by T. Austin-Sparks
"And beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, He interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself... And he said unto them, These are My words which I spoke unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms, concerning Me" (Luke 24:27,44).
In the previous chapter, after making much preparation and laying a foundation, we were launched into this discourse of the Lord in all the Scriptures - Moses, the prophets and the psalms - concerning Himself. I may repeat that, having no record of how He did it and what He selected from the whole of the Old Testament, we are not able to follow Him exactly in what He said, but knowing unto what end He used all the Scriptures, we have our clue. We know what the Scriptures have to say in relation to that end and are justified, with the still fuller light that we do have in the New Testament, in following His example and using His principle of interpretation. So, without claiming that this is what the Lord actually said, we may take up these Scriptures and say that this is actually what He was getting at.
Let me say again, the thing in all this with which we are occupied and concerned is the criterion of the Christ. Criterion means the proof, the test, that by which anything or anyone is verified, that which gives authority. It is that by which anything or anyone is proved to be this or that which either they claim to be or is said to be true of them. The criterion of the Christ is one thing and one thing only. It is the whole question of Life. Life is the issue all the way through the Scriptures. Who is going to settle that issue? Who is going to establish that supreme matter? There is no greater matter than Life. That is the thing about which we are concerned. I do not mean just living so many years on this earth, but Life in all that God means by Life, that for which we were created, the great purpose and destiny of our being for time and for eternity; the answer to that in our very constitution, that cry, that sigh, that demand, that without which life is an enigma and a mockery - who will settle that? Is there anyone who will claim to do that? That becomes the criterion by which they are judged. They stand or fall by that, how they answer that, how they meet that. That is the test, and that is the thing that is before us - the criterion of the Christ - Life in all God's meaning of Life.
Now, we have said that the Cross and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus are the focal point of that issue. Everything converges upon that two-sided matter - the death and the resurrection. And all the Scriptures gather to that, lead on to that and point to that - the issue of Life through death and resurrection.
In order to understand what we are going to follow, we have to recognize this, that the death of the Lord Jesus was a representative and inclusive death. It was not just the crucifixion of a man, whoever that man may have been. It was not just the crucifixion of the Son of God, not just men doing away with Him. He was representative and He gathered into Himself all men, so that His death, in God's eyes, was the death of all men. That is no new truth to most of you, but it is necessary to reaffirm that. His resurrection is representative also of all who will accept by faith the meaning of His death and resurrection. So we have to say, Why did He have to die? Certainly not for His own sins, certainly not because of Himself. He had to die, if He became representative and substitute, He had to die because of us - and oh, how much follows that! And that is what we are going to look at. It is that which, beginning with Moses and going through the prophets and the psalms, leads right to His Cross, what it was to which He had to die, and how all that was indicated, typified, suggested, in a long line of those who took up and carried on this testimony. For the Old Testament is full of representations of this testimony and they are all gathered up in Him. No one representation in the Old Testament is more than fragmentary, but they are mounting up, they are piling up, until He, in representation and as far as any representation (that is, any type or figure) could be, is complete from the Old Testament and He gathers it all into Himself.
Well, let us begin to explain that, to show how that was. It would be difficult, I think, for the Lord Jesus to have begun at Moses, by which is meant the writings of Moses, the first books of the Bible. It would have been difficult for Him (being what He consciously knew Himself to be, that is, the second man, the last Adam as Paul calls Him) to begin without referring to Adam, because it was there that the door was opened to everything to which He had to close it. The Cross He knew was the great closure of a door that had been opened that ought never to have been opened. Adam opened the door and through sin, death entered. Paul argues that all out in his letter to the Romans. Death entered through sin. The first Adam was responsible for the coming in of this terrible thing which was the cause of all the conflict and all the misery and all the suffering and all the wreckage and the ruin of the ages, and which had to be taken up by the Lord Jesus and answered, dealt with and settled.
The word to Adam was "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Gen. 2:17). And he ate thereof, and he surely died. His ordinary, natural, bodily life went on for some considerable time afterwards, but he was a dead man. The apostle uses a phrase like this - "dead while she lives" (1 Tim. 5:6). A dead man. Yes, the sentence of death was there, the seeds of death were there, corruption had entered in and corruption would work itself out. But the real nature of that death was severance from the source of real Life, God's Life, severance from God. He died that day most truly, for that is death. If death is the closing of heaven and the enclosing of God, that man can never get to Him, then that was death. And I say a thing I have often said, that to come to a full consciousness of that is death indeed. Death in its most awful character is to wake up to the fact that you are God-forsaken and there is no way to God, the way is closed. Only partly is man conscious of that, and his consciousness of that is only accentuated when he tries on his own account to get to God. He is not so conscious of it while he gets on independently of God, as he thinks. But let him try and get to God, let anyone try to get to God except through Jesus Christ, and see how successful they are. And should they be trying out of the direst distress and necessity, then they begin to realise something of what death is - no way in your extremity. Thank God, that need never be the experience of anyone. But that is what happened, all that was involved. The Fall was not just falling into some fault, failure or sin. It was falling out of God and out of heaven.
So He must, in order to have got at the meaning of this necessitated Cross through which He had just passed, He must, I think, have said something about Adam and death and pointed to the Cross in the light of what Adam had done and what Adam had lost and what Adam had let in. Not in the words that I have used, ten thousand times better, but the same idea. He began at Moses, and I think He must have commenced with Adam, seeing that He knew that He was the last Adam to undo all that the first Adam had allowed.
Whether or not He followed the course that I am now going to follow actually need not worry us. We are getting at that which comprised the necessity for and nature of His Cross and resurrection, and so we find that from that point where Adam let death in, the conflict was joined, the battle was joined. God did not just leave death to hold the field. Thank God He did not; He did not abandon His creation to death, He did not wash His hands of the world and man and throw it aside. No, He would not let death have undisputed sway and control, and so He commenced the challenge to that state of things and to death, and instituted a testimony against it, a testimony against death, which testimony was to be carried on by successive witnesses all pointing to Him: the final, perfect, all-inclusive Witness. John calls Him that - "the faithful witness" (Rev. 1:5), the inclusive one. God instituted this progressive testimony as a challenge to the undisputed sway of death and it commenced immediately.
Now when we come to this word Moses, the law of Moses, we find that this testimony is set forth in three different ways. Firstly, in men as individuals; secondly in a nation, Israel; and thirdly in things as types. The first five books of the Bible are made up of those three things: representative men, individuals; a nation, Israel; and typical things or things as types. And all immediately and directly having their existence, having their being, in relation to this one matter. In every one of them in some way this battle was being fought out, this challenge was being presented. Let me say again that in not one of them was it in any fulness, but each one in some way, some part represented why Christ had to die.
And so we come to the first - Abel. I am not going to take them all. I am going to make a selection of major and best-known cases. You know Abel's story, the man who, knowing and acting upon the secret of Life and living on the Life of Another, drew out the vindictiveness of hell. That, in a nutshell, is the story of Abel. He knew the secret of Life and acted upon it. What is the secret of Life? The secret of Life, the secret of this Life that we are thinking of and speaking about, this wonderful Life, God's gift, the secret of that Life is not in us or in anything that we can do, in any works of ours, any merits of ours, anything that we can show, anything that we can produce with all our cleverness or with all our ability and with all our effort. Nothing can be produced that merits this Life, that secures this Life. It is the Life of Another, it is the Life of "the Lamb of God, that takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29), the life of Another. Paul put it this way in such well-known words - "that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith... which is in the Son of God" (Gal. 2:20). "It is no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me." It is the life of Another. Abel somehow got that secret and it was not a theory, a creed or a doctrine. He acted on it and brought the life of another, "a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Pet. 1:19), "of the firstlings of his flock" (Gen. 4:4), and he, in effect, said, 'O God, I have no life to offer, no merit to offer, no works to offer. I can only offer to you in representation another life...' - and it was a lamb. Does not that point right on to the Lamb of God? He had the secret and acted upon it and lived by it; the Life of Another.
Look at him. Oh, yes, see God's Lamb in Abel. Here is a man - we do not read a great deal about him, but there is enough in his story to show some things. He must have been a very meek man, a very selfless man. You see the other kind of man in his brother Cain, whose very name means "acquisitiveness, get, acquire, have, draw to yourself". The Lord Jesus - "as a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and as a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth" (Isa. 53:7). Paul later said that is the scandal to the Greeks, that is what scandalises the Greek mentality. You see, the Greeks believed that a man ought to stand up for himself and be capable of standing up for himself. The Greek idea is "The man who can defend himself, the man who can enter into the contest and come out best with all the others laid low. Here you tell us of a Man Who let them do that to Him! What sort of Man is He Who let people do that sort of thing to Him without putting up a fight for it? Without at least, if it is all against Him, showing some kind of manhood and masculine dignity; a contemptible fellow to let them do that!"
Abel's brother rose up and slew him. Why had not Abel taught his brother to fear him a bit and that it would not pay to do that sort of thing? Abel was evidently a very meek, selfless sort of fellow. You have the first clue to the Cross: "He saved others; himself he cannot save" (Matt. 27:42). That was the jeer at the time of His crucifixion. "If thou art the Son of God, come down from the cross" (Matt. 27:40). "Save thyself" (Mark 15:30). "Save thyself". Thank God, He never did. We would never have been saved if He had saved Himself. That is why the Lord Jesus had to die, because of man's selfhood, his self-dependence, his self-sufficiency, all shown in Cain.
Cain brought the works of his own hands and gloried in them and thought they were the meritorious basis of his access to God to get heaven opened again, and it did not work. Well, you could dwell upon that for a long time, but there it is. Abel had no confidence in his own works. Like Christ, he saved not himself.
But what about his justification and his vindication? "He had witness borne to him that he was righteous" (Heb. 11:4), that he was well-pleasing to God, and that is worth anything and everything! That is an open heaven, and what would you have in the place of that? And not only so - he lives. I do not know what Cain's end was, he was a marked, a branded man. Whether in the end in repentance he got forgiveness, I do not know. The end of the story so far as the record goes is that he was a fugitive in the earth. But Abel's is a different story. The writer of one of these New Testament letters says - "he being dead yet speaketh" (Heb. 11:4). The testimony goes on and Abel goes on with his testimony, and you will see Abel one day in glory. He has served the purposes of Christ. In his day he kept the flame of testimony alive. He died, he was slain, he, as a shepherd, laid down his life. He faintly but truly foreshadows that other great Shepherd of the sheep.
Is that enough? I feel that the Lord would have said something about Abel on that Emmaus road. However, there is the principle, whether He did or not, there is the truth. You see, it was a battle with death and in dying he slew death. It is the victory of Life.
We pass from Abel over to Abraham. What a full life was Abraham's! How very full of significance and spiritual implications. I focus upon one thing which I think is comprehensive. Abraham was the man who was crucified to the world. Think that out - the man who was crucified to the world and only sought the things of heaven. He was separated from the great civilized centre of the day, Ur of the Chaldees, and all that that meant, to be a pilgrim and a sojourner and never to have on this earth a city or house, but to dwell in a tent. Moving here and there, up and down, having no continuing city, looking "for the city which hath the foundations, whose builder and maker is God" Heb. 11:10), and all the time letting go. That is the wonderful thing about Abraham. His nephew Lot was allowed by him, told by him, to look up and down the land and make his choice, and Lot chose the very best prospect. It did not matter to Abraham, he did not feel he had lost anything. He had come so completely to that position where the world was crucified to him and he was crucified to the world. He looked for a heavenly country.
Now look again into Abraham's life and see if that is not the key. I will not take up all the proof and evidence, but there it is. Abraham was the man of far sight. The Lord Jesus said thousands of years afterwards - "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad" (John 8:56). He was a man of far sight, that is, he never made the immediate the ultimate. It was that that saved him all the time. If he had taken any one of the experiences that came to him as the ultimate, as the end, you see what would have happened. The incident of the offering of his only son, Isaac - if that had been the end of everything for him, the ultimate, he really would have gone down to the grave without a testimony. But he never, of all those things that happened, looked upon this as the end and the ultimate. He was looking ahead all the time, he was looking beyond, he was a man of far sight.
And that man was truly brought into the fellowship of the Cross. "Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest" (Gen. 22:2), which means 'upon whom all thy love is set because you have not got another', "whom thou lovest... and offer him", and thereby he stepped right into the heart of God Who "so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son" (John 3:16). He entered into the Cross. The Cross for him was a continuous crucifixion of the world to him and of him to the world, but being worked out. Oh, it is not just a theoretical position, it is being worked out and applied here and there and there; and if you notice these different stages and epochs in Abraham's life, you find that they are becoming more and more intense, they are working up to the final climax of the offering of Isaac. And God comes back with a full answer - "because thou... hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed" (Gen. 22:16-17). How full-orbed was his entering into the Cross and then into the glory. We cannot stay to follow through the glory that follows for Abraham, but there it is: suffering unto death.
But his particular relationship was this world. How much this world means to so many. They have no vision beyond it, no life outside it. It is everything to many; a poor everything, but it is everything to many. To let it go is the greatest difficulty. The apostle Paul cried "Far be it from me to glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world hath been crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Gal. 6:14). And if you look at the context, you find it is this - 'It does not matter to me one little bit what the world thinks or says'. That is the context. 'I have been delivered entirely by the Cross of Jesus Christ from any kind of concern or worry as to the attitude of this world towards me, as to what I stand to gain or lose in this world: my whole concern is how I stand in heaven and how much of the heavenly wealth and riches I have.' It is the Cross that does that.
Come back to the Lord Jesus. Immediately He stepped out into His public life and was in the wilderness with the devil, it is the world and all its kingdoms that are offered to Him. Did He hesitate, pause or waver? Was He a little bit influenced or affected by that bait, that enticement, that prize? Not for an instant. He had just come from Jordan and that in His consciousness meant He had died already to this world. He had already accepted the meaning of the Cross in those burial waters. He could therefore stand His ground and say 'I have been crucified to the world.' But He had also entered into His glory.
Abraham shows where the conflict arises. This great battle for this great issue of eternal heavenly Life to be brought into experience now, is so often focused upon our relationship with this world: to have it, to be something in it, to have its good opinion, to obtain its gifts and all that. The battle focuses there. The Lord Jesus sums that issue up in this way - "What doth it profit a man, to gain the whole world, and forfeit his life?" (Mark 8:36). It is a poor bargain. Abraham settled that and in so doing showed what the Cross has to do and why Christ must die to deliver us from this present evil world.
I pass to Isaac. He comes next in these links of testimony. One thing only I am going to say about Isaac, and again I think it is comprehensive. Isaac was a young man who was sovereignly apprehended and involved in the personal embodiment of a great principle. A young man. It is very often more difficult for a young man than an old man. He is called a lad. "I and the lad" (Gen. 22:5) said his father. A young man sovereignly apprehended and involved in becoming a personal embodiment of a great divine principle. That is, Isaac did not come into this by his own choice or decision. That is clear. You know the story. Isaac never chose to go and be sacrificed. Isaac never chose to go on that journey at all, to go in that direction. Isaac never chose to be bound and laid upon the altar for his father to slay him. It was not his choice. He was sovereignly taken hold of for that. Shall we put it this way - he found himself involved in this great matter of personally embodying and representing this immense principle, no less a principle than death and resurrection and Life triumphing over death. Now, Isaac did not choose it. Isaac is not known for very much else and whatever there was about Isaac's life does not matter very much. Anything afterward when he grew older does not count for anything. There are a few things, but not much in them.
There is one thing and only one thing that characterised his life, and that is that, under the sovereignty of God, he became a personal representation of this great matter of death and resurrection. He was just comprehended by one thing. The explanation and the definition of Isaac and his being on this earth was just one thing - victory over death. He is not even mentioned in his own right in the eleventh chapter of the letter to the Hebrews. His name is there, but it is connected with Abraham. "By faith Abraham, being tried, offered up Isaac" (Heb. 11:17). Isaac was not a man of works like Jacob. Isaac was not this, that and something else, but just one thing. That man's typical, representative death meant death to personal reputation, to personal name, personal glory; death to a lot of things that perhaps men like to do and in which they may find satisfaction, just to be on the earth as a vessel in which God can display one thing - the power of Life over death. I tell you, that wants some dying, to accept that. There is no glory to the flesh in that, no gratification to the natural life - that we might be here in the sovereignty of God just chosen to set forth some great spiritual principle which lies right at the heart of this great eternal issue, the triumph of Life.
You say, 'That is strange, remote, rather abstract', but I suggest that that might be very true in many of the Lord's people. You are not noted for some name you bear, some work you are doing. You are not finding the justification of your life in a lot of things in which you are engaged. Oh, that you might be is your longing so often. But you are just here to live a life that glorifies God without any kind of stimulus, excitements, changes and all the things that people like to do for self-gratification. You are just called to live a victorious life - to live a life, not eke out an existence, not drag through.
I feel that Isaac went very deep into this matter. How many of us could stand it - not to be used, not to be in the work, not in some way to be doing something worthwhile in this world, just having to live and live triumphantly and overcome death every day, spiritual death. How many of you can stand it? And yet many of you have nothing more than that to do. God has not called everybody to be a great apostle, a great missionary, a great preacher. He has called perhaps the majority of His people just to live by His Life and be a testimony in what they are. And Isaac was that, a testimony in what he was, not what he did. We have no sayings or great works of any lasting kind in Isaac. He dug a few wells. That is not it. They are merely incidental. What Isaac did was that he died and rose again in figure. It is something to live. After this conference you go away back into the humdrum and the atmosphere of spiritual death to live above it; it is something, it is the power of Christ's resurrection.
A word about Jacob. We know more about Jacob. Jacob was the man who built an immortal family. I use that word 'immortal' with a certain reserve, but it is very true. In some respects the whole house of Israel was built by Jacob. His twelve sons comprised the house of Israel. He built this family. The family is not at an end yet, it still shows a good deal of vitality. Its distinctiveness is not yet lost. He built that, but even so it may only be in type and figure. We will leave that.
This man built in that sense an immortal family, but he had to know death in a very deep way, but in a particular way. He had to know death in the realm of a very strong self-hood in order that there might be a spiritual family. Spiritually it became the family of Israel, not Jacob. Israel was his spiritual name after the Cross had been applied in figure. "Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel" (Gen. 32:28), and it is the house of Israel, a spiritual family. It is a type. In order that that might be, that self-hood had to be smitten at its very core; the strong self-assertiveness.
There is no doubt about Jacob's self-assertiveness... a scheming disposition, resourceful, artful, evasive and tremendously active... all motivated by this self-hood, to get an advantage, to possess, to be the upper man. He would sidestep anything that was not very convenient. If there was a chance of an advantage by being cunning, he would be cunning, and principle could go to the wind. Active, alert, but all to his own ends. And there had to come that drastic crisis in his own ability to get away with it. He got away with it, it seemed, quite a few times. He got away with it over his brother Esau, over his uncle Laban, but now he meets God at the brook Jabbok, and Jabbok is a tributary of the Jordan and Jordan is always a type of the Cross.
He meets God and he has to learn he cannot get away with it there. All that he is, all that he has, and all he has been building counts for nothing now. He cannot get away with it here. Oh no! It is no use trying to drive a bargain with God here. It only wants one touch with a finger of God, and he is a lame, maimed man for the rest of his life. A crisis in his strong self-hood. Do you remember how he summed up his life? You get his own summary of his life in Gen. 47:9 - "The days of the years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty years: few and evil have been the days of the years of my life." What a different tone and tune from the old Jacob. He thought he was getting on very well at one time, everything was coming to his hand. But this is the ultimate verdict from his own lips - "few and evil have been the days of the years of my life". Jacob had to be destroyed and he had to find this other thing: that God and God only was his life, God only was his life. It was not in himself. At last he discovered that it was not in himself.
All this is not Bible story and exposition. This is for present immediate application. Everything that I have said about these men and the content of the Cross of the Lord Jesus in which we are included, the Lord Jesus died to all that and because of all that. That in Adam, that in Cain, that world of Abraham, all these things were included in His death and they necessitated His death because these are not strange people who lived so many thousands of years ago about whom we read in old stories of the Bible. These people are up to date. We are reading our own inner life. It is all true about us naturally. That we should be saved from this, Christ died; that we should live in another realm than this, Christ rose again.
Did He follow this course on the Emmaus road? I do not know, but I know they are the principles lying behind all He would have said, because they are the principles of the whole Bible; the New as well as the Old Testament. They are the principles, these are the truths. Oh then, if we are to know this wonderful thing that these two men came into on that evening walk to Emmaus, if you and I are to know the wonder of His resurrection Life, we have to accept the meaning of His Cross as our death to all that. We may be the passive Isaac or the active and positive Jacob. We may be any of these. It has to go to the Cross, to come under the Cross. We have to accept the Cross as delivering us from it in order that we might live by that other glorious Life. It is a matter of again quite definitely saying:
"Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come."
That is a hymn and an utterance for Christians as well as for others.