"But now put ye away all these: anger,
wrath, malice, railing, shameful speaking out of your mouth: lie not one to
another; seeing that ye have put off the old man with his doings, and have put
on the new man, which is being renewed unto knowledge after the image of Him
That created him: where there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcision and
uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman: but Christ is All, and in
all" (Colossians 3:8–11; NASB).
May I say, dear friends, as we approach the
message that is in these words, my real and very strong concern is that we shall
touch reality at this time, that we shall go beyond theory, beyond teaching as
such, and meet the Lord at the point of deep reality, where His need in us is
really met and our need in Him is met. We are in times when the buildup of
Christian truth, teaching, and knowledge is immense; and the corresponding
reality in life is by no means commensurate. There is a margin, a gap, between
what is known and what is lived. And we want to get into that gap as the Lord
may enable us, and close it up, or let Him close it up, so far as we are
concerned at this time, that truth and life shall come close together, and
indeed become one. And that is the object which is in my heart at this time -
not to say so much more, however true it might be, but really to touch very
vital issues. Now there may be a lot said, but I have one thought and object
that is governing everything that will be said. All will be gathered around
just one issue, which I trust will become increasingly clear as we go on.
Having said that, let us look at this fragment
of the Word which we have just read in verses nine through eleven in the third
chapter of the Letter to the Colossians. We will analyze it, break it up, and
note the five very distinct points that are touched upon by the Apostle in these
First of all, there is a retrospect to the
Creator and the created, "being renewed... after the Image of Him that
created him." That is a throwback to creation and the Creator. Just note
it, for we are going to take up each of these points separately. But number one
is this retrospective touch upon the beginning of everything in the Creator and
the created, "The image of Him that created..."
Secondly, the pattern and purpose of the
Creator in the creation, "being renewed... after the image of Him that
created him." The pattern, the image, the purpose, the renewal of
Thirdly, the real nature and effect of the
crisis in the life of Christians. Something has happened in the life of
Christians, which marks the beginning of a process, a process indicated by these
words, "being renewed," made anew, made over again. The crisis in the
life of the believer when something happened: "ye put off... and ye put on."
That's the nature and meaning and the effect of the great crisis in the life of
Fourthly, the occupation and energy of the Holy
Spirit Who is doing this renewing work, "being renewed." Well, we are
not doing it, either for ourselves or for other people, and other people are not
doing it for us. This is the occupation and the energy of the Creator's
Spirit. He, Who brooded over the chaos and brought out of the chaos the Divine
Order, is the same Spirit now occupied with His own energy in making anew,
according to the image, renewing; the activity of the Holy Spirit.
And in the fifth place, the exclusiveness and
the inclusiveness of Christ. That is the last statement, "where there cannot
be." That's the right kind of exclusiveness, or exclusivism. A whole realm
and system and order and nature is excluded: "There cannot be...." But,
the inclusiveness is just Christ, "Christ is All, and in All." That's
the analysis of these verses, very simple and to the point, but how very
comprehensive and how very important and meaningful. Well, let us begin
to take them up, one at a time.
The Creator And The Created
Firstly, then, man and His Creator. The
Creator and the created. Perhaps it would be as well if we arranged several
other passages alongside of this one, going back to the beginning of this same
letter in chapter one and verse sixteen: "For in Him were all things, all
things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things
invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things
have been created through Him, and unto Him; and He is before all things, and in
Him all things consist... that in all things He might have the
preeminence... through Him to reconcile all things unto Himself." The
center and circumference of all things is Christ, the Creator of all things.
Then, familiar words in John's Gospel, in
chapter one and verse three: "All things were made by Him; and without Him
was not anything made that hath been made."
John and Paul are one in perfect agreement on
this matter of Who was the Originator of all things.
Then to the Letter to the Romans, chapter
eleven. It is always good to have, it is right to have, an adequate scriptural
basis for what we are saying. Chapter eleven and verse thirty-six: "For of
Him, and through Him, and unto Him, are all things."
And one more in the First Letter to the
Corinthians, chapter eight and verse six: "...There is One God, the Father,
of Whom are all things, and we unto Him; and One Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom
are all things, and we through Him." Well, that establishes this: what we
have called the throwback to the Creator and the created.
Then, we have of course, in order to come to
these words about renewing, or making anew, or starting again, a process
of recovery, we have to contemplate that terrible disintegration of the man to
whom these scriptures are referring. Yes, the disruption of human life, the
disruption of every member of the human race. We need not argue, I think, from
Scripture on this, because the argument is finished immediately when we consider
ourselves, and mankind as we know mankind.
We are perhaps more aware today than ever of
this disruption, this disintegration in human life, that there is a fundamental
schism in man, and in mankind. And schism, wherever it is found, always means
frustration. Frustration is the evidence of a schism, a divisiveness in human
life and in human nature. And we see this of course right from the beginning of
history as recorded in the Bible. All the way through, and coming out in our
time in a consummate way, there is frustration in human life. Continuous
Every new step which is thought to be a step of
progress, of advancement, of development, brings with it its own frustrations.
No matter how far advanced, how fully developed, how phenomenal the enlargement
of knowledge and of ability to do and to achieve; no matter how great, how
large, how amazing, the frustration goes with it in the same measure until we
reach the point in the world's development which we have reached in our own time
when discovery, when invention, when the mastery of forces in this universe and
bringing them into the service of man, are terrible and completely amazing. We
would never never have believed it only a few years ago. There, right alongside
of it is its own undoing and those who know most, are most terrified of what
they have put their hands upon. The fearful possibilities and potentialities
which they wish they'd never discovered, never known. Frustration runs hand in
hand through history with every fresh development and movement. It is there in
human life, it is in the creation, and it is in the universe as it now is. And
God Himself has taken pains to bring this out for man's realisation.
For instance, the Law as we have it in the Old
Testament, as we have it vested in the nation, chosen for this very purpose to
be God's object lesson to all the nations, to all the world. The Law! The
Apostle Paul puts his finger upon that whole system with its long history, its
meticulous application, and he says, "The Law was given in order to show how
impotent man is." If ever there was a thing employed by Almighty God to
demonstrate and expose the weakness of man, it was the Law. That's the Law
of Moses, as it is called, the Law of God.
The Apostlem this same apostle who has made
such a terrible declaration as to the effect of the Law,that it has only brought
to light man's weakness, impotence, helplessness. It hasn't done anything to
save man, but rather to condemn him. That man writes a chapter, a whole chapter
in these terms: "The good that I would do, and I would do it with all my heart,
I do not. And the evil that I would not, with all my heart would not, I
struggle and I strive and I labor and I groan not to do these things, the
evil that I would not, that I do. Oh, wretched man that I am! Who shall
deliver me? How did ever I know that the thing that was right that it should be
done? How ever did I discover that the thing was wrong that I should not do
it? The Law made me know right and wrong and left me paralyzed, utterly
incapable of rising to it, either to say: No! or to say Yes! Oh, wretched
man!" Isn't that frustration? And isn't that history up to date? Well,
that is the Law of Moses.
You and I, dear friends, are living in a time
in the world when there is not a law of all the multiplications in laws which
can cope with human nature. Oh, what a time of lawlessness, which is only
another way of saying, man's utter inability to answer to the law. Or, shall we
put it this way: the law's utter inability to cope with man. There is this
schism in human nature, this dividedness in personality, in constitution that
works out in utter frustration. That is a word today isn't it - frustration.
My word, what a lot is covered by that word today.
Schism And Frustration In
And how real it is in every realm; and yet,
personal. As I have just cited in Romans seven, the "I" - "O wretched man that
I am!" - "what I would do, I do not; what I would not do, that I
do." It is all so personal, this division, this schism in me, in the
personal realm. In society... I need not dwell upon each of these. Society:-
what a disruptive thing human society is! What an unstable thing it is! What a
restless thing it is! The competitiveness - there it is, it makes you heartily
sick does it not, to see how in society no one can show something new or fresh
without the other person eyeing it and going one better or trying to outdo the
other. Oh, the many-sidedness of this conflict in the social order amongst
In the economical realm, we are not here to
talk about economics, but let us put another word in the place of that - it
means money doesn't it? The realm of money - surely the love of it is a root of
all evil. It is the cause of conflict, of strife, of rivalries, of everything
that speaks of, on the one side schism, divisiveness, and on the other:
frustration. And never before have the people in the world had so much money,
in this country alone. Never before in the history of this country have people
had so much money! And never before has there been so much dissatisfaction and
grasping for more! Day by day, our papers are just full of this grasping, this
scheming to have money, and more money. What does it lead to? It does not lead
to rest and peace and satisfaction. Not at all; more and still more! How
divided human nature is. You would think if they had so much they would be
content, and human nature would settle down and say, "I have got all this, let
me be satisfied," but it just works the other way doesn't it? In the economical
realm, in the political realm there's this schism at work and frustration.
There's a lot we could say about frustration in politics but oh, we are not
going to comment.
And as I have said before in the matter of
science, no matter how far man goes, whether to the moon or to the planets, he
has got some drive that will send him beyond, he will never, never come to
rest. This is something in him that defeats him; he tries and when it has got
so far, and so very far, still he is a restless being, driven on and on and
never satisfied. So we could go on, frustration in the industrial world, and
frustration in the national life and frustration in international relations, it
is all so true isn't it? Why? Come back to where we started, why? Sometime, at
some point for some reason, human nature became disrupted and disintegrated and
schismatic. Divided in conflict, even in the individual. We all know the
conflict in ourselves. It happened.
The Bible opens with a picture very different
from that: everything is beautiful. God Almighty, Who is meticulous and perfect
in His requirements and utter in His standards of satisfaction, the Infinite God
being able to look at all this and say, "It is good, it is very good."
My, it is something that the Lord can look upon one little bit and say, "It is
very good." You and I would feel very happy if there was one little thing about
us that the Lord could say, "That is very good." But looking on all
things and saying, "It is good, it is very good," that is the opening
picture of the Bible. Then something happened, disrupted the universe, shot
through the universe: this schism and this resultant frustration.
And what is the ultimate frustration? The
ultimate frustration is death. There is nothing that speaks more of frustration
than death. It says defeat, it says imperfection, nothing finalized in this
life. The final frustration is death. They are talking now about science
arriving perhaps before long at the point where they will be able to destroy
death where death will be defeated. Ah, to imagine such a thing, to say nothing
of saying such a thing is to find everything in this universe saying "that's a
lie for death has a date with every mortal being, and you will never
defeat that one." It is defeating you all the way along. You may, by your
science prolong life, add to your tenure, but that is not always a blessing, you
know. A lot of people today, the Lord would take them and if by reason of a few
more years well... that may not be true of all you very old people, but the
prolonging of life is very often a doubtful blessing. I remember many years ago
reading something on a sundial in Sterling castle that went like this:
"Our life is like a winter's day,
Some only breakfast,
Others to dinner stay and are full fed,
The oldest man but sups and goes to bed
Large is his debt who lingers out the day,
And he that goes soonest has the least effect."
Well that's not the Bible, not Scripture, I
don't know who wrote it, it may be a morbid view of life but there's some truth
in it. While it is possible to have a long life with the blessing of the Lord,
length of days is no guarantee of happiness. But if they're going to destroy
death, they think they can, it doesn't mean that they're going to be benefactors
of humanity, it may be very much the other way, when men long to die all the
more because of conditions. Well, be that as it may, the point is that the
final consummate outworking of frustration is death.
And when we have said all this about this
schism and frustration in every realm, to where do we trace it? To man
himself. It is just man isn't it? It is this that has happened in man, this
devastation in human nature and human life. Indeed, the image has gone. It has
been lost. The purpose of the Creator in the creation itself has suffered
frustration as we've seen in the light today, the divine Purpose in the
beginning is under frustration. Well, there is the dark, the miserable side, but
it is so true. And we have to note it before we can get on to the other side,
our scriptures here while they touch on that, and my, don't they touch on it,
they turn us to the other side: "Being renewed after the image of Him that
created him," the re-integration, the re-unification in the
Creator, in Christ. "Christ All, and in all."
You notice every schismatic element is touched
upon here. Every schismatic element is touched upon in man's nature in verse
eight. Then, at the end of the paragraph, all the racial divisions, Jew,
Gentile, and so on. Every disintegrated element is excluded in Christ, the
Unifier and the Unification of all, beginning in the individual and ultimately
manifested in a whole race, beside which there will be no other race, because
you cannot have something extra to all. If you come to all, then there is
nothing more. There is nothing more than all. And how we underline that phrase
in all these passages which we read, "all things." That is final,
consummate; everything reunited.
This Son Of Man Is A Unity In
Himself: There Is No Schism In This Person
Now, it is at that point that we begin the
great positive revelation of the meaning of Christ. And we light upon the real
significance of the Incarnation, the Son of God becoming man. "Made in the
likeness of man." says Paul, Himself man. And the Lord's own favourite,
chosen, cherished title for Himself: the "Son of Man." He loved that
name. He constantly used it in preference to every other title. "Son of Man"!
His Person, His Incarnation, the very object of His coming out of eternity into
time, out of eternity into history, the very meaning, purpose, object, and
explanation of Himself as having come from glory, is found in this word: man.
And that is not just a proper name, Son of Man,
that is a purpose, a purposeful title. That is a meaning, that is an
explanation, that is a definition: man, the Man Christ Jesus; and this Son of
Man is a Unity in Himself. There is no schism in this Person, in this Humanity,
He is One, not dual, but One. There is a Unity, an integration in Him.
Do you know, the Lord Jesus in all His life
here never suffered from conscience? I don't mean He did not have a
conscience. Conscience is a constituent of the full personality, but Jesus
never for a split second suffered from conscience. If He had done that, He
would not have been a Unity in His personality, in His nature, because
conscience is always a divisive element isn't it? It suggests strife doesn't
it? Conflict... two things. Paul says it either accuses or it excuses.
Whichever it does, it speaks of something to be combated in the person
concerned. Conscience... why prove conscience, argue about conscience; don't we
not know all about conscience? It is this conscience that is accountable for
ninety percent of our misery. Isn't that true? "Oh, my conscience, what a time
it gives me." Jesus never suffered from conscience, not for a moment. There
was no duality in His nature; it was single. One, a Unity; there was no
fighting in His nature. No, you see, if there is perfect obedience, there is no
place for conscience. Isn't that true? There is no place for conscience to
trouble a perfectly obedient life. And He was able to say, as no other
part of the human race could ever say, "I do always those things which
are well pleasing unto Him." "I do always" - what a claim! What a statement! In
a world like this, a Man in the human creation standing up before heaven and
earth and hell and saying, "I do always those things which are well
pleasing to Him." There is no schism in Him, because of perfect obedience.
And now do you begin to see perhaps a little
more to your own heart's satisfaction, why the Apostle was always using one
little phrase, and what he meant by it? And what it meant to him? How heart
ravishing it was to him in its meaning, "in Christ." "There is therefore
now no condemnation to them that are in Christ." Here the conflict is
gone. The conscience is redeemed. In this matter of condemnation - which
carries with it more than anything else frustration - in Christ that is gone.
There is no condemnation in Christ. And when Paul uses that phrase, it is
always, "We are in Christ": "we," in Christ.
Are you a man, he says, in Christ? A man in
Christ? A position in the realm of all that terrible contradiction and
conflict, there is a respite, that we are put into - a position. In the
righteousness of God through faith in Christ, we are in that position. Would
that I could grasp it; would that we could all grasp that! It is reality
because there was never a time when the saints of God were more assailed and
harassed by accusation and condemnation than at this time. Frustration in the
Christian life is very largely due to a failure to apprehend, to grasp, the real
meaning of being in Christ, this One in Whom there is no conscience
worrying. In this One, in Whom there is no schism, and that is the position
that we are brought into "in Christ."
We will have more to say about that when we
come to the crisis. But, oh! the infinite blessedness if only we could grasp
it, of what it means to be placed "in Christ." We are all defeated here, and we
have all failed here, everyone of us failing to grasp this initial, fundamental
blessedness of being in Christ, of what it means to be placed in Christ, where
so far as God and we are concerned, there is no controversy, and there is no
conflict. God is not against us, and yet we believe so often that He is. And
the devil tells us a thousand times every day that the Lord is not for us, that
He is against us. Anything that he can use as a ground of argument to bring us
under condemnation. The shadow again of that terrible havoc the enemy has
brought about in human life. Oh, the infinite preciousness of our position in
Christ before ever the work was taken up or perfected. Our position in Christ,
a new Humanity, a different kind of Humanity, in Christ a Humanity that
has been regenerated, in Christ a new Humanity has been introduced into
this creation, the destiny of which is final conformity to His image, being
renewed, made anew after the Image.
No wonder that with all that He had to meet and
counter and suffer, He went tranquilly on His way. It was not until that day,
that hour, that moment, when, being made sin for us and a curse for us, taking
the place of this disruptive creation, then His soul was torn asunder; but not
until then was He ever disturbed by any kind of controversy with His Father or
His Father with Him. He had tranquility;
Dear friends, I am saying tremendous things to
you, but after all, what does this mean? This is after all just the simple
truth of a Christian's position by faith in Jesus Christ, where there is no more
controversy between us and heaven, heaven and us, there is no condemnation in
Christ. You were created by Him for a position and a state like that, and He
has come back to redeem from all that contradicts that state, to redeem man.
We'll stop there, but what I want (and I said I
had one object, one thought at this time, around which all this is being
governed) I want to emphasize this: that it is man that God is after. It
is man that God is after, not things, not systems, not orders, but man.
He is after human life, He has come to get it, to redeem it, to make it again.
It is our humanity upon which He has focused His attention. It is there that we
should find so much help in the explanation of His dealings with us. What is
it, what is He up to and after in His attention upon us? His attention to us,
but what is He up to, and what is He after? Well, He is after a humanity, a
man, a human life to be the expression of Himself, His own Image, "renewed
after the image of Him." That is the explanation.
We ask a thousand questions of what the Lord is
doing and why He is doing this and that and so many things with us; why He is
taking this way. And, all the questions are answered in this one thing as I see
it. He is after our manhood, after our human nature, He is after our humanity,
He is after this creation, this purely and unique creation: human beings, to
make them after His own Image. That is why He is dealing with us, sometimes it
seems He is dealing with us as though we were the only individuals in the vast
universe. It is all so real, and sometimes it is so terrible, so drastic.
Sometimes it is as though He has singled us out from everybody else to deal with
us. Here is the answer in Colossians three, nine to eleven: "being renewed,
made anew, after the image of Him that created him."