HIS GREATNESS IN THE SCRIPTURES
(a) The meaning of all
(b) The Heir of all things.
(c) The Idea or Nature of all things.
(d) The final test of all things.
HIS PLACE - BY THE LOVE OF THE FATHER
INFINITE DIVINE LOVE THE MOTIVE AND POWER
This is revealed
(a) In all the
(b) By the opposite of love to all Divine activities.
(c) By the Father's demand that the Son be honored.
THE GREATNESS OF CHRIST IS SPIRITUAL AND MORAL
(a) Heaven knows it.
(b) Man senses it.
(c) Hell attests it by attempted corruption.
It is implicit in
(a) His satisfaction to
(b) His redemptive work.
(c) The Spirit's operations.
"These things spake Jesus; and lifting up his
eyes to heaven, he said, Father..." (John 17:1).
"That they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art
in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us"
"I in them, and thou in me, that they may be
perfected into one" (John 17:23).
Union with Christ is
the heart or center of all that has been revealed of
God's thought concerning man and of man's relationship to
God. Union with Christ is like the hub of a mighty wheel.
There are many spokes to that wheel - election, creation,
redemption, salvation, sanctification, glorification; and
then, like a series of subsidiary spokes - repentance,
faith, justification, conversion, regeneration, and so
on. These are the spokes of the wheel, but they all
center in Christ and radiate from Christ and reach the
rim, which is God. They unite us in Christ with God.
To give all this its
true and full value, it is necessary to contemplate or
have revealed to us the meaning of Christ, to see what an
immense thing has taken place by the Son of God becoming
the Son of man, by God becoming incarnate. It is a
question of our being taken, not into Godhead or Deity,
but into God's Son incarnate.
Now, the first
preachers of the Christian evangel preached Christ. They
did not, in the first place, preach salvation or
sanctification or forgiveness or judgment or heaven. That
does not mean that they did not preach those things they
did; but not in the first place. They preached Christ,
and all those things were included in the preaching of
Christ, Christ as inclusive of all and as transcending
all; for, after all, such things as salvation and
sanctification, forgiveness, justification, are
subsidiaries, they come afterward. Christ was before them
all and Christ will be after them all. They are inside of
Christ, but He vastly outstrips them all.
The Meaning of Christ
We come, then, to
consider the meaning of Christ. Understand that we are
underlining the title CHRIST. That very title
carries the significance of a mission. It is not the
title of His essential Godhead. Anointing, which is what
the word means, is unto a mission. "God anointed
Jesus of Nazareth" (Acts 10:38). Let that
govern all that will be said, otherwise it might be easy,
if you were so inclined, to raise your eyebrows at
different points and scent, as you might think, false
doctrine. In our consideration of union with
Christ, we are keeping a very distinct line between His
Deity and His Christhood as Son of man. Having said that,
let us think now for a little while of His greatness.
His Greatness in the Scriptures
His greatness as in the
Scriptures is seen in several relationships.
(a) In His Relationship with God
Firstly, His greatness
is seen in His relationship with God. Here we have only
to cite several familiar passages, but always with new
inspiration and stirring of heart.
"Who is the
image of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15).
"The effulgence of his glory, and the very image of
his substance" (Heb. 1:3). Quite remote
from our comprehension and understanding, and certainly
from our explanation; sharing the Divine glory before the
world was. We commenced to read of it. "Father...
glorify thy Son"; and then just a little further
on, "Glorify thou me with thine own self with the
glory which I had with thee before the world was"
(John 17:5). I say, we can never begin to
understand or evaluate the meaning of union with Christ
until we have sensed something of that stupendous thing
which has happened in His coming forth out of such a
state and, in the form of man, going the way of the
Cross. The most amazing thing that has ever happened in
the whole history of the universe is found in the
combination of the words which I have just quoted from
the Scriptures. And then, that this Man who was the
effulgence of God's glory, and the very image of His
substance, "the image of the invisible God,"
sharing the Divine glory before the world was, should be
spat upon, mocked, jeered at, and meet all that terrible
sin. It is wonderful that we should be called into union
with Him; not just to be His friends, not just to be
fellowworkers or partners in some Divine business, not
just to have some kind of formal relationship with Him
which we call a Union, but to be one with Him in an
utterness which we are going to see later. "We
are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his
bones" (Eph. 5:30. A.V.) "Joined to the Lord...
one spirit" (1 Cor. 6:17). Something
has happened to make that possible, and therein is the
whole story and wonder of the infinitude of God's
condescending love. Well, the Scriptures, in the first
place, set forth His glory, His greatness, in His
relationship with God, and many hours could be spent in
tracing it out. We pass on.
(b) In His Relationship With All Created Things
Next, His greatness is
seen in the Scriptures in His relationship with all
created things. Our analysis divides this into four
(1) The Meaning of All Things
Christ is the meaning
of all things.
were made through him" (John 1:3).
"The world was made through him" (John 1:10).
"One Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all
things" (1 Cor. 8:6).
"In him were all things created, in the heavens
and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers;
all things have been created through him, and unto
him" (Col. 1:16).
"Of the Son he saith... Thou, Lord, in the
beginning didst lay the foundations of the earth, and the
heavens are the works of thy hands" (Heb. 1:8,10).
"It became him, for whom are all things, and
through whom are all things..." (Heb. 2:10).
The meaning of all
things; that is, the "why" of all things, the
answer to the question, What does it all mean? Go abroad
in the earth, plunge down into the ocean, soar into the
constellations, compass the created universe, comprehend
all celestial intelligences and say, "What does it
all mean?" and the answer will be in a perfected
universe showing forth and expressing the glory of the
Son of God, Son of man, and so you will know what it all
means. That is no flight of imagination. That could
easily be tested and proved up to a convincing point.
Given that we had the ability and a certain mass of data,
with Divine enlightenment resting upon it, that is
capable of substantiation now. If we knew the inner
meaning of the created things, we should see Divine
meanings, eternal, spiritual meanings, all of them
finding their explanation in Christ. That, of course, is
a universe of inexhaustible wonder, but that whole
universe, the Scripture says, is going to be filled with
Him and manifest Him eventually, and when this universe,
redeemed and perfected, reaches the end for which it was
brought into being, it will be one mighty, comprehensive
and still inexhaustible expression of God's Son. That is
the meaning of it. He is the key to everything that is
Oh, that we had eyes to
see and understanding to grasp the significance of things
that are happening! Christ is the explanation, He is the
meaning of all things.
(2) The Heir of All Things
Christ is the heir of
all things. "God, having of old time spoken unto
the fathers in the prophets by divers portions and in
divers manners, hath at the end of these days spoken
unto us in his Son, whom he appointed heir of all
things" (Heb. 1:1,2). The question
immediately arises, When did God appoint Him heir of all
things? Well, if all the former passages are right,
Christ was appointed heir of all things before ever He
made them. If all things were made through Him and unto
Him, there was a point at which the Father made Him heir
of all things, and it is just on that very matter of His
heirship that history turns. Firstly, then there was the
marvelous conception of this universe as constituting the
inheritance. You do not need that I should strain at
trying to say anything about the universe as a
conception. Then there is the conception projected, with
a view to its being brought into execution, followed by
creation, and immediately, or very soon it would seem;
the inheritance disputed and marred, but instantly its
redemption revealed. Redeemed, reconstituted, perfected,
possessed: that is the history of the inheritance, and
what a lot that history contains. I said a minute or two
ago that if we understood all that is going on, we should
see that it centered in and raged round Christ. Why?
Because He is heir of all things, and this disputing of
His inheritance is the reason for all that is going on.
Oh, how much Scripture could be crowded into that. The
destroyers of the earth, what are they doing? Well -
blindly, of course - but through their evil inspiration
and instigation, they are seeking to destroy the
inheritance of God's Son, and because spiritual men and
women are the best evidence of that fact, they know the
concentration of more than ordinary forces upon them for
their destruction; for they are the redeemed of the Lord
being reconstituted and perfected unto a presentation to
Him as His rightful inheritance at last in glory. We know
that this is true, that it is the inheritance of God's
Son which has involved us in this long, long story of
destructive intention from evil powers.
(3) The Idea or Nature of All Things
Further, Christ is the
Idea or Nature of all things. I think here we only need
two brief quotations.
foreknew, he also foreordained to be conformed to the
image of his Son" (Rom. 8:29). The Idea or
Nature of all things is expressed in those words, "the
image of his Son." The other passage which is
from Ephesians 4:10, I think bears that out. The object
of His ascending up on high was "that he might fill
all things." Those two complementary
statements answer this Idea or Nature of all things. What
is the Idea behind, what is the Divinely intended nature
of all things? Well, just the image of His Son. Of
course, that embraces the whole of that comprehensive
teaching of the New Testament of likeness to Christ. It
is a far-reaching and all-governing idea in the New
Testament, likeness to Christ, or, as it has often been
put, Christ-likeness. That is the Idea of the existence
of all things, that is the Nature of the being of all
things; to be filled with Him and conformed to His image.
You never will be conformed to His image unless you are
filled with Him. How much New Testament teaching you can
put into that. It is everywhere.
(4) The Final Test of All Things
Lastly, Christ is the
final test of all things. In Acts 17:31 we have these
words: "He hath appointed a day in which he will
judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he
hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all
men, in that he hath raised him from the dead." The
literal rendering is not, by a man, but "in a man
whom he hath ordained." That word
"ordained" means horizoned. God has made His
Son the horizon of everything. Everything has to come
within the horizon of this man and be judged according to
Him. You see the point. Christ is the criterion, Christ
is the standard, Christ is the measure of that great
judgment of the world which God has fixed, the final test
of all things.
That means that the
judgment of the world will be according to how it
measures up to Christ, its standing in the light of
Christ, as to its attitude toward or relationship with
Christ. God will not judge on any other ground. That is a
very simple formula for judgment. If God had to take us
one by one and judge us on the numerous things which
belong to us by our inheritance, our birth, our
upbringing, by the fortunes or misfortunes of our lives,
well, He would have His hands full, speaking after the
manner of men, and it would be something that would
require a standard of righteousness so infinitesimal, so
exhaustive, as to be almost unthinkable. God is not going
to judge us upon the number of our sins, whether few or
many, or upon our temperaments, or upon anything like
that at all that comes down to us in the bloodstream. His
one simple solution is, What is your attitude to My Son?
What is your relationship to My Son? How do you stand
here in the horizon of Christ, not just as a person, but
in relationship with Him as a kind, what He means in
Himself? What is your attitude, relationship and measure
where the Son is concerned? On that all judgment will be
And notice, that is a
very righteous judgment. It says "he will judge
the world in righteousness." Thank God, that
takes in the very thing that so many complain of through
their lives, the disadvantages of their inheritance, of
heredity, of early training and so on. My dear friends,
take heart from this, that on none of those matters is
God going to judge at all; it would be unrighteous. He
brings us all down to the one issue of our relationship
to His Son. Where do you stand with Him? What have you
done with Him? What are you making of Him? How are you
progressing in your conformity to His image? That is the
basis of judgment, and the only one. Christ is the
criterion, the final test of all things.
Christ in the Old Testament
Well, let us return
again to this contemplation of His greatness as seen in
the Scriptures. If we take the Scriptures as a whole, we
find that the Old Testament is shot through with
expectation and anticipation. From the very beginning
someone is demanded, someone is foreshadowed, someone is
proclaimed, and someone is manifested in the midst of the
nations; for this Someone was manifested in Israel whom
God planted in the midst of them.
Let us look at that for
a few minutes. Someone is demanded, demanded because of a
calamitous failure which has brought the whole creation
under arrest, into what the Bible calls vanity. Failure
has made of the whole creation an abortion. Someone is
demanded by reason of that failure, someone is required
to repair it. Someone is demanded by intuition. Man feels
intuitively that someone must come sooner or later.
This expectation and
this demand can be traced in very remote civilizations.
Universally we find the evidence of this waiting for
something, this expectation that someone must come to
answer the enigma of life and the world. The whole thing
is an enigma, a problem, a puzzle. Man is an abiding
quandary, everything is a great contradiction. Many of
those who have probed the most deeply in order to try to
explain the problem have been driven into blank, terrible
despair. Yet man MUST solve this problem. The
Bible is just full of that.
But by continuous
intimations someone is demanded. It seems as though there
is a reaching of a certain point, and now there is an
intimation that something is going to happen, and then it
recedes, and after a time it comes on again like a tide,
only to recede once more. These successive tides in
history intimate all the time that something will happen,
or someone will come; until you reach the day when He did
become incarnate, and the spirit of expectation was ripe
in just a nucleus, a remnant. They were waiting,
expecting. "The HOPE of Israel" (Acts
28:20). That hope was not only the hope of Israel,
it was the hope of the whole creation. Paul tells us that
the creation was subjected in hope (Rom. 8:20); it was
there throbbing throughout the centuries. Someone is
demanded along every line, and that demand is revealed in
Someone is shadowed
forth. The Old Testament is full of the shadowing forth
of someone in personal types and in symbols, and,
although typology and symbolism and the figurative aspect
of the Old Testament has perhaps been a bit overdone and
sometimes discredited by exaggerations and straining,
there does lie right on the face of things, without any
straining at all, a whole system which speaks of
something other than itself. It demands that which it
signifies, typifies, symbolizes, for men cannot live for
eternity on symbols, on types, on figures, on
foreshadowings. Someone must answer to all this!
Someone is therefore
proclaimed. The whole of the Old Testament contains the
proclaiming of a someone by the Spirit of prophecy.
Immediately Adam falls and the tragedy of sin occurs, the
seed of the woman, who should put all this right, is
brought into view and proclaimed. He is again proclaimed
in Abraham - "In thy seed shall all the
nations of the earth be blessed" (Gen. 22:18). In
Jacob: aged and dying, Jacob, in blessing his sons, came
to Judah, and proclaimed those beautiful and classic
words - "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until Shiloh
come; and unto him shall the obedience of the peoples
be" (Gen. 49:10); a bringer of peace
looked for out of Judah. Did He come of Judah, He whose
Name is Peace, Shiloh? All that while ago was He
proclaimed. In Moses - "Jehovah thy God will
raise up unto thee a prophet from the midst of
thee, of thy brethren, like unto me" (Deut. 18:15). Ours
is an unfortunate translation in its use of the words
"like unto me." It just gives a wrong turn to
what Moses actually said. "Jehovah thy God will
raise up unto thee, of thy brethren," not
"like unto me," but, "as he raised me
up." You can think about that. How did He raise
Moses up? But here is the prophecy of the coming of this
prophet. Then you want to read the whole statement in
Deuteronomy 18 and 34. In both those chapters you will
see that the reference is to a greater than Moses. Well,
we cannot go on. All the prophets prophesy of Christ,
they were all proclaiming Him.
with what is perhaps the most difficult aspect and most
difficult thing to say, but I believe it is here. This
someone was manifested personally in the midst of the
nations, that is, in Israel. You will recall the many
theophanies, Divine appearances in man-form in Israel,
and you will recall that in not a few instances it is
impossible to discriminate between the one who is called
the angel and the Lord Himself. They are interchangeable
terms, synonymous words. Of the same person, first the
word "angel" and then the word "Lord"
is used. The angel, as it seemed, took up the conflict
with Jacob, and he eventually cried, "I have seen
God face to face, and my life is preserved" (Gen. 32:30).
That angel of the Lord appeared to Abraham and was
confessed to be the Lord. The Lord said to Israel, "Behold,
I send an angel before thee, to keep thee by the way, and
to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. Take
ye heed before him, and hearken unto his voice: provoke
him not; for he will not pardon your transgression: for
my name is in him" (Exod. 23:20,21).
Who is this? Paul said about the smitten rock, that the
rock was Christ (1 Cor 10:4). But do you remember this,
and this is the point of the whole incident, that when
the Lord was giving commandment to Moses about smiting
the rock, He said, "I will stand before
thee there upon the rock" (Exod. 17:6). It was
the Lord who was the rock, says Paul; it was the Lord who
was smitten to save the life of His people, and you
cannot smite the Lord twice. Once smitten, and, blessed
be God, that is enough. Then it is said that the rock
followed them (1 Cor. 10:4), meaning, I think, that the
waters of the rock, the values of the rock, the efficacy
of the smitten rock, went with them on their way "and
that rock was Christ," it was the Lord. "I
will stand before... the rock." So I
could gather up many other of these instances, where the
identifying of the one called the angel of the Lord
cannot be made without saying that it was the Lord
Himself, and, seeing the connections, you cannot but see
the Son of God. If that wants proving, go to the last
book of the Old Testament, where mention is made of the
messenger of the covenant. "The Lord, whom ye
seek, will suddenly come to his temple" (Mal. 3:1).
That word translated "messenger" is the same
word translated elsewhere "angel." Who is this
angel or messenger of the covenant? "The Lord,
whom ye seek, will suddenly come to his temple... But who
can abide the day of his coming?" It is none
other than the Son of God. But there He was manifested in
Israel, again and again personally present, not as yet
incarnate, but in manifestation nonetheless.
Well, there is the
Scripture. Now, you see, that is the Old Testament. It is
shot through, we have said, with expectation, and
anticipation. Someone must finally and fully come to
answer to it all.
We know that the New
Testament, on the other hand, is just brimful of
testimony that all this related to and was fulfilled in
Christ. The Bible says, in a word: HE, CHRIST, MUST BE
MADE EVERYTHING OF. When we have glimpsed something of
His greatness, we are at least in the way of glimpsing
the wonder of union with Christ. Oh, what a great thing
it is! Surely we can now confirm that with which we
started. It is the hope of everything. Everything centers
in Him and radiates from Him to the bounds of God's
created universe. Union with Christ is the heart of all
the revealed thoughts of God concerning man and man's
relationship with God.