Reading: Acts 2:32; Phil. 2:5-11; Heb. 1:5-9, 2:9,10; Eph. 1:22-25, 4:15, 5:23; Col. 1:18, 2:19; 1 Cor. 2:5.
We have been occupied with "That which is born of the Spirit" or "the new creation in Christ". We firstly dwelt upon the heavenliness of that which is born of the Spirit, that new creation in Christ - its heavenly origin and heavenly life, heavenly relationships, and heavenly resources, and its entire heavenliness of nature and vocation. In other words, its complete and absolute detachment and emancipation from all that is earthly.
Then we were occupied with the universality of this new creation, this that is born of the Spirit. Seeing that it is a matter not of time, but of eternity - from eternity past to eternity yet to be - it is timeless and it is spaceless; that is, it is not bound by any of the ordinary limitations of human life. It has a vocation which is universal.
Now we are to consider the Headship and Sovereignty of the Lord Jesus as Head of the new creation, Head of the church which is His Body, and possessing absolute sovereignty in every realm.
This new creation is constituted under the complete Headship of the Lord Jesus. That is clearly revealed in the Word of God as being the original intention of God concerning Christ, that He should be the Head over all things, universally Head, and that everything should come under His Headship and Sovereignty. That Headship and that Sovereignty is not recognised in the fallen Adam creation. All the rights of God in Christ are repudiated there, or ignored, but when God takes up His original purpose again and makes all things new, and brings in a new creation (that which is born of the Spirit as that which is differing from that which is born of the flesh) He reconstitutes the whole of the new creation under His original intention: the Headship and Sovereignty of the Lord Jesus Christ, that in all things He might have the pre-eminence.
If you have followed the line of representation which we have been pursuing, you will have noted that our first note was related to the birth of the Lord Jesus as being entirely heavenly, as being a true representation of that which is born of the Spirit. We have said as one of the first principles of our consideration that the Lord Jesus has been set by God the Father to be a representation of man according to the mind of God. And in all the features and phases of His life He spiritually represents God's mind concerning man. And in His birth (which is an entirely heavenly thing) the supreme factor of which is spiritually and by the Holy Spirit, we see the nature of every child of God as born of the Holy Spirit.
Then in the previous chapter you will have noticed that we were dealing with the person of the Lord Jesus in His humanity according to God - humanity after the mind of God - and we saw how in that humanity of the Lord Jesus, all the universal elements are combined and how He reaches out into all realms, spheres, all departments and comprises in Himself and becomes a universal Man with a heavenly life. It was His humanity mainly in view, the Man Christ Jesus in His manhood representing what God is seeking spiritually to do by the operation and energy of the Holy Spirit in every child of God to make for a glorified humanity. I am quite aware of the danger of this interpretation, but it is understood amongst us here that we are now dealing with the representative side of the life and work of the Lord Jesus. We recognise as in a place altogether apart, His Deity and that phase of His work of vicarious atonement with which we have no connection whatever only as beneficiaries. We enter into the good of that by faith, in redemption and salvation, but not receiving it as a part of our being. Deity is outside of us and always will be. One always feels the necessity always of stressing that, lest people might let their minds overlap into the thought that we are talking about the deification of humanity. Now we are taking the Lord Jesus as Son of Man, not as God, which verily He is, but as Son of Man as representing God's thought for every man when man is constituted according to God's mind: being born of the Spirit. So we have in view the humanity of the Lord Jesus, which represents humanity according to God. Now we carry forward the same principle of representation into this realm of the Headship and Sovereignty of the Lord Jesus.
We have touched birth and humanity; now we come to:-
This is another stage in the heavenly history of the Lord Jesus which has a heavenly counterpart, as we shall see.
We come to the place of His anointing when He came up out of the waters of Jordan, the heavens were open and the Holy Spirit in bodily form as a dove came upon Him, and He was anointed of the Holy Spirit symbolically, or typically, and that anointing meant that God had involved Himself in the life of the Son of Man in a new way. It does not mean, as certain schools teach, that Deity came to the Lord Jesus at Jordan and left Him at Calvary. But here, in an official way for purposes of service, purposes of office, purposes of His great commission and life work and vocation - where He stepped across the line which divided between His private life in the thirty years in secret and His public life in office in the three and a half years, at that point where He took up His great representative redemptive work, God involved Himself in a new way for the purpose of service and representation.
God was implied in that coming of the Holy Spirit at Jordan and it represented Godward the absolute Headship of God over Christ. The Head of Christ is God we have read, and inasmuch as the Holy Spirit came upon His Head, as the anointing oil was always upon the head of the one anointed, be he prophet, priest or king, so the Holy Spirit coming upon His Head represented that the Lord Jesus in this official way, came under the sovereign Headship of the Father. And from that moment the Lord Jesus, in a new way, was coming to recognise that now nothing was out from Himself, but everything was out from the Father and that He had to confer with and consult the Father on every detail of His life for the rest of His work here on earth.
So the Headship of the Father became recognised in that anointing; it came upon Him and it was for ever after "Not My will but Thine"; "I delight to do Thy will"; "I come to do Thy will O God". That was the significance of the anointing: that had excluded all that was of man as man and involved all that was of God as God in human life, so that God became the ruling, sovereign factor in the life of that Man constituted by the Holy Spirit according to God. That is the first primary factor in the anointing which came upon Him: the Headship of God over the Son. But it also implied, although there was to be a later realisation of it literally, that the Lord Jesus was also made Head over the new creation. It gave Headship to the Lord Jesus; it put Him in a place under the Father, but over the new creation, and constituted Him the authority for the rest of His time. And it was that authority which spiritually registered its impact upon the consciousness of everything round Him during the days of His flesh. Demons recognised that authority and cried "What have we in common with Thee; depart from us, torment us not" and the common people said, "He spoke as one having authority and not as the scribes", and rulers cowed beneath that secret operation of authority so that even Pilate realised he was at a discount in the presence of this One.
There was an ascendency about Him that was not merely the ascendency of His human life, but there was something implied which was above the kings of the earth, which made them feel small in His presence. There, all the time, He was put in that spiritual and moral position as Head over all things in the creation; its true fulfillment later on was implied in the anointing. Wherever God has anointed a chosen vessel, that vessel has taken ascendency over everything else. If God has chosen Abraham, then Abraham rebukes kings. Remember the great word of the Psalmist "He rebuked kings for their sakes, saying, touch not mine Anointed, do my prophets no harm"; kings of the earth are made subject to the anointed of the Lord. So that the anointing represents Headship, ascendency, elevation spiritually. In the case of the Lord Jesus, the larger fulfillment of that took place at His ascension. When God raised Him from the dead the thing became literal which was largely typical at Jordan.
We have read, "God raised Him from the dead, this Jesus, and He being by the right hand of God exalted and having received the promise of the Father hath poured forth this". What was the promise of the Father? The Holy Spirit. Being exalted at the right hand of God the Father, and having received the promise of the Spirit, the promise of the Father, He received the Holy Spirit in this full way literally, actually, when raised really from the dead - not typically - and exalted to the right hand of the Majesty on high. So that then He was fully anointed as Head over the new creation, over the church which is His Body, over every man; placed in the position of absolute sovereignty and authority by the anointing which He received in the presence of the Father in His resurrection, ascension and exaltation. That again is very clear. So that the Lord Jesus, having received the Holy Spirit, has been constituted absolutely pre-eminent, Sovereign Lord over the whole of God's new creation, over every member of that creation. It is not only a universal acceptance, but it is an individual obligation. It is important to get that in order to see the meaning of God's dealings with us individually.
Christ is the Head of every man and for specific vocational purposes over all things to the church which is His Body, the fulness of Him that fills all in all. The differences we make in those departments we may see later, but we are stating the fact for the moment, to get the background of this whole thing. Now, having recognised that, and from our hearts declared that Jesus Christ is Lord, having received of the Father the promise of the Spirit by which He has been constituted an anointed Head over all things, we are able to get on with the practical applications and significances of that great truth. And yet, there is always a danger of believing and assenting to a truth like that and in a day of challenge beginning to wonder if after all the Lord Jesus is Lord when the devil seems to have all his own way and things are all going wrong and all your Divine expectations seem to be upset; to have doubts as to whether the sovereignty and authority is in the hands of the Lord Jesus after all.
We want this to be brought out of theory into experience; out of the objective agreement to the subjective faith, so that it becomes a reality. That means then that we must begin to break up the meaning of this anointing and apply it. We have said that that anointing meant the excluding of everything which is of man according to nature, and that from the moment of the anointing, everything was of and by the Spirit. That is a simple truth and yet it carries a very great deal with it.
From that moment, "according to nature" is excluded. All man's wisdom, ability, strength - everything of man according to nature - is excluded when the Holy Spirit comes and takes up sovereignty. And everything from that moment has to be by the Holy Spirit alone, of God; old things are passed away.
What are the old things? I used to do it, or try to do it; I used to plan it, scheme it, bring my judgment to bear upon it; I used to run it... old things are passed away, behold all has become new and all things are out from God. That is the difference. The old things were out from myself; now all things are out from God. There is a new creation and the supreme feature of the new creation is that it is all of God, not a bit of man. Man by nature has no standing in it at all. He and all his human ability are excluded; it is God and God only in the new creation. It is God coming in in authority, in spiritual ascendency and in dignity. It is going to give to the weakest, the frailest, the most nervous, a new dignity which is of God and not of man and give them a position in Christ of spiritual ascendency and elevation.
It is a blessed thing beloved (and this is practical too) for the weakest, humblest, nervous, retiring, reserved, shrinking naturally, can now come to be by the Holy Spirit constituted into one at whom demons tremble, the powers of darkness are afraid, and there is registered the impact of God in sovereignty. That is a dignity that comes in by anointing. It is God involving Himself in the life of that one and all those who have come under the absolute Headship of the Lord Jesus Christ.
And that is a thing that you and I need to understand and come into, for all of us are far too spiritually feeble and we ought to be mighty. We are far too easily set back by the enemy when the enemy should be set back by the Lord through us. It is so difficult today for the church to stand up against the flood of evil forces and there is not the testimony to the absolute sovereignty of the Lord Jesus. That ought not to be. There is far too much depression and defeat written in the faces of the Lord's people and in the very suggestion of their presence that to be a Christian is an awfully difficult, hard business and it is like carrying a tremendous burden and being people who have an awful time on the earth and the worst of it all the time. But while it is true we know sorrow, yet there is that "always rejoicing".
There is the other side where we know what it is to be persecuted, pursued, but not left behind. Persecuted, but not forsaken, cast down, but not destroyed; there is an ascendency all the time which is not our optimism, not because we have such a store of good spirits that we can stir ourselves up to be cheerful; it is that mighty fact of the ascendency of the Holy Spirit in the Name of the Lord Jesus in our hearts that we know that even in the worst hour, the darkest hour, we are coming out at length on top; it is not going to end in ignominy and shame and there is a "hope which maketh not ashamed". The ascendency of Christ by the Holy Spirit within: that which is born of the Spirit. We should be men and women in places where the devil does rampage, but with the Holy Spirit dwelling within in the sovereign pre-eminence of the Lord Jesus and the Name, recognising that he is not sovereign there, but Jesus Christ is, because we are there. The testimony in every member of Christ to the fact that God has anointed Jesus Christ as sovereign Head, and Christ is in us.
We are giving a very great deal away to the devil by our spirit of defeat. The enemy is able to hold his ground and property far too easily today because Christianity is making us such miserable people, we used to be bright but now we are morose and seem to have no joy, to be under things all the time. It is their Christianity that has taken away the very joy of life from us - God deliver us! That is giving the enemy ground, putting him in a place of vantage. All who have intelligence are to be able to see that there is in us something more than the best of this earth, that we have a satisfaction and an ascendency which makes us absolutely independent of all their so-called joys, with a joy that is more than their best. Not to look at us and say they won't go to this and do that because they must not; we have become Christians and are afraid to and are just about as miserable as can be. No, that is not the order. We should be those who are really spoilt for the world, who have something far more than they have! Well, that is the sovereignty of the Lord Jesus, the ascendency of the anointing, God coming in in authority and in dignity.
We may be amongst men nothing, accounted the off-scouring of all things, whom men would not look at when they were looking for one to do their big jobs, set at naught, and yet still there is that which speaks of a dignity, strength, power, grip, calm. There's no better word than ascendency; that which came out so gloriously in the apostle.
Paul, at the end of a hard life, with a broken body, having suffered intensely and been nigh unto death many times, yet when the sea is raging so that well-seasoned, sea-faring men are at their wits end, in despair and have not another line of resource but to just stand paralysed to see how things would go, came and took charge of the ship, carried the whole thing through and recaptured the morale of the whole crew. That is not the force of human personality; it is the ascendency of God in a man. "There stood by me this night the angel of God... saying, Fear not Paul." God had spoken in his heart and it was the Divine triumph over everything else. And that is a secret thing with the Lord. When others come to their wits end, the child of God is governed by that which is above all the forces of nature, and is calm. It is that to which the Lord would bring His children. That is really the power, and virtue, and inheritance of the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
It was always those anointed of God who, in the hour of emergency, took charge. They were there in the position of authority in the day of threatening disaster. Anointing then, must mean spiritual dignity - not to make us important in our own eyes, to give us a natural importance - it will make us feel very nothing. That is very necessary; it is to give spiritual dignity. It was always for that purpose. Anointing existed before Adam was created. We read of the anointed cherub that covered, referring to Lucifer in his unfallen state, in his high office in the glory before this world was: How art thou fallen. The anointed and the anointing constituted him a dignitary in the heavenly glories before this world was, and anointing is always in relation to spiritual and moral ascendency. We need to know that operation of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. It is not official; not formal, not ecclesiastical; it is spiritual, moral, in the highest sense of that word. It gives an elevation above the highest natural ability, and the highest natural dignity. The strong, and powerful, and important in this world cannot rise to the height of this sovereignty of the Lord Jesus in government and administration and will have to bow to it sooner or later.
The Body of Christ - The Medium of the Display of Christ's Headship
Now the next thing is this: that the Body of Christ (and every member of the Body of Christ) is intended to be the medium of the display of Christ's Headship. He has been "made Head over all things to the church which is His Body, the fulness of Him that fills all in all" so that the Body, and every member thereof, is intended to be for the display of the glory of the Head. You remember that the spiritual interpretation of the book of Esther largely comes down upon that.
Vashti was deposed from her position as queen. Why? Because she refused to hold herself at the disposal of the king for the display of his glory. She preferred to have a private party of her own and to reign in her own circle instead of going to the banquet of the king to be displayed for his glory. Reading the story as a bit of Eastern history, it might be a sordid story, but God is taking hold of these things, however sordid, that they may represent great spiritual realities.
The same is true of the story of the prophet Hosea and his wife: a woman running off and selling herself and giving herself to the most degrading course of moral or immoral life, and then the prophet having to go, and when men have no more use for her, the prophet having to buy her out of the public market. So degraded as to be put up for sale for anyone who would make a bid for her; and the prophet having to go and buy her back and restore her to the place of highest affection and deepest respect, and act as if she had never sinned. God loves that people Israel. That is me and you, but He says, "I love you as if you had never sinned and will restore you to a place as if nothing had ever happened". This is taken hold of by God and lifted and given a spiritual significance which carries you to the highest glories of New Testament revelation. Vashti goes; she prefers a private banquet where she could reign as queen on her own. She is is deposed, and the king seeks someone who will live a life of selflessness for him and for his glory; and Esther comes in to take that place. She is sought for. All is for the king to display his glory, kingship and sovereignty, and Esther is brought to the palace for that purpose. Esther is the church, the Bride - the church is to be the instrument for the display of the glory of the Head. All her glory is His glory and of no one else.
When Rebecca was brought from the far country to Isaac, as they
drew near she lifted up her eyes and said, "Who is this man?" "My
Master's son; Isaac, your husband to be", and it says that she
immediately took a veil and put it over her face. Her beauty was
for no one else; it was reserved for him. That is it. The church
is for His glory.
"The Bride eyes not her garment,
but her dear Bridegroom's face;
I will not gaze at glory,
but on my King of Grace."
It is for the Lord. The display of His glory. So the Body in all its members is to be the display of the sovereignty, glory and supremacy of the Head, the Lord Jesus. What a calling, what a vocation, what an honour!
But, you see, this is vocational. We so often take this angle, pleading with the Lord to display His sovereign power - that is just the very thing for which He has related us to Himself. There is no need for us to plead for Him to do it, but we should be in a position and condition for Him to do it. He has joined us to Himself for that purpose. When we hold fast the Head it is the sovereignty of the Head that is displayed. At Pentecost that is what happened. The Holy Spirit brought them into a right relationship to the Exalted Head and His sovereignty was instantly displayed, and the difficulty is not in our persuading the Lord to act sovereignly and mightily, but getting us to a place of selflessness where we will take none of the glory to ourselves. He is straitened in this fallen nature of ours. He begins to use us and we begin to be something and strut about like a farmyard bantam - taking God's glory, a name and reputation, and giving it to man. God is not able to use men today because of that. He will display His sovereignty when He gets us broken and empty enough to do it. He has anointed us with Himself for that very purpose; for the display of His Headship.
We have received the anointing in Him in order that the purpose of His being anointed as Head should be expressed through us. He has not received the anointing to Himself as Head; while He remains Head supremely, He has poured forth this, and the anointing oil has come down on us as born of the Spirit in order that the sovereignty might come down and be administered through the church which is His Body. This leads us to say that the matter of Headship is also a matter of subjection. Those illustrative passages come in here. "I would have you to know," says the apostle, "that the head of every woman is the man even as Christ is Head of the church". The head of every woman is the man. The very strength and very safety of the woman is in submitting in a right way to the headship of the man. You are not to take that merely as formal or legal. That has to be regarded in its spiritual and moral meaning. God has so constituted His creation that He intended man to be the protection and strength of woman, and that woman was to find her protection and safety under the shelter of the man. But that thought was intended by God to be an illustration of a heavenly law: that the church finds Her strength and safety in Her subjection to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Headship is not legal or formal, or ecclesiastical. Headship is spiritual and moral. That headship has fallen upon women sometimes. Someone has got to take that position over a family and if the man fails and the woman is spiritually and morally fitted to do it, she must; but it is not the right order and there will be a weakness while that lasts. The headship is not merely because there is a male person there. Headship is that there is spiritual and moral headship there.
When poor Barak refused to come up and take charge of the armies of the Lord, Deborah had to do it, but the Lord upheld the principle in that He did not mention Deborah in Hebrews 11, but Barak. But if Barak does not do it, then the spiritual and moral headship will fall upon Deborah. She will not act in independence, but seek to stimulate him and say "up Barak", try and get him to his place, but the principle of this is that Headship is not formal, legal or ecclesiastical appointment; it is spiritual, it is moral. And subjection to the Lord Jesus is not subjection on a legal or formal basis; it is the recognition of His absolute spiritual and moral right to be Head and it is in that the church finds Her safety and strength. Philippians 2:5: "Wherefore God hath highly exalted Him". His high exaltation, with the Name above every Name in which every knee shall bow, is in virtue of something - not formal or just legal - it is in virtue of a tremendous thing that He has done spiritually, of a great triumph, firstly by subjecting Himself to the will of the Father, and then being exalted to the right hand of the Majesty on high. He subjected Himself to the will of God and you and I will never know salvation until we have known what it is to become absolutely subject to Christ. Note that that brings us back to the Cross - the Cross and the Headship of Christ, the Cross and spiritual ascendency.
We have had the Cross brought home to us in these messages tremendously, so that many of us have reeled under its impact and felt the terrific force of its application to this old man. Why is that necessary? Why is it essential that the Cross should be laid with such devastating force upon this old creation? For two reasons which are two sides of one. It is because the old creation is under the authority of darkness and not under the authority of Christ in the spiritual and moral sense. The absolute sovereignty of the Lord Jesus as a thing established in the life of man does not hold in the old creation. There is a sovereignty, as it were, upon Him of the universe which governs all things from the throne, but that is not what I am thinking of. I am thinking of the display of the glory of the Lord Jesus in and through His own; and over the old creation there is an authority of darkness. There is the "prince of the power of the air", the "spirit that now works in the children of disobedience", and the only way in which that authority can be shattered and broken, the only way in which we can be delivered from the authority of darkness, is by Christ's work in His Cross where He met that authority to break it so that there might be the new creation without that authority governing it or having any power over it.
And the Cross represents for us our deliverance out of the authority of darkness, but that authority is established in our very nature by nature, and it has got to be broken. The devil has a grip upon the whole creation - "the whole world lieth in the wicked one", "the spirit that works in the children of disobedience", "the god of this age has blinded the eyes of them which believe not". He has an authority in that realm, and that authority works in every being, in the very best of them. And to be unconscious of that fact is probably the greatest proof of its existence because it is always true that the greatest advantage of the devil is to work unseen, and to leave no trace whatever of his operations. We are entirely deceived into a position where we do not believe that there is such a devil. That is the supreme evidence of the devil's work. He does not want to display himself as the devil. He wants to insinuate his non-existence if he can. "The god of this age hath blinded."
I always remember Bunyan's "Holy War" when Appolyon would capture Mansoul, the first thing he would do would be to get hold of the Lord Mayor Mr. Understanding and put him in a dark dungeon where he could not see what was going on. "Having the understanding darkened, alienated from the life of God". This is a grip that has got to be shattered. In the Cross the Lord Jesus did that for every son whom He brings to glory and the Cross has to be laid strongly and mightily upon our old man in that connection.
But there is the other side. The will of the flesh. The will of the flesh is the will of the devil. It is the will of him who said, "I will exalt my throne; I will be equal with the Most High". The will which confronted the will of God and captured the will of Adam and installed itself in the race of Adam; another will that is not the will of God, being ignorant of God's righteousness, going about to establish their own, etc. - another will not subject to God. And we know only too well that we never get into a clear place of spiritual ascendency, never know anything about spiritual victory, or have a clear knowledge of the will of God, until our will has been put absolutely aside, and we have no will in the matter at all. Until then we are tossed to and fro and go round in a circle and are in chaos until that will has been put away ready for the will of God and the Lord can lift us up and put us in the place where we are above things, whereas we have been beneath them. The Cross has to come in and break the will of the flesh; the self-will, anything that wills other than the will of God. So the Cross must break this nature in order to get us to the place of the absolute sovereignty and supremacy of the Lord Jesus.
And of course, one of the strongest features of the self-will is pride. Lucifer said "I will be equal with the Most High" and the prophet is made to say, "Pride was found in thee". Pride takes many forms. Pride can be a most humble thing in its pose. Pride can be a very sorry-for-itself thing. Pride can be a very hurt thing, but it is still pride. We can be those who are feeling very broken, but it is not we who are broken, it is our pride which has been wounded. If we knew the history of every rupture of fellowship amongst God's people, of every dissemblance which has come into the things of God, of every advantage that the devil has gained, I believe we should find pride in some form or another - someone having a personal interest, personally concerned, like or dislike, want or not want, a preference - somehow pride coming in through the "I". That is the thing the devil always uses to destroy; and it has to be smashed. Calvary sees the emptying right down to the last degree where there is nothing left of self and then there can be the lifting up, the exaltation into the sovereignty of the Lord Jesus.
The Lord has to break before He can elevate, empty before He can fill. The Cross must be applied to bring us to the absolute supremacy of the Lord Jesus. What we need is the complete assurance that Jesus Christ is Lord. We cannot serve in the gospel unless we are perfectly assured that the government is in His Hands. If we have any doubt about that, we are paralysed and crippled in service and in life. We must strongly grasp the fact that all authority in heaven and in earth is in the hands of the Lord Jesus, not in the hands of Satan. If we do not rest in that, we shall be altogether spoilt, we shall not be able to go through. It is a fact. Oh, to come into spiritual enjoyment of that fact; we have now seen the way.
May the Lord make it very real to our hearts that the new creation, that which is born of the Spirit, is constituted now under the complete supremacy and sovereign Headship of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is to be Lord over us in every detail. He is Lord by the appointment of the Father, and when we are subject to Christ, there is nothing impossible. His sovereignty operates. May we know more of it for His Name's sake.