"...this is he
which is ordained of God to be the Judge of the quick and
dead" (Acts 10:42).
("...he is the
one who has been designated by God as Judge of the living
and the dead" N.E.B.)
appointed a day, in which he will judge the world... in
the man whom he hath ordained..." (Acts 17:31, mg.)
The word 'ordained' or
'designated' in the above Scriptures is, in the original
language, the word from which the English word 'horizon'
is derived. These are not the only occasions on which the
root meaning is employed.
therefore, are that God has designated His Son - Jesus
Christ - as the ultimate Horizon and Criterion of all
judgment. That means that Christ is to be the sphere and
scope, the realm and the range within whom and according
to whom all things will be determined.
To know and consider
this statement of Divine fact is to be introduced to the
immense and unique significance of Christ in relation to
"all things". It is the key to the great amount
of Scriptural revelation which shows that Christ is
appointed by the Father, not only officially, but
characteristically, the Criterion of all Divine judgment
This introduces a quite
serious element into life, especially the life of the
Christian. Sooner or later, every true Christian, i.e.
every born-anew child of God, will find that the Spirit
of God is pressing this criterion against his or her
life. We all know that in our spiritual beginnings, as in
childhood, everything is fresh, happy, and irresponsible.
Most of us know that it does not continue indefinitely
like that, but that as we go on the Christian life
assumes a more serious aspect, when problems,
difficulties, and complications arise. Many think that,
when this happens, things have gone wrong, but, while it
is natural to look back with some longing, it would be
unnatural to try to force ourselves back to childhood.
What happens is that we come to realise that there are
bigger meanings in life than we were aware of, and now we
are being confronted with them.
When we go to the
seaside for a holiday - if we ever do - we see three
classes of people. There are those who never leave the
dry land, but keep to the shore. Then there are those who
just paddle in the shallows, ankle deep. Finally, there
are those who strip and go out into the deeps, beyond
Number one class have
an easy and uneventful time. They keep to safety and
convenience. Number two class have comparative enjoyment,
and if they get an occasional splashing and things begin
to look a bit difficult, they make for the land and
escape from the inconvenience. Number three class find
themselves contending with forces which make demands upon
strength, courage, and endurance, but theirs is the real
satisfaction and greatness.
The Christian life is
very much like this. There are these three classes of
Christians, but the Spirit of God constrains to committal
to the greater fulnesses of Christ, and often
precipitates us beyond our depth. The Apostle Paul cried,
"O the depth of the riches...", and spoke of
"...the unsearchable riches of Christ...". The
Holy Spirit knows these depths and ever seeks to press
Christians to know them, but the process is one which is
fraught with almost frightening experiences.
The one thing for which
we are ever seeking is that which will be an inclusive
explanation or interpretation of the whole difficult
history. The question is: Is there such an explanation?
The purpose of our present consideration is to answer
At our starting point
there are two things on which we are, or must be, agreed.
(a) That things in this
world and life are not as they ought to be; things
violate our sense of right. There is contradiction,
unrest, doubt, discontent, and a duality of forces in
(b) For our explanation
and enlightenment we are bound to the Bible. We refuse
human philosophy because it never has given, and never
can give, a satisfactory answer. We repudiate the wisdom
of men as a means of solving the problems of life. The
Bible alone gives the answer, and provides the required
light. So we come to the Bible for our answer, and we
find that it focuses everything upon three points:-
(1) The eternal
intention of God. That is, that Christ is the horizon of
all things; the ultimate range and limit; the scope,
sphere, and character of all things.
(2) The historic rift
in Heaven and earth which is answerable for all the
discord in the creation, and explains every other rift.
(3) What really
happened when that rift and rupture occurred. (This last
is really the key to our whole consideration.)
God's Eternal Intention
The Bible teaches that,
in the Divine intention, all things were summed up in
appointed heir of all things" (Hebrews 1:2).
According to the
context, this appointment must have been made before all
things were created, because it is also said that "...all things have been created through him, and unto him..."
(Col. 1:16). The end revealed and declared is "...to
sum up (gather together, reunite) all things in
Christ" (Eph. 1:10). Primarily, all things were in
God and vested in His Son as "Heir".
The rift and rupture by
a revolt resulted in a fall out of God. However, it was
not a fall into nothingness, but into Satan - the
Adversary as the erstwhile and - for the time being -
"Prince of this world".
It was a fall
from love into
from light into darkness;
from purpose into frustration and 'vanity';
from life into death;
from content into discontent;
from harmony into discord.
We leave many details
given in Scripture as to the causes of, and reason for,
this revolt and disruption, and just note that we find
ourselves with this explanation of a creation shot
through and through with the sense of there being a
fundamental disorder, and that, therefore, the whole
creation groaneth and travaileth... (Rom. 8:22).
explanation is that everything, including man, is out of
its true and right Sphere, Orbit, or Horizon. This can be
tested and proved any day. Immediately a life is brought
into Christ, this sense of unrest and unreality gives
place to a consciousness of right adjustment, peace, and
of all being 'reconciled'. It is all a matter of Christ
being in His divinely-appointed place.
So we come to see and
Christ - God's Eternal Horizon
definition of the Christian life - in the New Testament -
is "In Christ".
To obtain the
impression of its very great importance, every Christian
ought to make it his - or her - business to do two
(a) To note the number
of times this phrase - in various forms - e.g. "In
Christ", "In Christ Jesus", etc., is
(b) To note the
numerous and various matters related to it.
This study will result
in a rich education in what Christianity really is.
We are going to
consider it now, in broad outline, in three main aspects:
Christ" is a distinguishing definition.
Christ" is a descriptive definition.
"In Christ" is a determining definition.
"In Christ" - A Distinguishing Definition
"...all we who
were baptized into Christ..." (Romans 6:3, R.V.)
"...if any man is in Christ..." (2 Cor. 5:17).
The very term "In
Christ" implies division of the human race.
(1) It is the pointer
to the place and purpose of Christ in God's appointment.
That is, to be the sphere of man in creation and
redemption. The creation is said to have been in Him. It
moved out of Him. The new creation - the redeemed from
the old - is said to be in Christ. Redemption is
therefore a return into Christ.
(2) If men are not in
Christ (and this is only possible through 'new birth' -
"born of the Spirit") then they are in someone
else or something else. Here follows all the teaching
concerning man's falling away and alienation from God.
world lieth in the evil one" (1 John 5:19); "Ye
are of your father the devil..." (John 8:44), and
other such Scriptures reveal where people are if not in
Christ. The Word of God declares them to be "in the
flesh", "in darkness", "in
Redemption is recovery
and restoration to and into God in Christ.
The Cross of Christ is
the great divide (Romans 6, etc.) It reveals and declares
what man is by nature. It shows what we leave by union
with Christ's death. It discloses what we come into by
union with His resurrection.
The Cross is the only
opening into God's realm. By it, Christ brings man back
"In Christ" - A Descriptive Definition
It not only indicates
the sphere, it also defines and describes the character.
Christ summed up in Himself all that God ever meant by
sovereignly choosing the Hebrew race. To understand God's
dealings with Israel is to come to a rich understanding
(a) The beginning in
In Genesis 14:13,
Abraham is called "the Hebrew". The word
'Hebrew' means 'the man from beyond' (i.e. beyond the
river). He is spoken of as a 'stranger', a 'sojourner'.
In the world of his sojourn, which was to be his as an
inheritance - by Divine covenant - he was, for his
earthly life, a stranger. For that time he had no
'abiding place', no fixed residence, and 'no continuing
city'. He was not only a visitor, he was essentially
different, of a different order and type.
Here we are introduced
to all that Christ is spiritually and humanly. He was,
and is, different and apart. In Him God works in
contradiction to and repudiation of all that which has
come into the human race contrary to His thought and
In a fuller and
altogether different way Jesus was the Man from beyond.
How often He spoke of Himself as having come from above!
How different He was from all others here! What a
stranger He was on this earth! How homeless in more than
the material sense! He was of another 'order' in the
deepest reality of His being. The reality was known by
demons; sensed acutely by His enemies; and felt by the
Jesus - "the Son
of Man" - was, and is, the norm of what will
eventually be in the redeemed humanity.
(b) From Abraham in
person look at Abraham in the nation. The great inclusive
idea of Israel was their intended vocation as the
servant-nation. All their discipline was related to this
purpose. The personal history of the Patriarchs -
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David - was all
directed toward servanthood in the highest, deepest, and
fullest sense. It was a servant-sonship, and a
sonship-servanthood which - in principle - lay behind
God's dealings with them.
And what was true of
the founders was true of the nation - 'not to be
ministered unto, but to minister, and give their life'
was their calling.
The loss of this
conception of their existence as God's chosen, cost them
their place in God. They fell out of God, and have ceased
to be His 'servant' nation. Surrender and submission, not
superiority and pride, are the laws of God's service.
Read and consider
Christ and His life in the light of Israel's calling and
vocation. It is very illuminating.
(a) Look at His birth.
His mother (Luke
Think of the social embarrassment.
Think of the religious predicament.
Think of the personal dilemma.
Then reflect upon the grand renunciation!
Jesus was born of this
grand triumph of the servant spirit - "Be it unto me
according to thy word."
(b) The thirty years.
This is the period of
life in which preparation and training for life's
vocation takes place. School days and home training,
followed by college. It is the period in which life's
ambition governs everything.
In the case of Jesus,
so far as the records go (and it is the unconcealed
disappointment of Christendom that we know so little of
this period), it was a naturally negative time. He came
from it with no academic honours or distinctions; no
status or 'references'. Rather did He come out with many
handicaps. Not as a master and governor according to
men's standards, but as a Servant, disciplined in a hard
school for thirty years. He emerged as the suffering
Servant of Jehovah.
Thus He inherited and
took over the forfeited and lost vocation of Israel, but
in a fuller and deeper way than Israel could ever have
fulfilled it. The truest thing about Him was His
surrender and submission.
(c) See, next, the
Horizon of servanthood in His baptism - "...thus it
becometh us to fulfil all righteousness". There is a
very great range in those two words "all
(1) John the Baptist -
It is evident from the
crowds that flocked to John that there existed a state of
concern, weariness, frustration, and a sense of sin. His
message was that of 'remission'; his cry, of 'repent'.
But, great as was the
man and his mission, John himself was labouring under a
sense of limitation and tentativeness. "I" -
"but he"; "water" - but "the
Holy Spirit". The comparisons and contrasts show how
insufficient John felt his ministry to be.
Moreover, in pointing
to "the Lamb of God", John seems clearly to
have included himself among those who needed to have
their sins 'taken away'. He needed the Sin-Bearer.
Further; John himself exemplified and embodied the
servant-spirit in a way second only to Jesus. His whole
life was one of discipline unto his great service, and
his supreme declaration expressed that: "he must
increase, but I must decrease".
(2) Jesus baptized.
It is said of those
being baptized by John that they were "baptized...
confessing their sins". Other Scriptures tell us
that Jesus was without sin. Yet the whole Gospel of
Christianity rests upon His being "numbered with the
transgressors" (Isa. 53:12); upon the fact that
"Him who knew no sin he [God] made to be sin on our
behalf" (2 Cor 5:21). So Jesus took a place - not
His own, but in our stead - among sinners, confessing the
sin of the whole world, He bore it unto death. The range
is "the world"; thus Christ, in death and
resurrection, is the Horizon for the world's salvation.
(3) The opened Heaven
and the Divine satisfaction. Everything in the whole
Bible shows that Heaven is closed to man by nature. It
was closed when man fell out of God by disobedience. That
man ceased to be under the pronouncement, "It is
very good". Banished, he lies under the curse which
is on the race and on the earth.
'A final Adam to
And to the rescue came.'
Here is the Man in whom
God is well pleased. To Him Heaven is open, and upon Him
the attestation of acceptance rests. If His baptism -
death and resurrection in figure - was representative and
inclusive, so is His acceptance and His open Heaven.
But note, it is in Him
that the good pleasure and open Heaven are found. Not
elsewhere nor otherwise. He is the Horizon of an open way
with God and Heaven.
Having touched upon the
Incarnation, the thirty years, the baptism of Jesus, as
God's appointed Horizon of all things, we proceed to the
same relatedness of
That was not an
incident, however wonderful, in the life of our Lord. It,
like all the other special events, reached far back to
the beginning and far on to the end. Indeed it ranged the
whole horizon of human history and destiny. The first
phase of the Temptation contained that primal issue of
gratifying natural desire on the argument of 'necessity'
at the suggestion of the Devil, or being prepared to risk
all on obedience. It was a false idea of life which
resulted in death, whereas abiding in God is the only
true life. (More on this later.)
As to the second phase
of the Temptation, the only possible way to adequately
measure its force and rightly appraise its meaning is to
read Mark 14:53-15:15, especially in the New English
Translation. The alternatives for Jesus are evident and
Acceptance (by the
world) or rejection.
An easy and cheap way or a costly and hard one.
Reputation and popularity or being despised and
Having all in this life or having all eternally.
His own salvation or the salvation of the world.
The local or the universal.
Policy or principle.
Compromise or singlemindedness.
All this was, and ever
is, deeply testing. It is ever the battleground of the
natural and the spiritual man; the soul in conflict with
The heart of the
temptation is faith relating to the long view. The
history of the last nearly two thousand years has shown
one thing; that when Jesus refused the quick and easy way
and chose the long-view way, He became a spiritual power
universally for ever; whereas, if He had accepted what
Satan offered, one of two things could have resulted. He
could have been killed by Romans, just as many zealots
were killed in His day, and that would have been the end.
Perhaps that was the hidden snare in the Devil's offer,
and would have pleased him - the Devil - well. Or He
might have become one of the dictators energized and
inspired by the Devil, which have 'had their day and
ceased to be', ending in ignominy.
He chose aright, and
eternity will add to the vindication of time, but it was
In the third temptation
the cosmic secret is uncovered. Foiled in the other two,
the enemy seems to have become desperate and came right
out into the open. "Worship me". Yes, that
takes everything a long way back. To be 'equal with the
Most High', 'worshipped as God', was ever his ambition.
For this he is willing to give very much. Yes, he can
give much! So often those who compromise, who let go
God's fullest and best are peculiarly and uncannily
prospered in their life. The exchange of the higher for
the lower; the highest for the less high; the spiritual
for the natural; the cross for a crown, is not always
accompanied by immediately palpable disaster and a sense
of loss. The Devil can give much, but Jesus saw through
to the essential and supreme values. He reserved all His
worship for God only. It was not so long after all. A
little over three years; three painful years and an
infinitely painful climax, and then - "All authority
hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth",
"Wherefore also God highly exalted him". And
the best is yet to be.
We return to our
beginning. Not only by eternal choice, but by universal
triumph, Jesus is God's Horizon, within whom and
according to whom all things will be judged and
determined. It is "...in the man whom he [God] has
horizoned (literal Greek) that God will judge the
world." (Acts 17:31.)
Before we leave the
subject of the Temptation, it is necessary to recognise
what was the heart of the whole conflict. In the earthly
life of our Lord, there were three main features which
govern the whole purpose of the Father in Him.
(a) His life in
There was immensely
more in this than just seeking to live day by day with
God in view; respecting and honouring God, and giving God
His place. It reached right back to, and through, the
great rift with all its involvements. It reached right on
to the order and constitution of "a new heaven and a
new earth". This is an essential and elemental
factor in His being God's Horizon for all things.
It was necessary
therefore that, from birth, through boyhood and manhood,
there should be those features which postulated
obedience. But in full manhood, at the age of thirty, He
had to make His position publicly absolute in baptism. He
may have been circumcised when eight days old, but that
did not carry with it what He evidently recognised His
baptism to mean. This was - in figure - a death, burial,
and resurrection, and represented what His Cross would
mean - absolute committal and subordination to the will
For Him, life was in
God, abiding in God. Only so was it possible for Him to
reverse - 'in man, for man' - the Fall out of God.
To be "in
Christ" is to be in God.
This is the main theme
of John in his Gospel and in his Letters. It is what Paul
had seen and what led him to write so much regarding the
significance of Christ from eternity to eternity, and of
the final destiny of redeemed man and creation.
Satan abode not in God.
Christ abode in the Father. Hence He is the Mender of the
universal rift and rupture.
(b) The life-long
and many-sided effort of Satan to get between the Son and
We can never understand
the persistent hostility to Jesus, both directly by Satan
and indirectly by those influenced by him; the trials,
temptations, sufferings, treacheries, disloyalties, and
misrepresentations, until we recognise that one object
which was the aim of them all. The object was to get Him
to move out of God, to act in pride, self-interest,
independence, resentment, or in any other way that would
take Him out of God. To do, in the case of 'the last
Adam', what he succeeded in doing with the first, would
be a greater triumph of Satan than the former, for it
involved much more. Satan's triumph is always in getting
anyone, either in details or as a whole, out of their
life and abode in God.
So the basic committal
was put to the test continually right up to Gethsemane,
and it was unrelenting.
(c) His full
victory in the utter cost of the Cross.
His last words -
"Father, into thy hands..." - contain the most
sublime, the most tremendous, the most Satan-devastating
triumph that this universe has ever seen. They explain
the cry a little before: "It is finished". What
an "it"! The first words at His committal were
"My Son". The last word in His fulfilment was:
"Father". It almost sounds like a call and an
answer: "Son" - "Father"! The Father
entrusted to the Son a great trust. The Son fulfilled
that trust. He abode in the Father, although all hell
strove to get Him out.
That looks on to the
next main event in His life relating to His being God's
The earthly sojourn of
our Lord is marked by a series of mountain peaks, some
literal, some spiritual. His incarnation is the first;
His baptism the second; His temptation the third; His
transfiguration the fourth. Here we stop for the present
while we look at the Mount of Transfiguration.
The sequence is in the
right order. From each peak or eminence, the next comes
into view with valleys between. From the temptation and
full victory there, it is right that we should espy this
peak and let it be a link in the chain between the
conflict in the wilderness and the travail on the Cross.
The transfiguration must look back to the
temptation and on to Calvary.
The transfiguration was
evidently regarded by Jesus as a climax and a new point
of advance. The climax pivoted upon who Jesus was.
Everything past and future, hung upon that.
"Who do men
say that the Son of man is?"
"...who say ye that I am?"
Jesus felt that the
time had come to introduce and press that all-important
question and issue. The farthest point, both spiritually
and geographically, had been reached. It is as though He
said: 'You have seen and heard enough to resolve the
question of identity; to get beyond all merely human
deductions, conjectures, surmises, or acceptances. You
must settle in your own hearts this vital and fundamental
question. All that is yet to be will, for you, hinge, not
upon the fact, but upon your certainty as to this
matter.' From general speculation He brought them to
personal apprehension. It is not good enough that men
should be saying even the best things as to who He was
(and the disciples only told Him the good things). Those
who are to go on with Him must face the question more
deeply and utterly.
Peter gave Him what He
was requiring, and He immediately declared that to be the
foundation of His future building activity, namely, His
essential Sonship as God's Horizon. That, however men may
interpret Peter's confession, is what it came to be. God
never builds His eternal structures upon fallible man,
however much His grace may have done in him, and it is
necessary to invent the fallacy of infallibility
to make either Peter or any 'successor' the foundation.
This surely is evident
in the events which immediately followed the confession.
The announcement by Jesus of His passion. "From that
time began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he
must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the
elders and chief priests and scribes, and be
killed..." (Matthew 16:21).
This threw them all
into confusion, consternation. They - including Peter -
were completely disconcerted by this statement, and Peter
comes out worst of all.
This painful and almost
devastating background became the setting for the