In the first Adam all men failed, and came under condemnation. We have failed; I have failed; not only do I belong to a world of sin, but I am a sinner. If I am honest, as to my state, I shall own I am under condemnation. It is not enough to say all men are sinners, but I am a sinner. “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest,” etc. All men in their reason own they are sinners; but this is another thing altogether. I must learn that I am a sinner, and that God and sin cannot go together. Man, by nature, is in darkness, and light and darkness have no connection with each other. Man in the flesh is lost, not only because he is a sinner, but because he is in a sinful condition; there is mercy for him, it is true, but his position is ruin. He is not now in a state of probation. Once God did try him. He was in a state of probation until Christ came.
We must get back to our starting-point, and then we shall see man in himself, lost, ruined, without hope, without help, until he rests in Christ, and then he is saved. Man is lost; this is his condition. Ruin is where he starts from, as involved by Adam in condemnation. The believing man is taken up out of this place, in virtue of the second Adam. This is the grace of the gospel. All now depends upon Christ. Man got out of paradise, the place of earthly blessing, and he never can get back again. I cannot get there; but I have received the same place of dignity Christ has gained; not the paradise Adam lost, which was earthly: our place of blessing in Christ is heavenly; and what is before us is the ground and way of our blessing. We have Christ as the object of our faith, and we have Him as the effect in salvation. Called upon to believe that Christ died upon the cross, we hear God saying, You are saved—not you may be, or you shall be, but you are. “He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life.” We shall see how completely that work on the cross was done.
The first thing, when men fell, was the word that Another should come— “The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head.” It is not a promise made to Adam, but a revelation in his hearing that his faith could take hold of, that Another should come. When Adam sinned, he was turned out of paradise, and all his posterity with him, and he never can take his place there again. Being in heaven is not blessedness in the garden of Eden. There is no going back to a state of innocence; that is impossible. If we have once done evil, we never can return to innocency. Christ came, the promised Seed of the woman, which Adam was not. To Abraham God had promised that in his seed, Which was Christ, all the families of the earth should be blessed. It was unconditional, a settled thing, irrespective of man’s righteousness. It was God’s own act, and according to His way. The promise rested not on man’s responsibility. I will do it, says God. It was independent of man’s righteousness; nor is it that God is indifferent about righteousness: the flood settles that.
After the promise was given, God brought in the law, to raise the question of righteousness in man, and to make known his responsibility. It was not grace reigning through righteousness, but law claiming righteousness. Have you got this? The law says, Have you done what God requires? The law says, You should love God with all your heart; have you done it? The natural conscience tells you that it is right to do so. The world also pushes you, and says you ought; but you are without power. The question of righteousness has been raised by the law, to prove that every motion of our nature is sin. The law says, Do, and you shall live; obey, and you shall have life; but it does not give power, it leaves you without strength to meet its claims.
“What shall we say then? is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin but by the law.” What does this mean? Would God give a law that man could not keep? why should He give it? This is the working of the natural reason. Why was the law given? That sin may abound. “I was alive without the law once, but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” Man finds out that he cannot keep the law, and he must get to this point. The apostle, as man, says, “The law is spiritual, but I am carnal, and sold under sin.” This is not exactly the right place. He must get further still: “That which I do I allow not; for what I would that I do not.” And it is worse than even this: “What I hate, that I do.” All must come to this place. We must find out that we are without strength, and cannot get help through the law; but we are slow to learn this lesson. God never meant to save by the law. The law was given between the promise and its fulfilment to test man, to shew out what was in his heart. And this is the case often with us, after we have grace; the law comes and shews us our sin, but gives us no help; it only makes us cry, “O wretched man that I am.” There is the end of all strivings. I am in a ditch, and I have to cry out, Who shall deliver me? It is too late to help myself, I cannot get up. Where can I turn to? To whom can I look?
Now I am come to the point: “I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Now it is the question of the worth of Another. It is no longer, What shall J do, but what has been done by Another? If the law could have given life, then Christ would not have died. There was no life in the law; that has been proved. The first thing Israel did, after the law was given, was to make a golden calf. Man failed under the law; and then comes another thing j not a promise, but much more, the Yea and Amen of all the promises, Jesus Christ. To Abraham’s seed was the promise made, but they could not inherit it by the law; had this been the case, it would have been no more of promise.
When Christ came, there was one sad thing more to be made known—that man’s will was altogether wrong. Had it been only a question of power, Christ had power for anything; He could have broken the devil’s power, He could bind the strong man, open the prison doors, and let the captive free, had that been all. But there was another awful truth to come out: “The carnal mind is enmity against God.” “We will not have this man to reign over us.” “He is despised and rejected of men.”
Thus we get the whole history of man. There man, as man, ends: there you, by nature, were. Without law, you were lawless; under law, you were rebellious. Then God sent His Son, saying, Surely you will reverence Him: but you deliberately killed the Lord of glory. Now try your own hearts. Has not this been your state? Is it now your state? You think you ought to be righteous, and that is true; but you are slow to learn the lesson that you are without power; that help must come through another.
There are two distinct aspects of Christ’s sufferings. They are of a double character. The one was for righteousness, and brings judgment; the other for sin, and brings blessing. In this Psalm 22, He is suffering from God, for sin, and it ends with nothing but blessing. The heart of God is seen delighting in blessing. The first aspect of Christ’s suffering is from man: it is man against God manifest in the flesh. Christ suffered, because He was righteous and for righteousness* sake, from the hands of men. He suffered for God. “For thy sake I have borne reproach. The reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.” In all these sufferings, it is our privilege to suffer with Him. Alas! how little fellowship we have with Christ in His sufferings! But every sorrow He passed through from the hands of men brings down judgment on them. We get the character of it in Psalm 21: “Thine hand shall find out all thine enemies; thy right hand shall find out those that hate thee.” “Thou shalt make them as a fiery oven,” etc. Christ is now in an expectant state at God’s right hand, waiting to take vengeance on those His enemies, who, with wicked hands, have crucified Him. It is the effect of these sufferings from man that He gets the promise of having His enemies made His footstool.
Psalm 22 is altogether another thing; not so much suffering from the hands of man, though there are bulls of Bashan, it is true, but a wholly different kind of sufferings here. His cry now is, “Why hast thou forsaken me?” He repeats it: “O my God, I cry in the day-time, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent. Be not far from me, for trouble is near.” In all His sufferings from the hands of man the face of God was upon Him, but now His face is turned away. Why did God forsake Him? Was it for His righteousness, His holiness, His love? No. “He was made sin.” When He suffered for righteousness’ sake, He was representing God before man; but when He suffered for sin, He was representing man before God. He was forsaken of all; man fled; God hid His face. He was alone when He drank the cup of wrath, and those sufferings brought nothing but blessing.
If man was to be delivered, Christ must take his place before God. He must stand in the sinner’s stead, and there and then He cries, “Why hast thou forsaken me?” Why was He forsaken? That I might be owned; that sinful man may be delivered; that sin may be put away. Nothing that He suffered from the hands of man made Him cry, “Save me from this hour”; but the effect of those sufferings was of a totally different character. Suffering for man brings grace, and peace, and blessing. Sin is put away, and for ever gone. The believing man is delivered. We have died with Him; we have done with wrath. The power of Satan is broken. Christ took my place as a sinner. Grace brought Him to it. I met God at the cross in Him. I must meet God. Have you done it? Can you meet Him in nature? If you own the truth, you know that you cannot.
Christ had to go to the horns of the unicorn when He represented man. Man’s heart was at enmity with God, and Christ must go to the place of judgment that man might be delivered. “Save me from the lion’s mouth,” etc. (v. 21). When He had been to the very transit of death, He could say, “Thou hast heard me.” The whole work was done. He bore the wrath. Christ settled all that was against man. He drank the cup; He endured the cross; and when that transverse spear entered His side, out flowed grace and peace and blessing. The gospel testimony can go forth. Righteousness is satisfied. Justice cannot claim more. God’s requirements are met, and now He is righteous and just to forgive sin. Christ had sin on Him once, but He does not exist in that state any longer. He died for sin once. He is gone up to heaven, and He did not take sin with Him. God was bound in righteousness to take Him to heaven. Christ had a twofold title to be there— one in His own right as Son of God, the other because as Son of man He had finished God’s work. He is now “sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high.” God’s righteousness set Him there; and where He is, there I am. My unchangeable righteousness is in heaven. I am immovably there.
“I will declare thy name unto my brethren,” v. 22. When Christ rose from the grave He declared God’s new name— the God that raises the dead. He first sees Mary Magdalene, and He says to her, “Go to my brethren and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father,” etc. He had never so called them “brethren” before. “Touch me not,” He says to Mary. I am not going to set up the kingdom yet; I will do that by-and-by. I am come now to declare God’s new name. He is the God of resurrection—My God and your God. I took your sins, and you have the same place I have. How completely His work was done! It not only entitled Him to sit in God’s presence, but He thereby associates His brethren with Himself. Where He is, you are; and what He has, you have.
But there is yet more than this: “In the midst of the congregation I will praise thee.” After Christ had declared God’s new name, He could only praise, He could not but praise. He will lead, and we should follow. “My praise shall be of thee.” He will sing praises and then He will sing with us. In the midst of the congregation He praises, and then in “the great congregation.” Christ associates His beloved bride with Himself, in all His glory (save His Godhead). He adorns her with all the blessings His completed work had effected. He has united her to Himself, and He would not, we may say, be happy in heaven without her. Do you know the love God has for Christ? If you do, He has the very same love for you. Christ, in communion with His Father, gives two reasons why He would have us in heaven: first, that we should behold His glory: and then, “that the world may know that thou hast loved them as thou hast loved me.” Do you believe that? If you do not, it is positive unbelief.
God loves me as He loves Christ. I dare to say that. He has glorified God by taking my place. It was a true transfer. He has suffered, and we are saved—not by our responsibilities, but by His work. He has taken us out of the ditch. We have done with judgment. Who is to judge us? Can Christ judge Himself? Will He judge those that are His, or condemn His own work? When He sits in judgment, we shall be seated on thrones around Him. When He takes up Israel, we shall reign with Him.
“The meek shall eat and be satisfied,” etc. (v. 26). There is nothing but blessing for those that have found Christ. Have you found Him? or do you say you are seeking Him? Well, it is a blessed thing to see a man seeking. But Christ suffered for sin, and He must see of the travail of His soul. He says, “They shall praise the Lord that seek Him”; but there is no praising until you have found Him.
“All the ends of the world shall remember,” etc. (v. 27-29). Christ is not content with having the church with Him, and seeing Israel in a state of blessing; He must bring in the millennial glory. He will take up high and low— “all the kindreds of the nations”; “all they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship; all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him.” All the redeemed shall join in this song: “He hath done this.”
It is all grace for us, the judgment Christ took. He could say, “I have a baptism to be baptised with, and how am I straitened until it be accomplished?” He could not declare God’s new name until He had passed through death. Life, light, and love flow to us from His grave. He could not say, “My Father and your Father” before the resurrection. Do you know the risen Christ? This is the gospel. “If Christ be not raised, ye are yet in your sins.” Have your hearts found rest in a risen Saviour? Can you claim a part in the praises in the midst of the great congregation? Christ came not only to put away sin, but to condemn sin in the flesh. Have you learnt the lesson that the flesh is irreconcilably bad and cannot be mended? You may take it to the third heavens, and then it will be proud.
Well, are you seeking Him? Christ is full of love. Come and praise Him.