It is of
far-reaching importance and vital consequence to recognize that
the Person of our Lord cannot really be known and understood
apart from the Cross. It is equally of consequence to realize
that the Cross is only really understood and adequately
appreciated when the Person of Christ is discerned. These two
work hand-in-hand and are mutually dependent.
In the days of His
earthly life His disciples and the people wanted a Crossless
Christ. They could see no place for the Cross. It was a
contradiction of all their hopes and expectations. Whenever He
referred to it a dark shadow crept over them, and they were
offended. Indeed, they revolted quite positively against the
idea and suggestion.
Running parallel to
this inability to discern the meaning and the value of the Cross
was, on the one hand, His continual reference to His own
essential Person as Son of God, and on the other hand, their
total inability to recognise Him. Only in fleeting flashes of
illumination did one or two of them see Him as such, and then,
it would seem from their behaviour that they lost the
realisation, and the general clouds of uncertainty wrapped them
around again. The state and position in which we find them when
He has been crucified indicates how the reality of His Person
had failed to possess their innermost life. But the interesting
and significant thing is that the Lord all the time indicated
that this twofold inability would be removed when actually the
Cross was an accomplished fact. The eighth chapter of John's
Gospel is a strong example of this. In it Jesus is concentrating
everything upon the question of His Person.
"I am the light
of the world.... The Pharisees therefore said unto Him, Thou
bearest witness of Thyself; Thy witness is not true. Jesus
answered... My witness is true; for I know whence I come, and
whither I go; but ye know not whence I come, or whither I go.
They said... where is Thy Father? Jesus answered... Ye know
neither Me, nor My Father; if ye knew Me, ye would know My
Father also.... He said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am
from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world....
They said therefore unto Him, Who art Thou? Jesus said unto
them, Even that which I have also spoken unto you from the
Then comes the
statement which is the turning point of everything.
said, When ye have lifted up the Son of Man, then ye shall
know that I am He" (8:27). (But read on to the end of the
By something more
than implication Jesus had laid down the same principle with
Nicodemus. Nicodemus was groping in the shadows as to the Person
of Christ. "We know that Thou art a teacher come from God..."
Jesus pointed out that, in order to "see," something must take
place by which a new faculty is obtained; a new birth is
necessary. Then He led Nicodemus on to the Cross, using the same
phrase as is in chapter eight: "As Moses lifted up the serpent
in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up" (John
3:14). The law enunciated is that it will be the Cross which
discloses Who Jesus is.
with God Secured for Man in Christ
Within what we have
just said lies the very essence of the significance of Christ.
Let us look briefly at that essential content. What is the thing
for which Christ stands preeminently in the whole revelation of
Scripture? The answer is Union with God.
That has been the
thing for which man has been in quest as long as man has been a
sinful creature. In almost countless ways and by as many means
he has sought that peace and rest which is to be had alone by
oneness with God. Somewhere, somehow (the Bible shows us) a
fellowship with God was lost. Three things became the abiding
and ever-active marks of this rupture of relationships. One -
the lie; two - enmity; and three - death.
Results of the Fall
A Lie Believed
Man has not only
believed and accepted a lie; but it has entered into his
constitution, and he is a deceived and darkened soul. Of himself
he neither knows, nor is capable of knowing or being, the truth.
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is
exceedingly corrupt; who can know it?" (Jer. 17:9). Man
was told that if he took a course contrary to that laid down by
God and assumed the right to use his own reason independently
of God he would be "as God." He accepted the
lie, made his bid for supremacy, enthroned his reason in
independence, and was taken charge of by the lie. The outworking
of this has been - and is - a tremendous development of human
achievement by which man has become a lord in his own right (as
he thinks) and blinded to the fact that destruction and distress
are an ever-growing fruit of his science. So much is this so
that the question has been seriously raised by men in a position
to ask it, as to whether science is a greater benefactor than it
is a curse.
It must be
remembered that most unemployment, with its many consequent
miseries and troubles, is due to science which has supplanted
men by machines, and human skill by mass production. The same
responsibility lies at the door of science for the ability to
destroy men and the earth on such an immense scale as was
unthinkable a generation ago. Project the present course and
pace into a few more generations, and what sort of a world will
it be? Of course, the argument is not that science is in itself
necessarily evil. There are very many most helpful and valuable
discoveries to hand, e.g., chloroform, radium, antiseptics,
etc., but our point is that man believes that he is all the time
improving, when, as a matter of fact, there is no moral
elevation corresponding to the intellectual development.
This matter is not
followed out in any measure, but from the simple indication
given it can surely be seen that mankind is riding a lie in the
form of a tiger which will tear him to pieces. * [See note at
end of chapter.] But the strength of the lie lies in the
fact that man does not recognise it, he is blind and in the dark
as to its nature and source. This is all the Devil's spite
The same is true as
to the matter of enmity. It is never a far cry from personal
interest and self-realisation to war and bloodshed. We do not
read of much history between Adam's bid for personal glory and
Cain's murder of his brother. The two are one in principle.
Whether it be in individual cases, as at the beginning, or in
the case of millions locked in deadly destruction of each other,
the root is found to be man's desire to acquire. The name Cain
means acquisitiveness, or possessiveness. We must be perfectly
honest about this. The Christian Church is no exception to this
rule. Christians have become divided into thousands of parties,
and a very great many of these are antagonistic to each other,
or at least distantly suspicious of one another. The enmity
amongst believers is taken account of even in the New Testament.
It is the Devil's work every time, but even the Devil must have
his ground. This he has in the old-creation nature of man. Every
division amongst the Lord's people is - in essence - the same as
the enmities of the warring Godless world. It is traceable to
some old-creation element of self asserting itself.
There never was - nor will be - a truly Christly division among
Christians. Every such division is somewhere a denial and
contradiction of Christ. The
apparent cause may not be some flaming fleshliness, but
it will nevertheless be other than the way of Christ. Enmity is
a mark of interrupted, arrested, or broken oneness with God;
there we leave it for the moment.
The third feature
of this destroyed union with God is death. If life is the
perfect adjustment and harmony of man with God, then man has not
got life. The New Testament assumes this, it does not argue it.
Death is not - in the Bible sense - cessation of being, nor is
it a state of inanimation. It is just a separation from the
true life, with all the incapacitation which that
separation involves. Spiritual death is a powerfully active
thing, and in all the things which really relate to God's will
it works out in a mighty "cannot."
For the realisation
of all God's designs and purposes, and the constituting of the
creation which He intends, the possession of His own Divine and
uncreated life is essential. Man, by nature, does not possess that
life, and humanism is one of the most subtle and popular - and
the most devastating - forms of the Devil's lie. Hence, man as
he is cannot see the Kingdom of God. Union with God is a
matter of possessing God's life. That provision is an
impartation by new birth. Thus we are led up to both the Person
and the Cross of Christ.
Christ a New Humanity
While there yet
remain depths too profound and dangerous for even enlightened
people of God to attempt to explore, the one thing that is clear
as a conclusion is that the Incarnation is intended to set forth
the union between God and man, and man and God, which is the
Divine intention. Here we have very God joining Himself with
very man. But - and let it be well understood - not with
sinful man, or with our fallen humanity. God
prepared that body - "that holy thing" (Heb. 10:5; Luke 1:35).
When Christ came into this world there came with Him a humanity
which - while being humanity - was different from all
the rest. There were therefore two humanities, one represented
uniquely by this solitary Person; the other, by all the rest of
men. But even so, His humanity was but a probationary one.
Inasmuch as the animating principle of His physical being was
blood, He was subject to tiredness, hunger and thirst, and
therefore capable of dying and seeing corruption. That He did
die but did not see corruption was due to the sovereign
intervention of God, and was due to the moral perfection - or
holiness - of His nature. "Thou wilt not suffer Thy Holy
One to see corruption" (Ps. 16:10). The probationary
condition of Christ wholly related to His redemptive vocation.
When that was accomplished, He still had a human body, but no
longer animated by the blood-principle or basis of life. Now -
while a body - it is a "spiritual body," and therefore a
glorified body. It is not unto the likeness of Christ's earthly,
pre-resurrection, body that we are to be conformed, but "like
unto His glorious body" or "body of glory!"
(Footnote: I am aware that what has
been said above may raise a question as to the "incorruptible
blood" of Christ, but my point is in no wise a question as to
His moral nature, simply one of His being placed on the basis of
life - for the time being - which made it possible for Him to
die physically. "Corruption" is only regarded in this sense, not
spiritual or moral. I am also aware that physiologists have not
yet ended their debate on the seat of corruption, i.e. as to
whether it is the blood. But I think that the Bible indicates
that it is.)
We are pointing out
that in Christ God and man have come together, yet in a Man
altogether other than ourselves. This is why union with God -
which is the major revelation of the Bible, revealed
consummately in the New Testament - is always and only in
Christ. Until we pass over on to the resurrection
life-basis it will always be a faith position in Him; not an
actual one in our mortal flesh. But more on this later. In
Christ God has His perfect satisfaction, and has therefore
committed Himself to Him. The union is perfect.
Lie, Enmity, and Death Annulled in Christ
But this implies or
postulates that the threefold result and mark of the broken
union is absolutely ruled out and non-existent in Christ. Or to
put it round the other way, Christ is the opposite and the
negation of the lie, the enmity, and death. So it is that the
most spiritual and heavenly revelation of Christ, as given in
John's Gospel, is in terms of life, light, and love. Light and
truth are interchangeable names. In this record Christ makes
these things far more than abstractions, He makes them personal,
and says, 'I am these.' There is no darkness, shadow, lie, or
lack of absolute transparency in Him. There is no enmity,
strife, schism, or warfare in His nature, nor in His attitude or
relationship toward men as men (only with evil in the
world and in men). In Him there is no separation from the
Fountain of life. He can say, "I am the resurrection and the
life" (John 11:25). All this negation of the results of broken
union with God was because there was no self in Him. It can be
easily seen that the whole effort of the Devil - in its many
forms - was to get Him to act on some line of self.
Self-interest, self-realisation, self-defence,
self-preservation, self-pity, self-independence, self-resource,
etc., etc. To have succeeded in this matter at any point would
have been to drive a wedge between God and Man anew, and to have
defeated the whole plan of redemption. But the pure ground of
utter selflessness was maintained at greatest cost and through
most fiery trial, and the prince of the world was helpless. The
union remained intact. Life, light, love are triumphant because
self is utterly negatived. But this is all as to Himself, and
thus far it remains His uniqueness. He abides alone if it stays
Humanity Shared - By the Cross
So we pass on in
John's Gospel to the point at which certain ones come saying,
"We would see Jesus" (John 12:21). To this enquiry or quest
Jesus makes a reply which means two things. One: 'To see Me as
others are seeing Me here and now is not to see Me at all; that
is to see and not perceive.' The other: 'To really see and know
Me, union with Me in an organic way is necessary; that is, what
is true of Me in My relationship with My Father and His
relationship with Me must become true in an inward way where you
are concerned.' Hence: "Except a grain of wheat fall
into the earth and die, it abideth by itself alone; but if it
die, it beareth much fruit" (John 12:24). 'I did not come
to "abide alone." What is true of Me as to union with the Father
is meant to be for you IN ME.' But at this point we are
carried by the Person to the Cross. "Now is My soul troubled;
and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour. But for
this cause came I unto this hour" (John 12:27). And
I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men
unto Myself. But this He said, signifying by what manner of
death He should die" (v. 32-33).
The Apostle Paul
has covered this whole ground in one comprehensive,
illuminating, and explanatory statement. We indicate the points
"The love of
Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that One died
for all, therefore all died (in Him); and He died for all,
that they that live should no longer live unto themselves, but
unto Him Who for their sakes died and rose again" (2 Cor.
Someone has freely
translated some of the above thus:
"I behold the love
of Christ, I see in His one death the death of all of us already
accomplished after the manner of His death - the death of all
that separates us from God."
This is all saying
very strongly that, to really know Who Christ is as the One in
Whom alone God and man are brought together, we must come to the
Cross in an experimental way. We must apprehend His death as
ours, and then, also in experience - through faith - know a
risen life in Him in which the old self-life has been put away.
Person of Christ Illumined by the Cross
But we must
step back for a moment. What was the real meaning of the Cross
and what did it effect? All we have said about the Person of
Christ was true of Him altogether apart from the Cross. For Him
the Cross was no necessity. There came a time, however, when He
had to be made what He Himself was not. To redeem us, He Who
knew no sin had to be made sin in our room. In that hour He was
placed in the position of man as the victim of Satan's lie with
its darkness. So also was He made to take upon Him the enmity of
our fallen state, and in that deep experience, in that representative
position He lost the consciousness of the Father's love.
There remained but the third phase of that responsibility -
death. For one terrible, eternal "hour" Christ was separated
from - lost union with - His God. "My God, My God, why hast Thou
forsaken Me?" (Matt. 27:46). The mystery is too deep for us, but
the fact and the reason are clear and unmistakable.
So He died, "He
tasted death" - awful death, which is the full and naked
consciousness, awareness, realisation of utter separation from,
and abandonment by, God! But in Himself He was God's
sinless Son, and, as such, He could not be holden of death (Acts
2:24). In virtue of His essential sinlessness He survived the
wrath which rested upon what He was made for that dark hour. He
overcame and destroyed the causes, the ground, the strength and
the originator of death.
"By weakness and
He won the meed and crown;
Trod all our foes beneath His feet,
By being trodden down.
He hell in hell laid low,
Made sin, He sin o'erthrew;
Bowed to the grave, destroyed it so,
And death by dying slew."
It took more than a
man to do this. "God was in Christ reconciling the world
unto Himself" (2 Cor. 5:19).
Thus in the Cross
all the cause and nature of separation from God was destroyed,
and in Christ risen that union is perfect for us. "There is
therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ
Jesus" (Rom. 8:1).
no-condemnation fellowship with God, made actual by the Holy
Spirit taking up residence within us through our believing into
Christ, is the possession of those alone - but is surely the
birthright of such - who have come to the Cross in realisation
of separation from God, in deepest longing for restored
fellowship with Him, and in acknowledgment that sin is the
cause. Thus, looking to Christ crucified as the Author and
Perfecter of salvation, they discover that He is more than a
man, even man at his greatest. They discover that in Him - and
in Him alone - God is found.
Then it works the
other way. Can we imagine what Saul of Tarsus felt like - he who
had believed Jesus of Nazareth to have been but a man and an
impostor among men, and to have been executed as a fraud and
blasphemer - when he saw on the Damascus road that this
Glorified, Exalted One was God's Eternal Son? It needed a time
in Arabia to let the implications of that adjust and
revolutionise his whole outlook.
When we see Whose
Cross that was it puts the Cross so far beyond all human ideas
of 'dying for ideals,' 'heroic death for a great cause,' and all
such lesser and altogether inadequate interpretations of
"Ye killed the
Prince of Life" (Acts 3:15) was the charge laid at the Jews'
door by the Apostles.
So we come back to
our starting point. It requires the Cross to really see Who
Jesus is; and in the seeing of Him truly by the Cross we see how
great, wonderful, sacred, and awful is that Cross.
No wonder that
Satan has ever sought to take from His essential Person and make
Him something less! No wonder that he has so persistently sought
to strip the Cross of its truest meaning! Let all who do either
of these things recognise from whence their inspiration, or
blindness, comes, and with whom it is that they - though
unintentionally - are in league.
Let Christians also
realise that all enmity; lack of love, divisions, and strife;
all prejudice, suspicion, and spiritual blindness; with all
spiritual death, is because the Cross has not been apprehended
aright. Somewhere uncrucified flesh is holding the ground. It is
impossible to be a truly crucified man or woman and at the same
time either have personal interests or be at variance with other
children of God, i.e. without love for them. The essential basis
of life, light, and love - which is Christ in full manifestation
- is the Cross as a working reality in the realm of the old
creation, and the Risen Power of Christ in the new.
All this is but
saying in other words that the Cross of Christ brings us into
living union and oneness with God, and if we will but live in
the full meaning and value of that union we shall be living
epistles of Christ in terms of life, light, and love. Failure in
these means failure somewhere, and for some reason, in our
fellowship with God in Christ. The measure of our walk with Him
will be the measure of these three features of Christ.
Notes from the recent writings of a Scientist
"The clever craftsman has gradually become displaced; his
successor is a machine oiler and switch attendant...."
"Science is constantly boasting of the benefits it is conferring
on the poor; why then the world-wide impoverishment, hunger and
mal-nutrition, and almost universal discontent? Why does science
produce year by year huge gluts of food that are never consumed,
when prices are so heavily loaded against the consumer? Is it
not wanton for science to stand idly looking on when
twenty-seven million bags of coffee are burnt in Brazil, when
millions of acres of cotton are ploughed up, when millions of
young pigs are slaughtered, when hundreds of millions of unsold
herrings are thrown back into the sea?"
"We are seriously told to picture a bomb which will blow the
British Isles half-way across the Atlantic."
"Science has become the arch-enemy of the Christian faith."
"All down the ages warriors have constantly sought new and more
effective weapons with which to butcher the other side. In the
eighteenth century the French schools of gunnery were the only
places where science was systematically taught. Science was then
rarely more than a responsive handmaid to the ever clamant
demands of war."
"Both history and science give us warrant for believing that
humanity has made great advances in accumulating knowledge and
experience and in devising instruments of living, and the value
of all these is indisputable. But they do not constitute real
progress in human nature itself, and in the absence of such
progress those gains are external, precarious, and liable to be turned to our own destruction" (italics ours).
(Surely this - a
mere fragment of a whole volume - bears out the words of the
Apostle: "And so the word of the Scripture comes true: 'I will
destroy the wisdom of the wise, I will make nothing of the
intelligence of those who profess to know'... God makes the
wisdom of the world foolishness, for as it was in that wisdom
that the world lost the knowledge of God, it was by reason of
that that its eyes were closed, and lo! the wisdom of God now
appearing is proclaimed as a foolish thing, foolish in the sight
of that old wisdom. It does not commend itself to the old
wisdom... Christ is the wisdom of God, and the power of God.
There is more wisdom in God's 'foolishness' than in men's
cleverness" [1 Cor. 1:18-25].)