"Sovereign Head" - The Unveiling of Jesus Christ
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 8 - The Twofold Law of Life

We have recently been considering some of the laws and principles of the Life of the Heavenly Man, and we come now to another of these which is the law of Life by the obedience of faith. We will go right back to the beginning of our theme with:
Acts 9:5: "Who art Thou, Lord ? - I am Jesus."
Phillippians 3:10: "That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable to His death."

Now simply, undoubtedly the first thing which astounded and astonished Saul of Tarsus in that response to his enquiry was that Jesus was alive. Jesus alive! Doubtless he carried that with him in those days prior to his retirement into Arabia and then through the two or three years in the Arabian desert, Jesus alive, the one thing constantly recurring in him, and it was that that was re-shaping everything on the one side while it upset everything on the other. Jesus alive, and for ever after that was the basis of his spiritual quest to know Jesus after the Spirit, no longer according to the flesh, in the power of His resurrection, the vast cosmic and universal significance of His sufferings in their ultimate outworking and the essential method of entering into the Eternal Purpose in the first place by being made conformable to His death. So we hear him from time to time saying such things as "Last of all He appeared to me," and then "Have not I seen the Lord Jesus"; "the Living One," to use now the words which came through John many years after Paul had laid down his pen for the last time, "I am the Living One (or as the Authorised Version has it) I am He that liveth, I became dead, but behold I am alive unto the ages of the ages, and I have the keys of death and of Hades." "All the issues of death are in My power. I live!" This was what broke upon Saul of Tarsus, and became the sphere of an abiding spiritual enquiry, investigation and quest in Paul the Apostle. He came to see, and wanted to see more and more that Jesus as the Life Personified was the key and the door to the Eternal Purpose of God. That is the theme of Paul.

Now Jesus as the Way of Life is first seen in the early records of the history of God's dealings with man. In the last verse of the third chapter of Genesis you have the second mention of the Tree of Life, but there you have it mentioned in relation to a way - the way of the Tree of Life. It is perhaps a little side glance, but it is a light which comes upon the immediate subject to remember that on every occurrence or appearance of this Tree of Life it is always related to a way. When it reappears in the prophecies of Ezekiel, in the 47th chapter for instance, you find it is related to a way. And then when it reappears in the Revelation, 22nd chapter, it is "in the midst of the street thereof, and on this side and on that it is a way of the Tree of Life" - a street. Now, coming back to this Tree of Life in the Book of Genesis here Jesus as the Way of Life is first brought before us, so far as this world is concerned. You remember its virtue, the power what the New Testament calls aeonic life. You remember that it had to be safeguarded after sin had entered lest being partaken of it should bring about a perpetuation of a fallen state. That is its virtue - we need not stay with further details.

Wherein lay this virtue? Now surely not in its physical properties! Surely this aeonic life, this perpetual life in Christ is not merely a physical matter! One feels most strongly as we come back with the full revelation of God in all the Word that it was not in the physical element of taking literal fruit from that tree which resulted in Eternal life, but it was in the spiritual properties. And what were the spiritual principles of man's relation to that symbolic thing, that typical thing? Undoubtedly they were faith and obedience. The violation of those two principles brought death; the observance of these two principles would have meant life. So you have rising up right at the beginning in relation to the way of Eternal Life, the Life of the Heavenly Man on the ground of resurrection, these two basic principles, FAITH and OBEDIENCE. The obedience of faith. The violation, let us repeat it, of those two principles brought double death, the loss of this Life in the first place, which was never partaken of, or received, but death in addition to this. "The day that thou eatest thereof (the other tree) thou shalt die." When you take the optional thing, forbidden, in preference to the other which is allowed you die a double death, a second death. Now I am not staying with these things to follow them out in themselves, as you see, one is mentioning them to pass on. There is a difference between the immortality of the soul and eternal life in Christ.

Now the way to the Tree of Life after the violation of this two-fold principle of relation to God on a basis of Eternal Life was, one was going to say, closed, but more wisely we should say, secured in something, by something, for something. How?

The Cherubim

I want you to notice here a very small point, it may seem, but which has its own great significance. It does not say that God placed Cherubim in the way of the Tree of Life. It says He placed the Cherubim. The history of the Cherubim we do not know, but obviously their existence and their character is taken for granted. He placed the Cherubim, and the force of the Hebrew is He made to reside there the Cherubim. It was not just a momentary thing, it was an established principle. Without again analysing the history and the nature of the Cherubim all we need say is that the Cherubim were a combination in representation of earthly and heavenly elements. You remember all the way through the four-fold symbolism in the Cherubim - the man, the lion, the eagle, the ox.

Eagle - Heavenly glory and mystery.
Lion - Sovereignty and majesty.
Ox - Service and sacrifice.
Man - Representation.

And so here you gather up in the Cherubim the combination of heavenly and earthly elements. These appear again and again in the history of God's dealing with men in type and symbol. In one word, what is it? Incarnation! The incarnation of the Heavenly, God manifest in the flesh, the majesty and sovereignty on high, the heavenly glory and mystery incarnate in man fulfilling the Eternal Purpose by the Cross of service and sacrifice, made flesh in order to serve and to suffer unto the will of God, which is the Eternal Purpose. That may be imperfectly presented, but I think you are capable of recognising what one is endeavouring to say. The Incarnation was that. That veil of the temple, for instance, which God rent from top to bottom at the last moment of the accomplishment of the will of God in Christ suffering death. Paul tells us that it was by a new and living way, the way of Life which He opened for us in His flesh, the veil, and on that veil, as you know, were inscribed the representation of the Cherubim. Here you have the combination of the heavenly and the earthly, the perfect Man indwelt by God. The way of the realisation of the purpose of God was then the way of Life as by the Incarnation - the perfect Man Christ Jesus - God Incarnate - the way of the Eternal Purpose in that Incarnation.

What happened? Well, you go back, and you find that Life is secured in the Cherubim, or in other words, Life is secured in the God Man, the Arch-Type Man, the Representative of that which God had set His heart upon, which is only realised on the ground of resurrection. Then in the incarnation of God in Christ the serpent was met and vanquished, sin was judged and put away; fallen humanity was gathered up and for all future purposes of God put away, abolished. Death was destroyed, being robbed of its sting, and Divine Life became triumphant, the way of life being thrown open. This, of course, is the inner meaning of the incident in the last scenes of His earthly life between Himself and the one who is called by us "the dying thief." "The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day"; and the Master said to him, "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise." He was only saying in effect, "the way of life is flung open today, because I have vanquished the serpent in this cross. I have destroyed death; I have abolished sin. I am the Life, and in Me there is secured the paradise of God, and with Me you will be in paradise." That is the earnest of everything geographically and everything more that you want, but the first thing is that you should take of the Tree of Life, and that is the One which forever Paul sought to know in this power of His resurrection. So then, beloved, we come back to the principles, the laws of this Life, of this Heavenly Man -  the way of Life is the way of faith and obedience, and that was consummated by Christ in His Cross. Faith and obedience found their ultimate realisation in His Cross by Himself.

The Path through the Ages

You notice the path of this through the ages. God's way of Life. It is a thin red streak, but straight, direct, unwavering, sheer, always speaking of Life by these two laws. The obedience of faith. That gathers up the story of Abel. It is a short story; we say it is a tragic story, but it is a far-reaching story. "He being dead, yet speaketh." The Christ, the greater than Abel has answered the cry of the blood of Abel. Abel's life story is gathered up then in two words - Faith - Obedience. "By faith Abel offered..." Isaac in action - that is the story.

Enoch - Enoch walked with God. How? By faith. What did he do? He walked. Some people's faith doesn't put them on their feet and cause them to go strongly in the way of the Lord. But, Enoch, by faith, walked. And you know it is almost a hackneyed observation that the little sentence about Enoch comes in a long monotonous story of this and that man died and was buried, and you go on verse after verse until you wonder why you should read this, and suddenly in the midst "And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him." That is all. Here, however, is the divine interruption of the course of death, God breaking in upon death with His own principle of Life, and showing that that monotony, that course of things is broken up when you find a man walking with God by faith. The effect and out-working of the obedience of faith is to destroy death and to bring you on to resurrection ground. That is Enoch's life. Two words - obedience, faith.

Noah - "By faith, Noah warned of God believed and built an ark to the saving" - the obedience of faith.

Abraham believed God, but his faith led him out, and he acted upon it, "not knowing whither he went."

Isaac - Jacob - Joseph - Moses - Israel - God's line, God's way of Life through the ages. The disobedience of unbelief brought death every time. The obedience of faith brought them into Life. Of course, one is now in the realm of type and figure, not the reality which was yet to be. So God had His path of Life, concerning which David prayed "Lead me in the way everlasting." This, then, was consummated, as we have seen in Christ, through the veil, that is to say His flesh, with the Cherubim rent, when He had accomplished all and was able to say it - the all-inclusive will of God - It is finished; it is perfect, would be more correct: it is complete. He was then able to pronounce the finality of the accomplishment of the divine will, and that veil was opened, and the way through into the immediate presence of and communion with God was made clear, so Paul cries "I live by the faith of the Son of God."

It is no insignificant thing that Paul in Colossians 2:12, in speaking about baptism, says that we were raised into union with Him in resurrection life by faith, by the operation of faith - buried with Him in baptism. That is the obedience. God has to give you some direct immediate and definite forms of showing that you are obedient. It is all very well to go away into some abstract realm, and say I believe in the spirit of obedience. The Lord brings you down in personal direct immediate methods of proving that you are obedient, and that you believe, and all the way through life He is bringing you up against this; but there are such instructions in His word which are to be observed as acts of obedience - the obedience of faith - issuing in Life, and that is the proof. So he says "Buried with Him in baptism." There is your act of obedience - "Thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness." The obedience of faith - issuing in what? We are joined to Him in the likeness of His resurrection by the operation of faith. I think we need say very little more. Listen to this as we close - Romans 5: "By the disobedience of one, death; by the obedience of One, Life."

And something more. 1 Cor. 15: "By man came death, by man came also the resurrection from the dead." That is tremendous. All this drama of the ages circling round the Christ is truly unnecessary where God is concerned if He remains in His isolation and detachment as God over all infinitely mighty and powerful, then all this has no meaning, but if the Eternal Purpose of God relates to glorified humanity, the Purpose has got to be wrought out upon that level, and it is to be man that does it - "By man came death, by man came also the resurrection." But what man? By this Man. But this Man is only One, one says it not in any lack of recognition of the supreme value and significance of the Lord Jesus as Head, but nevertheless, this in the "Arche-Typal" One, Representative of all the others, and this thing which God has secured in Him, has got to be made real in all of whom He is the Arch-Type. Now how is that done? By knowing Him, and the power of His resurrection. The obedience of faith - every step, faith, and God all the time cutting off from any basis whatever that is other than faith. To get you out there taking from under your feet everything upon which you might stand and trust that is outside of Himself to get you swung out to a realm of faith, and then to act by that faith, to live by that faith. It is a simple law, but you see how far back, and how far on it takes you. The law of the life of the Heavenly Man is the law of Life by the obedience of faith, and that will carry you through.

May the Lord increase our faith and energise us unto a complete obedience.

NOTE: In these studies, while we are considering Christ in His representative capacity as "Son of Man" we are not for one moment suggesting that we are intended by God to be so many Christs. There is a great and distinct difference between God being manifest in flesh, very God, and man being joined with God in Christ, sharing one life and enjoying perfect fellowship.

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