Reading: Col. 1:13-14, 16-17, 19-21.
The Meaning of "Cosmic"
We are going to use that word very freely as governing our meditations. You will understand why we use it when we explain. "Cosmos" is the universe, or the world as a part of the universe, and the order or system thereof.
When we speak of cosmic redemption we go far beyond the matter of
human sin. It extends to all realms and all things which have been
affected by sin and are in need of redemption. The passage in
Colossians 1 is a magnificent definition or explanation of this
word: "all things... in the heavens and upon the earth, things
visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or
principalities or powers...", "And you…" (verses 16,
21). It touches the farthest range, the most comprehensive range
of things, where Christ has a relationship as the Divine Son with
the Divine purpose, the realisation of which purpose necessitated,
in the course of things, redemption. We are told that the very
heavens need purging, and the things in the heavens, because of
what has happened. That takes redemption far away from the narrow
limits of the human race and human sin, and carries the matter
right out to the utmost bounds of the universe. It touches the
whole creation. It touches not only the things; it touches the
system, the order. For the word means not only a realm of things,
but an ordered realm of things, a system. And the system of things
in the universe has been upset and not only is it necessary to
redeem things, it is necessary to redeem the system.
Some of us are familiar with the truth that a heavenly, a Divine order, has to be re-established as well as a state changed. Man has to be changed, things have to be changed as to their state. But it does not end there. Another order has to be brought in. All that is included in that which we are calling "cosmic redemption". So that the work of the Lord Jesus, as well as His Person, touches a very vast range of matters.
Christ Personally Embodies Three Things
First of all, He embodies the purpose of the cosmos. That is a realm to which there is an order. The purpose of that realm and the purpose of that order are embodied in the Lord Jesus. That purpose, in a word, is a kingdom in which God is revealed in His spiritual and moral nature by a creation.
Secondly, He embodies the nature of the cosmos. I think we can say three things about this, as to its nature: (1) separation, (2) life, (3) anointing to vocation. We will go back over that in a moment.
Thirdly, He embodies the redemption of the cosmos.
Now we will go back, and deal with each of these.
1. The Purpose of the Cosmos
It is important, when we open our Bibles, to recognise what it is we are coming to. We are not just beginning to read the history of the world, the history of man. We are beginning to read a purpose. Everything, from the very first clause in the Bible represents a purpose, governs a purpose, and is governed by a purpose.
We should have this introduction to the Bible in our minds when we open it, not just begin to read straight away: "In the beginning God created...", but rather have something before that in our minds as that which will be the explanation, the meaning of all that will come in with those words, and it should be something like this: God has purposed a Kingdom, the Kingdom of the Son of His love, in which He Himself (the Father) through the Son will be revealed in all His spiritual and moral glory! Now we are ready to begin.
The world is laid hold of, apprehended in relation to that purpose, to be a part; like the stage to the great theatre of the universe, but very closely and intimately related to that purpose, so much so that the Kingdom is represented as being here.
Then, all the activities which follow are the preparation of that which is to be the Kingdom of the Son of His love.
The purpose of the Kingdom is the revelation of God in a spiritual and moral nature; therefore everything seen must have a spiritual and moral background and meaning; is intended to have a spiritual and moral value. It is not something in itself. Behind it and the activity which brought it into being, there is a thought, a reason. "In the beginning was the Logos". Divine thought, reason. That is before everything. Out of that thought, that Divine reason, came everything, and in everything, therefore, there is Divine reason. And that thought, that reason, that essence of the Divine mind has a spiritual and a moral element, so that everything has something more than is seen on the surface. And, of course, that is the value of the Word of God, that in every place you find something eternal, something which is of God, something which is universal, timeless. The value of our association with the Word of God is not that we take up a book containing so many letters, so many statements; it is something for our spirits. When our spirits are renewed in God, then we find something that fits our spirits, we find God coming to us from behind His Word; there is spiritual and moral meaning and value. So everything was intended to embody that.
Now the Kingdom, which is the purpose of the universe (the cosmos) and the nature thereof, in the first place, the revelation of God in spiritual and moral glory is embodied in Christ. Christ eventually comes in Person into this world. He came to His own; He came to His own things; and His own people received Him not. He came as the embodiment of that Kingdom. He came as the embodiment of that Divine nature. Where Christ is, the Kingdom is. Where Christ is not, the Kingdom is not. Here, in Col. 1, it is said that we have been translated into the Kingdom of the Son of His love. Before you are through the chapter you will find; "Christ in you the hope of glory". That is how we are in the Kingdom, because the Kingdom is in us. The Kingdom is embodied in Christ.
We can only intimate a few things, not follow them out, but I trust that the intimation alone will be helpful, and lead you on.
You will find that all that follows, from the beginning of Genesis onwards, is a setting forth of God's mind about that Kingdom, so everything is governed, firstly by a nature, and then by an order. You can understand why it is, in the first place, that the nature of things has such an important place and is so strongly kept under the Divine eye and hand before the people of God. Everything within the compass of the relationship of God is governed by the idea of its character, its nature. When you come to the tabernacle, for instance, which is a very comprehensive representation of the meaning of the Kingdom, as in Christ, in the first place it is the nature of things which is kept to the fore. The final word about the whole in every detail is holiness unto the Lord. Why? Because the spiritual and moral nature of God is intended to be the very purpose and object of the existence of these things. They only have their existence in relation to that as expressing Himself in some form. But not only do you have the nature, but the order. In the tabernacle, or in Israel, or wherever God is related, you will find order, and order to precision. And you will see that when God sets up a thing, in the first place He lets it be known that He is jealous both for the nature and for the order; to such a degree that He stops at nothing for its establishment and its maintenance.
I would like you to go through some of the things which God brought in in the first instance, and see His attitude towards them. We have no time to consider them all, but there are some most remarkable instances of the expression of the jealousy of God at the inception of a thing, that God never compromises there. If God sets up a thing, sin at that point, against that, is met with uncompromising judgment.
Take the establishing of the priesthood. When God had established the priesthood and something sought to interfere with God's order, He did not forgive that but came in with an act of full and final destruction, absolute judgment, without an element of reserve.
Take the case of Achan at Ai. A new order has come in. This is something new, and there is no holding back.
Take the man who violates the Sabbath when the Sabbath has just been established as a great covenant sign in Israel. See God's attitude. There is no salvation there. It is judgment to the last.
Carry it to the New Testament, and see Ananias and Sapphira. The church has just been brought in, and is represented in its fulness according to God's mind. God has established it, Ananias and Sapphira violate the thing at its inception, and there is no compromise on God's part. While God does not act like that right through the dispensation, He has, right at the outset, shown His attitude. We may not, like Ananias and Sapphira or any of these others, fall down dead, be consumed of fire, the earth open up and swallow us, yet God's attitude is the same. God has not changed. He is jealous; and there will most certainly be loss of Life, power and blessing if we do not recognise that God is jealous according to that standard, which He has taken pains to set forth in such intense form.
There are two things there. There is the nature of the thing, because it is intended to show the spiritual and moral nature of God; then there is the order of the thing, because the Kingdom of God's Son is a cosmic thing, a system, an order. It is important for us to realise that while the Lord Jesus is a Person, He is also a Heavenly System, and to be true to the Lord Jesus in Person means to be true to the order which He has established, or which He represents. The Body of Christ, as set forth in the New Testament for instance, is a wonderfully ordered thing, an exquisitely ordered thing. That is Christ. Let no one think we have said that Christ is a system, and just leave it there. Christ is a Person, but He is also a system in expression.
That is the meaning of Cosmos. It is a nature, and it is an order, according to God's mind. The Lord Jesus is the embodiment of the purpose of the universe as an ordered thing; that is, a Kingdom in which God is revealed in His spiritual and moral nature by a creation, "For in Him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible..." (Col. 1:16). That is cosmic creation in Christ.
2. The Nature of the Cosmos
We have said that there are three things about this.
When you go back to Genesis, and see the movement towards bringing the cosmos into that form for the expression of God, that Kingdom, you find that a separating work is done. Separation is one of the marks of the creation, but I think that the separation goes back even further than the dividing between land and sea, heaven and earth, day and night, it seems to me that the separation is also between what is to be and what has been, between the past and the new which introduces a future. "And the earth was waste and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep..." (Gen. 1:2). I suppose it still remains to a certain extent speculative as to how it came to be like that, but it is thought - and perhaps with a good deal of truth - that an earlier judgment is represented by that state, and the Word is not without certain statements which could relate to that.
To begin with Genesis, we find Satan as a fallen creature, and as such he is on this earth, is related to it. Certain other passages of Scripture will tell us that he fell, and his fall was in this direction, connected with this world in some way. We will not follow that out. As we have said, it may still remain somewhat speculative. But supposing we are on true, sound ground when we suggest that there had been a creation, and Satan had been in some way related to it under God as an anointed cherub, his government, his princedom, had related to this world; he was prince of this world, and then by reason of that of which the prophet speaks, when he said; "I will exalt my throne above the stars of God... I will be like the Most High" (Isa. 14:13-14), that is, taking his dominion away from God as a related thing, as a trust, to have it in his own right, and in his own hand. Surely the whole history of human nature as governed by the devil is all in that direction: to have things in its own right, not to have things in dependence upon God, but to have the right personally within himself. Supposing that is what happened and as a result, terrible, devastating judgment came upon this world; as we open the book of Genesis we find a state resultant from that judgment.
Now a new creation is in view. If that creation or cosmos is to
be according to God and to express God's thought in a Kingdom like
Himself morally and spiritually, and according to a Divine order,
somehow or other there must be a cutting in between that old
history and this new history; a separating between the past and
the future. There must be no carry over. It must be complete
separation. I am not sure but that the Holy Spirit's relationship
to things at the beginning had not something to do with this, "...and
the spirit of God brooded...". And when the new activities
took place for the new creation, the Spirit of God was there to
divide, to keep in between a past and a future. I believe that is
the whole explanation of the Person of Christ. It is a most
Go back and see the kind of person that got into the bloodstream of the earthly mother of the Lord Jesus. Read that terrible story about Judah, that came right in the middle of the history of Joseph. It is extraordinary that that should come in there, as a kind of parenthesis, and has really no direct link. It is not the continuity of the story of Joseph. You read about Joseph and his brethren's dealings with him, and then there comes this break, and an awful chapter on the history of the tribe of Judah. And there in that story you have one of the darkest and most terrible moral elements in the Bible in a person, and that person is one in the chain of the genealogy of the Lord Jesus. Rahab the harlot was one, and a number of others. From that, Christ comes, so far as the earth is concerned. No wonder men of a purely rationalistic turn of mind have found it difficult to accept the utter truth about the Person of the Lord Jesus! How do you explain the fact that there was no sinful hereditary in Him, not a trace, not a taint of all that background? The Holy Spirit cut clean in, and separated between an old creation and a new. The Holy Spirit always does that.
You may say, "Well, we are a new creation, but that does not hold good!" It does. There is a point in those who are born-again children of God where the old creation and the new do not meet. There is that in you and me which is altogether apart from what we are by nature. It is sinless, incorruptible, undefilable. It is not you, it is not me - it is Christ; and Christ cannot be corrupted. The incorruptible Life of Christ is in the born-again child of God; that is the new creation, and the Holy Spirit has cut clean in between the old and the new. That has no old creation, old hereditary; the old creation is in us, but not in that.
History repeats itself. That is why, I think, the Holy Spirit there at the beginning had something to do with a gap, a separation; and the creation of this world is a foreshadowing of Christ. It is expressing God's mind about Him for whom it all is. It had to be made like unto God's Son. All that which would be ultimately true of Him was to be true of the cosmos which was to be His kingdom, and so there must be a separation between a history that may have been evil, and that history which is according to God. And then, of course, on the other side, a marvellous history is brought into view.
You see the application. This is not just objective study, it is subjective value: "...hath translated us out of the kingdom of darkness, into the kingdom of the Son of His love; in whom we have our redemption, the forgiveness of our sins..." (Col. 1:13-14). The redemption is cosmic, and we know it, for in verse 21 we read: "And you...". So that the deepest truth, and perhaps the deepest mystery of the child of God is that there is a point where there is no overlapping of the old creation and the new, and the Holy Spirit is there from the beginning to keep those two things apart.
What we mean is this: that if you and I (and this is taking the next point in our meditation) really do live in the Spirit, we shall know where the old creation ends and the new begins; every time. We shall know when we are doing something which is like putting a bridge over to the old creation; that is, as Paul puts it in one place, "evil communications corrupt good manners". If you and I as children of God begin to have any communion with ourselves, the old self, we shall be conscious of being tainted. We know it. No one need tell us. And we want to go and have a time of prayer to get that cleared up. The Holy Spirit is there to keep that separation, that gap, and He tells us every time that we are getting too close to ourselves. If we get too close to the old creation He tells us. The child of God is far more sensitive to the old creation than any other person; and that is the way of a growing sensitiveness to what is not of God, not of Christ.
(b) Life by the Spirit
That comes in with Genesis. Christ is the embodiment of that Life, that cosmic Life, which is the Life of God's unfallen, sinless creation. It is Life which will eventually fill the universe. The pictures given to us in the Bible are of a coming universal order, which will be Divine Life from centre to circumference. Christ embodies that. "In him was life". The Father had Life in Himself, and He gave to the Son to have Life in Himself. That Life is by the Spirit.
Now, in close touch with that which we have already said, we see that Life by the Spirit which, in the first place, is the nature of God's Kingdom and the order, because it produces its own order. We speak of an organism. An organism is the product of life. It is marvellous what life produces as to order. We know quite well that when Life is injured, the order is upset.
(c) Anointing to Vocation
It says nothing in Genesis about the creation being anointed for its vocation, nor of Adam being anointed for his vocation, but I think what is there is that which corresponds to the anointing for vocation. I think when it says: "And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply", you have all that is really the meaning of the anointing. The Lord committed Himself in relation to a vocation: "God blessed them". That is the anointing.
The anointing is just that: God blessing. Take it to the case of the Lord Jesus - who is central to this - at Jordan, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased". That is accompanied by the anointing. It is surely the benediction of the Father, the expression of the good pleasure of the Father. "And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful and multiply." That, in effect, is anointing unto vocation. Of course, it is not the full meaning as we have it in the New Testament, but that is the principle at work: the blessing of God unto the fulfilling of the purpose of the existence of things. In the case of the Lord Jesus, as we have seen (being the embodiment of the Kingdom, the new creation), the whole purpose is fulfilled through anointing. In our case, as joined to the Lord one spirit, our vocation is fulfilled through the anointing.
It is helpful to see that in Christ the history of the creation from the very brooding of the Spirit to the final satisfaction of God is gathered up. All that which we see in the creation points on to the Lord Jesus, in whom all things were created, and then it points on through redemption to the end. As in the creation, so in Him, and now so in us: the brooding of the Spirit to cut clean in between the old history and the new, to give a new hereditary and then through Life and anointing to eventually come under the full satisfaction of God where, looking upon us perfected in Christ, He will be able, to say, "It is very good!" "There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God", and what could be a better Sabbath rest to any of our hearts than for the Father God to look at us and say, "It is very good!" That is to be the end in Christ.