’s counsels to be over all things, is now sitting at the right hand of God, “expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.” He has accomplished redemption, and gone to the right hand of God as Man, and He is sitting there till the time comes when He shall take His great power, and reign. All things are not put under Him yet, but He is crowned with glory and honour.
In Psalm 2 you find Christ spoken of as come to this world, and rejected, and then it goes on to say, “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh, Jehovah shall have them in derision. Yet have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zion.” In that character as King in Zion, and Son of God, as born into this world, He was utterly rejected; yet God will set Him on His holy hill in Zion. Psalm 8 tells us what He will be when He is rejected.
To shew how in scripture all hangs together, when Nathanael owns Him as Son of God and King of Israel according to Psalm 2, the Lord answers, “Verily, verily, I say unto you. Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man,” John 1:51. Psalm 8 comes in, and we see the highest creatures subject to the Son of man. He was Son of God and King of Zion (Son of God, even as born into this world). It was all right for Nathanael to own Him as such, but that is not going to be now; so He speaks of Himself as Son of man. In Psalm 8 you get the purpose of God; the Son of man is to be set over all the works of His hands. We do not see the works set under Him yet, but we see Him crowned with glory and honour; half the psalm has been fulfilled, but not the other half. He is waiting, and we wait; meanwhile we have the wilderness, where we have to learn ourselves and God, because we are redeemed.
Therefore, to shew the perfect completeness of Christ’s work, He could take the thief straight to paradise. The thief was looking to share in the glory when Christ came: “Lord, remember me when thou comest in thy kingdom,” Luke 23:42. ‘Oh,’ says the Lord, ‘you shall not wait for that.’ “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43. It is more blessed to wait up there, than to wait down here: “To depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better,” Phil. 1:23. The apostle says, I do not know which to choose, but if I am beheaded, I can do no more work for Christ: it is better for you that I should remain—so I shall remain. He decided his own course; it was Christ who settled those things, not Nero.
As regards acceptance, it is a settled thing. Giving “thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light,” Col. 1:12. Even in Colossians you get them passed through the desert. “You are reconciled, but you must hold fast to the end.” Whenever a saint is looked at as going through the wilderness, you get “ifs,” only with a promise that He will keep us, but we have to be kept. Why is it said that no man is able to pluck the sheep out of Christ’s hand? Because, if He were not there, they would be plucked. “The wolf catcheth them”; this is the same word. The wolf may come, and scatter the sheep—that he has done; “but,” says Christ, “not out of my hand.”
Now see where in the chapter before us we come in. “For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one.” There is never such a thing in scripture as the thought of Christ being united to men by incarnation. “He that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one.” Here we have that blessed truth which is at the root of all these thoughts and purposes of God, but you never get this without His personal pre-eminence; you will never find His personal glory compromised. As another has said, ‘He never speaks to His disciples of our Father’; but He has brought us into His place as Man. “All of one,” all one set, kind, and state— an abstract expression. Adam was the head of the mischief; he and his descendants were all of one: now “He that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one, for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren.” In wonderful grace He takes us into union with Himself— “My brethren.” There we come in, and we come into the desert. Christ has gone through the desert before us, that He might understand what we have to go through.
There are four reasons why He became man:
1. Because of what becomes God;
2. What was necessary as to Satan;
3. Then as to our sins; and
4. As to His sympathy with us.
The glory of God required it; therefore, if Christ took up our cause, then God had to treat Him accordingly. If God had cut off Adam and Eve, it would have been righteous, but there would have been no love in it: if He had passed over all, there would have been no righteousness. In the cross God’s majesty was made good as nowhere else. Christ there perfectly glorifies God as to His majesty, His righteousness against sin, His love, and His truth: all that is in God was perfectly glorified in the cross; therefore the Man that did it is in glory. That is the righteousness of God. He has set Christ at His right hand: the Person that glorifies God goes, as the only adequate measure of His work, into glory. “For it became him for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” The consequence is (that being the grand basis of all), “For both he that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one; for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren.”
Then I get Satan in view (we had God in view before): “That through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.” It was through death that Satan exercised all his power; He committed Himself wholly to that, and in the resurrection of Christ all Satan’s power was over— that is, it is Christ’s work that annuls it.
The next reason was for our sins: “To make reconciliation (or, atone) for the sins of the people.” We have got God glorified, Satan destroyed in his power over us, sins—those of all believers I mean—gone. All that is not wilderness work, it is accomplished work. God is glorified; Satan’s power destroyed: our sins all borne: that is all done—if it is not, it never can be.
Then comes the wilderness. Therefore He has not only made “reconciliation” or propitiation “for the sins of the people,” but He has “suffered, being tempted,” that He may be “able to succour them that are tempted.” This is the fourth reason why He became man. He has gone through every trial, everything that could hinder or be opposed to Him; He has gone through ten thousand times more than we can do. “He is able to succour them that are tempted”; He has experimental knowledge.
There are two kinds of temptation. Look at James 1:2: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations”; this means trials in fact. Lower down, at verse 14, you will find quite another kind of thing: “But every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” This is what is in my own heart. If we confound the two kinds of temptation, we either put Christ into this evil condition, which would be horrible blasphemy, or we take away the bad kind of temptation from ourselves. That is the reason it is said, “but was in all points tempted like as we are, except sin,” Heb. 4:13. We are tempted by all trials from without, and by sin within. He was tempted by all, sin excepted. I get by redemption into this totally new place, but I am waiting for the redemption of the body. I am in spirit in heavenly places with Christ; my body is not there yet, it belongs to the old creation; I belong to the new.
In Numbers we get, consequently, the red heifer, the provision for the wilderness, which is not among the sacrifices in Leviticus. If you touch death, you want your feet washed. The ashes of the heifer came in for restoring communion, when they had lost it in going through the wilderness. We have an immensity to learn about ourselves, and about God too: we have been left down here, being redeemed, to know ourselves and God, in His own faithful blessed ways with us.
In Joshua, circumcision comes in (when there was circumcision before, they simply followed their fathers); as merely redeemed in the wilderness, they were not circumcised. It is a different thing to say, “I am safe, and my sins are gone,” from saying, “I am dead to the world.” It is only as sitting in heavenly places that I do not belong to the world at all. In Ephesians only we have God’s purpose completely; and there, consequently, we have Christ raised from the dead, and seated in heavenly places; while we are with Him there, and there only, we have conflict properly. We get the three things— “Ye are dead,” “Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth,” Col. 3. We have not got there yet. In Romans 6 faith is told to reckon self as dead, and in 2 Corinthians 4 we get the carrying it out in practice: “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you,” 2 Cor. 4:10-12. They were so bona fide realising this death, that nothing but the life of Christ comes out in them.
“We which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake,” Paul could say: he was really carrying it out. When God puts him right in the face of death (2 Cor. 1:8), he could say, “You are killing a dead man.” “But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead.”
I do not know that I could quite say that in Hebrews we are walking down here, while Christ is up there. Hebrews gives us the desert rather than the Jordan. Deliverance has nothing to do with sins, but with sin working in the believer. Then I get, not forgiveness or justification, but deliverance from sin. “For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death,” Rom. 7:5. “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit,” Rom. 8:9. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17)—liberty with God, and liberty from the power of sin. The way you get it is in having died with Christ. When I rejoice in forgiveness through the work of Christ, then I am sealed with the Spirit; and this makes me know I have died with Christ, and am risen with Him. We get there, in Romans 4:25, “who was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification”; and in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus”; this is a new place. Could you charge Christ, who is on high, with sin? You cannot separate “the law of the Spirit of life” from the Spirit in Romans 8. “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,” Rom. 8:3. Where was the condemnation? In the cross. He did condemn sin in the flesh; when Christ was there for sin. This goes with it, that, when it was condemned, it died there; that is all right—then I am dead. Death and condemnation came together; Christ took the condemnation, and I got the death. “For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God,” Gal. 2:19. I have got now not only that Christ lives in me, but that I have a title to reckon myself dead because I died with Him. There is a great difference to note between guilt and nature. That state of which I have spoken is the consequence of the Spirit of God dwelling in us, not of our being converted merely. “If Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin,” Rom. 8:10. If I let the body live in that moral sense, it is all sin. Suppose a person was lying dead on the floor, could you charge him with evil lusts and a wicked will? He is dead. We are dead by faith, though not in fact, and we have a new life in Christ. “Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit.”
“No more conscience of sins” would be true if the believer were falling into sin; which makes it ten thousand times worse. None but a purged conscience can ever be a bad conscience.
The priesthood of Christ in Hebrews is never for sins, except where He offered Himself on the cross. It does people a great deal of mischief to think of Christ as a Priest for sins. I get in John another thing: “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous,” 1 John 3:1. If there is even an idle thought, you have lost communion with the Father and the Son; but then you have Christ as the Advocate on high. “And he is the propitiation for our sins,” 1 John 2:2. He acts as Advocate, and the soul is restored as to its state; the conscience is purged, and we are brought into the light, as God is in the light. As long as there is a question of guilt, I cannot go to God; I cannot have boldness; therefore I do not get into the place where holiness is unfolded, and where there is the Advocate. “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin,” 1 John 1:7. This is an abstract statement; John always gives us abstract truth. “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not” (1 John 5:10)—he has nothing for the new nature.
We are in the light as God is in the light: if I cannot stand before God, where the light is, I must be off. What is the consequence of being in the light? Fellowship one with another. Divine things are totally distinct from human things. We must have mine and yours down here; if I give you this book, I have it no longer; but if I enjoy fellowship with God, do I lose by bringing you into it? There common joy and common blessing characterise the Christian state; and you are always perfect because you are there in virtue of the blood that cleanses from all sin.
We have these three things:1. We are in the light, as God is in the light. 2. We have fellowship with the Father and the Son, and with one another. 3. “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” This is an abstract statement, as if I should say, “Quinine cures the ague.”
Propitiation in John is in no sense a present thing: it is all finished. The blood was on the mercy-seat for a year; now it is with us for eternity: that is what I get in Hebrews.
Romans 7 is not Christian state at all; it is no proper conflict, for I am there a captive to the law of sin and death. In Romans 7 you never find a man doing right; neither Christ nor the Holy Ghost is mentioned until you reach the end: “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The moment I am in chapter 8, it is all about Christ: conflict begins then in one.