The Accepted Man: Part 1

2 Corinthians 3  •  13 min. read  •  grade level: 6
There are two ways in which we may approach the judgment of man. We may judge of where man is (of the condition in which he is looked at by God) by taking the word of God and applying it to the condition of man in himself, to his state as an actual sinner. Thus, for instance, in Gen. 3, in the sin of Adam and Eve in the garden we see the character of evil against God Himself; in Gen. 4, in Cain's sin, the character of evil against man's neighbor. Here then is direct opposition to the requirement of God in both its parts (Luke 10:2727And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself. (Luke 10:27)).
But there is another thing of which scripture is full, the accepted Man, the Lord Jesus. We get in Him a precious living divine picture of what that Man is whom God does accept—of the Man after God's own heart.
If we find in Christ the accepted Man, whatever any other man's thoughts may be about himself, it is evident he is not this, because he is not like Christ (I speak not now as to divine power). In the glory Christ is the accepted and acceptable Man before God. As the pattern for the saint He is the exhibiter, not of divine power in grace toward man, but of manhood such as God can accept. Now no man can at any rate lay claim to being this. The unconverted man, though he cannot comprehend the Man after God's own heart, can plainly see that he is not this. A blind man may not be able to tell what is meant when I speak to him about light and color, because he has no perception of these things. He is blind; but he knows that he lacks the knowledge of the things I am talking about. So, when Christ is spoken of, the natural man is in a state of forgetfulness, or rather of ignorance as to who and what Christ is (whether looked at in relation to God or to the sinner), and therefore as to the real dissimilarity between himself and Christ; but he is perfectly aware that there are things which others know about Christ that he does not know. He may say he knows them, but he does not; and moreover he must be conscious that he does not know that which he professes to know. The blind man may hear me speak or be listening to sweet music, and in a certain sense lose nothing through his blindness (in the present enjoyment of what he hears he may forget his inability to see); but let him attempt to walk across the room towards me, and he will be reminded of it; for, unless one lead him, he will run up against that which stands in his way. The blind man may get used to his blindness.
So the sinner. When the natural man hears the word of God read, or when Christ is spoken of, he is blind, ignorant (as was said before) of who and what Christ is; but he is ignorant of the depth of his ignorance; his mind is so occupied with other things that he does not think about it, and he gets used to his ignorance. When the truth is put before him, he cannot see it; yet he must know that he knows nothing about it. If he looks into the scriptures, he does not apprehend Him of whom they speak. He is entirely ignorant of the motives that actuated Christ in His path through this world; yet, if his attention be at all called to what Christ was, he must have the consciousness that he is not like Him, that he is not and has not the thing spoken of.
If it be true that this is the acceptable Man, the Man in whom God delights, acceptable in His spirit, and ways, and character, it must be evident to the natural man that he cannot be. He may have many amiable qualities (in nature there is much that is engaging and beautiful: we see it even in the animals), but nothing that is acceptable to God. Morally we do not find one single motive that governed Christ governing man, as man. It is evident therefore, that if Christ's were acceptable motives, his are not.
Now being accepted is a great thing. It is impossible to think of a day of blessing, or of a day of judgment, without immediately having thoughts arise in the soul as to how it will be with us, whether we shall stand accepted in that day, whether we shall escape that judgment.
A man of the world must own that he has nothing in common with Christ, except indeed that he is a man and Christ was a man: he eats, drinks, sleeps; and Christ ate, drank, slept. But there is sin in every man, (and Christ was “without sin”), sin in the place of godliness, malice in the place of love. As regards the moral motives of the soul, he has not any of Christ's, and Christ had not one of his. The world would cease if its conduct were regulated by the motives which actuated Christ; it could not go on an hour. There may be the outward imitation of that which was found in Christ; but God is not mocked. “But,” it may be said, and many do say it, “God does not expect us to be like Christ in everything.” Now the fact is God does expect us to be like Christ. It is impossible for God to accept one thing as that which is agreeable to Himself, and then accept or be satisfied with the directly opposite. If the man of the world is the very opposite of what Christ was, God cannot accept him. He cannot deny Himself.
We shall see how God does bring into the very same place as Christ those who are accepted in Him You cannot have a third man. You must have either the place of the first man, rejected, turned out into the world, in the place of ruin; or that of the second Man, accepted, brought out of the world to God. There is no third man offering an indefinite acceptance in some unknown condition.
What then is the Christian? We read here of two things as characterizing him: he is an “epistle of Christ;” he has “liberty.”
What is the “liberty?” You will find this a characteristic of man, as man; he has not liberty with God, and (though he has not liberty from Satan) he has liberty with Satan. He is afraid of God; but he is not afraid of Satan. He would not like to be with Satan in hell, it is true; he is horrified at the thought of that; but he is not horrified at walking with him every day. He is at liberty with Satan, walking at his ease with him in the earth; but of walking with God he has a perfect terror. Now do you, dear friends, find yourselves at liberty with God? I know that in heaven by and by you would like to be with God; but do you covet this nearness now? That is the question. Do you feel at home with God? would you like Him to take you just such as you are? If taken just as you are, could you trust yourselves with God? You hope, perhaps, that when the day of judgment comes, all will be well with you; you have no thought but that you will be able to stand in the judgment then. But if God were about to take you just such as you are at this moment, is there not something you would be afraid of? What is there so terrible in thinking about God, why you should be so afraid of God, that you would not like to trust God with your present condition? You are not afraid to trust Satan.
Satan is “the god” (2 Cor. 4:44In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. (2 Corinthians 4:4)) and “the prince” (John 12:31; 14:3031Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. (John 12:31)
30Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me. (John 14:30)
) “of this world;” yet men are not afraid of making their way through a world where the Lord tells His disciples to have their loins girded about and their lamps burning, to watch and pray lest they enter into temptation, to be armed at all points. Men are not afraid there. Is not this strange? In Satan's world they are at ease; but with God they are not at ease. They go readily into places of temptation where Christ is sure not to be; and in the place where Christ could honor God they are ill at ease. They go to seek their pleasures where Christ could not have found His; and they are not afraid of Satan, though they know he is there. They are afraid where the light is; but they are not afraid of the darkness. Darkness is their element; light their fear. Is not this a terrible thing! “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” Satan is the prince of “the rulers of the darkness of this world” (Eph. 6:1212For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:12)), “the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2, 32Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. (Ephesians 2:2‑3)).
Man can compare himself with a reprobate sinner, and take credit in his own eyes for the difference between himself and the sinner, when God acts not in the conscience; but he puts away the judgment of God concerning himself. He never compares himself with Christ, “neither cometh he to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved” (John 3:20, 2120For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. 21But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. (John 3:20‑21)).
Now let us look at Christ, as to this judgment of man about himself. We find Christ scorning what man delights in, passing by those who could thus compare themselves amongst themselves, and becoming the friend of the profligate and the abandoned. When He met with a publican, or a person of bad character, making no pretense to be anything but a sinner, He was at home with the sinner. Of such were His companions. He came in grace to sinners as sinners. He saw into the heart, and therefore detected the hollowness of all man's pretended righteousness. He did not come from heaven to this earth to look for righteousness: this is the last thing He would have taken the journey for. He came to seek sinners.
Again, you read a person's character in his letter. Now the Christian is Christ's letter to the world. In ver. 3 the apostle speaks of him as “the epistle of Christ,” written by the Spirit of the living God in the fleshy tables of the heart, and contrasts him with the law written on tables of stone. A Christian is therefore a person upon whose heart the Spirit of God has engraved Christ, just as truly as God wrote and engraved the law upon the tables of stone; so that the world may read Christ in the man, as an Israelite might read the law on the stones. Now how far can we according to this definition call ourselves Christians? We come short, I doubt not, we have blotted the letter: but I speak of the thing in principle.
Oh, the folly of man! He has taken for granted from the scriptures that there is a heaven, and then sets about getting to that heaven his own way. How does he know that there is a heaven at all to go to? It is impossible that he should know it except upon the authority of God. “I learn it from the scriptures,” he says: “it is in the scriptures, and therefore it must be true.” Yes, doubtless it is in the scriptures; but having taken for granted just that, he does not go to God to know who are to be there, or how he is to get there.
The very idea, floating as it is, he possesses of heaven, renders the assumption of his being there less pardonable than would have been his utter ignorance about it. A man would be less wrong supposing he did not know anything about a regal palace (a savage fit only for the woods), than a person who knew what the palace was, and had some idea of the requirements of the place, and yet thought to go and live there. The unconverted man acts and thinks more apart from God in thinking he ought to go to heaven, than if he thought there was no such place at all; he in a state of sin is expecting to get into the presence of a holy God!
One thing impressed my own mind most peculiarly when the Lord was first opening my eyes, I never found Christ doing a single thing for Himself Here is an immense principle. There was not one act in all Christ's life done to serve or to please Himself. An unbroken stream of blessed perfect unfailing love flowed from Him, no matter what the contradiction of sinners, one amazing and unwavering testimony of love and sympathy and help; but it was ever others, and not Himself, that were comforted, and nothing could weary it, nothing turn it aside. Now the world's whole principle is self, doing well for itself (Ps. 49:18). Men know that it is upon the energy of selfishness they have to depend. Every one that knows anything at all of the world knows this. Without it the world could not go on. What is the world's honor? Self. What its wealth? Self. What is advancement in the world? Self. They are but so many forms of the same thing; the principle that animates the individual man in each is the spirit of self-seeking. The business of the world is the seeking of self, and the pleasures of the world are selfish pleasures. They are troublesome pleasures too; for we cannot escape from a world where God has said, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return to the ground,” &c. Toil for self is irksome; but suppose a man finds out at length that the busy seeking of self is trouble and weariness, and having procured the means of living without it, gives it up, what then? He just adopts another form of the same spirit of self, and turns to selfish ease.
I am not now speaking of vice and gross sin (of course every one will allow that to be opposite to the spirit of Christ); but of the whole course of the world. Take the world's decent moral man, and is he an “epistle of Christ”? Is there in him a single motive like Christ's? He may do the same things; he may be a carpenter as Christ was (Mark 6:33Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him. (Mark 6:3)); but he has not one thought in common with Christ. As to the outside, the world goes on with its religion and its philanthropy; it does good, builds its hospitals, feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, and the like; but its inward springs of action are not Christ's. Every motive that governed Christ all the way along is not that which governs men; and the motives which keep the world agoing are not those which were found in Christ at all. (To be continued).