know a man in Christ" (2 Corinthians 12:2)
The object of our consideration is manhood in relation to
the Lord's testimony, and for it we take a little phrase
used by the apostle Paul about himself: "I knew a
man in Christ". To it may be linked a few other
"I JESUS have sent my angel to testify unto you..."
"I JOHN, your brother and partaker with you..."
"Now I PAUL myself entreat you..."
(2 Corinthians 10:1)
"I DANIEL understood by the books..."
These personal references were evidently inspired by the
Holy Spirit, and therefore carry their own significance.
Humanity is a divine conception, something taking its
origin in the mind of God. Being, then, in the eternal
thought of God, it has come to stay. There is nothing in
all the Scriptures to indicate that God at some time, at
some point, is going to finish that order of beings and
replace it with another - angelic or otherwise. No,
manhood has come to stay. In the divine thought, manhood
is a very noble thing with a very great and high destiny.
DIGNITY OF MAN IN GOD'S THOUGHT
article we may have largely to be occupied with the
correcting of faulty ideas in order to get at the true.
Our ideas about man have become somewhat confused.
Evangelical Christianity has placed great emphasis upon
man's total depravity. I have nothing to take from that.
We need to remember, however, that every truth runs close
to error. It is just as true to affirm that man is a very
wonderful creation, "fearfully and wonderfully
made" (Psalm 139.14). We are constantly discovering
new realms within the human soul, and it is the soul of
man which is the very core of humanity. From time to time
we are surprised at what there is in us all of capability
and capacity, of unsuspected forces at work. There are
two sides to this matter of humanity; the one, which is
perfectly true, of man's total depravity; the other,
equally true, of the dignity of the human idea in the
mind of God. These two must be properly balanced, or many
evils may result. May we try to correct a few faulty
ideas so that we can understand more of God's real
thought concerning man?
INDIVIDUALITY IS NOT ANNIHILATED BY THE CROSS
closely alongside of what is so often our unbalanced
conception of man, there is our idea as to the meaning of
the cross in his experience. We place a great deal of
emphasis upon that side of the cross which relates to our
identification with Christ in His death; not only the
removal, by that death, of our sins, but also of
ourselves. The cross wholly and utterly sets aside one
kind of man. There is nothing to take from that, and
nothing to add to it: it is true. But our individuality
is not annihilated by the cross; the cross does not
destroy our personal entity. It deals with the basis of
that humanity upon which we are now living because of
Adam, but it does not destroy us. We need to be very
careful not to try to carry the cross into realms where
it is never supposed to operate. We must not think that
identification with Christ in death and burial somehow
means that we cease to function as sensible beings. The
cross is never meant to create or minister to asceticism.
INDIVIDUALITY IS NOT LOST IN THE BODY OF CHRIST
faulty conception is related to membership of the body of
Christ. The body of Christ is a great reality, a
wonderful truth. We have nothing to take from the fact
that we have a related life in Christ as members of His
body. We must be careful, though, to avoid the false
conception of the Church as Christ's body which regards
the individual distinctiveness of each member as being
destroyed so that all may be merged as it were into a
general lump. Paul is very careful to point out the
importance of the personal form of each member: "If
the whole body were an eye... If the whole were
hearing..." (1 Corinthians 12:17).
We have only to consider our own bodies, both inside and
out, to know that the smallest organ has its own
distinctiveness. Each has a specific form and a distinct
function, and at times it is one of the effects of
disease that it destroys the distinctive function of some
organ. If this is true physically, it can be true
spiritually. We must not confuse individualism with
individuality. That is a mistake. Yes, individualism is
unacceptable but individuality is of supreme importance.
The same truth obtains in the whole creation. One of the
wonders of God's creation is its endless variety. Yet the
whole of the creation is interdependent: every branch
depends on another branch, the flower on the bee and the
bee on the flower. This is a divine principle found
everywhere, each individual living thing must have its
own form, though being dependent on others for the
justification of its existence and the realisation of its
IDEA IS A MAN
faulty idea is to think that God's work is performed by
reason of an office rather than with the person who bears
that office. We think of them under certain designations,
such as 'ministers', 'missionaries', 'whole-time workers'
or 'preachers', but God thinks of them in their capacity
as human beings. They must not cease to be persons and
become things. It is easy for those concerned to regard
themselves as something that belongs to a platform or a
class and so obscure the importance of personality. We
may think of sending out a missionary, but God talks of
sending a man. It is the man not the occupation which
matters with Him, and we must not let any office obscure
the character of the person who holds it.
Here is a
very important point, this matter of originality. From
one point of view it may be argued that there is nothing
in itself really original: "There is nothing new
under the sun" was what Solomon said. Nevertheless
God can do in us that which makes "all things
new". Nothing should be copied or mechanical in our
life and ministry, but everything emerging from a
first-hand experience of God. This is the secret of
spiritual authority. What made the authority of the Lord
Jesus greater than that of the scribes (Matthew 7:29) was
not that He had more academic information than they had,
but that He clearly spoke from His own experience, He
spoke directly from God.
On our case, too, God demands a history behind what we
say. His testimony is not the mechanical propagation of
truths but their living power as embodied in human lives.
We are not here just to stand as a kind of middle man,
taking up from a store and passing on in a mechanical
way, but to communicate what has become original
spiritual truth in our own personal experience.
Originality is essential. Everything has got to begin
with us before it can be given to others with an effect
or lasting value. We need to begin with personal history.
We cannot live on the experience of others, however real
those experiences were to them.
"I JESUS." Does not that impress you, coming
right at the end of the Bible and being the last
utterance of the Lord to His churches? Notice that He did
not say, "I the Lord", but "I Jesus".
All Bible students know that in the New Testament the
name 'Jesus' refers to the days of His earthly life.
After His exaltation they always added 'Lord' to His
other titles and names, and the apostles only used the
name Jesus alone when they wished to emphasise His
perfect humanity. Used by itself the name refers back to
His life of humiliation when He took the form of a man.
"He was found in fashion as a man" (Philippians
2:7). The word 'fashion' means that in all outward
appearance He was like other men. Another word is used of
what He was inside; that was something other. But in this
outward fashion as a man He took the name Jesus, which
was one of the most common names in Palestine then. So
the name carries us back to the day when He was going
through all that which made spiritual history in Himself
- tried, tested, tempted in all points like as we are
(Hebrews 4:15) and being "made perfect through
sufferings" (Hebrews 2:10). History was being made
in His Humanity. As a Man, He was learning obedience by
the things which He suffered (Hebrews 5:8). This in no
way questions His deity. It means that though God
incarnate, Jesus was knowing all about human life, making
spiritual history in terms of manhood, with intrinsic
values which will be for the ages of the ages. Having
done all that in terms of manhood, He at last presents
Himself to His churches, saying: "I Jesus".
Then there is the writer of the book who introduces
himself with the phrase, "I John". His
experience was on so much smaller a scale, yet in its
measure it was true that what he wrote was not something
which had come mechanically to him but the result of
vital experience. Of the Word he was able to say:
"That which we have heard, that which we have seen
with our eyes, and our hands handled...". It has
become a part of us. We have a vital relationship with
the truth as it is in Him. It follows that we are now in
a position to mention ourselves in relation to the
testimony of Jesus.
Then Paul, who spoke of himself as "a man in
Christ" was also allowed to bring himself into view
with the authority of one who had history behind him:
"Behold, I Paul say unto you..." (Galatians
5:2). What Paul taught had become the very substance of
his being. He was not talking about abstract truths but
about things which had actually happened to him. Having
had the truth wrought into him he could affirm in the
Spirit: "I Paul say unto you".
Was that not also true of Daniel? "O MAN
greatly beloved" (Daniel 10:19). God did not say to
him: "O prophet greatly beloved" or "O
servant of the Lord greatly beloved" but "O
man...". The man is a man of God, a man in the Lord,
and so there is great spiritual authority when he says:
Naturally woman is included, for God is concerned with
humanity. He plans to fulfil His will in human beings.
Leaving aside our special reference to Jesus, whom we
know as a human being PLUS, we glory in the fact
that these servants of God were so essentially human.
John was so human. Paul was so human. Daniel was a human
being. Through His Son God makes something of Himself as
a part of human life, and in doing so constitutes the
testimony of Jesus.
God's great objective with you is not to make you a Bible
teacher, a missionary, a Christian worker. These may
emerge, according to the form which your life may take,
but they will not be eternal. It is you as a man or a
woman with whom God is taking such pains, He is more
concerned with our humanity than with anything else. You
will misunderstand His ways with you if you fail to
recognise that. You will be tempted to worry about your
reputation, your job, your function, while God is
supremely concerned with the kind of man you will be in
Christ. All else is of lesser importance. The great thing
is for God to find His eternal satisfaction in glorified
men - men in Christ.
the Mark" September-October 1978, Vol. 7-5.