1 Corinthians 15:48
There are two great things that the Scriptures present to us as effectual for salvation. One is the full vindicating of God’s moral character in grace toward us, which the atonement does. There is righteousness in God against sin, and there is love to the sinner—for God’s character is not only vindicated in the atonement, but He is glorified in it.
But, besides this, there is another and a distinct thing, and this is the coming in of power to bring us out of all the misery and wretchedness which are the effects of sin, and to set us in a new place. Both these things form a part of the great salvation. The one was absolutely necessary, if sinners were to be reconciled to God at all; for the atonement must have been made in order to our being brought near to God. If God had brought us to Himself without His righteousness having been perfectly vindicated, He could not have been the holy and blessed One that He is. But all that God is has been perfectly vindicated on the cross, which without the cross never could have been. If God had let every one off in mercy, this would not have been love; it would have been indifference to sin. If one of my children, for instance, were to be naughty, and yet I were to persist in treating him all the same as the others, this would not be love. You cannot have true love unless there is a perfect maintaining of righteousness according to the truth of God’s name. But to maintain this must, necessarily, have shut out all sinners without the cross— without the death of Christ, as giving Himself up to the perfect righteousness of God, His judgment, His hatred of sin, His authority (for it is a question of authority, as well as of holiness) and, at the same time, of perfect love to the sinner.
And this is what the cross of Christ is for us, the full bringing out and vindicating of all that God is, not only in love but in holiness. It is full of blessing. We come to God as needy sinners, and we find there the mercy-seat, and His precious blood sprinkled upon it. But when in peace I can reflect upon the cross, I see how perfectly God is glorified in it.
The more it shews me the holiness of God, the more also what a wonderful thing the cross was; there is nothing like it in heaven or earth, excepting of course God Himself. No creation, nothing that has ever been seen in this world, could be what the cross was. Creation may shew God’s power, but it cannot bring out God’s love and truth as the cross does; and therefore it remains everlastingly the wonderful and blessed place of learning, what could be learnt nowhere else, of all that God is.
But while this is true, there is another thing, the coming in of a Deliverer to take us out of the condition in which we were by nature—for so indeed we were—poor, wretched creatures struggling in the ditch, and no way of getting out of it. Supposing then that God had been vindicated and glorified by the cross of Christ, it did not follow that you and I should therefore be brought out of the condition in which we were. This required that God should come down to us, and take us out of all the condition of sin. and misery, and put us in another condition altogether, and this needs the coming in of divine power.
Salvation is a deliverance wrought by divine power, so as to bring us out of one condition into another. It is true we are morally changed, but we want more than that—though whoever has got that will surely have all the rest. But supposing I have the new nature, with its desires after holiness, what is the effect? It gives me the consciousness of all the sin that is in me. I want to be righteous, but then I see that I am not righteous; and I bow under the power of sin and of the knowledge of such holiness which I have learnt to desire, only to find out that I have not got it. I say what is the good of my knowing holiness in this way, if I have not got it? It is no comfort to me. Here we have been speaking of God’s righteousness; but when I look, I find I have no righteousness.
Where can I find a resting-place for my spirit in such a state as this? It is impossible; and the very effect of having this new nature, with all its holy affections and desires after Christ, brings me to the discovery of the lack of what this new nature cannot of itself impart. I have got the cravings of the new nature—all its holy and righteous desires; but the thing craved for I have not got. It is the desire of my nature. I say, Oh that I could be righteous; but then I am not righteous. In that way God meets us with a positive salvation. He meets us and quickens us into the desire and want of holiness, giving us a nature capable of enjoying it when we get it.
But this is not all. When I have got that nature, have I got the thing I want? No. I strive, and think, Oh! if I could get more of this holiness, but still I have not got it. I may hate the sin, but the sin is there that I hate. I may long to be with God, to be for ever in the light of His countenance, but then I see that I have got sin, and know that the light of His countenance cannot shine upon my sin; I want a righteousness fit for His presence, and I have not got it. It is thus God meets us in the cross. He not only gives the nature that we want, but He gives us the thing that we want. And not only so, but in Christ He gives us both the perfect object and the nature, and this in power.
We get, in the expression of this, a remarkable thing in the chapter: “As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.” It is not here what we shall be in point of glory, for afterwards he adds, “And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” We have borne the image of the first Adam, in all the consequences of his sin and ruin, and we shall bear the image of the second Adam. But He lays down first this great truth for our hearts, “As is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.” It is what we are now. There I find what my heart, as quickened of God, wants; and I learn what blessedness is in Christ, by whom God has revealed it to us. He has given us a righteousness in Christ, who is the blessed accepted man in the presence of God, of whom alone God could say, “Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” You have been rejected by man, but You are just my delight. “As is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.” It is that which God brings before us. He puts us into a new condition before Himself, and then makes us judge all that is inconsistent with it. Then, besides this, power is given—not a new nature merely, with cravings after a position which we have not got, but power to judge practically, from a position which we have got, all that is inconsistent with it. There will be that which has to be judged, but I shall judge it in the consciousness of what God has given me in Christ. It is there that I get the measure of what God, come in in power, has made me.
“As is the earthy, … as is the heavenly,” etc. Here are these two men, so to speak. There is the first Adam, of the earth, with those that pertain to him, earthy; and there is the second Man, the Lord from heaven. There are these two Adams, and I get in both the pattern and model of all other men that are after their image. I see the first Adam, fallen, wretched, and corrupt; then I see the other Adam that becomes in a spiritual sense the head of a race after He has taken that place in God’s counsels in glory.
I say, There is the pattern, and model, and head of that race. It is not merely a truth that the atonement has been made for us, in respect of what we were as belonging to the first Adam; but God has been glorified in respect of our sins. The more we get into the presence of God, the more we shall learn the value of the cross. But then this chapter, in speaking of the resurrection, speaks of the coming in of power. We just see how the Lord first deals with Christ in power of resurrection, and then, at the same time, how we are objects of this very thing.
Now what I see first in Christ, as He was upon earth, is perfect grace in His dealings with men—nothing but goodness meeting them in all their need. The heart gets cheered and encouraged by that. He feeds them when hungry, heals them when sick, and casts out devils. There was power too, but not in those with whom He had to do. It was divine power, which ministered to their wants. It was the wretchedness and misery in which man was, to which the goodness of God in Christ was applied, and the only thing in the person was the sin and misery to which the goodness was applied. I have felt latterly that, the more we get at the facts of the Lord’s life on earth, the more power there will be. We do not sufficiently present facts, but we reason upon the value of the facts. I am persuaded the more the facts of the gospel are presented to people’s souls, the more power there will be.
Looking then at Christ upon earth, I find God in this lowly man. Let me get firmly hold of that simple fact, in a world of misery and wretchedness and toil; God has come into it and I have found Him. I have met Him. It is by faith, of course; but still God was there, and I have met Him. I know what He is and what He is for me. I was a sinner like all the rest of the world, but God was there and He was all goodness to me. I have found Him and I know what He is, because He has been it to me. Christ was upon earth, coming down to all my need, and I have met God in Him and I know Him.
Now I say, this is in one sense everything to my soul. You may reason as to what He will be in the day of judgment; but I say I have found Him and know what He is, and it is perfect goodness. I was a vile, wretched creature, troubling myself about nothing but pleasure or worse; but I met Him and know what He is. When the soul has got this, it has got a key that opens every lock in eternity. I have found God and I have found that He is perfect light. Of course, just because He is light, I may see failures in myself, I may be ashamed of myself; but still I know what He is and what He is to me, and thus my soul gets a resting-place and a divine acquaintance with the God I have to do with. I see that “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself.” He has been here with me on earth; but now I have another trouble—that I am not fit to be with Him in heaven. Why here is death, here is sin, here is failure to be dealt with; and sin cannot go to heaven. Therefore I get another fact: I find that this blessed One, who is the expression of this perfect grace that I did not think anything about—I find Him coming down into my condition, made sin for me, going under the death and under the judgment that were due to me, and bearing my sins.
I find Christ now not merely as a living Christ upon earth, kind toward my miseries, shewing all goodness to me, but as taking my place under the suffering of the wrath and judgment of God, and there I find Him altogether alone. Christ may suffer in a way in which I may suffer with Him. He may suffer from man, and we may suffer thus in our little measure. He may learn what suffering is in this world in order to comfort me and suffer with me. But when I find the Lord suffering on the cross, there I find Him absolutely and entirely alone, and there I find the great question of sin perfectly and for ever settled between God and me. But I was not there at all, I could not be where He was, for He was there just that I might never be there, bearing the wrath of God and drinking that cup of suffering of which, if I had tasted the least drop, it would have been everlasting death. Well, I see the Lord coming down to this place of my deepest misery, and now the power of God comes in there. He has taken my place in grace. Where sin had brought me, grace brought Him. There into that place of death and wrath He came, and now I see power coming in.
Atonement has been made, and where He perfectly glorified God, the power of God comes in and sets Him at His own right hand in heaven. So that I do not merely get God glorified in the cross of Christ, but I see the power of God coming in and taking that very Christ when He was down in the depths of death and setting Him at His own right hand in heaven. Here then I have found a positive actual deliverance; and so truly was this the case that Christ can celebrate the name of God in association with others. “I will declare thy name unto my brethren; in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.” He can celebrate that name, knowing it after all which He Himself has gone through for us, bringing Him into the presence of God His Father in all the full blessedness of the light of His countenance, after He had taken all the full weight of sin upon Him. But power had come in, as is said in Psalm 16, “Thou wilt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption,” and He did not see corruption. True He had had there to say, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” but even He trusts Himself to God His Father, and God puts His seal upon Him by raising Him from the dead. There I get in the resurrection of Christ the coming in of divine power, in the very place where we were lying in ruin and helplessness, and where Christ was in grace for us; and it takes Him entirely out of it.
Now I have got the Man Christ Jesus in heaven after atonement has been made, and after the question of sin has been settled in virtue of His having glorified God about it. I get Him in the place of power as the object of God’s counsels. For it is in Christ that all things are to be gathered together in one, and even now God has set Him Head over all things to the church.
The whole question of sin is thus settled in the resurrection of Christ. “If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. But now is Christ risen from the dead”; and we are not in our sins. There I find the heavenly Man that has been down here and borne my sins, in power of resurrection in the presence of God. He is “the Lord from heaven” too. Mark this. Afterwards the apostle says in Ephesians, that the very same power that wrought in Christ, when God raised Him from the dead, is exercised in every one that believes. He desires that they may know “what is the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead and set him at his own right hand in heavenly places.” Exactly the same power that wrought when God took Christ from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand, has already wrought in you that believe, and you have got a place with Him there; and therefore, “As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy, and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.”
We are in Christ in the presence of God; and now I get not desires only but the answer to them. I have now not merely a new nature, but that which the new nature wants, because I have found Christ. I have got not merely cravings after something, but the thing I crave. I want righteousness and holiness, and this is what I have got, because I am in Christ. I want to be without fear in the presence of God, and I am in it, because I am in Christ. I have got now, in a word, full salvation—not merely a new nature but salvation. God has come down to me and He has saved me. He has come and by His own power has taken me out of the place in which I was lying in misery and helplessness in the first Adam, and has put me in the place of the second Adam before Himself without a sin upon me—all sin put away, because all was judged in the Person of Christ.
Such is the condition into which Christ has thus brought us. After the fall of the first man, after the thorough trial of man as man—tried without law—tried under law, then God comes in with perfect grace and sends His well-beloved Son. So to speak, He says, That is the last thing I can try man by; but when they saw Him they said, “This is the heir; some, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours.” Man as the first man has been perfectly tried, and has been found wanting: no means can mend him. But what do I find in Christ? He has taken the place of the first Adam down here for us. He has died in it, and there is a total end of the whole state for those that believe. Now I reckon myself dead to sin, because Christ has died. He was treated as being in that place and He died, and the whole thing is ended—ended for me under judgment of another’s bearing. As a believer I shall still feel the workings of the old nature and have to judge it; but I see Christ taking it for me, and judgment is executed upon it in His Person on the cross, and now He is out of it all, alive again for evermore. That life is wholly gone in which He laid it down, and the old nature to which sin and judgment applied is gone—just as a man who may be in prison, awaiting there the punishment of his crime, and he dies; the life to which the punishment is attached is gone.
It is impossible that there can be any longer a question of punishment for the sin: the life is gone to which the sin and its punishment attached. Just so was it with Christ; and therefore the apostle always addresses the believer as dead to sin. “Ye are dead,” he says to him; you are not a living man at all. “Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
It is never said in Scripture that we are to die to sin, for if this were said, it would be ourselves that would die, and this would be an end of us altogether. But what is stated in Scripture is, that we are dead to sin through Jesus Christ. Now that Christ has died unto sin once for me, let me reckon myself to be dead to sin but alive unto God through Jesus Christ.
This is what I get as the principle of the Christian’s place; that while as a fact he is alive, yet as Christ has died, the very nature that God dealt with as to the question of sin, in the first Adam, is done with; and now a power has come in that has made me alive with Christ. The very nature that had to be dealt with is looked at as a judged and dead thing, and I am brought into the position of Christ as risen and in the presence of God. When we sit with Him, we shall be like Him, but as to our real condition before God, even now we are sitting in heavenly places in Christ. Divine love has reached down to the place of sin and death in which we were, and divine righteousness has taken us up and set us in the place of light, where Christ is; for there is no middle place.
If I know what sin is, I see that it deserves condemnation. It would not be mercy to leave the sin alone and pass it by. It must be put away; but how? It must be put away by death, because its merits are condemnation. If God is dealing with sin, looked at in my relationship to Him as a sinner, He must deal with it in death.
There is no forgiveness for the sinner, looked at as guilty before God, without that real work which deals with it according to God’s nature; and it was dealt with thus in the cross. He has appeared once to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. But this is not all. Having thus put away sin, He has done with the old thing altogether, and has got into a new one, that very nature left behind in which He was responsible and suffered for sin, and now He is the heavenly Man in the presence of God; and there we are set in Him. “As is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.” Therefore it is that in the Epistle of John we get the same truth brought out.
First of all we have there (chap. 4:9) that “the love of God was manifested toward us, because that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” There I see divine love that visited this world in the Person of the Son of God. There were two things that were needed. That He should be the propitiation for our sins, because we were guilty, was one; but, besides that, he goes on to say, “Herein is love with us made perfect,” etc. There is the perfectness of love. Not merely has God’s love visited us in this world, in all our need and sorrow, to love us there, but herein is the love of God “with us made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world.”
How can I have boldness in the day of judgment? Why, I am the same as my Judge, and in this world too: “As he is, so are we in this world.” Just what I get here, “As is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.” It is the same truth. What a thing that is! What a salvation! It is not merely mercy that forgives sin; it is a real perfect salvation, a deliverance which has taken us, as in Christ, out of the condition in which we were, and has put us into another; and that other is Christ.
It is true that we shall all be manifested before the judgment-seat of Christ: everything must be brought out there. But even so, why, I am like Himself! What is He going to judge? How do I get there at all? Because Christ has come and fetched me. I am going, He said to His disciples, “to prepare a place for you. And if I go, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where 1 am, there ye may be also.” So that when I come to appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, it is because Christ has so loved me that He has come to fetch me there; and in what condition? I am in glory before I get to the judgment-seat. Everything will there be brought out, and with immense profit and gain to us. We shall know right and wrong then as we are known. We shall be manifested, but manifested before Him who is in the presence of God as the warrant of our salvation. We shall not thoroughly bear the image of Christ till the time of glory. But even now, as to our standing before God, “As is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.”
Now, as regards my soul and eternal life, He has come and brought us into this condition, making Christ to be my life, and in Christ my righteousness and life. He has brought me in, in faith and in the truth of my new nature, into this wondrous place in Christ. The realisation of it is another thing, and may be hindered through failure or infirmity. You begin to search, perhaps in yourself, and find such and such a thought contrary to Christ. But I say, That is the old man. If you take yourself by yourself, there is not righteousness for God, and therefore you cannot stand an instant in God’s sight. I must look at Christ to see what I am, and I say, “As is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly”; and this is what I am in the presence of God. There is no veil: we are to walk in the light, as God is in the light.
Now, the measure of the judgment of the working of my flesh, and of everything else, is according to this love and grace. The moment I have got Christ, and I can say, I know a man in Christ (and so thoroughly was this the case with Paul that he could say, “I know a man in Christ, whether in the body or out of the body I cannot tell”—he is not thinking of himself at all), then everything is judged according to what I am in Christ. It is not there I glory of Paul. Paul knew what infirmities and distresses, etc., were. But “I know a man in Christ,” and I am glad of such an one to glory in. I will glory with all my heart in it (because he is not looking at himself and at his righteousness), “yet of myself,” Paul says, “I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.” Here I get to the true reality of what my condition is as a poor feeble creature down here below. But then God has put me in Christ; and now whatever passes in my mind must be judged according to Him. “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” I may come short, but this is the only measure.
In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul takes this very ground. “I will glory,” he says, “in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” It is not that he was always in the third heaven, or that we shall be in the full enjoyment always of our position. But this is true, that the Christ in whom we are is in heaven. He is not here, He is in the presence of God, and we are in Him there; and even though we do not realise always our place in Christ, yet I say that Christ is never inconsistent with what He is in that presence, and Christ dwells in me; and this is where I get the perfect rule of life that I need. The power of Christ dwells in me even upon earth. If Christ walked upon earth, His walk was perfectly consistent with a heavenly Man. I find Him to be the perfect expression of the love and grace and holiness that was in the Father.
It is true Paul says, “I know a man in Christ,” etc. But does this man mean that the Christ he had then was a different Christ from the one he had known in the third heaven? No; he had got the very power that was suited to a Christ in heaven. We get the principle of all holiness of walk from the fact of our position being in Christ. I must know that this is my place before God, if my walk is to be according to Christ. “For their sakes,” said our blessed Lord, “I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified through the truth.” He is set apart to God as the pattern Man in heavenly places, that the Holy Ghost may take and apply it to us here. I see this perfect Christ set apart for me in heaven, and I say I must walk according to that pattern. I will walk in love, because Christ also hath loved us, and given Himself for us. I get there, “Be ye imitators of God.” And in another place, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” He sets before us, as walking through this world, the kindness of God even to His enemies. The starting-point of all my measure of conduct is the place in which I am already set in Christ.
Since the fall of man, since our judgment has been a fallen one by sin, our thought of obligation and duty is always as a means of gaining something. People often fancy that, if there is not the uncertainty attendant upon this responsibility to get life, there must be carelessness. But supposing you have got children, they are your children, and they never can cease to be your children. But does that destroy their responsibility? Their relationship to you is the very thing that forms their responsibility. The principle of human responsibility till sin came into the world was a blessed one. It was this—I am to act up to the condition that I am in. The Christian responsibility is not that of a man hoping and trying to be a Christian. It is not at the time of the difficulty and danger that we get the capacity of walking according to Christ. The way to walk in a time of difficulty is by valuing Christ not because of the temptation but for His own sake. If we live in the constant valuing of Christ for His own sake, we shall assuredly have His delivering us from the temptation. If my heart is full of Christ, the things that are contrary to Him do not attract me. I may feel my failure and weakness all the more, but the God that by power has brought us into this place in Christ can sustain us in it. The whole of our relationship with God upon the ground of the old man is closed in the cross; and then in a risen Christ all is begun afresh in perfect blessing in the power of the deliverance in which we have been brought in Christ. The place in which we are thus set begins with the cross where I see my old nature judged and set aside; and therefore it is that the apostle can say such a thing as “when we were in the flesh.” There are multitudes even of true believers who say, What are we but in the flesh now? But the apostle says, “When we were in the flesh,” evidently implying that we are not in the flesh now. It is what we were in the first Adam. The standard of our walk gets its real power and blessedness when once we see that we are no longer in the flesh, but are set in Christ before God. The government of God comes in, and this is another thing; but we are brought into that blessed place in the light in the perfectness of the grace which has brought us there. We ought to be able to come, our hearts set at large by God, and, as we deal even with the world, to say, What we have to talk to you about is a salvation that we have got: I have found God, and I am come to tell you of a salvation that I have got through the delivering power of God.