Either in Adam or in Christ? Part 1

I have thought, on weighing the request of some as to a paper on the great principles of our being dead and risen with Christ, that a review of the progressive character of the blessing, connected in scripture with it, might be profitable for all. I have not the expectation of satisfying myself in what I shall present; but, as my purpose is to follow scripture, I may be able perhaps, in the Lord's goodness, to help others.
There are three great points to consider as regards sin (and I speak and purpose speaking entirely in a practical way): sins actually committed, involving us in guilt as regards deeds done in the body; the principle of sin as a law in our members, sin in the flesh; and separation from God. But in this last respect there are two aspects—separation of heart, and judicial separation. Both must be remedied.
The root of all sin is not in the lusts in which it is so hatefully shown, but in having a will of our own, the departure of the will from God, the will to be independent, free to do our own will. “Who is lord over us?” When we do thus separate from God, we must have something; we cannot suffice to ourselves, and we sink into lusts—lusts in which our will works.
There is indeed another element which seems to me to have preceded both lust and will in man's fall, namely, distrust of God, which left him to the working of both.
Happy and confiding in God, he had no need to seek happiness in any other way; but Satan suggested to him that God had kept the forbidden fruit back from him, because, if he ate it, he would be as Elohim (God). Lust by this got entrance.
All this has to be remedied, and remedied according to the glory of God. Is that remedy a return to the old estate of man, a restoration or reestablishment of his original paradisiacal state? is it that which is new new, that is, as regards man? The answer is simple it is wholly new. It is blessing in the last Adam, who is the Lord from heaven. Man remains man, and the individual remains the individual; all their responsibility in their previous state is recognized, and the glory of God provided for and vindicated as to it; but the state and blessing into which they are brought, as brought to God, is a wholly new one. It is God's way of doing this, and what He has done, which we are now to inquire into, according to the true and blessed word of God, who only can reveal these things.
It may be well first to turn to the responsibility of man as such, though the thoughts and purposes of God preceded it all. But the revelation of them came after it, as we shall notice, with the Lord's help, farther on.
Responsibility attaches to every creature who is placed in intelligent relationship with God. Where-ever there is consciousness of such a relationship, there is obligation to God in it. It may be (1) in a holy nature, and obedience delighted in; (2) in an innocent one, and little else but thankfulness known, save so far as we know it was in Adam, as obedience may be tested by commandment; or (3) it may be in a state of sin, which does not alter the fact of relationship in which the fallen being stands, but his whole state is in such a relative place. The first is the condition of the elect angels preserved by God, so that they have not left their first estate. The second was Adam's state before his fall. We may stay a moment to, contemplate a state which passed away as if it were one intended only to give a lovely picture, that men might learn what it was, but incapable of lasting, the bright but peaceful freshness of morn for one who rises early to a busy and wearying day. Little is said of it, nothing of its joys. It was the true and real but transitory ushering in of that in which all moral truth has been brought out of a scene which results for faith in a head anointed with oil, and a cup running over, favor that is better than life, and dwelling in the house of Jehovah forever, our Father's house, but not in itself the green pastures and waters of quietness which are the natural effect of the hand and guidance of the Good Shepherd.
The knowledge of good and evil was not there. The enjoyment of a good conscience was not there in the exercises which keep it without offense; there could not be a bad conscience. The peaceful natural enjoyment of goodness was there, and no thought of evil disturbed it. God could be thanked and praised, His gifts enjoyed. Evil, sin, sorrow, conflict, passions, were unknown. It was a peaceful scene and a happy scene; occupation in what gave natural pleasure, innocent pleasure. They were set to dress the garden and keep it, and all was pleasant there; no want was there, nor would suggest itself. One only moral point bore another character, and tested willing subjection to God, namely, the ready acceptance of the divine will by a confiding soul. If man was to be a moral being at all, he must have obligation and responsibility somewhere: not in any object which supposed evil lusts, for he had none. It was obedience that was required; and simply obedience. What was forbidden would have been no sin, had it not been forbidden. It did not suppose sin in man; confidence in God would have made it easy, and a delight. A dutiful child assumes the goodness as well as the rightness of a command, and both, as well as the duty to obey. In fact, up to the temptation all went on in peace.
This was the difference of man's and Satan's sin. He abode not in the truth, for there was no truth in him. Man was tempted into the knowledge of good and evil. The destruction of confidence, as we have said, lets in will and lust. It was dreadful to belie God's goodness in the midst of blessing, and to trust one who could call it in question. All was really over then; for man was far away from God, had ceased to believe what He said—had ceased to believe Him good—alas! no uncommon case since. But will and lust brought in this transgression at once, when the heart was away from God, and trusted itself and Satan—the history of our hearts ever since. Man had departed from God, sin had come in, transgression, and (by the fall) conscience, or the knowledge of good and evil. Up to this, righteousness and holiness were unknown to man; they require the knowledge of good and evil. But thus the normal relationship of man with God had closed; his responsibility could not, for he was a creature, and God his Creator. Nor was that all. He had himself the knowledge of good and evil, or (to make it intelligible) of right and wrong. His responsibility had taken the form of conscience, and relationship to a God forsaken indeed, but known (so far better as conscience makes us know Him) as a Judge.
Into God's rest, Heb. 4 teaches us, man in creation never entered. Such natural peacefulness without combat, as he may then have had for a moment, cannot be on earth now. “There remaineth a rest for the people of God;” where nature, then a new and divine one, will have it in fullness of blessing in God's own presence. There all will be according to the nature we have, without a disturbing element, yea, according to God's own nature, when we enter into God's rest.
But on the fall sin and responsibility ran on together in the place into which man, who had fled from God, was drawn out by God; and the world as such began. But man was separated from God, though He overruled all things. That which God has wrought for us as regards this state, and the accomplishment of His own counsels in grace towards us, is this: perfectly meeting, according to His own righteous requirements, our state of sin connected with man's responsibility; closing, as to our standing before Him, our whole Adam life; laying a foundation, according to His own glory, for our being with Himself in that glory, in a new state altogether; giving us the life in which we can enjoy it; giving us the energy, revelations, and power of the Holy Ghost, by which, in this scene of combat and ruin, we may (through what He has given and done) be in relationship with Him according to the place He has set us in, and look forward to the glory; and finally, introducing us into the rest with and like Him, who being our title, is also our forerunner in glory—all in and through the second Man, the last Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ.
As to responsibility and its effects, I may be brief. The place in which man was set according to God, the only place he had according to Him, he has wholly lost. He had turned away from God in heart, had fled from Him, through his newly-acquired conscience, and has been driven out—that life and sin might not go on forever together in the world. Return was precluded. This state and standing was in itself that of one wholly lost. Man was away from God. Mercies might and surely did remain, but place and relationship were wholly gone. In the judgment on the author of the calamity a promise was given, not to Adam but on which faith might rest, that Another should arise, and, through His once suffering, totally destroy the power of him who had brought in the ruin. The Seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head. This was simple promise and grace in another than Adam.
The two great principles of responsibility and life-giving had been set up in the garden. Man had failed in the first; and, having failed, was debarred in that state from perpetuating evil by the second. He could not be innocent and die. He could not be a sinner and allowed to live forever in the place of responsibility in wickedness. It would have been a horror. Return to innocence is in the nature of things impossible when good and evil are known.
But man was to be tested, having the knowledge of good and evil, and the pretension with it to be good and righteous. The result, though of all importance, I state rapidly, because it is surely familiar to most of your readers; and only, as necessary, do I recall it here.
Man has been tried, left to himself, though not without ample testimony and ground for faith. The earth was corrupt before God and filled with violence; and the judgment of God, in the deluge, closed a scene which had become intolerable in every way.
But the world, yet again, would not retain God in its knowledge, and, in its various national divisions, worshipped demons; for man must have some god.
God then began the distinct history of grace.
Promises were given to one called out, who became the spiritual, and to some, even natural, head of a race set apart to God: Abraham became the heir of the world. The great spring of hope being thus established, as the apostle reasons to the Galatians, the question of responsibility on the footing of revelation and special relationship was renewed: first, on the ground of requirement, man's obligations according to the true and perfect rule of them; secondly, on the ground of promise and grace.
The law was given by Moses. Israel, God's called and redeemed people, undertook to inherit the blessing on the footing of doing all that Jehovah said to them; and a just rule of outward relative conduct to God and their neighbor (and that, reaching to desire or coveting) was given to them. We know the result. The golden calf began, the Babylonish captivity closed, their path.
The second trial was on the ground of promise and grace, when Christ came and presented Himself in forgiving mercy and healing to Israel. It resulted in His rejection by His people; and they were finally cast off, to be restored only by sovereign grace, the grace of One faithful, at any rate, to His own promises. Isa. 40-48 treats of one; 49-57, of the other of these trials.
But this last proof of man's state went farther. It was really a trial of man as man. As regards the law, the blessed Lord brought out a deeper essence than the Ten Words—loving God with all our hearts, and our neighbor as ourselves; and, as regards grace, He was the goodness of God manifest in the flesh, the Light of men. It was not promise; it was the love of God—God present in love. But man's sin was thus fully brought out. For His love He had hatred. As God is love, He was hated, instead of loved with all the heart; as man, in gracious goodness and righteousness, they were His murderers instead of loving Him as themselves; they hated Him without a cause. This was too in full grace, Gentile wickedness being full, law-breaking in Israel already accomplished. But, though in the way to the Judge, they would not be reconciled; and man's heart was fully tested by God's goodness.
The cross was the distinct witness of Israel's and man's sin. The mind of the flesh, of what man was in himself, was enmity against God. It had been fully tried and tested, and that by goodness. Its evil and will were only more and more brought out. It was manifested in its will (pure evil in the presence of pure good), not only by sins, though these abounded, but by the principle of sin and hatred of God. Amiable creature qualities there might be; but enmity against God—self—was its root.
Was the flesh to be restored, or a new life and blessing to be brought in by Christianity? Is it the restoration of the first Adam, or salvation in and by the Last? Where is the place, the scene, in which the blessing is to have its result? To what does the life it is enjoyed in belong? To answer these questions we must look to the positive revelation of God, however that may be made good in the conscience when known.
I say, we must look to the purpose of God as revealed, to know fully what His mind as to this is. But we must look to the responsibility of man too; to the guilt under which he was lying as child of the first fallen Adam. For God's glory is affected by it.
I shall first call attention to the purpose of God Himself as revealed in Scripture. Eph. 3 (as other passages) speaks of a mystery hidden from ages and generations, hid in God. But it adds, that now the manifold wisdom of God is known by the church, “according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” There was then a plan, before ever responsibility began, of glorifying God by the church in and with Jesus our Lord. This precedes responsibility, which begins with creature relationship, and was dependent on it. Creation was the sphere of responsibility. Purpose belonged to God.
Nor is this all. Paul's apostleship (Titus 1:22In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; (Titus 1:2)) was “in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.” So 2 Tim. 1:99Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, (2 Timothy 1:9): God “hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling, according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, but is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ.” The life which we have as Christians, new in us, is in origin before the worlds. “God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son; he that hath the Son hath life” –that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us. This present world and time is but the scene where all this is developed and brought to light. Thus in Eph. 3, “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.” So in Titus, “But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching.” So in 2 Tim. 1:1010But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel: (2 Timothy 1:10), “But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and incorruptibility to light through the gospel.”
It is not, remark here, that there is a predestination of individuals, important as this may be in its place, but that the church, eternal life, the promise of that life, our present saving and calling, had their place before the world existed. The life itself had, in the person of the blessed Son of God. And though from Adam individuals may have been, and were, quickened, they differed nothing from servants in their revealed standing. Life, the church, incorruptibility, our salvation and calling, have been brought to light and revealed, yea, as to the church, begin to exist since Christ came. But we must now inquire into the application of these truths, and how they are brought to bear on the child of Adam; how he has a part in the blessings contemplated in this purpose.
“The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” The blessed Son of God became Son of man, the last Adam, the Second Man. He came as man before God, born of a woman, as under the law (Gal. 4:44But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, (Galatians 4:4)). In both He perfectly glorified God; walked as the obedient man, in the midst of temptation; and, as the law in the highest sense required, loved God with all His heart, and His neighbor as Himself. Victorious over Satan, as the first Adam had succumbed to him, He humbled Himself in obedience instead of seeking to exalt Himself by disobeying. In this God was perfectly glorified by man in Christ's person. Responsibility even in the most adverse circumstances, and every way put to the proof, was fully met; so that as man God had nothing to claim and found His delight. This was perfect as between Him and God, but redeemed no one. He abode alone, only so much the more perfect because He was, but still alone in it. As to His own perfectness, He could have had twelve legions of angels, but He did not come for that. Still this was an immense truth as to man and God and His glory. God had been perfectly glorified by a Man there, in the scene where He had been dishonored.
This in itself was of immense moment and to the glory of our blessed Lord. Not that this could be tested without His death, for the question was till then (not for faith but for fact), Will He be faithful in spite of everything? He was. His death threw back the light of absolute unmingled obedience on all His life from His birth on. He came to do God's will: His will was the spring of all Christ did; and if He had to learn what obedience was in this world of sin, where it had to be made good, He was, in spite of all suffering, obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. He was the blessed, gracious, perfect man but the obedient man, as Adam had been the disobedient one—the obedient One in the midst of all suffering and trials, as Adam was disobedient in the midst of blessing. (To be continued).