Union in Incarnation

 •  40 min. read  •  grade level: 8
The Root Error of Modern Theology
THE subject on which I would engage the attention of your readers is one which affects the whole character and nature of Christianity, branching out into what is really infidelity on one side, and abominable heresies on the other; but held in its root principles by persons who would utterly reject both. It is found in the most highly-esteemed ministers of the Free Church of Scotland and widely spread in it; in the Baptist Colleges, and taught by eminent Baptist ministers in the United States; elaborately developed in the revived energy of evangelicalism in Germany, whence it has passed in a gross Puseyite shape to the Dutch Reformed Church in the States. Its full doctrinal results were developed in Irvingism. The worst kind of infidelity is based on it, to which the German doctors approach wonderfully near.
The question is this: Was Christ in incarnation united to humanity to renew it? or is the life of believers a wholly new life in every case, and, in the case of the church, believers united by the Holy Ghost to Him glorified? Those orthodox in the main take up only the renewal of the first man; the fullblown doctrine is Christ's union with fallen man. It is a capital question; because this makes fallen man, the first Adam, that which is taken up of God for blessing as such, to which the Word therefore united Himself, and that (however sinless they may hold Christ to have been personally) in its sinful state, before redemption. The truth looks upon man in the flesh as utterly rejected and lost; that Christ stood alone, though a true and very man, till He had accomplished redemption, and then, when He had accomplished it, a redemption available in justification and life to faith, before as after the cross; that a wholly new nature was given, in which man enters into the benefit of it, there being also in the case of the church actual union with Him glorified by the Holy Ghost, members of His body.
The Wesleyans have not, that I know of, the doctrine of such union of Christ with fallen humanity, but they take up in practice its effect, with the assertion of some good in fallen man, and that what is wrought in salvation is the setting right the first Adam, not the communication of a totally new life. The German doctors agree with them in this. Without it, they say, there is no "Anknupfungspunkt," no point to which grace can attach itself. Now God does act on man's knowledge of good and evil, or conscience, but a new life is given. Christ, the last Adam becoming our life in contrast with the first, needs no "Anknupfungspunkt." Irving held that Christ, while sinless in word or deed, had a sinful human nature; lust, where the will did not consent, not being sin, as is held by Roman Catholics, Wesleyans, and a very great many others, as for example, our modern perfectionists-a horrible error. The apostle Paul expressly makes sin the source of lust in Rom. 7 It is an error which makes void the tenth commandment, as he there uses it. Christ, according to Irving, by the Holy Ghost kept sin in the flesh down, and so kept all His ways holy, and was perfect, and obtained thus the Holy Ghost for us, that we may do the same. The substitution of Christ as bearing our sins, and therefore dying for us, he expressly denied (and the truth of the atonement, viewed as substitution, is involved in the question), holding that He died because of what He was as a mortal man, not because of our sins. I need not go farther into his doctrine.
Dr. Moody Stuart, late moderator of the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland, says: " We are renewed in the whole man after the image of God," a most false presentation of what is said in Scripture, where the new man only is spoken of in Eph. 4:24,24And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (Ephesians 4:24) as a new creation, in Col. 3:1010And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: (Colossians 3:10) as renewed in knowledge; but in both, the new man, in contrast with the old, he continues, " in mind, in will, in heart, and sin hath not dominion over us, because we are under grace," carefully omitting " because we are not under law."
Mr. McLeod, Presbyterian minister in Canada, says: " They " (those whom he calls by a name of reproach) " falsely teach that in regeneration the old nature remains the same, the new is introduced. They speak of it as if it were the introduction of a new power into the soul, not as if it were the regeneration of the soul itself, as if the Holy Ghost created a new being, and inserted it into us; while the Bible teaches, not that any new power is added to the soul, but life from God is breathed into the soul, as it were, or in the language of Scripture the soul is born again, passes out of its former state of unbelief and darkness, and enters into a new state of faith and holiness. All the powers of the soul are so affected as to be renewed, and to bring forth fruit unto God "; and he, confounding Christ's taking true humanity with union with humanity as a race, objects to saying, " between humanity as seen in our Lord and humanity as seen in us there could be no union." He says if so He could not stand in our stead, again confounding union and substitution; whereas it was because He was alone in sinless humanity that He could stand in our stead.
Dr. Bonar openly ridicules the idea of two natures, or anything equivalent to it, in the Christian. He indeed puts Christ in our sinful place, though sinless, all through His life.
I will give an extract, from the discourse of a president of a Baptist College, of a sermon preached with applause at a convention and conference of Baptists, which will show the doctrine in its fullness and true root plainly stated, not saying that all have received every part of it, but as here presented in a full formal way. It is borrowed, sometimes almost verbally, from a German theologian, and has been reproduced in the same terms by one whom perhaps I might call the leading evangelical minister in Switzerland, at any rate in his own canton. It is current in a modified shape everywhere, even where its full bearing is not understood. It has been carried to its extreme results by Menken, in Germany, of whom I know little, and by Irving in England, of whom I know a great deal. Its effects, diluting Christianity and subverting the truth, prevail where, as I have already said, sometimes its true root is unknown and its just consequences utterly rejected; but their Christianity is mutilated and spoiled by it. The sermon itself is a dream of Christ's life, founded on the doctrine of which there is not a word in Scripture, reproducing the German or Swiss I have alluded to.
" Connected in every fiber of His nature with the common nature of mankind, He saw that He must suffer, the Just for the unjust. It could not be that human nature should fail of enduring the settled and necessary penalty of its sin,1 and He not only had a human nature, but in Him human nature was organically united, as it never had been before, except in Adam; if the members suffer, should not also the Head? When He was but twelve years of age, the consciousness of this divine commission had dawned upon Him. Sitting as an humble questioner before the doctors of the law, the conviction had become overmastering; I am He, the teacher and prophet promised long ago.... I am He, the sent of God, the Son of God. And the eighteen years that followed had made this conviction part and parcel of His very being; growing with His growth, and strengthening with His strength, it had taken up into itself all the energies of His soul, conscious or unconscious, until His life and His work were identical, and He could say, ' Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God.' " I will not pursue the wretched picture, created by an unscriptural imagination, which is given of Christ's conflicts, through realizing what was before Him. Suffice it to say that it resulted in His consecrating Himself, and that as devoted to death, in His baptism by John.
But as to this the preacher then takes up a third point, founded on Christ's baptism by John. It is " a proof of Jesus' connection with humanity, with its sin, and its desert of death, Jesus' connection with human sin, and His consecration to death for the sins of the world; how clearly that stands out in the baptism! " " Jesus personally," he tells us, " and in every act and thought of His life, was sinless... and here we come to the greatest mystery of God's grace-the Person of Jesus Christ, and His assumption of the common nature of us all. If Jesus had no connection with a sinful and lost humanity, or if that connection with a sinful and lost humanity had been merely a factitious and forensic one, then it would have been the greatest breach of justice, the sheerest insult to purity, the most extravagant of absurdities, that the Lord Jesus should have submitted to an ordinance which was in some sense a confession of sin, and a declaration that this sin deserved nothing less than death. My friends, we can never explain the baptism of our Lord, unless we remember that Jesus was made sin for us,2 taking our nature upon Him, with all its exposures and liabilities, that He might redeem it and unite it to God "; not sinners, mind, but " it." " But this one mighty fact, the taking upon Him of our nature, does explain it. As one with humanity, He was about to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." I might go on with much more, but it is hardly needed.
In all he says of John's baptism there is not a word of truth. Actual sins, not sin in humanity at all, were confessed. Did Jesus confess such? In Him it was fulfilling righteousness entering in by the door. Jesus went, not with sinful Jews, but with God's remnant in their first step in the path God's word had led them into, as the door of the kingdom. So far was John's baptism from being to death, that not one who had been baptized of him would ever have put Christ to death. If all had received it, they would have received a living Christ, Messiah; and He would not, as far as that went, have been put to death at all. But this is not my business now. Dr. Strong uses it as a proof of His doctrine. My business is with the doctrine itself, which is here pretty fully brought out, not by an adversary, but by an advocate of it; and that, not an openly heretical teacher, but one who speaks truth when he comes to the application of it-a fair sample, in its best forms, of the system. " I also," he says, " must die to sin, by having Jesus' death reproduced in me. I must rise to a new life, by having Jesus' resurrection reproduced in me." I do not accept the form of this statement: still it connects itself with vital truth. But then comes the ground. " The putting away of the sin and guilt of humanity, which was the essential feature of Christ's work, must take place in me, and this I must do by having my life incorporated with His life."
This really denies the atonement. What is the " guilt of humanity "? But on its own ground this is quite unscriptural. Not I, says Paul, but Christ liveth in me (Gal. 2:2020I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)); but I do not now enter farther on this. The foundation is thus laid; " It was humanity that bore the curse in His death, and all the true life of humanity rose from the dead in His resurrection." He then puts our death and resurrection as a result of corresponding death to sin and resurrection to holiness. This is an unscriptural way of putting it, based upon the error I combat- the denial of our evil nature, always the same but reckoned dead already by faith, and kept down through the Spirit by a totally new life. But I cannot pursue it here.
It is a common way of putting it, and connected with reforming the old man, the root of all being now exposed in this doctrine, and cropping out all over the world; largely taught in the Free Church of Scotland, in various shades and degrees, sometimes not knowing what it means, sometimes in its mere practical results; but likely to be widely spread by last year's Cunningham Lectures on the kenosis, or self-emptying of Christ, which are a developed index or " catalog raisonne " of German speculations and heresy; where their effect too is already seen in the way the blessed Lord is spoken of, even by the author.
How different, how contrasted with all this, is the calm and beautiful simplicity of the scriptural account of Christ's life! Let us see how Scripture states the incarnation. After stating (John 1) what Christ was (Theos en o logos), John tells us (verse 14) what He became; the word was made flesh (sarx egeneto), and dwelt amongst us. So in Heb. 2:14: "As the children were partakers [kekoinoneken] of flesh and blood, he also himself in like manner took part [meteschen] of the same, that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death." He became a man, was made a little lower than the angels, that He might die; Heb. 2:99But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. (Hebrews 2:9). But His being born in flesh was by the power of the Holy Ghost, so as to be holy as so born; Luke 1:3535And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:35). " The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore that holy thing [to agion] which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." He was as to the flesh born of God, holy, Son of God; what was born of Mary was a holy thing. He was, by divine power and the operation of the Holy Ghost on that blessed and obedient handmaid of the Lord, born a holy thing, as man. This was not sinful flesh. He was (Gal. 4:4, 54But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. (Galatians 4:4‑5)) genomenos ek gunaikos, genomenos upo nomon, that He might redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. But this, in us, is thus the fruit of redemption. To as many as believed (John 1:1212But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: (John 1:12)) on Him, He gave authority to take this place, to none others. But to proceed. We have here no union with sinful humanity; but, what was wholly unique, a sinless Man, born holy in a miraculous way. The place of sons for others belongs only to those who received Him.
Does Heb. 2 lead to any other thought? " Behold I, and the children which God has given me "; only these are spoken of. These children were in flesh and blood; so He took part in it. But the objects of His doing so are carefully distinguished from the race. I am not questioning that Christ died for all; I believe it. But His drawing all men was by His death, not by incarnation, but by what wrought redemption when man had despised and rejected Him, and the world was judged, and the whole of it lay in wickedness; 1 John 5:1919And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness. (1 John 5:19). He had to draw those (John 12:3232And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. (John 12:32)) not united, but far from Him. But I have said the objects are carefully distinguished from union with the race. They are (Heb. 2) the children God had given Him. He took up (takes up their cause) not angels-what an occasion to speak of His connection with the race!-but He takes up the seed of Abraham. As they were in flesh He took it, but not a word of union with humanity. But more than this, we have the positive statement of who those are who had part in this oneness. He who sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one (ex enos),3 and they are so as so sanctified. Death He tasted for every man; but union with man is unknown to Scripture. They speak of His being bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh; Scripture never. If the words in the New Testament (Eph. 5:3030For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. (Ephesians 5:30)) be genuine, we are of His flesh and of His bones when He is glorified. And in the Old Testament Eve was such of Adam, not Adam of Eve. In every form the theory is as false as it is mischievous.
The other quotation in Heb. 2 Confirms the same truth: " I will declare thy name unto my brethren," which was accomplished after His resurrection, as Psa. 22 plainly intimates, and is so beautifully unfolded in its accomplishment in John 20. The words which follow fully establish the point: " In the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee." The truth is, there is no such thought in Scripture as Christ being united to men or humanity. He was a true man, but there was no union with other men in their sins. Nor is union with humanity a scriptural thought at all. The only connection with men, which can in any way be alleged or pretended, is in 1 Cor. 11, " The head of every man is Christ "; but there it is power, not union, which is spoken of, relative position of dignity. The setting union previous to redemption work falsifies Christianity and the state of men. The passage has been quoted, that we were " crucified with him." This is indeed faith's apprehension, and God's apprehension of us as looked at as in Christ, inasmuch as He died for us. But it only confirms the great truth I seek to establish. Who are the " we " or the " I " crucified with Christ? The believer, and the believer only. Were all the ungodly sinners who die in their sins, and who never heard of Christ, crucified with Christ?
That He was a propitiation for the whole world I read in John 2, but there He was alone for others. It was done towards God, and the blood on the mercy-seat opens the door of the gospel to all sinners. But this has nothing to do with union with the race. It was done for, not with, them. When the title of Son of man is shown to belong to the Lord, how does He take it up? Through His death. The Father took care that, if men despised and rejected Him, the testimony to who He was should be there. The resurrection of Lazarus demonstrated Him Son of God; the riding in on an ass bore witness to the glory of the Son of David; then the Greeks come up, and the Lord says (John 12:2323And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. (John 12:23)): " The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified." Here the race is in question. " Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." Son of God and King of Israel He was, according to Psa. 2; but to take His place as Son of man, according to Psa. 8, in the glory that belonged to Him according to that title, He must die. His Spirit then enters anticipatively into that scene, and He warns His followers they must follow Him in that path, but bows in perfect submission to His Father's will, seeking only His glory; and this, as it ever did, opens out to Him the vista of His glory which flowed from it; " I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." For in truth they were far away. So far was it from union, that it was as wholly rejected from the earth, lifted up and away from it, that He would draw men. When man had rejected Him utterly, and the world was judged in consequence (John 12:3131Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. (John 12:31)), lifted up out of it, He, the crucified Jesus, through death, and by it, became the attractive point to all men in grace. The sin of man, in total alienation from God and the love of God, in redeeming power for such, must both be made manifest, and meet in the death of the Lamb of God, before there could be any bond between them. Redemption is the sole basis of blessing. A living Savior was, as in the world, Son of God, Messiah, entitled to be King of Israel. A Son of man who has died and risen again can alone take the world, and take it as a Redeemer and Savior. He who descended into the lower parts of the earth is the same that is ascended far above all heavens, that He might fill all things (Eph. 4:1010He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) (Ephesians 4:10)); and He, and in that character, takes the place and power in grace and glory which belongs to Him. So when His hour was really come (Luke 9:5151And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, (Luke 9:51)), and the disciples own Him as the Christ of God, " He straitly charged them to tell no man that thing, saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day " (Luke 9:20-2220He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God. 21And he straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing; 22Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day. (Luke 9:20‑22)); and then shows them His glory.
No doubt as Son He quickens whom He will, and has, from Adam on; but He is not for us the life and the resurrection, but the resurrection and the life; John 11. Hence in John 6, where He is the bread of life, He so insists on resurrection at the last day. It was on totally new ground, founded on His death, man could have blessing; vv. 39, 40, 44, 53. He gives His flesh for the life of the world; and unless men eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of man, they have no life in them. Whoso eats that has eternal life. Union with men, and sinful men, without giving life or redemption, is a Socinian fable; unwittingly often I freely admit; but it is so. " Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground, and die, it abideth alone." He took flesh and blood, but stood alone, quickening indeed, as Son of God, whom He would, but as man in the flesh, alone in the place He stood in, until by death He could righteously bring in others, and redemption (without which-save of course Himself-none could have to say to God) was accomplished. A Son of man, alive in the days of His flesh, in union with men, without giving life, and without justification or redemption, is unknown to Scripture; but a union with sinful man, giving life and redemption, or justification, before His death, is alike unknown to it. “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." A union of Christ with sinful man is wholly unknown to Scripture.
What then was God doing with men before? Quickening souls assuredly from Adam on; but in His dispensations with men testing their state for their own instruction; in the former world setting them in innocence in the garden of Eden, where they fell, and then on to the flood without any special institution, though not without testimony. That world became so bad, that it was destroyed by the flood. Then in the new world came government in Noah; promise to Abraham called out from the midst of universal idolatry; the law, testing men and bringing in transgression; the prophets, to recall to the law and testify of Christ. Then God said, I have yet one Son: it may be they will reverence my Son. And when they saw Him they said, Come let us kill Him, and the inheritance shall be ours. Not only was man lawless without law, and a transgressor under law, but when grace came in the Person of the blessed Son of God, they would none of it. The presence of a divine Person drew out the enmity of the heart of man against God: “Now they have both seen and hated both me and my Father." So far from their being a link with humanity, or man as a race, it was the final test of their state: God come in grace, as a man in their midst. The result was: Now is the judgment of this world.
Hence, in speaking of Christ's death (Heb. 9:2626For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. (Hebrews 9:26)), it is said, " Now once in the end of the world [the consummation of ages] he hath appeared." Morally it was the end of man's history; not the communication of life, hypothetically even, to a race, nor the taking it up into union organically; but the deliberate and entire rejection by that race of Him in whom was life. And so it is stated (John 1:4, 54In him was life; and the life was the light of men. 5And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. (John 1:4‑5)), " In him was life, and the life was the light of man "-emphatically such; " but the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not." " He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came to his own, and his own received him not." To as many as received Him, He gave title to be children; but they were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (v. 13). It had nothing to do with the first Adam and his nature; if He was received, it was in being born of God. Light had come into the world; and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. That light was life, but with the testimony of John the Baptist, of Christ's work, of the Father, of the Scriptures, whence they thought they had eternal life, they would not come to Him, that they might have life. There was no mixing the Last and first Adam, no renewing the latter by the former, but the utter rejection of the former by the latter, and the judgment of a world convicted of sin by His rejection. Union in incarnation is a mystical and mystifying fable. Man must be born again.
This leads me to the second point-the form the error takes when union with sinful man in incarnation is not so distinctly held as by the Germans and their scholars among Presbyterians and Baptists-namely, that nothing new is given to man; that the old and new man are not contrasted in the renewed man; but that there is simply a renewal of man as he is, in his affections, thoughts, and whole soul. Such is the Wesleyan doctrine. Such is the basis of perfectionism; such is the current doctrine amidst crowds of Christians and their teachers, exalting the first man to the losing of the full and blessed truth of grace in the Second. Amidst a large class, such as the Wesleyans, it has taken this form: man, body, soul, and spirit, was in a good state before the fall, in a bad state after it; then, by the operation of the Spirit, in a good state again. And thus, they consistently hold, a man may be born again ten times a week, and also be perfect; but it is the perfection of the first man, not of a Christ in glory, conformity to whom is alone spoken of as our goal in Scripture. With all classes who have these views, varying in details, lust is not sin, unless the will consents-a horrible, unholy doctrine; and denying that sin in the flesh is condemned, and the whole truth of the fallen state of man. But my part is to see and state what Scripture says as to this, not now to go into details as to the false doctrine itself. Possibly at the close, if there be any profit in it, I may state, from the respective writings of those who hold them, the views into which this evil root of doctrine has branched out.
Scripture states distinctly that divine life is a wholly new thing given of God, always in absolute contrast with the flesh, for which death is the only remedy. I have been somewhat surprised at this truth being contested. Certainly some years ago the conflict of flesh and Spirit was generally owned amongst real Christians, if we must not except the Wesleyans. But our business is with the word of God. First, I quote the well-known passage (John 3), " Except a man be born again " (anothen), again in its origin and source, for anothen means from the very beginning or starting-point, as in Luke 1:3,3It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, (Luke 1:3) " from the very first." And this was in reply to Nicodemus, who thought he could be taught and led right by teaching. Further, in insisting on it and answering Nicodemus, who did not see how so totally a new life could be possible and puts the case of a natural new birth, the Lord declares that that which is born of the flesh is flesh, is of that nature, as every animal even is of the nature of that which is born; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit—has its nature.
Now the mind of the flesh (Rom. 8) (not the carnal mind, as a condition of soul, but to phronema tes sarkos) is enmity against God, is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be; so then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. " They that are after the flesh mind the things of the flesh; but ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you." Is not that a new thing altogether? And if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. So that all have not this new thing. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead, because of sin; and the Spirit is life, because of righteousness. Is not the Spirit being life, Christ being in us, a new thing? But again (1 John 5:11, 1211And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. (1 John 5:11‑12)): " This is the record that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." Is not having the Son a new thing to the sinner? Not merely changing his affections and thoughts, but having the Son, we have life; not having Him, we have not life. Hence Christ says, " Because I live, ye shall live also," John 14:1919Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. (John 14:19). He gives His sheep eternal life; John 1o. He is that eternal life (1 John 1:22(For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) (1 John 1:2)) which was with the Father and was manifested to us. The Last Adam is a life-giving Spirit; 1 Cor. 15. " When Christ, who is our life," says the apostle (Col. 3:44When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:4)); and again in Gal. 2:20,20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20) " Nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." It is life which is given us, life in Christ in the power of the Spirit; " the law "-that is, its nature and uniform character-" of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus." We are alive unto God in-not Adam, but-Jesus Christ our Lord; Rom. 6:1111Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:11). It is a well of water (John 4), God's gift in Christ, springing up unto everlasting life, in its highest state of eternal glory. When the full Christian place is understood and enjoyed, there is a life of which God is the source. We are born of God through the Spirit, and the Spirit dwells in us, giving power and liberty in this life with God, and from sin, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. But into this, blessed as the subject is, I cannot enter here.
Being by the word (James 1:1818Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. (James 1:18)), that which is heavenly and divine, yet suited to, and, when in Christ, belonging to man, is communicated for the sanctifying of the affections and thoughts, a nature having been communicated, when born of God, capable of enjoying what is thus revealed. " Of his own will begat he us, by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures." " We are born again of incorruptible seed by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever," 1 Peter 1:2323Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. (1 Peter 1:23). Hence we are children of God by faith in Christ Jesus; Gal. 3:2626For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26). The things revealed by the Spirit (1 Cor. 2) are communicated in words which the Holy Ghost has taught. And so far as man lives rightly, he lives by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God; Matt. 4:44But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4). This quickening and forming of the Christian's affections, by the word revealing things above, is fully acknowledged, and, I trust, cherished by my readers, as by myself. But the examination of Scripture will show that the flesh, or old man, is an evil thing, gauged and rejected of God and of faith, accounted dead by reason of Christ's death, but never renewed, never changed. Its history in Scripture spews it to be hopelessly bad; lawless when left to itself, transgressing the law when placed under it; when Christ came in grace, hating and rejecting Him; when the Spirit dwells in a man, lusting against it, and, if he be taken up to the third heaven, seeking, if it had been permitted, to puff him up about it. We arc not simply sinners, but sinners dealt with in long patience by God-a patience that has brought out the full evil of our heart; we are by nature the children of wrath.
First, that which is born of the flesh is flesh (John 3), a positive specific nature, which has its own lusts and delights, such as they are. Its works are manifest-may be seen; Gal. 5:19-2119Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19‑21). The mind of the flesh is enmity against God. The renewed mind knows that in me, that is in my flesh, dwells no good thing; Rom. 7. The fruit of the Spirit is in formal contrast with its works; not only so, but it lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against it, and these are contrary the one to the other; Gal. 5:1717For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. (Galatians 5:17). They that are after the flesh mind the things of the flesh; but if we live after the flesh, we shall die. If through the Spirit we mortify its deeds-for it is a nature which has its deeds-we shall live; Rom. 8. Is there any forgiveness, any amelioration, any remedy applicable to it? None?
All sins, with one exception, can be forgiven; but there is no forgiveness of an evil nature. God, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, has condemned sin in the flesh; Rom. 8:33For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: (Romans 8:3). It is the nature and standing of the first Adam, and, when we are in this, we are said to be in the flesh. What then is the remedy? Is there none? One only, if remedy it is to be called-death. It was condemned in Christ's death, as we have seen in Rom. 8:33For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: (Romans 8:3) (not that He had any of course, but as made sin for us); but that, if it was its condemnation, was also death. He that has died is justified from sin; Rom. 6. I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live: but not I, but Christ liveth in me; Gal. 2. They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts; Gal. 5:2424And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. (Galatians 5:24). Knowing that our old man is crucified with Him; Rom. 6:66Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. (Romans 6:6). If ye be dead with Christ; Rom. 6:88Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: (Romans 6:8). Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God; Col. 3:33For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3). Hence the very place of faith is to reckon ourselves dead to sin (Rom. 6:11What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? (Romans 6:1)), and, as the flesh is still in us which lusts against the Spirit, to bear about in our body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our body; 2 Cor. 4:1010Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. (2 Corinthians 4:10). Christ having died, it is, for faith and the life of Christ in us, as if we had died, and we reckon ourselves dead, crucified with Him; dead to sin, dead to the law, crucified to the world, and the world to us, Christ lives in us, alive to God-not in Adam, for our old man is crucified with Christ, but-in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Scripture is as uniform and as clear as it possibly can be. There is the flesh which lusts against the Spirit, things contrary the one to the other; but we are entitled and bound to reckon ourselves dead, inasmuch as in us, that is in the flesh, there is no good thing. But Christ being in us, the body is dead because of sin (its only fruit, if we are alive in the flesh), and the Spirit life because of righteousness. Hence we say we have put off the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and put on the new, after God created in righteousness and true holiness, renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created us. And note, it is not merely the deeds, but the old man with his deeds; the truth as it is in Jesus is the having done so and having put on the new man.
The first part of the Epistle to the Romans treats of guilt and forgiveness, through Christ having died for sins; the second, our having died with Him, so that by Him we might live to God. Scripture is clear in the contrast of flesh and Spirit, the old man and the new; but we are entitled to hold the first for dead, and our life to be Christ and not the flesh. Also before God, we are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be the Spirit of God dwell in us; Rom. 8:99But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. (Romans 8:9).
To deny that a new life is communicated to us, and that the old man, the flesh, is always contrary to the Spirit, is to deny the plainest testimonies of Scripture; while our privilege and duty, if indeed the Holy Ghost dwells in us, is to know that we are in Christ, not in the flesh, and to reckon ourselves dead, the old man crucified with Christ, seeing His death is available to us for that also. The perfect result will be our being like Christ in glory, as was shown to the disciples in the transfiguration. Nor is there any other perfection for the Christian than this: only we are to realize it here, Christ in us the hope of glory; and if Christ be in us, as our life, is not this something wholly new, and contrary to all that the flesh is? We are in Him for acceptance, He is in us for life and walk. If my reader would see this life fully developed, let him read Col. 3:5-175Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: 6For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: 7In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. 8But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. 9Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; 10And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: 11Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. 12Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. 14And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. 15And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. (Colossians 3:5‑17). Let him note that in chapter 2: 20 our death with Christ is laid as the basis where our being alive in the world, in the religious aspect, is not allowed; and in chapter 3: 1 our being risen with Christ. We are associated in life with Him risen, now that He is glorified, our life hid with Him in God. No thought of sustaining the old Adam-life, nor taking it up into Him, or infusing His into ours by a kind of incorporating power; but, on the contrary, we are dead and gone as to this, and Christ is our life, and so belong to heaven, where He is, though not yet there.
This only remains to refer to, the positive testimony that our union is as believers with Christ in glory. We have seen it already, when speaking of the alleged union of Christ with us in incarnation (Heb. 2), that only they that were sanctified were of one with Him. But there remains some positive evidence to notice. In John 14 the promise of the Comforter is given, expressly upon the ground of Christ's being gone on high as in John 7, the Holy Ghost was not yet [given] because Jesus was not yet glorified. When He was come, as we read in John 14, " In that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you." Who? Humanity? No, the disciples only. The Comforter was not for the world" whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you," John 14:1717Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. (John 14:17). And this is the more definite, because in the early part of the chapter the Lord speaks of the Father being in Him, and He in the Father, but not of the disciples being in Him, or He in them. This belongs to the present time, when Jesus is glorified, and the Holy Ghost come.
The same great truth is brought out in Rom. 8 There is no condemnation for them who are in Christ Jesus; but this is through the presence of the Holy Ghost, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, consequent on the death of Christ. " Ye are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if so be the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his; and if Christ be in you," etc. Here is union, and through the Spirit; Christ being glorified, we in Him and He in us. So in 1 Cor. 6:17,17But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. (1 Corinthians 6:17) " He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit." " Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God, who hath also sealed us and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts," 2 Cor. 1:21, 2221Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; 22Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts. (2 Corinthians 1:21‑22). So " if any man be in Christ, it is a new creation; old things are passed away, all things are become new; and all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ," 2 Cor. 5:17, 1817Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 18And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; (2 Corinthians 5:17‑18).
So in a more special character of this union, the being members of His body, it is to Christ as raised from the dead by God's power and set at His right hand, and we by the same power quickened with Him, and raised together, and made to sit together in heavenly places in Him. Thus God has given Him to be Head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who filleth all in all. So indeed in Eph. 2:12-1812That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: 13But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. 14For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. 18For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. (Ephesians 2:12‑18). So in chapter 5, connected with the comparison with the husband and wife, and Eve's union with Adam. So it is largely developed in 1 Cor. 12 as a system established here on earth, that it is by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body, to which Christ, and those united to Him by the Spirit, are compared. The whole groundwork of the New Testament, and the truth taught in it, is that Christ, though a true man, was alone until He had accomplished redemption; and that then, when He was glorified, we are in Him, united to Him, by the Holy Ghost, He the Head, and we the members. John gives us our being in Him individually; Paul also our corporate union with Him the Head, as living members of His body (He, the Head, being glorified on high).
Christ's union with sinful humanity is an anti-scriptural fable.
The life the Christian receives is a wholly new one; he is born again, that which is born of the flesh being flesh, that which is born of the Spirit being spirit. He that hath the Son hath life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. God sent His only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. There is no renewing or ameliorating of the flesh; it is enmity against God and cannot be subject to His law.
Our union is with Christ glorified, in a new life in Him, through the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, of whom our bodies are the temple, and against whom the flesh always lusts.
Let me add that God, in His history of man, has shown what flesh is, and even the creature left to himself. The first thing man has always done is to spoil what God has set up good. Man himself-the first thing we read of him is eating the forbidden fruit. The first Noah did, after offering thanksgiving for his deliverance, was to get drunk. Israel made the golden calf, before Moses came down from the mountain. Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire the first day after being consecrated, and Aaron never went into the holy of holies in his garments of glory and beauty. The son of David, Solomon, loved many strange women, and the kingdom was divided. The Gentile head of gold persecuted the godly, and became a beast, characterizing the empires that followed him for the seven times. What shall we say of the church? How soon did all seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ, and forsake the devoted and faithful apostle! John could say, " There are many antichrists, whereby we know that it is the last time." But God has worked on in grace, in spite of this, to show what He is, His longsuffering and goodness and patience. So all those things-man, the law, the priesthood, royalty in the Son of David, He that rises to reign over the Gentiles, His being glorified in His saints-all is made good in its place in the Second Man, the Last Adam. May His name be eternally praised! As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy. As is the Heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, so also we shall bear the image of the Heavenly. And in the ages to come God will show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. I speak of man's evil, not surely to delight in it, but that we may so know it, and that in conscience, that we may take, through grace, Christ instead of ourselves, and be occupied with Him.
I cannot but recall to the reader what this system involves- that " Christ, who knew no sin, was made sin for us," means that Christ, having been sinless in His eternal divinity, was made sin in being made man! By whom? Not when He offered Himself without spot to God, but He was made a bad sinful being by God, when coming into existence in this world!
1. Here we see how atonement is involved in it.
2. Note here the monstrous interpretation which I had heretofore supposed it impossible for any to hold, that " him who knew no sin " means Jesus in His divinity; and " made sin " the incarnation, " that holy thing," not the cross and atonement then.
3. It is confined to those who are sanctified. They are ex enos.