"So also it is written, 'The first man, Adam, became a living soul.' The last Adam became a life-giving spirit... The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven" (1 Cor. 15:45,47).
With these words before us we now turn to the other side of this whole matter of the place and meaning of Jesus Christ as the second Man, the last Adam.
We have taken a lot of time to see the divine necessity for a second Man, a last Adam. And out of that consideration of God's demonstrating to all the generations of history the terrible entail of one basic and inclusive choice in the wrong use of a great trust, that of free will, demonstrating how deep and terrible a thing it is to move out of the will of God into self-will, we are led to this one quite clear conclusion: that God, when He does anything, has very good reason for doing it, whatever it is. God never acts on any flimsy and unsubstantial ground. In this matter God has given us this terrible story, which is not all told yet, to let us know that when He did act in answer to Adam's rebellion and disobedience, He acted with a full knowledge of what was involved in that act. He has shown by history, and is continuing to show by history, what He knew was to be involved in that single act of disobedience. As Paul says, "Through the one man's disobedience... through one trespass" (Rom. 5:19,18). What a story!
But there is another thing to which all this brings us. When God sends His Son into the world as the second Man, the last Adam, there is an unspeakably great thing bound up with that.
We have just passed through a season of a vast amount of sentimentality, pettiness and a good deal of childishness. That is all right - but, dear friends, in the coming into this world of God's Son, no less and no smaller thing was involved than the overwhelming reality of the consequences of the first Adam's one act of disobedience!
Some of you may have wondered why we took all that time on that sorry and sordid story, that dark side of history. Perhaps you saw little point in it. Certainly you felt little comfort in it! But, you know, you can never understand or recognise the greatness of Christ unless you see the immensity of the background against which He stands. And that is not our conclusion, and that is not the conclusion of this platform. That is what God has done. He has, in effect, said: 'Do you want to know how great My Son is? Then I will show you by at least ten thousand years of history which He has to clear up.' If you can comprehend that, then you will get near to an appreciation of how great He and His work really are. Our object is not to tell the miserable story of human failure. That is only a means to an end.
Christ Replaces the First Adam
So we turn over now to this other side of the coming of the second Man, the last Adam, into humanity to supplant the first, the original. We have seen that certain phrases describe the state into which the first man, the first Adam, brought the race. There is the utter loss of human peace; the strivings for peace. Everything is being done that man can conceive of to bring about a reign of peace and the older the world becomes and the longer the shadow of human life, the less peace there is! There is less peace in human life today than at any time in human history.
Man has been striving, and is striving with all his resource (which is not small, as we have seen) for rest, for relief from tensions and stresses, for leisure. And the longer history draws out, so the more dissatisfied, discontented and restless man is!
Man has striven for security. Today the human race is shot through with fear born of a sense of insecurity and the defeat of every effort to bring about a state of security.
Man has striven for ascendancy, for victory, and today, more than ever in his history, he is conscious of the defeat of all his efforts. Indeed, only within these past few days the question has arisen, out of this sense of frustration and inability to cope with the world situation, as to whether, after all, the United Nations organisation is worth retaining!
Man has striven, and is striving, for liberty, and his greatest inventions are his prison, in a figurative sense.
What about the second Man, the last Adam? Are these not the very words that come in with Him? Yes! Of a different kind, it is true. Of a quality, and of a nature, and in a realm that is altogether different: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives" (John 14:27). Peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ... and when you have said that, have you not gone right back behind the first man, the original Adam, who broke that peace with God? You have got right back behind and undercut all that Adam Number 1 let in. It is of a different kind, a different realm. It is in the heart, but isn't that the place to have it? What you can stand up to in the world if you have the peace of God in your heart! And how much can you stand up to if you haven't?
Jesus said, "Come... I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28). We know what that means! No, it is not what the world sees - release from responsibility, escape from labour, from work - but there is a rest that "remains... for the people of God" (Heb. 4:9), into which we are brought in Christ Jesus. This is a rest which can be rest in labour and even in conflict. It is something spiritual, inward.
What about security? This apostle gives us a long list of the things which, to the world, speak of insecurity: "Death... life... things present... things to come... height... depth... principalities" (Rom. 8:38,39), and all the rest. Then, finding his stock exhausted, he has to lump all the rest together in this: "nor any other created thing" (Rom. 8:39). He is persuaded that none of these things will "be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:39). Is not that security? Life can be a formidable thing, and death can be a formidable thing. And all these other things may be very disconcerting things, 'But', says the apostle, 'the whole lot put together, and anything else you like to mention and add, cannot separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.' Is that not security? And so we could go on with all that which comes in with the last Adam, as He is. But what a difference!
You see, with the Lord Jesus is undercut that thing of which we have said much, which pursues every effort of man to realise his destiny. For it is stated that man was made to have dominion, but he was made to have it in relation to God, but he decided to have it without that relationship. He lost it, and history is one long story of man's efforts to get it without God. And there is running alongside of every effort of man a pursuing thing. He takes a step forward and something comes up either to make him take two steps back, or to frustrate the full realisation of his efforts so that his most advanced step, as we are seeing it today, has running alongside of it the most terrible threat which takes the very heart out of it and makes it, after all, a very doubtful thing. We think it would be better if we had never found that out, if we had never discovered that. That is what is meant by the curse, which pursues man's steps and runs alongside until the end is what we can so clearly visualise now - a wonderful development ending in the most ghastly tragedy! But for the intervention of Another, where would this world end? Well, we know.
The curse is taken hold of, like a sting in the tail, and is plucked out by the last Adam. The curse is taken out and that element of neutralisation is destroyed in the cross of the Lord Jesus. He undercuts all the nature and history produced by the defection of the first Adam. Now, how does He do this? What is the strength of this, the law of this, the secret of this that He does? For He does it - there is no doubt about that. Well, He does it by completely reversing and contradicting the way that the first Adam took which led to all this disaster. What was the motive by which the first Adam acted and opened the door to this history? The motive was, 'My will'. The motive of the last Adam was, "Not my will, but Yours" (Luke 22:42). That sounds a very simple way of putting it. It does not take many words, but there is an infinitude of meaning in that. The law and the watchword of the last Adam was from the inception to the last breath: "Yet not my will, but Yours be done." And on that basis see whether He as man, representative man, is great! See the greatness, His greatness; a greatness that man today, at his best, just covets with all his might.
See His greatness in the physical realm! He comes into this world, into this physical consequence of the first Adam's act, and finds a state of physical defeat, sickness, infirmity. It is a terrible physical state! Now be patient with me. You can spend your whole lifetime training (and many generations have spent all their strength and all their energies and thank God for them and for what they have done to help!) in order to do what He did in a moment! In a moment, by a word... and a lifelong disease yielded in an instant. All the entail of sin in the physical body was cancelled out with a word from His lips. Don't you doctors wish that you had that greatness? This is the last Adam.
Men strive and struggle to get the mastery of the natural forces, the forces of nature, and they think they have gone a long way in doing that and then something happens. There is some disruption, some disturbance in the heavenly bodies, some terrific storm, a hurricane or something in the realm of nature where man is rendered utterly helpless and impotent. He can do nothing about it. There is a mighty, threatening storm of wind and sea; a word from His mouth and the whole thing subsides. "Be still", said He, "and it became perfectly calm" (Mark 4:39). Natural forces yield to Him. How great He is!
Men... women... torn, distracted, bewildered by evil forces. You read of one woman out of whom He had cast seven demons. There was a man tortured by evil powers and the people, trying to tame them, put the poor fellow in chains, but he plucked the chains off. No one, it says, could tame him. These evil forces... and with a word out they go! The poor victim sits "at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind" (Luke 8:35).
And what shall we say about sin? Vice? The grip of evil habits? Sin! That awful thing, soul distress. "I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners" (Matt. 9:13) - and here they are, plenty of them about Him: the distressed of soul, the harassed of soul, mastered by evil habits and an evil nature. And with a word: "Son, your sins are forgiven" (Matt. 9:2), and it is not only a word; something happens, and he goes away with heart rest, forgiven and delivered.
We know something today about social or family disruptions, factions and broken homes. All the efforts of social institutions utterly fail, but when He comes onto the scene there is reconciliation and there are mended relationships. How great He is, this last Adam! Without any of the organisation, the institution, the paraphernalia, the effort, the expenditure, He is great enough with just a word to undercut the whole entail of the first Adam's sin.
Sense of purpose
One of the greatest things that the last Adam recovers and restores is that vital factor of a sense of purpose in life, in being. If you think of that, that goes to the heart of a great deal. A well-known psychiatrist and psychologist has put it on record that a third of the people who go to consult him are plagued and distraught by the malady of having no sense of purpose in life. Frustrated is only another way of saying 'No purpose for living'. And what a door that opens, doesn't it? How much rushes in through that door if you are robbed of a sense of purpose in life. And do you not see that this is a growing malady today? It is spreading like a disease. Everywhere men are asking, 'What is the purpose of it all? What is the meaning of life?' There is a lost sense of a great purpose in existing.
And I repeat that it is just there, this root thing in human life and history, that the last Adam comes in. When a person really comes to surrender to God in Jesus Christ and accepts the Lord Jesus Christ as his or her own Saviour, the very first thing in their consciousness is: 'I have something to live for that I did not have before.' They may not be able to explain what that is. They could not tell you now what this great purpose is, but there has been born, like a newborn child, a sense within their consciousness that life was meant for something; they have a being for something. There is a purpose for which to live. That grows, if there is a normal spiritual growth, and becomes stronger and deeper, and becomes clarified. But, you know, the last Adam brings that. There was a great purpose, but only in relation to God, and it was lost when that relationship was broken. The Lord Jesus recovers it and gives the sense of purpose.
Earlier I said that among those things which every person who takes life seriously - and that means especially every Christian - wants to know, must know, and seeks to know, is the meaning of spiritual experience. Well, if you can read your own spiritual experience, can you not read these parallel columns? On the one side the Holy Spirit has got hold of you and is making you know what you are in yourself, in the old Adam. No one knows what the old Adam really is like except a true Christian. Does that sound terrible? Yes, but that is just it, because a true Christian is one who is really going to appreciate the grace of God, and you never appreciate the grace of God unless you see the necessity for it. So spiritual history along one line is the discovery of our own utter worthlessness. A stronger word is 'our rottenness'. If you feel you are a very respectable, nice person - forgive me. I don't want to insult you, but I don't think that is too strong a word. The depravity of this old Adam life! It is unfathomable. And it has got to be shown in order that God's Son may be really understood and appreciated. He must be set over against that background.
But, thank God, spiritual history runs along another line although it is all too slow. Nevertheless, by the grace of God, by the work of the Holy Spirit, there is the inculcation of the Life and Nature of the second Man, the last Adam. We have nothing to boast about. We can never say anything about our attainment in that matter; God only knows where we would be but for Jesus Christ! Where would I be today if it had not been for Jesus Christ, knowing now what I did not know formerly of the depths of this nature and the awful possibilities that are in it? But the Holy Spirit gets hold of a Christian life, a truly committed Christian, and He works into that life this disposition of the last Adam - and what is that disposition? Ah, it may be your battlefield! Thank God for the measure of victory, but is it not here: "Yet not my will, but Yours be done"? Is it not that? Are we not being brought more and more by the Spirit of Jesus Christ to that place where this will of ours becomes subject to the will of God, where we are discovering the need for - and, thank God, being more and more enabled to accept - absolute dependence upon God for everything? Where all that resource in ourselves, that self-resource, is being undercut and removed, and our resource is found to be in God - truly in God, but only in God? And then we are put on to a very wonderful basis. Oh, dear friends, if you are a truly born-again child of God, you are put on to a marvellous basis!
I have spoken of this last Adam's greatness. What is the word that sums all that up? 'Supernatural', is it not? It is not natural! Do you not realise that your very new birth itself is a supernatural thing? That is the truth, isn't it? Do you not realise that your continuance and endurance is a supernatural thing? If you don't, well, I don't know what is the matter with you. We are put into those positions where for endurance, going on, there is no possible hope, or ground, or way but for God Himself to carry us on. That is supernatural history; that is not natural.
So, you see, what was true of Him, in a spiritual way mark you, is being made true in us. I say again, it happens all too slowly, all too meagrely, and yet it is happening. We are put on to a supernatural basis.
I believe that there is a very much larger need for us to prove this, to know this. If I might carry this into the Body of Christ, the church - wherever it may be represented in local companies - you know, the supernatural elements ought to be far more in evidence. I believe that a great deal of our physical troubles ought to yield to prayer. And our family disturbances and upheavals ought to yield to prayer, and these other things, they ought to yield supernaturally. We are brought into much of this in Christ, to be known now. What a helpless, weak thing the church is! Ought it to be like that with the last Adam resident within with all this meaning?
is this second Man, this last
Adam, who has come in on the one side to expose the old, to
condemn the old,
and to put away the old by His Cross, in which the whole of
that old Adam was
crucified. And on the other side, to bring in, establish, and
extend a race of men
and women who are partaking of His own potentialities. These
are given His own
gifts, spiritually and morally. They learn by His working and
His grace, in the
mighty power of the Holy Spirit that, after all, there is a
dominion which God
meant for man, and that dominion, that ascendancy, that
victory, is found in
Christ, in real measure, now. The end is that race of which He
is the first and
the last, reigning and glorified. It is the complete reversal
of all that came
in with the first man. When you read at the end, "There will
no longer be any
mourning, or crying, or pain" (Rev. 21:4), but everything to
the contrary, you
see the triumph in the second Man, the last Adam, and that is
what remains when
all the other is no more.