I have thought, on weighing the request of some as to a paper on the great principles of our being dead and risen with Christ, that a review of the progressive character of the blessing connected in scripture with it might be profitable for all. I have not the expectation of satisfying myself in what I shall present; but, as my purpose is to follow scripture, I may be able perhaps in the Lord’s goodness to help others.
There are three great points to consider as regards sin (and I speak and purpose speaking entirely in a practical way): sins actually committed, involving us in guilt as regards deeds done in the body; the principle of sin as a law in our members, sin in the flesh; and separation from God. But in this last respect there are two aspects, separation of heart, and judicial separation. Both must be remedied.
The root of all sin is not in the lusts in which it is so hatefully shewn, but in having a will of our own, the departure of the will from God, the will to be independent, free to do our own will— “who is Lord over us?” When we do thus separate from God, we must have something, we cannot suffice to ourselves, and we sink into lusts, lusts in which our will works.
There is indeed another element which seems to me to have preceded both lust and will in man’s fall, namely, distrust of God, which left him to the working of both.
Happy and confiding in God, he had no need to seek happiness in any other way; but Satan suggested to him that God had kept the forbidden fruit back from him, because if he ate it he would be as Elohim. Lust by this got entrance.
All this has to be remedied, and remedied according to the glory of God. Is that remedy a return to the old estate of man, a restoration or re-establishment of his original paradisaical state? is it that which is new—new, that is, as regards man? The answer is simple: it is wholly new. It is blessing in a second Adam, who is the Lord from heaven. Man remains man, and the individual remains the individual; all their responsibility in their previous state recognized, and the glory of God provided for and vindicated as to it; but the state and blessing into which they are brought, as brought to God, is a wholly new one. It is God’s way of doing this, and what He has done, which we are now to inquire into, according to the true and blessed word of God, who only can reveal these things.
It may be well first to turn to the responsibility of man as such, though the thoughts and purposes of God preceded it all. But the revelation of them came after it, as we shall notice, with the Lord’s help, farther on.
Responsibility attaches to every creature who is placed in intelligent relationship with God. Wherever there is consciousness of such relationship, there is obligation to God in it. It may be in a holy nature, and obedience delighted in; in an innocent one, and little else but thankfulness known, save so far as we know it was in Adam, as obedience may be tested by commandment; or it may be in a state of sin, which does not alter the fact of relationship in which the fallen being stands, but his whole state is in such relative place. The first is the condition of the elect angels preserved by God, so that they have not left their first estate. The second was Adam’s state before his fall. We may stay a moment to contemplate a state which passed away as if it were one intended only to give a lovely picture, that men might learn what it was, but incapable of lasting, the bright but peaceful freshness of morn for one who rises early to a busy and wearying day. Little is said of it, nothing of its joys. It was the true and real but transitory ushering in of that in which all moral truth has been brought out—of a scene which results for faith in a head anointed with oil, and a cup running over, favour that is better than life, and dwelling in the house of the Lord for ever, our Father’s house, but not in itself the green pastures and waters of quietness which are the natural effect of the hand and guidance of the Good Shepherd.
The knowledge of good and evil was not there. The enjoyment of a good conscience was not there in the exercises which keep it without offence; there could not be a bad one. The peaceful natural enjoyment of goodness was there, and no thought of evil disturbed it. God could be thanked and praised, His gifts enjoyed. Evil, sin, sorrow, conflict, passions were unknown. It was a peaceful scene and a happy scene, occupation in what gave natural pleasure, innocent pleasure. They were set to dress the garden and keep it, and all was pleasant there; no want was there, nor would suggest itself. One only moral point bore another character, and tested willing subjection to God, namely, the ready acceptance of the divine will by a confiding soul. If man was to be a moral being at all, he must have obligation and responsibility somewhere: not in any object which supposed evil lusts—for he had none. It was obedience that was required, and simply obedience. What was forbidden would have been no sin, had it not been forbidden. It did not suppose sin in man: confidence in God would have made it easy and a delight. A dutiful child assumes the goodness as well as the Tightness of a command, and both as well as the duty to obey. In fact up to the temptation all went on in peace.
This was the difference of man’s and Satan’s sin. He abode not in the truth, for there was no truth in him. Man was tempted into the knowledge of good and evil. The destruction of confidence, as we have said, lets in will and lust. It was dreadful to belie God’s goodness in the midst of blessing, and trust one who could call it in question. All was really over then; for man was away from God, had ceased to believe what He said, had ceased to believe Him good—alas! no uncommon case since. But will and lust brought in this transgression at once, when the heart was away from God, and trusted itself and Satan—the history of our hearts ever since. Man had departed from God, sin had come in, transgression, and (by the fall) conscience, or the knowledge of good and evil. Up to this, righteousness and holiness were unknown to man; they require the knowledge of good and evil. But thus the normal relationship of man with God had closed; his responsibility could not, for he was a creature, and God his creator: nor was that all. He had himself the knowledge of good and evil, or (to make it intelligible) of right and wrong. His responsibility had taken the form of conscience, and relationship to a God forsaken indeed, but known, so far better as conscience makes us know Him, as a judge.
Into God’s rest, Hebrews 4 teaches us, man in creation never entered. Such natural peacefulness without combat, as he may then have had for a moment, cannot be on earth now. There remaineth a rest for the people of God, where nature, then a new and divine one, will have it in fulness of blessing in God’s own presence, where all will be according to the nature we have, without a disturbing element, yea, according to God’s own nature, where we enter into God’s rest.
But on the fall sin and responsibility ran on together in the place into which man, who had fled from God, was drawn out by God; and the world as such began. But man was separated from God, though He overruled all things. That which God has wrought for us as regards this state, and the accomplishment of His own counsels in grace towards us, is this:—perfectly meeting, according to His own righteous requirements, our state of sin connected with man’s responsibility; closing, as to our standing before Him, our whole Adam life; laying a foundation, according to His own glory, for our being with Himself in that glory, in a new state altogether; giving us the life in which we can enjoy it; giving us the energy, revelations, and power of the Holy Ghost, by which, in this scene of combat and ruin, we may (through what He has given and done) be in relationship with Him according to the place He has set us in, and look forward to the glory; and finally, introducing us into the rest with and like Him, who being our title, is also our forerunner in glory—all in and through the second Man, the last Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ.
As to responsibility and its effects, I may be brief. The place in which man was set according to God, the only place he had according to Him, he has wholly lost. He had turned away from God in heart, had fled from Him, through his newly acquired conscience, and has been driven out—that life and sin might not go on, for ever, together in the world. Return was precluded. This state and standing was in itself that of one wholly lost. Man was away from God. Mercies might and surely did remain, but place and relationship were wholly gone. In the judgment on the author of the calamity a promise was given, not to Adam, but on which faith might rest, that another should arise, and through His once suffering, totally destroy the power of him who had brought in the ruin. The Seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head. This was simple promise and grace in another than Adam.
The two great principles of responsibility and life-giving had been set up in the garden. Man had failed in the first; and, having failed, was debarred in that state from perpetuating evil by the second. He could not be innocent and die. He could not be a sinner, and allowed to live for ever in the place of responsibility in wickedness. It would have been a horror. Return to innocence is in the nature of things impossible when good and evil are known.
But man was to be tested, having the knowledge of good and evil, and the pretension with it to be good and righteous. The result, though of all importance, I state rapidly, because it is surely familiar to most of your readers; I only, as necessary, recall it here.
Man has been tried, left to himself, though not without ample testimony and ground for faith. The earth was corrupt before God and filled with violence; and the judgment of God, in the deluge, closed a scene which had become intolerable in every way.
But the world, yet again, would not retain God in its knowledge, and, in its various national divisions, worshipped devils; for man must have some god.
God then began the distinct history of grace.
Promises were given to one called out, who became the spiritual, and to some, even natural, head of a race set apart to God: Abraham became the heir of the world. The great spring of hope being thus established, as the apostle reasons in the Galatians, the question of responsibility on the footing of revelation and special relationship was renewed: first, on the ground of requirement, man’s obligations according to the true and perfect rule of them; secondly, on the ground of promise and grace.
The law was given by Moses. Israel, God’s called and redeemed people, undertook to inherit the blessing, on the footing of doing all that Jehovah said to them; and a just rule of outward relative conduct to God and their neighbour, and that reaching to desire or coveting, was given to them. We know the result. The golden calf began, the Babylonish captivity closed, their path.
The second trial was on the ground of promise and grace, when Christ came and presented Himself in forgiving mercy and healing to Israel. It resulted in His rejection by His people; and they were finally cast off, to be restored only by sovereign grace, the grace of One faithful, at any rate, to His own promises. Isaiah 40-48 treats one; chaps. 49-57 the other of these trials.
But this last proof of man’s state went farther. It was really a trial of man as man. As regards the law, the blessed Lord brought out a deeper essence than the ten words—loving God with all our hearts, and our neighbour as ourselves; and, as regards grace, He was the goodness of God manifest in the flesh, the light of men. It was not promise, it was the love of God—God present in love. But man’s sin was thus fully brought out. For His love He had hatred. As God is love, He was hated, instead of loved with all the heart; as man, in gracious goodness and righteousness, they were His murderers instead of loving Him as themselves; they hated Him without a cause. This was too in full grace, Gentile wickedness being full, law-breaking in Israel already accomplished. But, though in the way to the judge, they would not be reconciled; and man’s heart was fully tested by God’s goodness.
The cross was the distinct witness of Israel’s and man’s sin. The mind of the flesh, of what man was in himself, was enmity against God. It had been fully tried and tested, and that by goodness. Its evil and will were only more and more brought out. It was manifested in its will (pure evil in the presence of pure good), not only by sins, though these abounded, but by the principle of sin and hatred of God. Amiable creature qualities there might be; but enmity against God, and self, was its root.
Was the flesh to be restored, or a new life and blessing to be brought in by Christianity? Is it the restoration of the first Adam, or salvation in and by the Second? Where is the place, the scene, in which the blessing is to have its result? To what does the life it is enjoyed in belong? To answer these questions we must look to the positive revelation of God, however that may be made good in the conscience when known.
I say, we must look to the purpose of God as revealed, to know fully what His mind as to this is. But we must look to the responsibility of man too; to the guilt under which he was lying as child of the first fallen Adam. For God’s glory is affected by it.
I shall first call the attention of your readers to the purpose of God Himself as revealed in scripture. Ephesians 3 (as other passages) speaks of a mystery hidden from ages and generations, hid in God. But it adds, that now the manifold wisdom of God is known by the church, “according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” There was then a plan, before ever responsibility began, of glorifying God by the church in and with Jesus our Lord. This precedes responsibility, which begins with creature relationship, and was dependent on it. Creation was the sphere of responsibility. Purpose belonged to God.
Nor is this all. Paul’s apostleship (Titus 1:2) was “in hope of eternal life, which God that cannot lie promised before the world began.” So 2 Timothy 1:9, God “hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling according to his own purpose and grace, which was given to us, in Christ Jesus, before the world began, but is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ.” The life which we have as Christians, new in us, is in origin before the worlds. “God hath given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son; he that hath the Son hath life” —that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested unto us. This present world and time is but the scene where all this is developed and brought to light. Thus in Ephesians 3, “to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.” So in Titus, “but hath in due times manifested his word by preaching.” So in 2 Timothy 1:10, “but is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death and brought life and incorruptibility to light by the gospel.”
It is not, remark here, that there is a predestination of individuals, important as this may be in its place, but that the church—eternal life—the promise of that life—our present saving and calling, had their place before the world existed. The life itself had, in the Person of the blessed Son of God. And though from Adam individuals may have been, and were, quickened, they differed nothing from servants in their revealed standing. Life, the church, incorruptibility, our salvation and calling, have been brought to light and revealed, yea, as to the church, begin to exist since Christ came. But we must now inquire into the application of these truths, and how they are brought to bear on the child of Adam; how he has a part in the blessings contemplated in this purpose.
“The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” The blessed Son of God became Son of man, the last Adam, the second Man. He came as man before God, born of a woman, as under the law; Gal. 4:4. In both He perfectly glorified God; walked as the obedient man, in the midst of temptation; and, as the law in the highest sense required, loved God with all His heart, and His neighbour as Himself. Victorious over Satan, as the first Adam had succumbed to him, He humbled Himself in obedience instead of seeking to exalt Himself by disobeying. In this God was perfectly glorified by man in Christ’s Person. Responsibility, even in the most adverse circumstances, and every way put to the proof, was fully met, so that as man God had nothing to claim and found His delight. This was perfect as between Him and God, but redeemed no one. He abode alone, only so much the more perfect because He was, but still alone in it. As to His own perfectness, He could have had twelve legions of angels, but He did not come for that. Still this was an immense truth as to man and God and His glory. God had been perfectly glorified by a Man there in the scene where He had been dishonoured.
This in itself was of immense moment and to the glory of our blessed Lord. Not that this could be tested without His death, for the question was till then (not for faith but for fact), Will He be faithful in spite of everything? He was. His death threw back the light of absolute unmingled obedience on all His life from His birth on. He came to do God’s will; His will was the spring of all He did; and if He had to learn what obedience was in this world of sin, where it had to be made good, He was, in spite of all suffering, obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. He was the blessed, gracious, perfect man, but the obedient man, as Adam had been the disobedient one—the obedient one in the midst of all suffering and trial, as Adam was disobedient in the midst of blessings.
In this, God had been glorified in man; but He was thinking too of all of us, of His glory in grace and purpose. He was going to bring many sons to glory. But these sons were found in sin, guilty too in fact in every way. All that the first Adam produced hateful to God was thus to be removed; and where grace and God Himself had been revealed in Christ, it only, as we have seen, drew out hatred in man. Other questions arose, though questions connected with sin in one way or another; death which stood out against man; and as regards the Jews, there was the breach of the law and positive transgression; and in rejecting Christ, not only man’s common sin, but the rejection and the loss of the promises in Messiah, the promised Seed. Messiah was cut off and (surely the only true translation) had nothing.
But we may now see what, in the substance and purpose of it, was the import of the cross. As regards the previous Adam state and its fruits, and (I may add) any special transgressions of Jews against law, it was by the deep and blessed work of atonement, the total putting away of all guilt for the believer, all the fruits of the old nature were blotted out and effaced— gone out of God’s sight; so it proved the righteousness of God as passing over in forbearance the sins of Old Testament saints (Rom. 3), and sets the believer now, Jew or Gentile, righteously clear in God’s sight before Him in peace—this as regards the sins of the old Adam, or, if a Jew, transgressions also under law. They are gone. The work as to this had a double character. The blood sprinkled on the mercy-seat so that it should be presented to all, it was the righteousness of God towards all; and as the sins of His whole people were confessed and borne, so that there were none to impute.
This met responsibility as to the old man. As children of Adam we were under guilt in this place and condition. All is perfectly cleared; and we are before God white as snow, righteously owned as clear. But there was the tree as well as the fruit, the evil will, the lawlessness of nature Jew or Gentile, by nature the children of wrath. But Christ has died a sacrifice for sin. “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 [a sacrifice for sin, peri amartias] condemned sin in the flesh.” Sin in the flesh, the principle of evil working and producing sin in us, is condemned. I do not say sins are, but sin; but it is condemned when a sacrifice was made for it, when it was put away by Christ’s sacrifice of Himself. It is not forgiven: we doubtless are, as to it. An evil principle cannot properly be forgiven; it is condemned, but put away judicially by atonement in the sight of God by Christ’s sacrifice. All that constituted the old man in God’s sight is put away wholly in Christ’s death, and that judicially by a work which has glorified God as to it; it was what became Him.
Thus far God has been glorified by Christ’s perfect personal obedience as man, and by His work in atonement for sin. This work indeed for sin goes much farther. The whole new estate of the universe is founded on it. As remarked elsewhere, all God’s dealings with this world are now on the ground that sin is there—must be, because it is there. But Christ has wrought a work in virtue of which God’s relationship with the world, the new heavens and the new earth, when all is accomplished, will be on the ground neither of innocence nor of sin, but of righteousness. He is the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin (not the sins—this He does not do, as falsely cited) of the world. But as to this object of Christ’s death, that is, as to man as a sinful child of Adam and sin in the flesh, this is not all. Christ not only died in the consummation of ages (that is, when man’s probation was fully gone through, as we have seen) to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, but He died to sin. He, the sinless One, closed all His connection with the whole fallen Adamic scene and Adamic state by death. He, ever sinless in it, had come into this scene in grace, walked up and down in it, had been tempted in all points, and carried obedience on to death, and had thus done with the whole scene, and with the sin which He had to say to as long as He was here, though it had only proved at the end, as a result, that He knew no sin, that He lived as a man out of it and above it. Had He stopped short of death, that could not have been said, though now we can say so; we know He died to it.
Thus Christ was no longer connected with man in the state in which life in man was sin, though in Him sinless but tempted, and by temptation even to death proved sinless. Satan had tried to introduce sin into it in Him, but in vain; and now He died to it, ceased to be associated with man in that way absolutely by death. The estate of life in which He had thus to say to man ceased. He destroyed the power of death then, and annulled his power who had it, by undergoing the full extent of it, and rose into another condition of human life, in which man had never yet been at all, the firstfruits of those that slept. But the resurrection of Christ was not only divine power in life, and that in Christ Himself, who had power to lay down life and power to take it again; there was another truth in it. Divine righteousness was shewn in it. He could not be holden by it, but all the Father’s glory was involved in this resurrection. His Person made it impossible He could be holden of it. His Father’s glory, all that the Son was to Him, was concerned in His resurrection; but, He having perfectly glorified God in dying and finished His Father’s work, divine righteousness was involved in His resurrection. And He was raised and righteousness identified with a new state into which man in Him was brought, and more than that indeed, for more was justly due to Him—He was set in glory as man at the right hand of God.
But for this another thing was needed. Not only did the blessed Lord meet for us who believe all our sin as children of Adam, by His death, so as to clear us according to the glory of God from it all in His sight, but He perfectly glorified God Himself in so doing. “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.” So John 17:4, 5. Hence, as stated in both these passages, Man in the Person of Christ entered into the glory of God. But it was wrought for us; our sin was put away by it. Christ, as having thus glorified all God is, is our righteousness. We are thus the righteousness of God in Him. We have a positive title to enter into that glory as regards righteousness, though owning it all to be grace (grace reigns through righteousness), and rejoice in hope of the glory of God, by the work and worth of Christ. “As he is, so are we in this world.” But this took place in Him as entering into, beginning in His Person a new place of human existence, a risen man entered into glory. The power of eternal life was in it. Dead to the old scene and all that state of being and place and ground of relationship to God, He lives, in that He lives, to God. Christ has thus His perfect place of acceptance as Man with God, and we in Him. He is gone in the power of divine life, save according to divine righteousness, into divine glory.
A further truth connects itself with this. Christ risen and ascended has sent down the Holy Ghost which unites us to Him, so that we are in Him, members of His body, sitting in Him in heavenly places. Moreover, the Holy Ghost dwells in us. I will, with the Lord’s help, take up this farther on. I only notice here, in connection with our present subject, that the Holy Spirit makes us clearly know the efficacy of Christ’s work and our redemption; so that we are at liberty, knowing on the one hand that our sins are put away, on the other that we are in Christ. He is the earnest of the glory, the Spirit of adoption, and sheds the love of God, who has done all this, abroad in our hearts. We know that we are in Christ, and Christ in us. Yea, we dwell in God, and God in us; and we know it. His presence is more than this, but I reserve this part for a moment to consider our place in Christ.
The double effect of the work of our Lord Jesus Christ will be noticed here. There was, we have seen, responsibility to God on one side as born of Adam in the world, and God’s purpose on the other, to bring us to glory and privilege in the second Adam. Christ has perfectly met one for us, and entered Himself, consequent on the work of redemption, into the other. He has glorified God as to the first Adam’s state, but has died to it; not that He was ever in any of the sin of it, save as bearing it, but as with us here below as men, in like manner taking part of flesh and blood with the children in the likeness of sinful flesh, and made sin for us on the cross, when fully manifested as in that state knowing no sin. Now He is entered into the glory, the glory He had with the Father before the world was, as second Adam according to the purpose of God as to man, and according to righteousness; John 16, 17.
Our state, our salvation, hangs on this: and we may add, the whole condition of the Jews or the fulfilment of promises on the earth. The sure mercies of David are based on and identified with the resurrection of the Lord, as surely as He died for that nation also.
The cross is for God’s glory, our salvation, and our state before God; it is the turning point of everything.
First: our sins, and sin, are put away. All is clean gone in God’s sight according to God’s glory.
But as alive and having our place in Christ, we see and are in Him as having died to that whole estate and condition, suffering as Son of man. The cross, as it shewed man’s rejection of Him as come into the world in grace, so it breaks in an absolute way (nothing so absolute as death to close our connection with what we lived in, and the rather as He was rejected in will by man), with all He was in as alive down here. Our guilt as responsible men has been perfectly met for God, but we have done too in Him as to our life and standing before God with all down here by the cross. We are baptized to His death. It is the point we come to, we are crucified with Christ, nevertheless we live, but not we, but Christ fives in us. “We are dead and our life is hid with Christ in God”; we are to reckon ourselves dead. Hence we say with the apostle, “when we were in the flesh”; we are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of Christ dwell in us; if not, we are none of His. If we are Christians, our only true standing is in Him, as having died and risen from the dead.
I can well understand a Christian knowing only that, as a sinner, as guilty, Christ has died for him, and so seeing what he can rely on before God as a judge; and he is blessedly right; but his true standing, his place with God, is in Christ risen. “If Christ be not risen, ye are yet in your sins”; and in this is for the Christian, as quickened, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, which makes him free. The standing and life of the Christian, as such, rests in this; for he is risen with Christ, in this place before God, not in Adam state or nature: Christ has died the just for the unjust, so that he is not for faith in that at all, but alive from the dead through Jesus Christ our Lord.
But, further, Christ has gone up on high, as man, into glory, and as His work was for us, righteousness must put us there. All beyond the cross is not thus meeting our responsibility, but bringing in God’s purpose. The good pleasure of His will was to give us sonship with Christ, adoption and glory with Him. Yet this according to God must be in righteousness and holiness too. It is righteous, for God has been perfectly glorified in His whole being and nature by Christ on the cross. And we know the firstfruits of this in His being glorified (John 13, 17); but thus it becomes according to sovereign grace and purpose indeed, but righteous, that we should be in the glory with Him. It was free purpose, but now according to what God is, righteous, and according to His holiness too, for Christ is our life withal—not our sinful Adam one—a nature which cannot sin, for we are born of God. Thus the flesh is judged as entirely evil and we are of God; and, through grace, according to righteousness, our standing is in Christ before Him.
The Holy Ghost the Comforter is therefore given us as soon as Christ went up on high; and thus we know not only that we are risen with Him, but that we are in Him and He in us. This sets our standing, and consciously so, through the Holy Ghost in Christ; sitting in heavenly places in Him, accepted in the Beloved:—a blessed place; but this in purpose. Responsibility was there. It has been met according to God’s full requirements. His resurrection is the witness of that, and so insisted on in Romans, not ascension there; so 1 Corinthians 15:17. We are justified through His blood. But there was a value in Christ’s work for God’s own glory, His righteousness, majesty, love, truth, all He is and according to purpose. This done for us (good and evil being known) and in the way of redemption, gives us a righteous and blessed place in perfect love in the presence of God and our Father, according to a life and nature, and in a place, which Adam innocent had not at all. Our place in heaven is founded on the glorifying of God. Ephesians 1 brings this fully out.
I may add collaterally that, through far inferior and national, yet divinely given, joys and promises, this is true of Israel— true, I mean, that the death of Christ has broken all relationship with God founded on flesh, or connected with their standing as heirs of promise as to it, though to secure them on a surer basis. He who was heir of the promises came, as a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers. But if Israel in the flesh was naturally heir to them, Jews by nature, He laboured in vain, and spent His strength for nought and in vain. His people would have none of Him. The bill of their divorcement ran thus: “Wherefore, when I came, was there no man? when I called, was there none to answer?” Often would He, the Jehovah of Israel, have gathered Jerusalem’s children, and they would not. If they had but even now known, in the day of their visitation, the things that belonged to their peace! but now they were hid from their eyes. Not only was Israel thus shut out according to their title to the promise, but the Messiah must give up, as thus come in the flesh, all that belonged to Him as so come in the flesh, though His work was perfect and with His God. He was cut off, and had nothing: so only it can really be translated. But this, by the depth of the riches of the wisdom of God, brought Israel, like the Gentiles, under pure mercy, as the apostle teaches us in Romans n; and God, ever faithful to His promises, His gifts and calling, without repentance on His part, accomplishes them, but in pure grace, and yet in righteousness, through Christ’s dying for that nation, and the mercies of David are assured in His resurrection from the dead. They indeed will enjoy the blessings of the new covenant and all their promises down here, but through Christ’s death, and based on His resurrection. But, as in a deeper and more absolute work in us, their blessings are given with the complete setting aside of all their old standing under the old covenant in flesh, and founded anew on the cross and the resurrection of Christ. But this by the bye.
I may add that what came on man by sin, death, as well as an awaiting judgment, Christ has truly gone down into, and broken its power for the quickened soul for ever; resurrection has told its tale, and the power of death as the dread of judgment is gone for the believer for ever.
But this is not all. The Holy Ghost has been given to dwell in us, for we are cleansed. And as Christ has done that work which is the foundation of the eternal blessing of heaven and earth, so the Holy Ghost has been given to us to unite us with Him and dwell in us, so as to set us, as in Him and He in us, in the centre of the whole scene of His glory. This will be perfectly so in the ages to come. But even now, not only are we one with Him, according to Ephesians 1, but the Holy Ghost is in us, and the apostle looks to our being strengthened with might by It in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith, that we may be rooted and grounded in love, and able to comprehend all the glory on every side, length and breadth and depth and height, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, filled even to all the fulness of God. Thus it is we are a testimony. Thus it is that glory is to God in the church throughout all ages. Thus the way Christ the blessed Lord has perfectly glorified God Himself on the cross, in His death, brings us into that glory according to divine purpose in and with Him, and fills us with the Spirit, that we may be able to comprehend all the glory of which Christ is the centre, and know the love which has made the glorious One bring us so into the centre of all with Himself to whom all glory belongs (all things that the Father has are His, and we, children, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Him)—not only bring us with Him there, but, better yet, give us Himself, and with Him a place with Him in the Father’s love.
The result is this: the whole standing, condition, estate in life of the believer is changed, not outwardly as to the body yet, as is evident, but in relation to God, and that really by a new life. He is as completely out of the old as a man is out of the life of his former state when he has died, and now he looks to live with Christ who is risen; yea in spirit as having partaken of life from Him when risen, he can say he is risen with Him. His place before God is in Christ risen, not in Adam in the flesh. But as he is there by the death and resurrection of Christ, he is there according to the value of what He has there wrought: that is, all his sins, all he was in the first Adam, atoned for and put away totally and wholly out of God’s sight. He is fit, according to God’s own work and nature, for God’s sight and presence. Morally he is justified before God; and, as regards God’s nature and presence, he must be fitted for it to be in it. And Christ has perfectly glorified God Himself.
Harmless, holy, in love we must be to be there. Hence in Ephesians 1:4 it is not said according to the good pleasure of His will. We must be that according to God’s nature. But here, as we have seen, we cannot leave out God’s purpose, if we would know His mind about us. His good pleasure was to predestinate us to the adoption of children, and bring us in glory as such into His presence. Such was the worth of Christ’s death; so did He therein glorify God, that this purpose is righteously accomplished, and He becomes our life as risen, that we may have this place, and He, in unspeakable goodness, be the firstborn among many brethren.
But there is yet more. He in an especial way loved the church, and gave Himself for it, and thus it has a place with Himself as His body and His bride, and He nourishes and cherishes it, as a man would his own flesh. By the Holy Ghost, consequently given to us, we know our place thus given to us, sonship in present consciousness, the bride’s relationship in divinely given knowledge. For the former [sonship] is individual, the latter clearly not. So far we learn what closely connects itself with it, that individually we know we are in Christ and Christ in us. But we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. We are consciously in Him in the presence of God, holy and without blame before Him in love, and the Father’s children by Him: “as he is so are we in this world.” This, according to God’s purpose, is justly founded on His perfectly glorifying God in His offering of Himself. This is our place with and before God, a perfect one as and in Christ. Ephesians 1 brings it most richly before us.
This is privilege, not testimony, save as all privilege rightly so acts as to produce testimony. But, besides, Christ is in us; the Holy Ghost dwells in us individually and in the assembly. And here present joy, responsibility, and testimony come in. We have fellowship (the blessed Lord being our life) with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ, that our joy may be full; we abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost; the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost given to us. Yea, “we know that we dwell in God, and God in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.”
Our responsibility depends on this too. It is often thought that responsibility is connected with uncertainty. It is a mistake. Responsibility is founded on the relationship we are in. If we are always in it, we are responsible to act rightly in it. My child is my child, and cannot be otherwise. Hence he is always bound to act and feel as my child. Were he not in the relation, he would not; and so of others. We are not to grieve the Holy Spirit of promise by which we are sealed to the day of redemption. Our bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost; we are not to use them for sin. We are to walk worthy of the calling wherewith we are called, in the unity of the Spirit.
Hence, when the apostle has shewn the church in that unity as the dwelling-place of God and us all heirs of glory in our position in Christ, he prays according to the riches of that glory, that we may be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith. And thus God was to be glorified in the church by Christ Jesus—this by a power that works in us. This becomes thus testimony. So the church is a testimony to principalities and powers in heavenly places. So are we called on to mortify our members on earth; to apply the cross to all the workings of flesh in us and every movement of our will; to mortify by the Spirit the deeds of the body. And the result, as in Paul, of bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus is that the life of Jesus might be manifested in our mortal body.
Thus our being in Christ is the highest possible place as to standing, and perfect. But God’s dwelling in us, our being individually and collectively His habitation and temple, Christ’s dwelling in our hearts by faith—here is the power of fellowship grounded on our standing; here our responsibility, our state tested, as compared with our standing, not to put this to doubt but to use it; here the character, means, and way of our testimony.
We then are to reckon ourselves dead; we are not in the flesh at all, but in the Spirit; in Christ who has died, and justified us as to all we were in Adam, before God; alive to God through Him, and in Him members of His body. We are not to know ourselves as alive in the flesh, but as having died and risen again; not to know even Him after the flesh (that is, as down here connected with man and with Israel, as in the world) but as passed through death to all here, and by resurrection into glory and a new state, to begin and be the Head of a new creation, of which we are the firstfruits.
I do not pursue the consequences of this as to law, conflict, and other collateral subjects. My object was to lay the great basis of truth as to it, as scripture states it. We must look at the atonement in all its truth to know it thoroughly. No compassionate remembrance of weakness was there, no patience with poor dust and ashes as we are. God had no need—it was not the time—to consider weakness, as if the spirits should fail before Him, and the souls which He had made. One was there who could drink the cup, made sin before Him; and all the outgoings of the divine nature against sin were let loose against sin, as such, on One able to sustain it, that sin might be put away out of God’s sight, according to His nature, that eternal blessing might be in righteousness before Him. Our special place must then be sought in His purpose. The foundation in righteousness is according to His nature; not merely the putting away of the old thing, needed for God’s glory as it was, rebellion, and disobedience, and sin; but Christ by glorifying God entering as man into (yea, beginning) the new thing, the fulness of which will be in eternity, and in that the First-begotten from the dead, the Head of the body, the church, and withal the Firstborn among many brethren conformed to the image of God’s Son in glory.
The Lord make us to know how truly it is all new. If permitted, I may enter more specifically into the prayer of Ephesians 3, and compare it with that of the first. For the present I confine myself to a skeleton of the whole subject. The reader will find the question of righteousness, and the essential character of the new thing through death and resurrection, treated of in the Epistle to the Romans; the purpose of God, our place in His presence in Christ, and His dwelling in us to fill us with blessing, in Ephesians. Hence, as to doctrine, Romans does not go beyond resurrection; Ephesians goes to ascension and union.